First XV: Dave Douglas Quintet at the Wellington Jazz Festival (2002)

Dave Douglas at the Wellington Jazz Festival, 2002 (click the image to embiggen)

[#1 in a series of my favourite images, from my first 15 years as a professional photographer.]

I realised recently that I had an anniversary coming up - not one of the obvious ones, but a quiet anniversary that I'd likely to be the only person to notice.

At the end of May 2002, I took the decision to give up my other work - I was doing about three different jobs at the time, working with a lighting company in theatre and events, helping the local film office, and doing a bit of consulting as a former box office manager as well - to concentrate completely on my photography career, which was starting to occupy more of my time.

Fifteen years later, I'm still at it - so to celebrate, I thought I'd look back and pick one image from each year along the way. And let's not underestimate how hard that is, to go through an entire year's work and choose just ONE image - but sometimes tough choices are needed!

It's also surprisingly rare to have an image that sticks with you for that long, as a photographer - we're always evolving, learning, and progressing in our work, so often we look back at older images and cringe slightly at some technical flaw, or way of working, or some technique that we wouldn't use any more.

So when I took a look through 2002, this was the one I came back to, which I'd taken from side of stage at the Wellington Jazz Festival that year. I'd been moving around the James Cabaret a bit during the show, but (because I didn't want to disturb the audience) only between songs - which sometimes means quite a long time, in jazz!

I'd gone right around to the speaker stack beside the stage to look across the performers from one side, making a cleaner composition with the instruments in profile; but, there was no way back from there without crossing right in front of the audience, so I settled in for the duration of the song, and experimented a little while I was there.

A glimpse of this image on my 2002-era website, designed by Springload.

This was taken at 4/10ths of a second - a pretty long exposure to handhold - on my nearly-new-at-the-time Canon D60, which cost a bomb at the time, and would be considered basic or primitive by even entry-level consumer camera standards, today.

But, y'know what - I still quite like this image, fifteen years later!

Sometimes the experiments and accidents that happen when you're stuck in a corner are the ones that are more interesting than the safe, factual documentation of an event. They're riskier options to pursue - this was one of probably 30 images I took, at or around the same settings - but once in a while, taking a chance pays off with an image that wouldn't happen if I'd played it safe for the whole show.

[And before someone points it out, the musician in the image isn't in fact Dave Douglas, as he's a trumpeter; I suspect it's Rick Margitza, who played sax in the Quintet on a live album recorded that same month.]

Next week, another year - 2003!