Ready? Steady? What? Oups..
”You must be kidding? You’re a photographer and you don’t have your camera with you. Oh please, that iPhone in your hand doesn’t count as a real camera, especially now. Look at that. Errrhh.. Arrg! So right! “
That was me last night when I got to Saint-Paul’s main place after dinner. We heard music from the restaurant just before the village and thought it would be nice to spend some time there with good live music. After all it’s Fête de la Musique! As soon as we left the restaurant I thought I’ll feel bad in just a few minutes because I don’t have the Leica with me. I almost always have it with me. This time was an exception (o.k., o.k., a mistake!). An exception that proved one more time that if you pretend to be a photographer you owe it to yourself to bring your camera with you at all time.
There was only one option: go back home, grab the Leica and come back with the scooter (Parking is just impossible at this point, there are people everywhere and no parking available. But there’s always a little spot somewhere for a scooter). I was back in less than 20 minutes and luckily the band played for another hour without interruption. Shooting a live event outside at night is a bit tricky. Most “auto everything” cameras will crank the ISO, limit aperture and force you to use nearly impossible to handle low shutter speed. You’ve been there I’m pretty sure. And forget about “night modes” unless you have one of the latest larger sensor with impressive ISO performance. Anyways, you don’t have “auto” and “modes” on a Leica M, so you’re the captain of you ship! That’s no bad news either.. So I started with ISO400, around f2 and a reasonable shutter speed of 1/125th of a second. I remember I started shooting from behind the stage, on the drummer, and then moved to the front on both sides. I noticed I was not even “chimping” (In the photographhic world, chimping means you spend to much time looking at the screen everytime you take a photo, to verify if it’s good or not. A lot of people do that, while others trust their experience and settings for a specific scene. ), just kept shooting for 2-3 times around the stage to cover all angles.
Some Interesting Findings
We left as soon as the show was over to avoid traffic. I was looking forward to seeing the shots on the monitor at home. This is when you find out if a shot is a keeper or not. I started to transfer and work on the files as soon as I got home. There are a few things I realized right away:
- While shooting, I knew I had spotlights in my direction and they could potentially create a lot of flares. For some reasons I decided to not bother and just keep shooting. Good news, the Leica renders lights in a very beautiful way, even creating “star effects” in some of the shots. I’m glad I kept my focus on shooting the action.
- I managed to get pretty good results in terms of focus even while shooting at large aperture (i.e. around f2). I don’t claim the shots are in perfect focus, but not bad at all for the conditions and the time I had.
- Even at ISO 400 or 640, the Leica rendered photos with good whites and colors, not too much blasted highlights, beautiful vivid colors, deep black and details in the shadow. In other words, the DR (Dynamic Range) is very good! :-)
Outdoor Events Make Great Settings
In the end I’m fairly happy with the pictures I got from the show. I think a live event happening outside at night makes a great setting because the lighting is perfect and offers plenty of colors and effects. I like the way the instruments expose their shapes and colors, like the chrome stand on the drums or the wood on the bass and guitar. I always tried to focus on the eyes of the musicians, a bit like if you’re shooting a model in the studio. If the eyes are not in focus, the photos doesn’t “hook” you properly. But live musicians are constantly moving, models are posing. Big difference!
Also, I liked the background textures created by the stone wall from the village ramparts. That’s an incredibly huge backdrop. On some shots you can see silhouettes of people standing in front of the wall behind the stage, I like that. The photo above is one of my favorite. It shows the energetic (and very talented) guitarist in action, the lights form above are beautiful and you can see the stone wall behind.
As usual, you can find the whole picture set on my website at www.normandprimeauphoto.com
© Normand Primeau