The Brian Byrnes Trio at the Cadillac Hotel

I’ve been photographing concerts at the Cadillac Hotel for the past two years now, but in those two years, I had never experienced something as magical as when I was there for a Saturday concert by the Brian Byrnes Trio.

I’ve seen people clap during the concerts, mostly at the end of a song. But this was the first time ever, that the audience clapped in the middle of a song because they were moved so much by Brian’s solo with the harmonica, or the solo by pianist Lee Bloom. I call that pure joy! That’s what Brian, Lee, and Peter brought to the Cadillac Hotel that day. Joy!

So let’s begin at the beginning, with the tools of the trade. When I first met Brian, he had joined Coelho & Ridnell at the Cadillac Hotel to provide vocals and play the harmonica.

ISO 800 - 56mm f/1.2 lens - f/1.2 - 1/75 sec

These are Brian’s instruments, from the harmonicas to the guitar.

ISO 640 - 56mm f/1.2 lens - f/1.2 - 1/80 sec

And the acoustic bass below belongs to Peter Barshay.

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For this opening shot of Brian, I used the 56mm f/1.2 lens, which on a full frame camera would have the equivalent field of view of an 85mm lens. I like the compression offered by the lens, and even at wide open at f/1.2, there’s a lot of detail. You can see the focus in Brian’s face.

ISO 320 - 56mm f/1.2 lens - f/1.2 - 1/80 sec

Next is pianist Lee Bloom. I wanted to take some photos of Lee’s hands as he was warming up at the piano, but he saw me on the edge of his periphery and turned to pose for a photo. Again, shot wide open at f/1.2.

ISO 250 - 56mm f/1.2 lens - f/1.2 - 1/80 sec

This next shot is of Peter Barshay, playing the acoustic bass.  I went for the black and white conversion for this photo, specifically Acros-G for the Fuji camera, because I really liked how the lights were hitting Peter’s face.  Black and white gives the shadows more contrast and also makes Peter’s already focused look, look even more focused.  You can also see more details of the bass’s scroll and machine heads.

ISO 640 - 56mm f/1.2 lens - f/1.2 - 1/80 sec

I typically bring three lens for shoots at the Cadillac Hotel: 56mm f/1.2, 16mm f/1.4, and 90mm f/2. Those three lenses pretty much cover everything I need at the Cadillac. While I could use a zoom lens like the Fuji 16-55mm f/2.8, which would be the equivalent of a 24-70mm lens on a full frame camera, nothing matches the sharpness of a prime lens, and I often like to give the musicians the sharpest images possible. Also, since most prime lenses tend to be wider than f/2, I can use a slightly higher shutter speed, thus freezing most of the motion of the musicians.

Swapping out the 56mm for the 16mm, I decided to get a wide shot of the Cadillac Hotel’s lobby. There were a fair amount of people there for a Saturday.

ISO 320 - 16mm f/1.4 lens - f/1.4 - 1/60 sec

For the next two shots, I decided to experiment a bit with angles. Tilting the camera in a such a way is often taboo in most instances, but for musicians, it often enhances the image because it implies additional motion. For the first shot, I tilted the camera in such a way that it went in the direction Peter was looking.

ISO 800 - 56mm f/1.2 lens - f/1.2 - 1/80 sec

For this shot of Brian, I wanted to try to line up the neck of the guitar horizontally. Again, the motion is going in the direction in which Brian is looking. I think the tilt draws a little more focus to Brian and the guitar.

ISO 320 - 56mm f/1.2 lens - f/1.2 - 1/80 sec

I really like this next shot of Lee. He was getting so deep into the music, putting all that he was into it. You can feel the intensity in his posture.

ISO 800 56mm f/1.2 lens f/1.2 1/125 sec

This final shot of Brian was taken with the 90mm f/2 lens, which on a full frame would have a field of view similar to a 135mm lens. You’ll see that I shot the image at 1/125 sec, but the image doesn’t have the hand-shake blur, thanks to the In Body Image Stabilization of the Fuji X-H1. This is my favorite of the shots because not only can Brian play the harmonica and guitar, but he’s got a great singing voice as well.

ISO 800 - 90mm f/2 lens - f/2 - 1/125 sec

If you want to listen to the music of the Brian Byrnes Trio and purchase their CD, head over to this website.

ISO 640 56mm f/1.2 lens f/1.2 1/80 sec

Also, the Brian Byrnes Trio will be performing on November 23rd at Armando’s, along with saxophonist Jules Broussard.  You’re guaranteed to hear music that will get you to clap your hands and stomp your feet!