Monthly Archives

December 2012

Music, Photographer Notes, Photography

Photographer Notes: Carrie Underwood 2012

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.

Photographer Notes, Photography

Photographer Notes: Crystal Castles 2012

Hey all, I thought about doing a segment like this for a while now, and I’ve finally decided to give it a go. I am often asked HOW I prepare, shoot and edit my concert photography. So today, I shall do that with my last memorable gig which was Crystal Castles at the Kool Haus in Toronto last month.

Anyone who is familiar with this band know how challenging it is to get some decent shots of them. This is primarily due to the fact that they have no front light and their entire show is filled by strobes that can cause some serious problems if you are prone to them. Thankfully, I diagnosed that I am not epileptic…photographically, this often results in dozens of black frames.


Usually, the moment I find out that I am accredited to cover a concert, I will look up their setlist on the web such as By researching the last couple of their gigs, I was able to determine that the first three songs would be Plague, Baptism and Suffocation. By knowing this information, I search for some live records of these performances on YouTube where I can preview the lighting conditions and any cool poses they might do on stage. Quickly I learned that Alice would be stage diving and interacting heavily with the crowd in the 2nd song Baptism, so I readied myself for that with ease.


It doesn’t hurt to ask other fellow photographers (or creep them on forums) about what tools they used for shooting the same band. I discovered that instead of the getting the normal 3 songs, pit, no flash rule….accredited photographers actually got 3 songs, side of stage and flash! Most of you know that I am not a flash kind of guy at all, so no SB-910 would be coming with me. Instead, I decided to shoot high ISO (6400-8000) on the D4 with 3D tracking for fun. Surprising, the D4 was able to focus and lock on to lead singer Alice Glass. I shot primarily with the Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 from the side of the stage. After the first 3 songs, we were able to shoot from the back of the crowd where I used a the Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8.


Unsurprisingly, I did end up with MANY black unlit frames. I ended shooting just over 700 frames and I was able to get around 25 useable shots. I used LightRoom 4 for the bulk of my editing as usual. Because of my preparation and research, I envisioned the stage dive shot in my head and you know what? I got it, as seen above. If you want to see the full set of my photos and a review by one of our writers Mike Gallagher, check it out on Live in Limbo.

Photography, Technology

MindShift Rotation180 Announcement

Ladies and Gents, I am so thrilled to tell you all that I got a great email yesterday from my good friends at ThinkTank Photo. Many of you know that I absolutely LOVE the camera bags ThinkTank makes, especially the Harddrive StreetWalker which I use for travels and the Retrospective 30 for street photography. However, the creators of ThinkTank have not ditched this amazing company, but have formed a new one called MindShift Gear which is targeting the professional outdoor photographers.

” The rotation180° professional backpack brings camera access to a new level.  Its rotating waist pack allows nature and adventure photographers to maintain creative momentum by offering immediate access to primary photo equipment in even the most precarious situations without having to take off the pack, sling it over one shoulder, or even stop hiking.”

Please support the MindShift Rotation180 Kickstarter campaign!

If you are an outdoors or wildlife photographer, I strongly urge you to watch the product demonstration video on the Kickstarter page.

While a fantastic product that I am excited for, I have some of my own suggestions. I’d like to see the option to have the rotating beltpack to come out from the left side of my body when on my back. Why? Because I tend to have my camera on a BlackRapid strap RS-7 (or alternative) for quick hand access on my right side (I am right handed like most). I can see some fumbling if both my camera and the beltpack are to come from the same side of me.


Inspirational, Photography

Steve McCurry and Pirelli Calendar

Steve McCurry is without a doubt one of my (if not the top) biggest inspirations in the photography world. He is primarily known for his work with National Geographic which he took the everlasting cover shot called “The Afghan Girl” in 1985. Since then, he’s been awarded many international prizes and also took some breath taking photos of 9/11.

Last year, he was asked to create the 2013 Pirelli calendar in the stunning Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (I will be traveling here early 2013!). Traditionally, Pirelli is known for it’s nude photos but Steve decided to break away from that and instead concentrate on featuring strong activist women who also happen to be very beautiful inside and out. I strongly urge you to watch the video embedded. Steve also doesn’t necessarily need to use the latest of photographic technology either as he is seen wielding the Nikon D3X, D2X and Hassleblad too.

Take care! I will be posting more info on my next big adventure as well as updates on my portfolio gallery!