January 24, 2017

Best of: Top 50: My favourite concert photos of 2016

Picking my 50 favourite concert photos from one in ten words for 2016 was an exceedingly difficult task. I saw over 300 bands at 99 concerts and had so many amazing experiences. I’ve discovered year after year that my favourite photos are more linked to the great times I’ve had at shows, and whether the mood of the show was captured in the shot, than anything about technical excellence, composition or “art”. If I had a bad time at a show, chances are I won’t really like the photos. If I had a great time at a show, those good memories can overshadow the technical or artistic photographic elements. So, like my love of certain music over other music, my choice of photos is very much based on passion and emotion over logic and reason.

I think that there are two key aspects of great photography from the photographer's perspective; taking a photo, and then realizing you have a great photo. It's absolutely not as easy as you think. You may skip right past what someone else would think is the most brilliant photo. I find self-assessment really difficult. Post-processing is also a huge factor in making a good photo into a great photo. How you choose to process the photo - leave it colour, make it black and white, treat it with more contrast, emphasize or deemphasize the highlights or shadows, will all impact how the end photo is perceived. I find that cropping is very significant to the end result. Too much and you can remove the atmosphere, too little and there's no focal point for the shot. Sometimes I'll go through several crops before deciding on the final shot to publish. Hey, no one said it would be easy, right?

Well, here they are, in my humble opinion, the 50 best photos that appeared on one in ten words in 2016. Special thanks to Roy Cohen, B. Hartling and Brendan Albert for their contributions this year. And special thanks to all the artists, promoters and publicists who let me into shows and all the teams at the festivals, concerts, halls, clubs and bars that were so hospitable. Without you, what I'm lucky enough to do would not be possible.

If you like a shot or an artist, be sure to click through to the rest of the photos from the show and some tunes. All the best for 2017 and hope you stick with me as I switch focus to concentrate more on concert photography and move other aspects of the site to the back-burner, for a while at least.

And finally, in case you missed them, check out my favourite songs of 2016 and my favourite albums of 2016.
July Talk is absolutely one of my favourite bands. This shot captures Leah Fay giving it her all at Field Trip last summer. Amazing band. Amazing show. Amazing day. And this shot captures that energy.
Sumo Cyco's show at the intimate Cherry Cola's was one of the most fun shows I caught this year. It had been quite a while since I saw them perform and they put on one of the most fun shows I saw all year. This shot captures Skye's fun attitude, cool energy and manages to deal with the vivid red LED lighting. It's a shot that I linger on whenever it comes across my screen.
The energy of the Barrie crowd at Monster Truck's Roxy Theatre show was amazing. This shot captures the crowd energy and the band's energy coming together.
I love this pic from The Cure's headlining performance at Bestival. Robert Smith standing alone on stage as the crowd expresses their appreciation for him and his legendary tunes. It captures that feeling between the band and audience from a great vantage point.
I can't say more about Frank Turner than I've already said in my reviews of his shows and my features on his music. This show at Danforth Music Hall was an emotional and triumphant one for me, personally. And this shot captures that feeling of human, musical glory.
Sate is a musical powerhouse. The songs, her voice, the performance. They all come together when she and the band hits the stage. This shot captures Sate's intensity from a sweaty show at The Silver Dollar Room.
The Balconies put on a cool show at one of Toronto's most magnificent venues, The Great Hall. I love how balance, symmetry and beauty come together in this shot. I think it captures the power and grace of The Balconies.
I borrowed a fisheye lens for this year's Toronto Urban Roots Festival. It was a lot of fun and I'm looking forward to buying one so I can always get this kind of perspective in my shots. This shot of James Bay at TURF captures the show, the energy and the special point of view the fisheye delivers.
Another Frank Turner shot. This one's special because it marked my first time shooting at Massey Hall. Thanks, Frank.
The Twilight Sad are one of my favourite live bands. Their performance in the afternoon sun at Bestival was captivating, emotional and cathartic. It slayed me to my soul and I know from talking to people at the festival, I wasn't alone. This shot captures James Graham's almost unhinged performance. I cannot wait to see this band again.
Charles Bradley is a beautiful human being, so full of peace and love. I love how this photo captures the love and appreciation he has for his audience from his recent show at The Danforth Music Hall.
Another of my all-time favourite bands, The Joy Formidable. This shot captures Ritzy's on-stage energy so well. This marked my first time shooting these amazingly talented musicians.
Over the year, The Beaches have become a personal favourite. I love this shot from their Bovine Sex Club show. Watch out for this band as they release their debut full-length later this year.
How many times will I type "favourite"? At least one more time, as this shot of Craig Finn of The Hold Steady from TURF captures one of my favourite performers and songwriters in action. Glad I got a shot of him pointing.
Roy Cohen has captured some amazing shots this year. His work capturing the audiences at festivals has been unique and compelling. This shot from All Day I Dream is my personal favourite.
Here's the last shot from Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls' Massey Hall gig. I love the way this shot captures Ben Lloyd's and the audience's energy. What a great show!
I'm probably typing "energy" at least as much as "favourite". That's because capturing the energy of a live show is what I try to do. This shot of Rural Alberta Advantage drummer Paul Banwatt from Riverfest Elora does just that. He's a captivating drummer to watch because of the energy and passion he puts into his playing.
Capturing all four flames shooting up from the Bollywood Stage at Bestival was a lot harder than you think it would be. But I got it!
My first time seeing Pup was at Hillside. This photo captures the band's intensity, the audience's energy and the wall of security guards holding back the fence. Maybe consider a proper concert barrier next time.
This pic of Leah Fay from July Talk at Field Trip captures her interaction with the audience; tightrope walking along the barrier. I was dying for her to turn around but I like how this turned out even better than if she did.
Another shot of Sate in action. This one's from the Bovine Sex Club.
I'd never heard of Pony before their gig at The Silver Dollar Room. I'll see them any time I get the chance now. This shot captures their unique energy.
Limblifter is a favourite band of mine. And I got to see them three times this year. Lots of great shots were captured, but I especially like this one from TURF.
I love Junkhouse, and Tom Wilson's other projects like Lee Harvey Osmond. This is a shot from a show by the latter at Lee's Palace.
I did some promo photos for the first time this year. I have to admit that I prefer concert photography because I don't have to direct my subject, I just have to capture. Fortunately, Vivien Shepherd and John Campbell are both pros who don't need a lot of direction. And this shot, which was the idea in my head when we started, turned out well and turned out to be their favourite.
I Mother Earth with Edwin, playing Scenery & Fish in its entirety. Something I never thought I'd see. This is Edwin belting it out. What an amazing show!
While I didn't get to shoot any of The Tragically Hip's shows this year, I was at Riverfest Elora when their final show was broadcast. This is shot from behind the screen, captures Gord, and the crowd watching him.
Warpaint produce some of the most beautiful music I've ever heard. I like this shot from a night of very challenging lighting.
My high school photography teacher used to tell us that a good black and white photo should have all tones between pure white and pure black. Well, while I don't disagree, I'm a big fan of contrast, so I like this shot with its stark whites and blacks. I captured this shot of Marlon Chaplin at one of my final shows of 2016.
Another one of Charles Bradley. This one shows the other side of his performance; him belting out wonderful melodies.
Another shot by Roy Cohen. This one's from Ty Segall's performance last winter. It looks like a crazy show and this shot communicates that.
Another one of Skye from Sumo Cyco's Cherry Cola's show.
I loved Best Coast's Danforth Music Hall show. This is my favourite shot from that show.
Sometimes your eye just catches a shot and you have to take it. That's what happened as I stood in the crowd at Riverfest Elora. A treble clef peace sign tattoo at a music festival. What could be more perfect?
You'll hear concert photographers complain about light. A lot. The light at Robyn's Field Trip show looked challenging. But I got a lot of great shots. This is my favourite. A contemplative moment during a high-energy set.
This summer marked my first Bestival experience. And the parade was one of the highlights. This shot captures the vibe quite nicely.
I had a fantastic time at Diet Cig's Drake Underground show. I can't wait to see them again when they return to Toronto on April 11.
Just a cool shot of High Waisted at The Silver Dollar Room. It captures the band's vibe really well, I think.
A great shot by B. Hartling of one of her favourite bands, Catfish and The Bottlemen. Add to that the fact that they shared a bunch of the pics on their social media, and that they put on a killer live show.
Another one of Roy Cohen's great audience shots. This one's from Bestival.
Steel Panther are an amazing band to see live and to photograph. Roy Cohen made this shot at Rebel.
I don't mind embracing silhouettes when the lighting creates them. This one's from The Faint at Velvet Underground.
I love this double exposure of Rome Fortune that Roy Cohen captured at Velvet Underground.
Kind of like the photo from Bestival of all four flames at the Bollywood Stage, this shot from Walk Off The Earth at Riverfest Elora took patience and perseverance. But I got it!
The Effens really impressed me with their live show at The Horseshoe. And I like this shot.
Brendan Albert shot Skye | Ross at Velvet Underground. This symmetrical, angel wing shot is wonderful.
I've never seen yoga at a music festival before. Acro Buddhas created a beautiful display of grace and strength at Bestival.
The lighting at The Horseshoe Tavern put Eagulls' guitarist in complete shadow. But I rather like how this "compromise" picture turned out.
They say that there's no such thing as bad publicity, so when an artist tweets out one of your pictures with a funny comment, you just have to go with it. Bob Mould Band's Jason Narducy shared this photo from their performance at The Horseshoe Tavern with the comment, "Things I have forgotten to pack for a tour over the years: passport, socks, my right leg". Awesome!
Another shot from TURF with that fisheye lens. The CN Tower, the stage while Death Cab for Cutie were performing and the purveyors of delicious treats. It's all there in all its distorted, fishbowl glory.