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Concert Photography Advice from Tao Jones

Google+ is an awesome platform that has helped me connect with a multitude of photographers. I was exposed to the talents of Tao Jones while commenting on photographs at the Canon Users Google+ community.

Tao Jones is an exceptional photographer from Australia that excels at concert photography. You can view his awesome photos HERE.

I took the time to seek out this talented photography and ask him questions about concert photography. His answers are below.

First and foremost, how long have you been interested in photography?

Tao Jones: From a very early age (I am now 66). I was interested in playing with my dad's box brownie. I was amazed that it could make an image of what I was looking at. I have always loved looking at photos and that amazement of what a camera can do has stayed with me. I got my first SLR camera around the age of 17 a Yashica something. Then photography faded away as martial arts and women took over. It wasn't until in the 90's with the digital age that I fully took it up again. Starting with the Canon G series and then moving up to a 10D SLR and so on.

What does photography mean to Tao Jones?

Tao Jones: Photography is Tao Jones he has no other existence he is a made up character. It is the name I used in photographic forums on the net. Tao pronounced Dow was for my interest in martial arts and spiritual stuff, Jones was because I was sick of trying to keep up with them. It was my worldly name the man who would drink, smoke and say things I would never dream of doing or saying.

He was born in the photographic pits of music festivals. Dark and dingy places. Plus he got to hear his name every day on the radio, the Dow Jones report, sometimes I was up and some days I was down. Tao Jones has to take photos he looks at life through a lens, a bit pathetic really but I let him get away with it as it keeps him quiet.

When people view a Tao Jones photography what do you want them to see?

Tao Jones: Like all good art it should stop the viewer for a while and make you look silently. Maybe the chattering mind slows and allows for vision to take over. It should give a sense of something else being there.

This is the biggest influence on my photography, everything changed once I read this. It is by Minor White 'No matter how slow the film, Spirit always stands still long enough for the photographer It has chosen'. I have based all my photography on that one statement. I just didn't try after that, I slowed right down. I learnt as much as I could about the technical side of photography. I left the rest to being very present with what I was shooting, always in relationship with it in a non judgmental aware way. The silent empty mind is a very important part of photography, the ideal is when there is no division between the observer and the observed. Then the above statement takes over.

I notice that you have a background in graphic design. In what ways has your graphic design background helped your photography?

Tao Jones: Not much, maybe the other way around. My photos were showing up in everything I designed.

I love your photography. The detail, the angles, the passion is awesome. What caused you to gravitate towards concert photography?

Tao Jones: I live in town that is full of musicians and arty people, everyone here is writing a book or making a movie. You can be anything in this town. I just kept plugging away at my passion. I went to a big festival and sneaked a 10D in with a 85 f1.8 lens took shots of everything. Then I gave them to the festival. They asked me the next year to be their photographer, that was in 2003. From there I have been invited to shoot most of the major festivals in Australia. I always think that every photo you put out should be treated like a business card. Never show anything that you don't want to represent you. I also lived at one of the biggest music studios in Australia so I got to shoot the bands that recorded there.

What is the best concert that you have been to?

Tao Jones: That is a very difficult question they are all so different but for a great visual feast it was the Soundwave Metal Concert. The crowd and musicians were dressed like the game of thrones. Everyone had tats. Plus I couldn't believe I was in the pit photographing Metallica. It still amazes me when I turn around and see 100,000 people and I think how the f..k did I get here. As you can see from my photos I have had the privilege of photographing some great musicians. I would like to do a jazz festival. They are all good.

Would you mind sharing five tips that can help photographers increase their concert photography?

Tao Jones: I have shared this with a lot of pit photographers and I don't think any of them did it. They go back to rapid fire and AV mode. It is a given you have to know your gear very well.

1. Learn to see without the concept. The word is not the thing. Look as though all edges are open so no closed edges, everything is in relationship. Look at space, be whole body and mind attentive to what is presenting itself and you are a part of that, not an outsider with a camera. The camera is there to capture your vision of seeing this way. That is were most of the pit photographers blank out and say thanks.

2. I only shoot in M mode, one shot at a time. Usually spot metering unless shooting wide. Only in RAW. I set my f stop to F2.8, I set my ISO to what will give me enough speed to take the shot so it is high. I like to shoot around 1/320 but the timing is the only thing I will change once I am set up...Simple.

Av mode hasn't got a clue what is happening it is exposing for all the lights and not the artist. Rapid fire is not in relationship with the 'subject'. Why both being there if that is the case.

3. Watch and wait. You get three songs to shoot which is plenty. The first song I watch how the lights work and how the artist moves I take a few shots just to see if my settings are right but I mainly watch, timing the rhythm of the lights and the stop start of the artist. Second song I go into action still waiting but with my finger ready to fire I now have a idea of what's going on. I don't take a lot of shots I just keep watching and waiting. Remember the above Minor White quote I am doing that.

4. Look for framing, look for threes, don't shoot microphones if you can help it, let the artist move away. Let the other photographers wear themselves out pushing each other and constantly looking at the back of their cameras. Go where the other photographers don't go. Be in the zone and be very prepared to move fast anything can happen, that is the shot you want.

5. That is a secret...


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