Contributor Feature: Misael Ruiz’s Favorite Live Shots Of 2015

Contributor Misael Ruiz’s Favorite Live Shots of 2015
2015 was a big year for me and my concert photography. This is the first full year I did photography for Sound Check 411 and what an experience it has been being up front to see your favorite bands. I’ve only been photographing bands for a little over a year so I’m still learning as I go and have a lot to learn. I initially was only going to do 10 photos for my best of 2015, but after looking through all the shows I’ve photographed I ended up picking out 15. So, enough of me and let’s get on to my top picks of 2015 in no particular order.
Enslaved: March 6th – El Rey Theatre – Los Angeles, Ca
Starting off this list will be one of the best photos I’ve taken. Enslaved are a great band live and have energetic performances. This was the first show I got to try my new lens that I still use. I went in risking the lens not being that good or difficult to work with. After a few shots of the opening band and seeing the quality that I was getting, I immediately fell in love with the lens. Even though the El Rey Theatre has no photo barrier, I still ended up front and center on the barricade and went crazy snapping photos every opportunity that I got. My best photo I got that night is the one you see here of guitarist Arve “Ice Dale” Isdal. Talk about the perfect moment. This will remain one of my favorite photos.
Ghost: October 26th – Mayan Theater – Los Angeles, Ca
Ghost is one of my favorite bands. If you’re a fan of European metal bands, you know that Swedish metal bands hardly disappointed. I almost didn’t get in to photograph this show, but was given a pass only if I purchased my ticket to the already sold out show. Luckily I had purchased my ticket the day they went on sale for such an occasion since I was going to attend this show regardless. The only thing that made this an unpleasant experience was that the Mayan Theater had a ridiculously small photo pit to where anyone could barely fit or move from one end to the other unless you literally squeezed in front of each other. On the plus side, we were allowed to stay for five songs instead of the usual three. Whether that was Ghost that allowed us to stay for that long or the venue staff lost track of songs, I don’t know. When Ghost started the fourth song, I managed to get this shot of Papa Emeritus which ended up being my shot of the night. It was the perfect timing.
Belphegor – Knotfest Day 1: San Manuel Amphitheater – San Bernardino, Ca
I had been wanting to see Belphegor for a couple of years. I would’ve gotten my chance in October of 2014, but the tour was cancelled due to singer Helmuth having a family emergency. When they were announced as part of day 1 of Knotfest’s lineup, I got excited. My first issue was getting approved to photograph this event. I originally wasn’t planning to, but I ended up getting approved and got even more excited. When Belphegor came out, I was ecstatic. Seeing them in corpse paint and blood dripping down their face was quite the sight. I got plenty of good pictures and this one ended up being my favorite from Helmuth with his eyes rolling almost completely to the back of his head. I’m definitely hoping to catch them on their next tour to photograph them again with a longer set.
GWAR – Knotfest Day 1: San Manuel Amphitheater – San Bernardino, Ca
Keeping up with Knotfest, I also got to see the Scumdogs of the Universe, GWAR! Those that are familiar with GWAR know how crazy their live shows are. If their outfits don’t get to you, their stage props that shoot out blood (red food coloring) will definitely get to you. Lots of fans willingly got in the way of the blood to get soaked and walk out covered in it. Every photographer’s concern during the show was to not get their cameras wet. Whenever I feared my camera getting wet, I put it behind me and enjoyed myself for a bit while I was hit with blood. Out of all the pictures I got, I liked this one the most. Who wouldn’t want to get pissed on by an intergalactic space mutant?
Korn – Knotfest Day 1: San Manuel Amphitheater – San Bernardino, Ca
The final entry for Knotfest day 1 is when I got to see Korn again. This was my first time photographing them so I was really excited to see how they would turn out. I would have loved to be able to photograph headliners Judas Priest, but unfortunately I wasn’t one of the few selected photographers to do so. So instead, I put all my effort into Korn. The only unpleasant experience was that the photo pit was packed with photographers and was really hard to move around resulting in me not getting as many good angles as I hoped. Even then, I got this shot of Jonathan Davis singing into his signature mic stand. Korn was really fun to photograph and I hope I get to do so again.
Eluveitie: September 26th – Fonda Theatre – Los Angeles, Ca
Unless you listen to European metal bands or folk metal specifically, you’ve most likely never heard of Eluveitie. If you’re into flutes, pipes, and hurdy gurdy in your metal music, this is one of the best bands to get into. What was originally supposed to be Epica headlining this tour, they dropped after a few dates due to frontwoman Simone Simmons having a family emergency back in her hometown of the Netherlands. Instead of cancelling the rest of the tour, Eluveitie continued the tour and played a two-hour set. Being that I love female metal musicians, I gave Anna Murphy lots of attention. The result was me getting this shot of her playing her hurdy gurdy. You can see why I love her so much. She’s absolutely gorgeous to look at and constantly smiled at the crowd. I got plenty of other great shots of her, but this one stood out for me. I will definitely be seeing them many more times.
Nightwish: May 1st – Greek Theatre – Los Angeles, Ca
Nightwish is Finland’s biggest band. Even though they no longer play with their original singer Tarja Turunen, they still put out great shows with their newest singer Floor Jansen. By the time I started listening to Nightwish and having them quickly become one of my favorite bands, they had just passed Southern California and I was really hoping they’d come back again. They never did. So I impatiently waited for almost 2 years for their return and I vowed to get myself in to photograph them. Once I was approved, I was extremely happy. When they came on stage, I almost had tears forming in my eyes, but quickly brushed it off because I had work to do. Even writing this gives me the same feeling I had that day. Being that Jansen is also one of my favorite female vocalists, I gave her lots of attention too. The result is this photograph I got of her as she was singing at the end of the opening song Shudder Before the Beautiful. I love that I timed it just perfectly to where you could see the emotion and work she puts into her performance as well as see her tattoos. I will definitely be seeing them again and photograph when they come back in March.
Sabaton: May 1st – Greek Theatre – Los Angeles, Ca
One of the opening bands from Nightwish was the Swedish power metal band, Sabaton. I had seen them before so I was well aware how they were on stage. They fun to photograph live and enjoyed posing for photographers including me. Frontman Joakim Brodem is very mobile on stage and I knew when to expect him to do certain things. Surely enough, I caught one of his signature poses which is one that I was aiming for.
In This Moment: September 18th – Citizens Business Bank Arena – Ontario, California
This tour in particular was a very emotional one for me. I was originally approved to photograph the first band on this tour From Ashes to New which also consisted of In This Moment, Papa Roach, and headliners Five Finger Death Punch. It was a work day for me and I knew I had a two hour drive to the venue without traffic driving through the freeway straight after work on a Fridaynight. It took me three hours to get to the venue due to some of the worst traffic I’ve encountered driving through Los Angeles. By then, I had way missed the first band I was assigned to photograph and got there when In This Moment was halfway through their performance. I was told I needed separate approval from each band in order for me to photograph them. Since I didn’t, I thought I had driven here for nothing since they wouldn’t give me a photo pass. That thought and my frown was quickly turned upside down when I was told I get to photograph all the bands and In This Moment had allowed photographers to shoot the whole show. In This Moment was initially the band I went to see since I’ve known them since I first saw them live in 2007 when they barely had their first album out. Maria Brink had become one of my favorite female vocalists so I was more than happy to be able to photograph them even though I had not heard back from their publicist. They were a tough band to photograph considering all the fog and dark lights they use. I still did my best and got this shot of Maria screaming into her dunce hat during the performance of Whore. Next time they come around I’m hoping on being able to photograph them again for another chance to really try and get more and better photos.
Scorpions: October 3rd – The Forum – Inglewood, Ca
Scorpions is a band I grew up with and know very well thanks to my dad. After their previous “farewell tour”, I thought the one time I saw them on that tour would be the only time I saw them. Turns out they came back and I took this opportunity to get and photograph. I figured bands like Scorpions are difficult to get into to so I didn’t count on getting in and bought my ticket to go as a fan. To my surprise, I was approved. This is one of my favorite shows I shot this year. The environment for shooting was beautiful and everything was well lit and got plenty of good shots. The best shot I got was this one of Rudolf Schenker as he pointed to the line of photographers in front of him and snapped this photo just as he got to me. I realized singer Klaus Meine was throwing drumsticks into the crowd. I tried being a little naughty and catch one, but missed one as I closed my hand a second too late and a fan somewhere behind me ended up getting it.
Mushroomhead: December 15th – Whisky A Go Go – Hollywood, Ca
Mushroomhead is a masked band from Ohio. They are very fun to photograph especially when Rick “stitch” Thomas and Roberto Diablo are pounding away on their water drums. My only concern was I had to be careful with my camera to not let it get soaked by water. I used a UV filter on my lens so it’s easier to wipe the water that got on it as well as to protect the lens itself. Luckily the Whisky has no song limit on photographers so I enjoyed my time photographing the whole show. Out of all the photos, this one was my favorite of Stitch as you can see his mask perfectly. This photo was so good that even Mushroomhead themselves posted it on their Facebook page. Go me!
King Diamond: November 6th – The Wiltern – Los Angeles, Ca
Danish heavy metal legend King Diamond was on tour and this was a special tour because he was playing his masterpiece Abigail album in its entirety. The Wiltern is one of my least favorite venues to photograph because even though they clearly have a photo pit up front, they had us in the handicap aisle behind the GA pit which means a telephoto zoom lens was mandatory to get up close shots. My lens has zoom, but not that much to where I got really clear or up close shots. I still did what I could and got this great shot of King Diamond singing while using his mic stand made from real human bones. Next time King Diamond comes around, I’m hoping he plays at a venue with a photo pit so I can get proper photos of him.
Metalachi: December 5th – Whisky A Go Go – Hollywood, Ca
Metalachi is a five-piece band that does covers of rock and metal songs using mariachi instruments. It may seem a bit odd at first, but a quick YouTube search will show just how fun their live shows are. El Cucuy (Mexican Boogeyman) is in charge of the trumpet and he’s a fan favorite amongst the fans. He has a habit of making faces that will either make you laugh or haunt you in your dreams. Seeing that I’ve seen them plenty of times, I knew just when to prepare for when he was about to make one of his faces. Just as he did, I took photos of him and got just the picture I wanted of him. Almost as if he’s thinking, “I’m coming to get you”.
Anthrax: July 29th – House of Blues – Hollywood, Ca
The world-famous House of Blues on the Sunset Strip sadly closed down a few months ago. For the venue’s final metal show, they chose One of the biggest thrash metal bands, Anthrax! The venue was a sold out show and what a wild night it was. I bought my ticket ahead of time since I knew it would sell out and just in case I couldn’t get in to photograph them. To my surprise, I was approved. I was happy to photograph one of the first metal bands I got into. Anthrax is a really fun band to photograph. Bassist Frank Bello kept making faces with his mouth open and I got lots of shots from that. Frontman Joey Belldonna noticed me aiming my camera right at him and he came up to me and screamed into his mic which resulted in me getting this picture of him. This was a great experience to photograph and with luck, I’ll doing it again when they come back.
Motorhead: August 22nd – Shrine Expo Hall – Los Angeles, Ca
I decided to end my list with one of the greatest rock/metal bands Motorhead for a reason. For those still unaware, the legendary and iconic Lemmy Kilmister passed away just a few days ago on December 28th after just two days of discovering and fighting an aggressive form of cancer. He just celebrated his 70th birthday on December 24th. Due to funds, I was deciding whether I should go broke and buy a ticket or not be broke, but possibly miss what could be the last time Motorhead comes around or tours given Kilmister’s medical problems he had been having at the time. I took a risk and tried getting myself in to photograph the event. I succeeded in getting approved which I was happy for. Kilmister remained stationary in his spot so it wasn’t difficult photographing him, it’s just that he was kind of far in the back so at times it was tricky to get good shots of him. I got this photo of him where you can clearly see his face. Now after Kilmister’s passing, I’m glad I got the opportunity to see them a few times and photograph them once. The world truly lost a living legend. He was born to lose and he lived to win. Rock in peace, Lemmy!
See all of Misael’s coverage here