Carrie Underwood performed a few nights ago at the Air Canada Centre, one of the largest venues in Toronto, Canada. Photographing her was fun and interesting at the same time. First of all, a superstar like her didn’t have a photo release trying to grab our copyrights or restrict us in any way, major props to Underwood and her PR team. The shoot was interesting because it was not from the pit as usual. Instead, the media had to shoot from the sound board which was pretty much in the center of the arena.


A few hours before heading to the gig, I pretty much knew exactly what songs she’d he performing. Photographers got to stay for the first two songs, which were “Good Girl” and “Undo It”. Also from researching YouTube clips of these songs, I knew for a fact that lighting was going to be no problem at all and that it would be pretty bright and consistent.


Since I knew we’d be standing at the mixer, I brought a small foldable stool to make sure I shot over the most pit instead of taking the risk of getting hands in the way. Because we’d be far away from the stage, a monopod was needed to help stabilize a super telephoto lens. My next challenge was lens selection. There were a few options that could have worked here:

A) 300mm f/2.8 + 1.4x = 420mm f/4 (a good reach)

B) 400 f/2.8 (a bit too short)

C) 500 f/4 (would lose some good stage shots)

D) 70-200mm f/2.8 + 2x = 140-400mm f/5.6 (a bit too short, but room to crop, good range to get a balance of stage, band and close ups. Downside is small aperture at 5.6.

I ended up going with option D. Even though I hear people talking about how awesome those super tele primes are….they just aren’t for me. My thought is that with a supertele, you are already significantly limiting your range of movement with a monopod and making it a fixed focal length just restricts even more. If you few my full set of photos, you can see that I got a wide variation of different perspectives of Underwood and all her glory.

For the future, I think that the ideal setup would be the Nikkor 200-400 f/4 +1.4x for an effective range from 280-560mm f/5.6. To me, that sounds like the most perfect focal range for sound board shoots. What at that f/5.6 aperture you ask? Well, my answer is that the D4 can easily be boosted up to 6400 then down to 3200 ISO and I have no problems with noise at all.

One funny thing I did notice however was that at 400mm, the shot didn’t seem to really focus in the view finder and got really worried that I’d have a bunch of out of focus images. But when reviewing them later, they surprisingly turned out pretty sharp out of the camera RAW. So, I’m not sure if this is an issue with my TC-20E III or what? I’ve read negative issues with the version 2 of this 2x converter. But it seems like version III was made to compliment the 70-200 VRII.


Going through Underwood’s photos was pretty easy. Great lighting made things very simple for me, as I just had to do white balancing, a bit of clarity, shadows, blacks and some cropping for the really close up profiles.

Check out Live in Limbo for my full set of photos and let me know what you think.