November 26, 2008 – Reunited with Jimmy Chamberlin's explosive drumming, Billy Corgan led the Smashing Pumpkins through a roaring, esoteric set sprinkled with a few fan-favorites along the way, all the while bathed in mottled light.
For this performance, we were allotted three songs from the front of the stage. At the venue where this performance took place, there is no dedicated photo pit, but simply the gap between the seated front row of the orchestra seating and the stage. I shot from a position just house right of center, crouched down as not to obstruct the view of the audience.
Overall, this was a uniquely challenging performance to shoot, with the primary reason being the lighting treatment that played out over the band.
The roving spotlights were not only cycling through a myriad array of colors, but they were gobo'ed as well, casting mottled, unpredictable patterns over the stage. Contrasting colors like green and magenta swirled together to create some pretty wild color combinations that wrecked havoc on the sensor as pixels saturated from the mono-chromatic treatments. While the lights were a little more calm (and still shining – sometimes they simply weren't!), reds and yellows splashed over Billy and the gang.
For me, the quality of the lighting was so strange that it became essentially a non-issue for photography. More than anything, I found that I was waiting for any light at all to fall over Billy Corgan, and then within that interval, waiting more still for unique expressions or motions. Whether the lighting was red, yellow, or purple (individually or all at once) was very much at the back of my mind.
I shot this show with the Nikon D3 and D700. Lenses used were the Nikon 14-24mm, 24-70mm, and 70-200mm, though the latter saw the most use overall. The ultra-wide 14-24mm was only used for one or two full-stage shots, but easily could have been left at home. The 70-200mm was especially useful for tight shots of Billy Corgan and Jimmy Chamberlin.
Since Corgan and Chamberin were the two remaining original members, I dedicated my limited shooting time to those performers, though I made sure to pick up bassist Ginger Reyes and guitarist Jeff Schroeder as well.
In truth, I don't think there's much one can do to prepare for a shoot like this, other than to fall back on experience and to try and knock out interesting compositions. In that regard, relatively stripped of aesthetic “distractions,” the Smashing Pumpkins' performance wasn't really different than any other. If anything, the non-lighting only served to heighten the importance of gesture and timing.
As a side note, I feel compelled to add that Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness was the first CD I ever bought for myself.