I finally got to shoot GWAR. This shock-rock band has been kicking ass for almost 30 years. They’re even quasi-local (they’re based out of Richmond) but I’ve never gotten to one of their shows before now. I had heard the stories, and I had to photograph this spectacle. I got some protective gear and dove right in. Prepare to have your face melted.
Shutter: 1/250, Aperture: f/1.8, ISO: 3200 Lens: 18-35mm
If you’re not familiar with Gwar, shame on you. They alien demons from another planet here to ruin your day and enslave mankind. All the while insulting the audience and spraying blood and goo on the masses. They don’t stop at elaborate foam costumes, they have entire stage productions with fluids and pyrotechnics, and the songs are catchy and fun.
It’s all in good fun, but very messy. To shoot this show, I knew I wouldn’t be able to swap lenses. I always shoot two body anyhow, but I had to be very discerning about which lenses I went with. I decided to cover the low end with my amazeballs 18-35mm f/1.8, and on the high end with my 70-200mm f/2.8. I’d miss not having my trusty 50mm f/1.4, or my 15mm fisheye with me, but I was sure I could get everything I needed with those two lenses. I picked up this two pack of OP/TECH USA Rainsleeves for my camera off of Amazon (two sleeves for $6). They worked great in keeping my gear nice and dry. I brought a small pack of baby wipes with me, and wiped up the lens hood and the front of the lens before packing up. I did have two cheap-o UV filters on the front element. They cleaned up easy, but I was prepared to throw them away if they had been damaged. (They were less than $15 a piece). My 7D is attached via an over the shoulder rapid-strap, and my 40D is worn around the neck, tourist style. Both of these arrangements worked out comfortably with the plastic. The sleeves have a draw string on one end to tighten up around the front of the lens (I then recommend using your lens hood to offer a bit more protection, and they have a pre-cut hole to poke your viewfinder through. Canon models have a removable eye cup you can attach on the outside to keep that in place. The only two issues I had (and this is normal) is that the viewfinder window fogged up really bad because of all the plastic near my face. At one point I thought it was my lens out of focus, but really it was the view finder window. The other issue was it was a bit more difficult to zoom, unless you kept your hand up the sleeve, touching the actual camera. It’s possible to twist the focus and zoom through the plastic, but a little tricky. I have to admit there was quite a bit of spray and pray going on. I shot-shot-shot, and then hoped for some good stuff. I did my best to get the composition going, but I did a lot of composition looking over the top of the camera, and refocusing for every shot.
Speaking of spray, when I first walked into the pit, I noticed no one was really all that bloody, so a thought occured to me that maybe I was over-prepared and I wasn’t in that much danger of getting messy. Nope, I wasn’t able to really harbor that thought longer than 30 seconds when a cold jet of Gwar blood blasted me right in the goddam ear. You’d think it was like a water gun with a quick spurt, but it was more like a garden hose, I had to duck to make it stop. It came from this little bastard with the hose spigot in his mouth. Thirty seconds in. But I loved it! I was initiated into the pit, and I learned what to avoid.
Shutter: 1/80, Aperture: f/2.8, ISO: 1600, Lens: 70-200mm
So the only two lenses I brought were my 18-35mm f/1.8 and my 70-200mm. I didn’t use the 70-200mm too much, even though I wanted some good clean detail on the costumes, the 35mm got me pretty much what I wanted, plus most of the time, I wanted more of the scene in the frame. When I’m shooting human faces, I like some tight close-ups, but I found they weren’t that necessary here. Typically 50% off my shots are of the lead singer, but Oderus here had the mic in front of his face a lot, so I had a tougher time. If I were to do it again, with only two lenses, I’d probably bring my 15mm fisheye for some dramatic shots of the whole stage. I got some with my 18mm, but the “extreme” quality of the fisheye shots would add some flavor.
Shutter: 1/60, Aperture: f/2.0, ISO: 1600, Lens: 18-35mmmm
Make sure to get the audience. Most of them liked being photographed and would pose for me anytime I turned around. I wish I had the fisheye for these guys too. I’ve been to a lot of shows with “aggressive” audiences who like to mosh and act tough. This crowd, while seemingly more “punk” on the outside were very nice, accommodating, and generally fun to be around. They let me move from the back of the venue all the way up to the front to get into the pit without any issues.
Shutter: 1/60, Aperture: f/2.0, ISO: 1600, Lens 18-35mm
So this shot was a total accident. I’ve played with spin-zoom before, where you twist the zoom while clicking the shutter. It’s a cool effect (that everyone now assumes is a filter, so its a lot less impressive, unless people know you’re hardcore) I actually got this effect by twisting the entire camera while clicking. I didn’t intend to do it, but I happened to get Beefcake the Mighty’s face in focus. Total score. Otherwise it was a little difficult to get unique camera angles. I couldn’t swap lenses and I was trying to steer clear of the blood hoses. I had a lot of fun, but I was a much less nuanced outing. Check out my pics below.