The challenges of concert photography

Recently I had one of the most challenging assignments as a concert photographer for the Philharmonie concert hall of Luxembourg. I thought I would put together a few thoughts on my experience so other people get an insight on what goes on when they see these images published in the national and international newspapers as well as the Philharmonie’s own publications.

The Philharmonie Luxembourg, also known officially as the Grande-Duchesse Joséphine-Charlotte, is a concert hall located in the European district of Luxembourg City, an area known as Kirchberg. It opened in 2005, now plays host to 400+ performances each year and has become one of Europe's premier concert venues.

The Philharmonie Luxembourg, also known officially as the Grande-Duchesse Joséphine-Charlotte, is a concert hall located in the European district of Luxembourg City, an area known as Kirchberg. It opened in 2005, now plays host to 400+ performances each year and has become one of Europe's premier concert venues.

«Humanity is fascinating, and if you are truly interested in it, it becomes much more fascinating yet». P. Sellars

American theater director Peter Sellars created a moving staging of Johann Sebastian Bach’s St. John Passion in 2014, and in collaboration with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, the Choir of the Age of Enlightenment and the direction of Sir Simon Rattle we were treated in Luxembourg to a performance of such beauty that it felt somehow other-worldly. Sellars says his aim was to humanise Bach’s masterpiece.

In part, these intense feelings were enhanced by the superb lighting provided by the light technicians at the Philharmonie. It created very intimate scenes that looked like living pictures. The challenge for me was to capture these scenes in a way that my own feelings were conveyed in the images I produced. That is always what I aim for but in this occasion the difficulties were higher than average due to the very high contrast produced by deep shadows and bright lights. I was also limited as the usual spots from where I take pictures were mostly unavailable. This forced me to be inside the main hall and follow the imperative of being unnoticed and unheard as a photographer.

How did I achieve this? First of all I need to wear dark clothing so as to go as unnoticed as possible when moving around the hall. Shoes are important too since the floors are polished and they need to be made of materials that don’t produce that typical squeaky noise. I also need to know my way around the building perfectly and be cautious while moving in almost complete dark in some areas.

The Grand Auditorium of the Philharmonie Luxembourg

The Grand Auditorium of the Philharmonie Luxembourg

My equipment also plays a very important role in my endavour of going about my job as unnoticed as possible. Not so long ago, cameras used to have mechanical parts that made considerable noise especially in quiet environments. This has been a curse for photographers and the only way to go about it was to use some noise reduction housing that made cameras silent but very heavy and cumbersome. These things were also quite expensive. With the advent of Mirrorless System Cameras everything changed. I wrote another post on this subject recently called breaking the sound barrier.

Some two and a half years ago I decided to gradually move into the Sony mirrorless system and I have already completed the full switch. I could not be happier about it. These cameras are 100% silent and alow me to worry only about the content of my images. For these assignments I always carry two camera bodies, Sony a9 paired with the Sony 24-70mm f2.8 GM lens and a Sony a7RIII paired with the Sony 70-200mm f2.8 GM lens.

Knowing that I can move around without being noticed gives me the freedom to concentrate on capturing those intense and delicate moments musicians and performers go through on stage. I enjoy the whole process of producing my images, from getting my equipment ready to the digital developing of the files. Seeing my images in the press and publications always provides a sense of deep satisfaction. I can only say I am very fortunate and I absolutely love my job.

I leave you here with a small selection of the images I captured at during the performance of Johann Sebastian Bach’s St. John Passion and I thank you for your time.

2018, a year in images

It has been a great year for my photography I am happy to say. It started with a trip to New York that left me very impressed. All about that city is just on a different scale, love it or hate it, New York will surely never leave anybody indifferent. The only thing was that freezing temperatures of down to -18C made it quite a challenge to stand outdoors for long periods of time.

On my way back to Luxembourg I started the new year with some great concerts and by early February we had our own cold spell. Snow brings beauty and quietness to the city of Luxembourg, making it even more attractive than it usually is.

2018 has been the year I finally made the transition to a mirrorless camera system. For those unsure what that really means, it’s the final step on the digital transformation of photography. Mirrorless cameras do not have the pentaprism and the mirror to produce an image in the viewfinder. The light travels through the lens directly to the digital sensor and from there it is either shown in the rear LCD screen or in the electronic viewfinder.

There are many advantages of mirrorless over DSLR cameras but for me one that made me take the plunge was the ability to shoot 100% silently. Since most of my work as a photographer is for the Philharmonie of Luxembourg I was often in situations where making any noise whatsoever was not allowed. Now I can shoot and keep one of the premises of a good concert photographer; go unnoticed.

My Sony cameras have allowed me to work in some concert halls in Europe where previously photographers could not take pictures during the concerts. One such case that I am very proud of was at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris. Apparently I was the very first photographer to be allowed in the hall during a concert. You can read more about this experience in my previous blog post breaking the sound barrier.

I consider myself very fortunate to be able to do something with my working life that feels like I’m not working at all. My work for the Philharmonie in Luxembourg allows me to combine two passions of mine, music and photography. I also have found a love for architecture photography and I am very happy that led to the production of a 2019 calendar for the main costumers, press and patrons of the Philharmonie.

Landscape photography was and still is something that brings me much joy. I am also very lucky to be able to work for the National Tourist Office of Luxembourg. I also got into a great collaboration with fellow and friend photographer Christophe Van Biesen to run together landscape photography workshops. It has been a great pleasure to work together with Christophe and meet so many enthusiastic photographers.

I also traveled to beautiful Slovenia with a group of friend photographers and had great fun photographing the area around Triglav National Park. Slovenia is an amazing country for nature activities of any type and it is not getting the hordes of tourists other countries get. I sincerely hope it stays like that.

Ireland and Northern Spain were two other great destinations where I enjoyed the landscapes as well as the local culture and their people.

The year is coming to an end and I hope 2019 is at least as good as 2018 was. Me and my family stayed in Luxembourg for the end of the year holidays and despite the lack of snow we got the rather unusual freezing fog which brings to the otherwise dull Winter landscape a beautiful touch of brightness and contrast.

I sincerely hope 2019 brings plenty of good things to everyone. Some recent sociopolitical, economic and ecological developments have not been promising anything good so my efforts and hopes will go towards a kinder, more understanding, fairer world.

I wish you all the very best for 2019. Take good care and enjoy!

2017 calendars - sold out -

Hello everyone!

I'm very happy to announce that my  2017 calendars are finally ready and I am now taking orders.

For my Luxembourg 2017 calendar (SOLD OUT) this year I opted for a collection of landscape and cityscape images that showcase the beauty and diversity to be found around the green heart of Europe.

My Mourne Mountains 2017 calendar is a collection of various landscapes and seascapes of this stunning part of Co. Down.

Both calendars are A3 in size and are printed locally in Luxembourg to high standards of quality. The design and page layout has been done beautifully by beingcreative.es. Scroll down to browse the images

To place your order:

  1. Use the contact form on this site to enter your full details.
  2. Enter "Luxembourg 2017 calendar" or "Mournes 2017 calendar" in the title.
  3. Enter how many copies you would like to order in the field "Message".

I will get back to you with payment details. The calendars will ship once the payment has cleared.

  • Price per calendar is €30 / £25
  • 3 copies are €80 / £70
  • 5 copies are €130 / £110
  • Discounts available on larger orders.

Shipping is included in the price for the whole of the European Union. Anywhere else in the world will have a €5-10 shipping fee. If you happen to live near me I can do home delivery at no cost.

Order before 5th of November 2016 to qualify for free delivery to the UK and Ireland.

Luxembourg 2017 calendar gallery

Mourne Mountains 2017 calendar gallery

Mystery solved

While taking my daily walk with my dog in the forest near my house, called Gréngewald in Luxembourgish, I finally discovered something that has been intriguing me for some time. 

I have often come across this photograph in signposts scattered along this forest but I never knew what it was about.

I have to say that despite not being a scary cat I always thought the signposts looked a bit spooky. Even more so when walking late in the evening or in vary dark and stormy days. I even speculated about different stories these girls could have possibly had, and they were usually something along the lines of The Shining.

Well, today that mystery came to an end as I took a path I never took before. 

As Luna, my lovely dog, sat down to have  a little rest from retrieving sticks and running all over the place I noticed a junction in the forest with an info panel of some sort. When I approached it I realized it was precisely about the six girls of the spooky picture I had seen many times.

So the story goes that these six girls were actually princesses, their names were Marie-Adelheid, Charlotte, Hilda, Antonia, Elisabeth and Sophie, daughters of Great Duke Guillaume IV of Luxembourg. They were born between 1984 and 1902 and they seemed to have loved nature around this area where they spent time while some family members were busy hunting. 

A red oak was planted for each of the six princesses and they are still there. Only one of them was replanted since the original one came down after a heavy storm. 

So these are the six red oaks planted in honour of each princess, and that was the mystery solved. No more speculation about terrible stories that could have happened to these six girls. Now I know that those six beautiful red oaks are as old as 121 years of age and they have a little story to tell.

Note: Pictures taken with a mobile phone so the quality isn't brilliant.