On Assignment: concert photojournalism

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Tompi. Olympus OM-D, 100-300

I recently played the role of official photographer for a producer friend’s concert – it was a moderately large affair featuring a good number of famous local musicians. The nice thing about this event was that it was large enough to have professional acts, decent lighting and good organization, but not so large that I didn’t have access to everything – and I mean everything, including the stage itself during the performance*.

*One thing a good concert photographer should never do is interfere with the act; so even though the stage might be open to you, one should never get between the performers and the audience unless it’s absolutely necessary, and even then only for the shortest possible period of time. Oh, and remember that the shutter sound carries quite clearly through any microphones that have been placed near equipment.

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Through the legs. Nikon D700, 28/1.8G

Although I’m not normally a huge fan of the types of music being played, I have to say this was one of the more enjoyable events I’ve attended and shot; I guess I’d be the restless type of concertgoer who’s only happy with a camera in hand and backstage pass – not so much to meet the artists, but to shoot. Although it’s the first photojournalism assignment I’ve done in quite some time – and the first concert assignment in many years. (In 2005/6 I was the house photographer at one of the jazz clubs in Kuala Lumpur, but I eventually stopped because I wasn’t getting enough sleep after gigs and before work the next day.) This job made me realize just how much I missed photojournalism.

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Nikon D700, 28/1.8 G

There were a number of photographers there from other local/ national media and international agencies; the locals were mostly using midrange APS-C bodies, kit lenses and off-brand flashes; you could tell the major agencies by their standard issue pro bodies and f2.8 zooms. Interestingly, the proliferation of lower end cameras amongst media/ newsmen – at least in Malaysia – has been getting increasingly common as these organizations seek to cut cots. I can understand the bodies passing the threshold of sufficiency and being capable of producing great results in the hands of any competent photographer, but the use of slow kit zooms just hamstrings the ability to create a picture that preserves the ambient light and feel of the scene without resorting to a flash.

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In the moment. Olympus OM-D, 100-300

From experience, I know that when wearing my photojournalism hat, the lighter you can go, the better. I was carrying my D700/ MB-D10, 28/1.8 G and 85/1.8 G for close distance coverage; the OM-D and 100-300 rode shotgun for more reach. (I was also carrying the 12/2 and 45/1.8 as backup in case the D700 developed a problem, plus an SB900 for balanced fill which I didn’t land up using. My motto is go light, but not so light that you have no insurance when it comes to equipment failure.) Many of you will know that the new Nikon 28/1.8 G has proven itself to be a very capable lens even on the demanding sensor of the D800E; I’m pleased to report that both the 28 and 85 f1.8 G lenses performed flawlessly on the D700, both in terms of focusing accuracy and optical performance. The 85/1.8 G does exhibit some moderate flare with strongly backlit point sources (the hood makes almost no difference here), but I personally don’t mind it as I feel that it adds to that atmosphere and pictorial value of the image somewhat.

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Keyboards. Nikon D700, 28/1.8 G

The big surprise of the night was the OM-D and 100-300 combination, however. I didn’t use AF-C; most of the time careful timing, a short burst and the extended depth of field for a given FOV due to the smaller sensor was enough. It’s rather counterintuitive for DSLR shooters, but I find that with the OM-D, just depressing the shutter all the way down and trusting the camera’s AF system yields a considerably higher hit rate than using AF-C, or worse, AF-Tracking. The 100-300 delivered excellent optical performance, even out to the 300mm limit; due to the lighting conditions I was working wide open the whole time. The lens did hunt somewhat above 200mm, but so long as I was in the ballpark, focusing was reasonably fast.

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Blue note. Olympus OM-D, 100-300

So far, no surprises – I’d shot with the 100-300 in good light conditions, and been pleased with the results. The OM-D, on the other hand, seems to excel under tricky mixed-light or strong-color situations; to get a sufficiently high shutter speed – I was in the 1/45-1/60s region most of the time, at 300-400mm equivalent – I was solidly in the ISO 3200 to ISO 6400 band. In all honesty, I don’t feel the files were noticeably more noisy than the D700 for a given ISO; the only place where the smaller sensor made itself known was in dynamic range – the D700 had probably two stops extra on the OM-D. I can definitely see where the 75/1.8 would be useful though – 100mm was a bit long at times, and the extra 2 1/3 stops (probably more in transmission) would have pushed image quality even higher still.

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Strumming out. Nikon D700, 28/1.8 G

All in all, a very satisfying nights’ work. Come work delivery time, the litmus test is always the client; I’m happy to say that this one passed with flying colors. “I can’t stop looking at the pictures, they’re amazing!” was the text message I got a few days after delivery. So, anybody else need a concert photographer? MT

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One – Ramli Sarip. Nikon D700, 85/1.8 G

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This is what rockers do. Nikon D700, 28/1.8 G

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The loud pedal. Olympus OM-D, 100-300

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Thank you to my band. Nikon D700, 28/1.8 G

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The hair. Nikon D700, 85/1.8 G

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Olympus OM-D, 100-300

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Backstage with the fans. Nikon D700, 28/1.8 G

Photoessay: Kowloon in color

Shot on a particularly rainy night in Kowloon, post-typhoon with a Leica M9-P and Zeiss ZM 28/2.8. Surprisingly, both functioned fine despite the moisture and humidity. I must be one of the few strange photographers who actually like shooting in the rain – it’s not masochism, despite what it might appear as. Three simple reasons: one, there’s a lot more texture and color from the water, reflections and umbrellas; two, the light is a bit more diffuse; three, nobody pays you any attention - everybody is simply too busy trying to keep dry. And this makes street photography significantly easier. MT

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Enter the August 2012 competition: Compact Challenge – here!

If you enjoyed this post, please consider supporting the site via Paypal (mingthein2@gmail.com); Ming Thein’s Email School of Photography – learn exactly what you want to learn, when you want to learn it or learn how to achieve a similar look with our Photoshop workflow DVDs.  You can also get your gear from Amazon.com via this referral link.  Prices are the same as normal, however a small portion of your purchase value is referred back to me. Thanks!

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Photoessay: Macau, part two

A continuation of the set from Macau. Shot in the tail end of a typhoon with a Leica M9-P, Zeiss ZM 2.8/28 Biogon and ZM 2/50 Planar lenses. MT

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Enter the August 2012 competition: Compact Challenge – here!

If you enjoyed this post, please consider supporting the site via Paypal (mingthein2@gmail.com); Ming Thein’s Email School of Photography – learn exactly what you want to learn, when you want to learn it or learn how to achieve a similar look with our Photoshop workflow DVDs.  You can also get your gear from Amazon.com via this referral link.  Prices are the same as normal, however a small portion of your purchase value is referred back to me. Thanks!

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Photoessay: Macau, part one

Part one from Macau; immediately post-typhoon and still very, very rainy, not to mention humid. This set was shot with an Olympus OM-D, 45/1.8 and Panasonic 20/1.7 lenses. Images can be clicked on for larger versions, or to go to the flickr hosting page where exif data is available. Enjoy! MT

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The curious thing about outbound Macau customs was that there were none…take whatever you will from that (and the country).

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____________

Enter the August 2012 competition: Compact Challenge – here!

If you enjoyed this post, please consider supporting the site via Paypal (mingthein2@gmail.com); Ming Thein’s Email School of Photography – learn exactly what you want to learn, when you want to learn it or learn how to achieve a similar look with our Photoshop workflow DVDs.  You can also get your gear from Amazon.com via this referral link.  Prices are the same as normal, however a small portion of your purchase value is referred back to me. Thanks!

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Photoessay: Hong Kong life in monochrome

The first set from my recent Hong Kong and Macau workshop. Click for larger versions or EXIF data via the flickr landing page. Enjoy! MT

Images shot with a Leica M9-P, Zeiss ZM 2.8/28 Biogon, ZM 2/50 Planar, Olympus OM-D and 45/1.8.

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Enter the August 2012 competition: Compact Challenge – here!

If you enjoyed this post, please consider supporting the site via Paypal (mingthein2@gmail.com); Ming Thein’s Email School of Photography – learn exactly what you want to learn, when you want to learn it or learn how to achieve a similar look with our Photoshop workflow DVDs.  You can also get your gear from Amazon.com via this referral link.  Prices are the same as normal, however a small portion of your purchase value is referred back to me. Thanks!

Don’t forget to like us on Facebook and join the Flickr group!

Photoessay: Hanoi, part two

Here’s an opportunity to compare the difference between a set shot in color, and one shot in black and white – same subjects, same location, same equipment, same time. Which do you prefer? Which do you think works better? There are no right or wrong answers (nor should there be if both sets are executed well enough). MT

This set shot with a Nikon D700, 85/1.4G and 28-300/3.5-5.6 VR.

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Photoessay: Hanoi, part one

Hanoi is one of the more interesting places I’ve been recently – these images were shot during downtime on a business trip about a year ago. It’s a fascinating mix of French colonial and Southeast Asian chaos; juxtapositions abound, and rich textures are plenty – making for great shooting. Part one, in color. I’m told Ho Chi Minh City is a lot more developed an interesting, but I haven’t had a chance to visit yet. MT

This set shot with a Nikon D700, 85/1.4G and 28-300/3.5-5.6 VR.

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Quantum mechanics at work again: the scene changed because the subjects noticed the photographer.

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Feels like France.

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A vomit-inducing ride. Notice passenger on the right hand bike.

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If only I knew what cards she was holding.

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10X10: 100 ways to improve your photography: Photojournalism and Street

Photojournalism (hereafter PJ) and street photography go hand in hand: they’re about capturing a moment of life. PJ goes a bit further by adding a story to that moment; street can just be an aesthetically pleasing moment in and of itself. Both though require the photographer to be observant and ready. This is what works for me.

Disclaimer: As with every other article in this series, I’m assuming you know the basics already.

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Protest Kabila, Prague. Leica M9-P, 28/2.8 ASPH

10: Watch your shutter speeds. You’re going to need more than 1/focal length – maybe 1/2x to be safe, or even 1/3x if you’re running and gunning. You’re moving, your subject is moving, and nothing is steady. Remember also that the higher the resolution your camera, the less forgiving it is of focus errors and camera shake.

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Rain, London. Ricoh GRDIII

9: Small, nondescript cameras are best. They don’t draw attention to you – especially in the current day and age of everybody carrying a camera, nobody is going to take you seriously if you have a small black compact. You’d be surprised how much I get away with using the iPhone or Ricoh GR-Digital III. People simply don’t perceive it as threatening in the same way a pro DSLR and 70-200 might be. Compacts also give you more depth of field for a given aperture.

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Morning paper, London. Ricoh GRDIII

8: Shoot wide and close. The perspective produces a stronger image; wide lenses are also more forgiving to focus errors and camera shake. And as a bonus, you get context in the frame as par for the course.

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Learning English. London. Leica M8, 21/1.4

7: Anticipate and observe. To quote the Cartier-Bresson: pick the decisive moment. To do so, you need to be aware of everything around you; really look. Pay attention to the details. People are fairly predictable; it should be easy to spot if something out of the ordinary is about to happen. Anticipation of the action gives you a vital few seconds more to prepare and be in position, or have the camera out.

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Bicycle, Kathmandu. Nikon D700, 24/1.4

6: Blend in. Act like you belong, dress nondescript, and nobody will pay you a second glance. It will make your job a lot easier. If you draw attention to yourself – be it by being uncertain or provocative – then people of course notice.

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Oblivious. I was standing 3 feet in front of them. Canon IXUS 220HS

5: Always have the camera to hand. How are you going to get a quick shot off if the camera is in your bag? You should be able to get a shot in less than 5 seconds – sometimes your window is even shorter than that.

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Trekking office, Kathmandu. Nikon D700, 85/1.4 G

4: In a real emergency, help. Yes, our duty as a PJ is to record, document, communicate and raise awareness about the events around you; you help by telling a story. But you don’t have to shoot all the time. Get your shot and then help out the people. Remember that at the end of the day, we’re all human.

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Street party. They would need help the following morning. I didn’t stay that long. Nikon D700, 85/1.4 G

3: Practice, practice, practice. Use your camera until you’re fast and proficient; you should be able to visualize the frame and field of view without having to raise the camera to your eye. You should be able to set things by muscle memory and have a group of settings (if your camera supports this) that configures the camera to be ready to go.

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Reflections. Leica X1

2: If spotted, acknowledge your subject. A friendly smile, a sincere nod – all of these things make people feel comfortable with your presence and make your life easy. You don’t have to stop and talk or explain what you’re doing if nobody is asking. Smile and move one. Done.

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Smoking break. Olympus E-PM1, 45/1.8

1: Be confident. It is better to say sorry rather than ask permission and miss the shot. With that, go out and be productive. MT

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Martial law, Kathmandu. Nikon D700, 24/1.4

See more of my photojournalism work here on flickr: click here

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