Epic Studios’ cinematographer Alex Thursby has been kept so busy photographing, filming and editing for us lately, that we have snapped up an additional events photographer to work with us – the very talented Lee Harper! We are delighted that Lee has agreed to join the team and, as always, were keen to get a bit of background on our new work mate. Read on for a bit more about Lee Harper and to get some fantastic photography tips and insights. (Feature image – Rudimental – photographed by Lee Harper)
How did you get into photography – what was your career path?
I started as many do, with a basic DSLR. I made sure to use the manual settings straight off the bat, never could see the point in the auto setting, you may as well just use a point and shoot. So, I’m self taught, made the mistakes and learnt from them. After a couple of years learning the craft I began shooting local sport, such as rugby and football, which was challenging at times but exciting nonetheless. Having the tools to capture that special moment, to edit and fine tune the image, then the buzz you feel when the pics get seen is what spurred me on. I then moved into wedding and portrait territory which, although was at a different pace, held its own stresses and joys. Most recently I have been working in the theatre and live music arenas, which I consider to be the most challenging due to constantly shifting light and performers. It can’t be beaten though for the excitement you feel when the performers are about to walk on stage.
Tell us about the pros and cons of the job?
Pros – Being able to work with amazingly talented performers and get access to areas that most cannot, the feeling when you know you’ve just ‘got the shot’ and being your own boss.
Cons – Honestly, not many! I suppose working to deadlines and having to work late into the night to have images ready for the following day. The expectation that you’ll do work for free is also a constant issue because I hate talking money!
What is your essential kit when photographing an event and which software do you use to manipulate images?
I’ve always worked with Canon cameras. At the moment I’m using the 5D3 and a variety of lenses – mostly 70-200mm, 35mm and 14mm. If permitted, I will sometimes use a flash when venue lighting is not great. For software, I use Adobe Lightroom and occasionally Adobe Photoshop for more intricate work.
If you could work with complete freedom from any limitation (including lack of budget) where may that take your art?
A 400mm 2.8 lens would be nice!! Seriously though, some artists permit photographers to shoot from the sound desk only, which can sometimes be halfway across the floor of the arena and will give you only one angle of the show (along with all the other photographers there!). In a venue like the O2 or Wembley Arena you’re going to need a very big, long lens, to be able to get close up shots of the performers. I would love to be able to shoot at some of the iconic venues and festivals around the world like Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado, Hollywood Bowl, Madison Square Garden and going on tour with a major band would be awesome too.
Who has been your biggest ‘non-photographer’ influence (artists/musicians/philosophers/writers)?
Surprisingly, I’m not a big follower of art but I am a huge fan of music and my biggest influence has to be Metallica. The dedication that they have towards their music and fans is inspiring. They’ve never been afraid to take risks with their music, changing styles and direction, or like the time they trolled the MTV awards in 1996. They were told about the organisations non-expletive policy but sneakily played the swearword-ridden ‘So What’ instead of the planned radio-friendly ‘King Nothing’.
What is your biggest motivation when taking pictures?
To always try and take a better picture than my previous best.
To make the Artist look amazing.
Which image are you most proud of and why?
That’s a difficult choice. I’ve taken many images that I’m really happy with and to choose just one is very hard but I’m going to go with this shot of Mushroomhead taken at the Waterfront in Norwich. I love taking shots from the crowd, my style is getting in the thick of it which helps to get those unique shots. This show was quite an experience. Mushroomhead are renowned for having water drums and I was warned before the show that things may get a little wet. Thankfully, the equipment I was using had some level of water resistance but my clothing didn’t!
Which has been your most enjoyable photography job to date and what’s coming up that you’re excited about?
To date, the most enjoyable has to be a recent promotional photoshoot for a local dance school’s theatre show. The show portrays the story of Pocahontas and the shoot was a multi-location journey around Norfolk on a cold winter Sunday. Even though it was winter, the light was perfect. The cast were freezing but great to work with and I was also gifted a wonderful bottle of single malt whisky by the school principal afterwards!
There’s plenty to be excited about in the coming year. Epic Studios is a great Venue to be working at, with exceptional sound, lighting and a programme of events and concerts to rival any in the city. I’m also excited about being involved more in the TV production side of Epic, having had recent opportunities to operate TV cameras during some sporting events and a TV show held there. I’d like for my Facebook page ‘Go To The Gig’ to reach a wider audience, as I’m very passionate about the local live music scene.
What is the best advice you could give to a budding photographer?
Shoot in manual, use the RAW file setting (which is superior to JPG) and take your camera with you everywhere. Don’t be afraid to approach people to tell them about yourself and to get your name out there. Remember, photography is the capture of light, so always follow it.