B List: Chad Smith’s Favorite Photos, Pt. 1

2. Marco Benevento @ Jam Cruise 2009

Benevento is one of my favorites, I have had the pleasure of seeing and shooting Marco around the country and even at an intimate destination wedding in Costa Rica. This shot was taken on JamCruise 6 (my second time on the illustrious magical boat).

The backdrop of the main stage was this very cool LED Display and I wanted to capture a very shallow Depth of Field (DOF) shot and had just gotten the Canon 85 1.2L lens which happens to be one of the sharpest, most shallow DOF lenses Canon makes. The problem with the lens is that the autofocus is garbage. It is slow as molasses, so working without the current luxury of live view and trying to focus on 2″ focal plane can be a challenge. I am very pleased with how this particular shot turned out. The energy captured with Marco’s hair flying about and the lens flare, and the bokeh of the LED’s in the background make it a favorite.

3. Thievery Corporation @ Langerado 2008

Here’s another shot obtained with one of my favorite lenses I have shot with – the Sigma 30 1.4, on my Canon 40D. This was one of the first times I got to see Thievery and was blown away. So, this photo isnt technically great, or framed especially well, or even showcases my artistic abilites, but it has a good story.

As I mentioned earlier, for my first couple of years shooting I did not have a photo pass for many of the shows I shot. I happened to have an All Access artist pass for Langerado, and took full advantage of the access it gave me, however much of the time I was very apprehensive about going places I shouldn’t. After a very short period of time, any hesitations I had wore off with a little liquid courage and I started to venture out high above the main stage.

I caught a great glimpse of the band stretching and doing some pre-show warmup Yoga, and then decided to venture a little higher up to the catwalk. I started to take some photos and then decided to change lenses. That was a mistake. S0 from about 20+ feet up, my favorite lense slipped through my fingertips and dropped all the way onto the stage. It landed just in between the stage monitor board and the head of a very large and angry security guard.

Security screamed at me to get down. I quickly, yet carefully, started to climb down to the stage. I walked up to the security guards – a few more had come over to see what had happened and to find out who this photographer was who was not supposed to be up there – and they started talking to me. I picked up my lens, and before they could stop me, I turned and walked away from them. They didn’t stop me and I didn’t turn back. Needless to say, I didn’t try this again. Miraculously the lens was fine. I sent it in to the manufacturer to get recalibrated and they checked it out and there was nothing wrong with it.

4.The Dead @ Allstate Arena 2009

“Hello?” “Is this Chad Smith?”, says the voice on the other end of the phone. “This is Jay Blakesberg, and I am wondering if you can shoot the Chicago Dead reunion shows for this book project that I am doing?” Of course I said yes! I knew Jay was this legendary Rock Photographer and was/is one of the best in the business. Jay was doing these live concert books from each stop on the Dead’s reunion tour where fans could order them on the web a couple days after each show and wanted me to be a part of his project. I was honored, humbled, nervous, and extremely excited.

I had the opportunity to be the only photographer who got to shoot the shows in their entirety and the second night, I was the only photographer there. The key for each night’s shoot was to get the bow at the end of the show for the back cover of the book. I was given a copy of the setlist each night so I knew who to shoot when, and when the bow was going to happen. Of course they didnt stick to the setlist.

I was talking to some friends in the crowd when they ended one song early, and literally began a full-on sprint with cameras in tow down the stairs into the pit and JUST barely caught the shot. I never had the opportunity to see the Grateful Dead live, but seeing the Dead for the first time and having the opportunity to capture this bow was an epic experience in its own right.

5. Umphrey’s McGee @ Rothbury 2009

Umphrey’s McGee is my favorite band touring today. The above shots were taken on the last night of Rothbury 2009. This performance absolutely blew me and everyone else at Rothbury away. Here we have two separate images of Umphrey’s McGee combined into a single photo.Umphrey’s never ceases to amaze me. As musicians they are continually evolving and trying new fresh things which is what attracts me to their music, and also what I strive towards as a photographer.

Recently, I have started taking closeups of many musicians including the members of Umphrey’s, and have received some criticism as people seem to really love my wide colorful shots (which I do as well), but I just wanted to keep things a little fresh. I have been fortunate to work with the band very closely over the past few years and have had the opportunity to capture some amazing images as a result. I decided to make these diptych as these two images together really complement each other and truly express the “RAWK” which to me is Umphrey’s.

Check back on July 14 for the other five shots Chad picked as his favorites as well as the stories behind them. You can see more examples of Chad Smith’s incredible work at his website.

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