For this edition of IN FOCUS, we chat with our good friend and Everyday Metal crew member Ben Gunzburg.
1. How many years have you been shooting?
I’ve been regularly shooting gigs for various media outlets for around 18 or 19 years, I think. Before that, I’d take my camera to whatever gigs I could get them into and shoot from the crowd. I did that for a fair few years. Most of my opportunities came from being in the right place at the right time and schmoozing my butt off.
2. How did you get started in photography?
My Dad was always into it and I got the bug from him very early on. I can barely remember an age when I didn’t have some sort of camera in my hand. Very lucky. Shooting bands was a natural inevitability, as I’ve also been obsessed with music for as long as I can remember.
3. Favourite band to shoot?
Getting to shoot Metallica in 2010 was a dream come true. They’re still a bucket list band I need to tick off a few more times before I die. Slipknot has given me some absolute gold, as well.
4. Favourite venue to shoot and why?
Northcote Theatre is fast becoming my favourite. I’ve only shot there a few times, but the lighting has been great each time, as has the sound and vibe.
Northcote Social Club comes to mind as a favourite smaller venue. Generally good lighting, wide enough stage to give the band some space, but low enough for them to get intimate with the crowd. Fun shots are inevitable, especially with punk and hardcore bands.
5. What setup do you take with you to shoot gigs?
I’ve generally been a one-body and camera guy. Nikon D850 and their 24-70mm f/2.8 lens are my go-to for most situations. The lens is super versatile and is usually wide enough in close quarters, as well as having a bit of give on the zoom end in medium-sized venues. I love playing with negative space, so I’d usually use any zoom limitations to my advantage when shooting drummers.
For festivals and the bigger arenas, which I only tend to shoot occasionally, I’ve been largely using an older Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8 lens in recent years. Taller stages like these can make it tricky for the 24-70, so being able to step a bit further back and zoom in is great. It’s a slower-focusing lens, so I don’t use it that often until I really need it, but it always comes through with the goods when I put it to work.
I did, however, finally just get my hands on a newer/faster-focusing zoom lens, the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8, so I’ll be dusting off my other camera body, the Nikon D800, and sporting a double setup a lot in the near future. It’ll be fun mixing it up and using it in some situations where I’d normally solely use my other setup. One beautiful thing about photography is that there are always different ways to challenge ourselves and continue to grow and learn.
I also have a Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 lens, which I very occasionally bust out, but it’s pretty niche for live music. If I can get behind or next to a drummer, it’s golden, though.
I use a Black Rapid strap, which is great and has lasted a long while. This one has the option of attaching a second strap to it for a second camera, which has come in handy a few times and which I’ll be using a lot more in the future.
I’ve never had the perfect backpack for all my gear, I usually just shove it all in and hope for the best. It may be time for an upgrade soon.
6. What software do you use to edit your photos?
Adobe Lightroom all the way for me. I’ve always found Photoshop too fiddly and time-consuming for my liking. My brain doesn’t have a lot of energy for the editing process, so the more streamlined the better. Lightroom has come a long way with how comprehensive it’s become, too, so I feel like the gap between the two programs is very minimal these days, at least for how I’d like to edit.
All the power to anyone who loves Photoshop or any other software, though. Find what gives you the good dopamine and ride it into the sunset. That goes for gear and shooting styles, too. It’s all about what works for you.
7. How would you describe your editing style?
High contrast, gritty, saturated, moody.
8. If you could shoot any band in the future, who would it be?
I still need to shoot Metallica a few more times in this lifetime. I’d love another chance to shoot Nine Inch Nails, too. I’ve been very lucky to shoot a lot of my favourite bands, and I’d gladly shoot them all as many times as I’m able to.
9. Concerts can get pretty rowdy, what’s your best gig story?
28 Days were supporting Unwritten Law at their underage show at the Corner Hotel in Melbourne in 1999 and they got Beltsy from Mindsnare up on that little side stage to do guest vocals for one of their songs. Next thing I know, he and one of the security guards both came tumbling into the crowd on top of us. A few moments later, Beltsy was back on stage saying something along the lines of “if security tries to get you off the stage, kick their ass,” which sent the crowd wild. At that point, I didn’t have a clue who he was and hadn’t even heard of Mindsnare yet, but it’s always stuck in my mind as one of the most rock n’ roll moments I’ve ever witnessed.
I’ve since become a huge Mindsnare fan and got to tell Beltsy that story a few years back. His response was “Haha, yeah I remember that, the fuckhead bit my finger.” Beltsy is a national treasure.
10. What’s your favourite camera to use when you are not shooting gigs and why?
I’m a creature of habit. Give me my Nikon D850 and my 24-70mm f/2.8 lens and I’m a happy boy. My main love outside of music photography is shooting landscapes. On a full frame body, 24mm still gives you plenty of room to work with, and having a little bit of zoom at your disposal is never a bad thing. If I travelled a lot more than I do, I’d consider a lighter setup, but I’ve travelled with my current setup, and I’ve always enjoyed the Nikon layout. To each their own, though, there’s a lot of good gear out there.
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