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Counting Crows' Adam Duritz, 2008

Posted by
Gary Hart (California, United States) on 13 July 2009 in People & Portrait.

Because today's my birthday I'm taking a day off from nature photography to post something fun (not that nature photography isn't fun--but when it's your livelihood, it's also quite serious). I'll return you to your regular programming tomorrow.

Music is a drug. We use it to stimulate and soothe, to complement and counter our mood, to remember or forget. It connects us, divides us, and stirs memories with disturbing suddenness and clarity.

A concert is the musical equivalent of mainlining. I love the relationship between the band and the crowd that can spiral into a euphoric frenzy that leaves you breathless, and other times renders 20,000 people quiet as snowfall in a forest.

And like everyone else, I scratch my head at the musical tastes of others (what exactly is the deal with that whole bass drum in the trunk sound?). Of course others no doubt scratch their heads at mine. Growing up, I remember being utterly baffled by the music of my parents. The feeling was emphatically mutual. So imagine my excitement when I started to hear my children listening to "my" music, and found myself at the record store (remember those?) buying "their" music. One of my most cherished parenting memories is taking my daughters to a Paul McCartney concert (the walls of their bedroom were plastered with Beatles' pictures) and seeing them each shed tears of joy.

The artists, of any form, who best reach me are those who seem to have a direct, unfiltered path from their soul to their medium. For me no musician does this better than Counting Crows' Adam Duritz, whose music seems so personal and cathartic that listening to it at times almost feels like an invasion of privacy. I admire and envy that openness--it's something to aspire to.

I attend concerts as a fan, not a photographer (which means I have to sneak my camera in just like everyone else). So I find Counting Crows utter lack of concern for cameras at their concerts (I've actually walked through the gate at a CC concert carrying an SLR and attached telephoto) quite refreshing. This openness is just one more I thing I appreciate about the band--I've never seen a band of their popularity take such efforts to connect with their fans. But I'm afraid I also find their camera policy oddly disappointing, as it removes all need to employ the espionage tactics (secret compartments in my camera bag, bulky down jacket in July) that reconnect me with my fifth-grade self. Sigh. Nevertheless, it's nice to forego stealth photography mode for at least one show.

Last summer I took my youngest daughter, also a huge Counting Crows fan, to see them for the first time. This shot is from that concert. I like to think they were performing one of my favorites, maybe "Miami" or "A Murder of One," but I honestly don't remember. And of course it doesn't really matter because we both enjoyed every second. The drive home was special too, as we listened to the familiar versions of the music we'd just seen performed live, shared favorite moments, and marveled at Adam Duritz's ability to make us feel like he's never performed this song exactly this way, and never will again.

In two weeks I travel to Berkeley to see them again, this time with my oldest daughter, a birthday present to myself. I can't wait.

Next post: July 14 (please view my previous posts by clicking the arrow in the upper left of today's image)

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Chelsea Hart from Sacramento, United States

I love that we both share such a deep connection with his music. Not even two days ago I was on my run listening to an array of CC music, and it flooded and filled me with so much truth it almost left me breathless (which was not optimal given the current activity). I wish I could convey the depth of his words to just anyone, but often it goes right over their heads. When talking about it with you, however, I don't feel so silly. :) Happy almost birthday, by the way.

13 Jul 2009 6:33am

@Chelsea Hart: Thank you, sweetie. :) I listened to them on my run this morning too.

Claudia from Illinois, United States

Wow..absolutely amazing shot of Adam. How did you get enough light? I was looking at your camera settings and can't figure it out. Did you use a flash?

It's also so great to read how someone else loves music so much. You described its effects perfectly. I was as DJ at a rock station for several years when I was younger and I remember how much I was stuck on "Time and Time Again" when August... first came out. It reminded me a bit of the Stones 'Wild Horses.' Your daughters are lucky that they have someone--with taste--with whom they can discuss music. Growing up, I could never find a girl with good musical taste. Girls would say, "oh, I LOVE music!" and inevitably they would have a 3-album collection which included the soundtracks to Footloose and Flashdance and something from Janet Jackson. I was so lucky when I met my husband and finally felt like I had connected with a true music lover.

Sorry for rambling. Happy Birthday. :)

13 Jul 2009 2:33pm

@Claudia: Thanks, Claudia. No flash. The key to concert photography is manual exposure and spot metering on your subject--and an image stabilized lens or camera helps a lot. Concert lighting can be incredibly bright. And since your subject is usually in the brightest light, any metering but spot is reading darker parts of the frame that you don't care about, which means your meter will tell you (or your camera if you're in an auto mode) that you need more light than you really do. So I set the camera to the widest aperture, figure out the minimum shutter speed I can get away with (experience will tell you this), and then adjust my ISO for exposure. If I have wiggle room with the shutter speed I may bump it a bit to increase my margin for error. The other thing to remember is that concert lighting is constantly changing, so I usually compose and focus, then wait for the bright light. Of course performers like Adam Duritz are all over the stage, so this is not as simple as it sounds. It's a pretty inexact science, and I get a fair amount of blurry pictures. BTW, I could have gone on for hours about Counting Crows' music, but everyone experiences music and musicians so differently, I figured it wouldn't interest others nearly as much as it interests me, so I spared you. But after thinking so much about music and its effect on all of us yesterday morning (when I wrote the post), I was in Barnes & Noble yesterday afternoon and found (by accident) a book called "This is Your Brain on Music," by Daniel Levitin. It's about how, and more importantly why, we are so affected by music. I've already read enough to recommend it to anyone interested in that kind of thing.

Brent Fraser from United States

Happy Birthday Gary! Great image for someone who doesn't shoot people. Enjoy your day!

13 Jul 2009 3:11pm

@Brent Fraser: Thanks, Brent. Yeah, anyone who's taken one of my workshops is laughing because I always say I never shoot anything that moves. But this doesn't count because it's for fun and not profit. I still don't like photographing people because by the time I'm ready they're not doing what I wanted to photograph in the first place. Landscapes just sit there and wait for me. :)

dobbino from Cape Town, South Africa

Happy Birthday, Gary - may it be a very, very special one. And I wish you many more happy and healthy one. Will have to do some research, because I must confess to not knowing the group *shame* ! Amongst many others, always a Beatles fan, and I especially love the music of Chris de Burgh, another who really shares a concert with his fans. Enjoy your trip and travel safely.

13 Jul 2009 4:27pm

@dobbino: Thank you, Rob. Yeah, you should check them out. You'll probably find you recognize some of their stuff.

Scott Pudwell from Maple Valley, WA, United States

Hey Gary.......I knew there was a reason I was coming to your workshop. I'm a big Crows fan as well. I got to spend about an hour with Adam & Co. hanging out in a locker room at a small college performance in Winona, MN back in 2003. It was very cool getting an opportunity to chat with them about their lyrics, style, etc. Adam is one heck of a songwriter. Anyway, great picture, and looking forward to Feb! Thanks!

13 Jul 2009 10:12pm

@Scott Pudwell: Pretty cool, Scott. I'd love to meet Duritz some day--it would be fun to hear about your experience.

Don Smith from California, United States

Hey Gary, greetings from Santa Barbara and a big Happy Birthday. How old are you now??? On second thought don't tell me, I'm right behind you! Look forward to seeing you next Monday.

14 Jul 2009 4:31am

Tracy from La Selva Beach, United States

Happy belated birthday! I am touched by the fact that you share such a great connection with your daughters through music (and I am sure other things as well) It is just awesome when our kids are grown and we really get to know what great people they are.

14 Jul 2009 1:48pm

@Tracy: Thank you, Tracy. Yeah, it's pretty cool when your kids get old enough to share passions as equals.

Ashley from San Francisco, United States

Hey, Dad - I just saw this post/picture, and I love them both. (Sorry if you thought I was ignoring you - bar study has me ignoring all my blogs lately. Including my own.) I can't wait for Sunday!!

23 Jul 2009 3:58pm

@Ashley: Thanks, Ash (it's almost over--then you just need to wait patiently for the results to be posted in November). :) See you Sunday.