As I finish my preparations for another epic road trip adventure it gives me a great excuse to share with you my passion for what has to be one of the finest locations for photography on the planet; The Wild West of the USA. The high deserts of Arizona, the Canyons of Utah and the rock formations of Nevada deliver a spectacular backdrop while Route 66 and small town America provide us with a texture and cultural heritage to be cherished and immortalised on camera. Continue reading Road tripping the USA
Shooting live music events is one of the trickiest disciplines in photography. Subjects move a lot, often lighting changes constantly and in general it can be a lot of hard work. With that said, live music events have passion by the bucket load and if you can capture that in a single frame it makes for some exceptional images. It could be a front man working the crowd, the guitarist tearing up a solo or people attending having the time of their lives, whatever it is, the subject matter can never be accused of being dull.
In this blog, I’m going to get a bit technical running you through the kit I use to shoot events and the reasons behind it. Also, we’ll cover what to look for when photographing live music. Enjoy!
Right, let’s jump straight into it by running you through my usual kit for shooting live music and festivals.
I usually take two camera bodies with me. The reason I do this is so I can use two different lenses and change quickly between them. My preference is the Fujifilm X-Pro2 and the Fujifilm X-T2 with the battery grip. Overall, the cameras are similar in terms of feature set but the build and handling of each make them serve a different purpose. The battery-gripped X-T2 has several advantages – Firstly, it allows me to shoot all day without needing to change batteries over. Secondly, I can switch to portrait and landscape orientation easily and lastly, the joystick for positioning the AF point is incredibly useful for accurate and quick focusing on specific subjects.
While the X-Pro2 is more than capable of shooting a live music event or festival, I like to keep the X-Pro2 free to shoot images of interesting people. These days I shoot with the X-Pro2 almost exclusively for my street photography, so bringing it to a festival makes a lot of sense for me. I’m taking my ever-faithful street photography setup and just applying it to a slightly different environment. For me, the main benefit is the rangefinder style. Unlike the X-T2, the viewfinder is off-centre and when you point it towards a subject, it doesn’t look like you’re aiming directly at them. This means people are far less likely to close up and act differently. Pointing a huge camera directly at a person usually means they’ll pose for their picture, but my aim is to capture the more candid, natural moments instead.
With a lot of events, you will be firmly planted in what is lovingly referred to as ‘the pit’. This is the area at the front of the stage where you can see the performers and have the opportunity to take shots of them. For this, I will opt for the XF50-140mm lens. Its focal length suits subjects that are quite far away and it also allows me to zoom in enough to get a tight shot should I want to capture that. It’s also very useful for capturing people in the crowd on each others shoulder too.
With the exception of the Fujinon 50-140mm XF lens, I mostly shoot with prime lenses. My kit bag usually comprises of the Fujinon 16mm f/1.4, Fujinon 23mm f/2 and sometimes the Fujinon 90mm f/2 lens too. I like to have the have fast, wide prime lenses, especially in low-light situations. I will alternate between the 16mm and the 23mm often and occasionally draw upon the 90mm when I want to capture close-up portraiture or to shoot a subject I want to isolate from the background.
In general, I use primes as I just love all the characteristics they give. However, there are a couple of zoom lenses which are incredibly sharp and suit shooting events perfectly. Firstly, the Fujinon 10-24mm f/4 is a fantastic lens. It’s wide enough for big stage shots, capturing crowds and potential to get very creative too. Another great lens is the XF16-55mm f/2.8 this serves the purpose of all of the primes and it’s a bit more convenient not having to switch out lenses.
What shots to look for
Many moons ago I shot club nights and festivals week-in week-out but these days I’m not shooting for a promoter or club, instead I’m shooting for myself. My brief is set by myself so I’m trying to look images that excite me. It’s all about capturing the mood and telling a story of the event.
Here are a few of the key shots to look for when shooting an event.
1. Performer shots
Capturing musicians in action is quite tricky. If they’re moving fast in low-light in can be incredibly difficult. The important thing to remember though is what the viewer is going to want to see – that’s the musician and possibly some environmental context if it adds to the composition. If the subject is the main focus I prefer to shoot wide open and isolate the subject. If there’s something interesting like a DJ with their decks or a rack of guitars I might stop down the aperture or shoot the scene with a wide angle lens to give a sense of the environment.
2. Crowd shots
If you’re shooting from the stage or in the pit, it’s always worth spinning around and checking out what the crowd are doing. A well timed pyrotechnic or a person on another person’s shoulder makes for an amazing picture. Sometimes I walk along the front row and pick out a group of interesting people.
3. People shots
Interesting people and music events go hand in hand. The crowd shots are always good, but I love to get into the crowd and capture the people having fun. Essentially, I take a street photography approach to this. I want people to be relaxed and natural around me, so before I start taking any pictures I walk around in the crowd, blending in and just enjoy myself. Once you’re in there amongst everyone you can begin to capture what you see in front of you which will be a unique perspective.
4. Capturing the atmosphere
You simply can’t stage atmosphere – It’s either there or it’s not. The shots that I find myself looking at time and time again are the ones that tell the story of what the festival was like. It’s all about capturing the moment and the soul of the event. Now, there’s no hard and fast way to capture this kind of scene but if it sounds good, the crowd are noisy or the hairs are standing up on your arms, shoot what makes you smile!
What better way to celebrate 5 years of Fujifilm X series than by hosting our own event at our head office in Tokyo?! I was lucky enough to be here so I’m sharing the experience with you.
The event started at 13:30 local time, while most (but not all) of you were probably tucked up fast asleep. We had a countdown that had been running on our X-Pro1 website for the last ten days.
At 13:30 sharp [3m 9s], Fujifilm President Shigehiro Nakajima gave an introduction speech about how our company has evolved in recent years. Film sales peaked in the year 2000 and since then has quickly declined. We took our core competencies and technologies and the diversified our business to ensure survival of the company. At the heart of our company is, and always will be, photography. This is why the X series is so important to us.
Afterwards, the top man in the whole Optical Division, Mr Takahashi, [13m 21s] took to the stage to explain in more detail about the last 5 years of X series. He explained the key benefits of using our APS-C system, including image quality, operability, and portability. He thanked all of the Fujifilm X users across the world, with a special nod to the Official X-Photographers, for not only using our products, but for helping us design future products. It has been the constant feedback that has enabled us to make these products we all love so much.
Toshi explained and demonstrated the advantages of the Hybrid Viewfinder. We all know that an EVF is great because it shows you the image you are going to get, including your exposure settings and any other Film Simulation or White Balance options you have changed. But in a world where EVF refresh rates and LCD resolution seem to make Optical Viewfinders redundant, why on earth would an OVF be required anymore? Toshi explained how having a Rangefinder style OVF allows you to see what is going on outside the frame. This is something that cannot be done on a D-SLR, nor by using an EVF.
Also, two ‘problems’ still exist with using an OVF: “Parallax”, where the angle of the Viewfinder is slightly different from that of the lens making it hard to know precisely where the edge of the frame will be, and Manual Focus is virtually impossible because changing the focus ring doesn’t affect the OVF on a rangefinder. The X-Pro2 has overcome both of these problems by displaying a small LCD panel in the bottom of the frame. This can be used to either show the entire frame in a miniature form, or it can be used to zoom in to the focus point to allow manual focus while in OVF mode.
The X-Pro2 contains the new X-Trans CMOS III – the third generation sensor, which at 24-megapixels, has 50% more resolution that our current. It contains technology that allows faster transfer allowing lower noise at higher ISO.
80 years of film development gives us the expertise to recreate skin tones and other colours with exceptional realism. Toshi also talked about the new Acros film simulation monochrome mode that features smoother gradation, deep blacks and beautiful textures
Next up, Toshi invited Magnum and National Geographic photographer David Alan Harvey onto the stage to talk about how he has found the X-Pro2 since using a prototype for the last few months. Here is the short movie that was played just before he joined Toshi on stage
David’s approach to photography is nothing short of inspiring. David likes simplicity. He wants his camera to be as simple to use as possible, while achieving the quality he needs to do his work. He used the camera in full-auto mode most of the time, wanting to spend more time worrying about the content of the image than what shutter speed to use. This attitude towards photography is exactly what we are trying to get to when we made this camera. We want people to enjoy photography and in order to do this you need to not think about the camera, and instead think about your art.
Next up, Toshi introduced the new X-E2S camera. It’s basically a rangefinder brother for the X-T10. All of the technical features that made the DSLR-style X-T10 a more attractive camera have been matched, leaving the user to choose between the style of camera rather than the specifications.
If you want to be able to shoot with your right eye leaving your face fully exposed to engage with your subject, or you want the classic retro look of a rangefinder of days passed, the X-E2S will be for you. If you prefer the more modern look of a D-SLR, plus the advantage of having a tilting screen for shooting high or low angles more comfortably, the X-T10 will probably be your preference.
Either way, you now get to choose your camera based on who you are, rather than which one was better on paper. Current X-E2 users can also rejoice in the fact that the software enhancements in the X-E2S will be coming to the X-E2 via a FREE firmware update in the very near future.
Jeff has been a professional photographer for many years and he switched to Fujifilm on a recommendation of a peer. His chosen subjects to shoot vary massively from shooting at The 24 Hours of Le Mans race, to shooting landscapes near his home in Scotland. He’s been fully converted to the X system since 2014 and has most of the lenses in our lineup and finds a use for all of them. They went through a number of Jeff’s shots and discussed the lens lineup and direction and also his reasons for making his final switch and going full-Fujifilm X.
Toshi ended his interview with Jeff by talking about a product meeting Jeff had attended a few months ago. (You may or may not know that Fujifilm REALLY listen to their users for product feedback). He asked him if he remembered a particular request that Jeff had. This particular request was for a flashgun that could fire continuously and would also be weatherproof to suit his X-T1. Jeff confirmed that he remembered the request, to which Toshi then presented the next product…
The only product not due to be released in February is the EF-X500 flash. Similar to our lens roadmap updates, we wanted our users to know that we listen to their feedback and we are working on a hotshoe mount flashgun to compliment the X series.
It’ll have a low-profile design that is perfectly suited to X-Series cameras, and will support high-speed sync up to 1/8000 sec. (the same speed as the shutter in the new X-Pro2). It will also be weather and dust resistant, just like the X-T1 and X-Pro2 cameras.
The final product that was presented was the X70,. This camera is essentially an X100T + WCL-X100, in a tiny body. It doesn’t have a viewfinder, which is the reason it can afford to be so small, but it does have a tilting LCD screen to compose your shot with.
The same sensor as the X100T, the same processor as the X100T and an amazingly high-quality lens made by Fujinon (like the X100T). Now you can have a camera in your pocket at all times that won’t sacrifice image quality at all. Coupled with a 180° tilting LCD that’s pretty handy for selfies, the X70 really is the ultimate travel camera for someone that really needs to travel light but wants great results still.