Nomadic Massive on Stage—Some tips on Concert Photography
Nomadic Massive played several sets at Vancouver Island Music Fest to enthusiastic crowds that rocked to their funky hip-hop beats. You can check out their music here. I caught their daytime show and based on that I knew that Nomadic Massive was going to be a stellar act to photograph at night on the main stage under the brilliant lighting. Lighting is one of the most powerful photographic elements you can play with; you can create some wild effects as I think these images illustrate. The lighting geniuses at Music Fest created the perfect lighting studio for Nomadic Massive; you just have to have the right gear to capture it, the right settings, a sense of timing and shoot a lot. The settings I used are essentially the same settings that I use in sports photography with one salient difference—you have to use higher ISO settings due to the low ambient light.
The stage environment where I shot Massive Nomadic is a low-light environment with intermittent blasts of strong, colourful light. I set out with the intention of creating powerful portraits rather than attempting to get the whole band in one shoot. And as I watched them perform I started to see some powerful effects of backlighting as they moved back and forth across the stage. It was this, mainly, that I wanted to capture. The effect was the strongest of all through Meryem’s hair, one of the bands female lead vocalists. She also had great earrings and a great smile that added to her presence.
For the photographers out there, I was shooting with a Canon 5D Mark II using a 70-200, f/2.8, L-series lens. (A 7D, even though it’s not full frame, would have been even better because it shoots twice as fast). The camera settings were as follows: f/2.8 (the largest aperture of the lens) for maximum light gathering and hence the fastest possible shutter speeds—I wanted to freeze the action as much as possible; ISO was set between 4000 and 5000 due to the low available light; all of the camera’s autofocus points were activated and I shot in AI Servo mode which is best when your subjects are moving; I used the Evaluative Metering Mode which is the all-round metering mode so that I could meter off the subjects, the ambient light and some of the super bright back lights that shone straight into the lens; and I also intentionally underexposed by 1/3-stop so that I could get an even faster shutter, and I used the Cloudy White Balance because I love how this particular white balance interprets colour. On the lens itself, I used Type II stabilization which is best when you are panning your camera in a linear direction as I did when following the members, principally the singers, moving back and forth across the stage. I did some minor tweaking to settings as the show got going, but once you get your settings dialed, you can pretty much forget about the technical and concentrate on composition.
And then it’s about anticipating where they will move, finding a good position so that the microphone is not always right in their face, and then using the stage lighting to get the shot you want. And sometimes, the performer will play to the camera and then it’s really fun. And then there’s the luck of having your camera in the right place at the right time in the fast paced environment of an energy-bursting show.
I hope you like the shots. It was a lot of fun to shoot Nomadic Massive, especially right next to those monstrous bass woofers. Whoa. Right, final tip, bring ear plugs because oftentimes the photog gets blasted with sound.
Bye for now.