Let’s Go to the Hop!
Saturday night, I went to a metal concert at The Hop. Back story: I used to go to metal concerts all the time when I was a wee lass. I have fond memories of the Old Redmond Fire House. Continuing with Saturday night. I got there only to realize I was short on cash. I needed $3. I furrowed my eyebrows, looked at the door man and panicked. Next thing I know, I turned around and cried to the crowd, “Does anyone want a portrait for $3?” Somebody in the back moaned, “I don’t have $3…” The door man took me up on the offer and let me take his photo in exchange for entrance. And then… I got in. Welcome to Day 3 of The Hop’s Grand Opening.
Instead of going into a detailed review of The Hop as a liberation of Spokane venues and spewing what’s wrong with the music scene here in town, I’m going to get right to the point and tell you why I went. Photography. Is The Hop a practical venue for photography? Yes. It has everything going for it. Diverse backdrops, base lighting and movement. I’ll go through each subject and describe why it succeeds at each plus and how it could be better.
There’s nothing that screams Spokane quite like brick. It’s everywhere. In our buildings and under our streets. It’s a natural building tool that doesn’t need to be painted or adorned with artwork to make it look nice. On its own, it’s gritty, bright and textured. In the main performance room, it’s the main backdrop. The greatest design offender in the room is the item found in both the Hop’s former and current identity. The stage sign. It reflects light poorly and its inability to lay flat on the wall creates awkward shadows. Suggestion: Paint the logo on the back wall minus the address with non-glossy paint. Maybe paste a collage of concert photos surrounding it?
The rest of the venue is diverse with red embossed plumage upstairs to blue tile in the bathrooms. According to The Hop owner, Thomas Chavez, the old Cretin Hop bathrooms were gross, but now that they’re tile, he expects they’ll be much nicer. I didn’t walk inside, but from outside, they do look rather inviting. In other portions of the venue, like the upstairs and main door entrance, the walls are yellow. Because of the diversity, it is important to shoot in RAW so you can edit the white balance later on. The yellow room is not going to look the same as the brick room.
The venue is a photographer’s dream for lighting. There’s just enough that you don’t need to pump your ISO up to 502,359,027,350,973. This is a lesson other venues in town need to learn. ISO 400-600 worked just nicely in this venue. When you’re upstairs, it’s easy to bounce your external flash behind you to get smooth lighting over your subject. While you’re on the stage floor, shooting your light straight up seems to be the only viable option. When shooting the stage area, one issue that you’ll run into is that your subjects are always one-dimensional. The images you take of them will never be that strong. Suggestion: Create a standard three-point setup. Back light the bands to create more dimension. I’d even throw a bastard amber or two on the key light. When I was there, the stage lights were not on. The bands were lit with the grid lighting in the audience area. So far this venue is showing a lot of promise to cease headaches with local concert photography.
Metal bands are known for their thrashing about. The Hop is known for metal bands. One thing you can always rely on, your photos will have movement. You have two choices: You can capture the freeze frame moment with your flash like above. Or you can turn that baby off and get the blurred action like above above. It’s entirely up to you. You have to be careful not to turn your shutter speed down so low, that you’ll just capture a ghost of a person with no distinguishing actions. I made that mistake when the lead singer of Faus jumped off the stage and started throwing a drum around. Suggestion: There is nothing the venue can do to help you photograph movements. Simply pick your top three settings that you think you’ll use at a venue and be ready to flip between those settings at a moment’s notice. This is where your custom settings (C1, C2 & C3) come in handy.
I’m excited to see where The Hop goes with this multi-functional venue. I hear they have plans for more intimate concerts, acoustic perhaps? I didn’t feel hassled as a customer. The staff was pleasant and the concert-goers were friendly. The bar and restaurant licensing, the recording capabilities… It’s the best Spokane can ask for at this time.
On another note, I’d love to see a local band cover this song: Let’s Go to The Hop!
– The Hop just created their Facebook Page!