Three mics lined the front of the stage. The middle belonged to Ilo Ferreira, accompanied on either side by a saxophonist (for a little more than half the set) and an electric guitarist. Ferreira kept rhythm and did the lead singing, with backup vocals from both sides when appropriate.
Photographically, I found myself trapped to the far left, against the wall by the fire exit door. I couldn’t have been more than 10 feet away from the stage which, itself, was only about two or three feet above floor level. My 85mm lens was a little too tight, and my 28mm lens was way way too wide. I missed my broken 50mm f/1.8 a lot that night.
I tried my 70-300mm, but the minimum f/4 opening wasn’t working too well in the low lighting. I needed the prime f/1.8 lenses for this show. Throughout the night, I’d sometimes bump the aperture up to 2.0, 2.5, and 2.8, but never higher than that, unless by accident.
So I chose the 85mm and spent 90% of the opening act with it on my camera.
My first lesson was one of exposure and skin tones. Ferreira, being an African man, had darker skin. The guitarist to his right was a relatively pale white dude. I’m not sure if it was just the skin tones or if the angle of lighting affected it, but there was almost a full stop of exposure difference between the two. I was only photographing one at a time due to the narrow lens I was using, so I’d try to remember to switch settings as I went back and forth.
That second guitarist also had an unfortunate lighting pattern on him, with some unfortunate blue light on the right side of his face that came out looking garish digitally. The noise from the high ISO I was using certainly didn’t help. Those pics might all have to be black and white.
I shot everything in manual mode. (Auto-focus, though. I’m not crazy.) So when I went back and forth, I adjusted the aperture or shutter speed to match. The safest thing to do was to meter for Ferreira and then close up the aperture by two-thirds to one stop to keep from overexposing the guitarist whose name I never caught.
More pics, more writing, and a preview for Jake Shimabukuro, after the break:
The saxophonist was just far enough away from me that I was easily able to get full length shots of him the whole show, but the background was awful — it was a glass wall letting in the last of the late daylight from outside. It was OK on its own, but often looked awkward in pictures, where the left half of the picture was the black club background while the right half was bright daylight and a person or two standing there.
Ferreira stood squared up to the audience for most of the show. Given the angle I had, it meant I could never get his full guitar in frame with my portrait-oriented pictures. When I went wide, I’d have that split black/daylight background. I had to be patient and pick my moments — either focus on other things, or wait for the times when he twisted his body just a little bit to give me a better angle. When he took a step or two away from the mic at the end of a song, I had a perfect full length shot of him, but the stage was also a little darker back there, so the image was darker, too. Argh!
On the bright side, the mic stand wasn’t an issue. It rarely blocked his face.
Maybe I should have pushed the ISO up to 4000 and lived with that, but there’s a mental block I have about going past 3200. I prefer 2500, at worst, but can live with 3200 if it has a faster shutter speed. Those sharp pictures are far better than those more noise-reduced images, after all.
Ferreira played a strong set of original tunes. Even without knowing a single word or note of any of them, it was easy to get lost in the music and enjoy the show. The crowd seemed to enjoy him the more he played, too. It’s like they weren’t sure what to expect of him at first and met him with polite applause, but really did miss him when he left the stage at the end. In other words, he won them over. It was well-deserved.
Ferreira left the stage after a 45 minute set (and 730 pictures from me), and the crowd anxiously waited for Shimabukuro to come out. They only had to wait five minutes. And what started great would soon turn into a near nightmare. What happened and how I saved myself in the next installment on Monday… Here, have a preview: