When Kevin Costner and Modern West kicked off their latest tour, I got the call to photograph the concert at the Lakeland Center.
It’s pretty exciting stuff, truth be told.
It’s quick though. You get in for the first three songs and you’re escorted out. Most times, I don’t even remember what those songs were. It’s a 10 minute blur of time when you’re looking for tack-sharp images.
It’s waiting for for a fracture of a second to make an image where the mic isn’t covering the performer’s mouth. Where some fan’s hand or head isn’t featured prominently. Where the stage lights and your camera’s metering system find common ground. Where there is some kind of action, motion, or an element about the performance that makes it a moment worth photographing.
Those ten or so minutes quick and you check your LCD to get a quick idea of whether you got the shots you need and whether your client will be pleased.
Kevin and the band are great showmen and, based on the reaction of the crowd, excellent musicians too.
This isn’t really about the show itself, rather the show before the show and how I got directed by Kevin Costner.
It was the first night of their tour. Opening night. When I accepted the assignment, I had asked whether I might be able to get some pre-show access to the band. Of course, I got no guarantees, but did get invited to go to the “meet and greet” where select guests were able to shake hands and pose with Kevin backstage.
I didn’t hold out much hope that I’d be able to get anything more than these images, but I knew that since it was their first show in the tour, I might get lucky.
After the meet and greet, the band disappeared into a room and closed the door. I knew my chances of getting any intimate images was waning, but I stayed backstage anyway.
“Come on in,” the manager said.
The thrill is kind of immense when you are allowed to access very personal, intimate moments like that. It doesn’t matter if it’s a wedding shoot with a very cool couple or a real A-list Hollywood Star letting you make a few photos with them. ( Robin Hood, JFK, The Untouchables, Field of Dreams, Dances with Wolves, Waterworld, 3,000 Miles to Graceland, The Bodyguard, etc) .
I changed my camera lens to a 14-24, adjusted my white balance for the color temp of the room and as discreetly and doe-like as I could adjust my 200-pound, way-over-40 frame, started shooting.
It was almost perfect.
The band acted like I wasn’t there. I kept quiet, stayed out of their way and just shot. NO motor drive back here. One frame. Discreet. One frame. Discreet. One Frame. Pause. One frame. Discreet.
They had an opening show to perform in minutes. The last thing I wanted to do was draw attention to myself or interrupt their focused moments. Worse, get kicked out.
I knew I wouldn’t use my flash. I knew it would do all the things that I didn’t want to do. I also knew the light where they were standing was horrible.
There would mounted lights on the ceiling and pointed toward the walls, but there was very little light falling on the band in the center of the room.
In a case like this, I’ll shoot with whatever light I can get.
I didn’t realize was that Kevin Costner was not only aware of my dilemma but he also had a solution.
“Would you like us to move to the other side of the room where the light is better?”, he asked.
“Yes,” I said out loud.
Inside, I screamed, “YES, YES, YES, YES, YES, YES, YES”!
He was directing the shoot. He’s not only an A-list Hollywood actor, he’s also a director with incredible knowledge of scenes and backdrops and moments and film and, most importantly to me, light.
The band moved to the other side of the room. Costner leaned against the red wall, almost directly under one of the overhead spotlights.
The band formed a semi-circle around him as they warmed up their voices and their instruments.
I thanked God and KC under my breath, knelt down, and pushed the shutter.
I had about 3 minutes with the band under that light. I thought the series of images was pretty powerful.
So did Rolling Stone magazine.
They published it here:
Thank you for your direction.
I think the credited image should look like this: