Shooting the music that I shoot is not necessarily as easy as it looks, and when I read the words “proficient rapper, beatboxer and singer” I just know I may have problems. Let’s get back to photographic basics and remind ourselves that photography is literally ‘drawing with light’. Now, it may look bright on stage but (take my word for it) it just isn’t that bright. When you know you are going to have black skin absorbing what light you have, and an artist who moves around a lot then you know you are going to be stretching things to the limit no matter which way you look at it, and I need to produce an image that is going to cover at least 20″ x 16″ without too much bother!
It was therefore with some trepidation that I faced Napoleon Maddox, the hip-hop vocalist from Cincinnati, Ohio. I would have been happiest working at sound check stage where I could have used a little bit of flash to give me some light that I could control, but as things worked out that was not possible even though Napoleon himself said he had no problems. Sometimes the logistics just don’t come together. Apart from the light one of the other problems that you have to face during a concert is that you are ‘tethered’ to one position in order not to disturb the audience. You are normally also restricted to the ‘no flash, and first three numbers only’ rule, which is bot a problem. So it was front row, stage left, like it or not. Why stage left? Well, I had worked out that Napoleon was right-handed so I would get a clearer view of his face from his left side.
One of the great things shooting digital now is that I can see what I am doing by checking the preview screen on the back of the camera, and this lets me know very quickly that I had to work at 3,200iso or get nothing, but I then had to drop by 1.6EV because of Napoleons black skin. This did not bode well as words like ‘noise’ and ‘camera shake’ start running through the mind, and with an artist who moves around, these are not good words to hear! I was working at an aperture of f2.8 and a lens zoomed to 262mm (equivalent) in light that gave me a shutter speed of around 1/60th of a second, so I knew things were tight. I was therefore very pleasantly surprised when I looked at the images in Aperture and found that, apart from noise, I had some very usable images. The noise could be taken care of by Noise Ninja so I was home and dry! You can judge for yourself here.
By the way, special thanks to Serious Music (Alistair) and to the Turner Sims for making it happen for me.