Nikon D700 , 200mm, f/3.2, 1/250, ISO 1600

John Legend knows how to make an entrance, and the sold out crowd at the RIMAC Arena got to witness that first hand. More on that a little bit later. Last Friday (1/16/09) I was getting my gear ready  to shoot John  when I received a voice mail letting me know that there would be no photo pit or barrier between the audience and the stage. Three songs, no flash are the usual rules concert photographers live by. For John Legend it was going to be two songs, no flash and no pit. Not much time to try to get a variety of shots and now with out a photo pit I needed to rethink the gear I was taking. The last show I shot at the RIMAC Arena, The Smashing Pumpkins,  the stage was really high and photo-pit was really big.

My original plan was to use my  usual concert setup, the Domke F2 with the following gear:

  • Nikon D700 with Mb-D10 battery grip
  • Nikon D2X
  • Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8
  • Nikkor 85mm f/1.4
  • Nikkor 50mm f/1.8
  • Nikkor 35mm f/2
  • Nikkor 16mm f/2.8
  • a couple of 8 gig memory cards and an extra battery.

The problem was, that this only gave me one long lens option, the 200mm side of the 70-200. I needed to bring something longer since we would be much further away from the stage than I originally thought. My two options were the Nikkor 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D which is way too slow for concert work or the Nikkor 300mm f/4D which is great for bright outdoor shows but not that great for indoor lighting. The long focal length needs a higher shutter speed to counteract and camera shake, and the f/4 aperture is a little slow for concerts. But really, what choice did I have? Those were the only two longer lenses I own and there wasn’t enough time to rent or track down a 300mm f/2.8 or a 400mm f/2.8.

So I grabbed the smaller F6 Domke bag and loaded it with the two camera bodies, the 50mm lens, 85mm lens, extra batteries and memory cards and took the 70-200mm lens and the 300mm lens in their own lens bags.

So how did the 300mm work out? GREAT!!

John Legend

Nikon D2X , 300mm, f/4, 1/125, ISO 800

The show started promptly at 8pm with a 45 minute set by Estelle.


Nikon D700 , 200mm, f/2.8, 1/200, ISO 1600

I used the 2 song shooting limit for Estelle to get a feel of how i was going to be able to shoot John from various angles. I started on the right side of the venue and after the first song I moved to in front of the Soundboard and then up to the rear of the venue.


Nikon D700 , 70mm, f/2.8, 1/160, ISO 1600

John Legend starts his show by making an entrance from the back of the room and walking through the crowd before starting into his first number. The crowd went absolutely wild and since John has a very liberal camera policy for the fans, just about every one in the room was snapping away with point and shoot camera or their cell phone camera.


Nikon D2X , 85mm, f/1.4, 1/50, ISO 800

That’s John in the glasses with the red scarf making his way towards the stage.


Nikon D700 , 200mm, f/2.8, 1/125, ISO 1600

As I mentioned before, the shooting rules for John were two song, no flash. This made it really difficult to get different views on the performer. Since I like to try to get more than one angle , usually done by switching sides in the photo pit, I had to shoot and move during two relatively short songs. I started out on the right side of the venue for his entrance, and start of the first song, then moved to the second shooting position at the soundboard. Luckily distance between the board and stage was not that great.


Nikon D700 , 70mm, f/3.2, 1/250, ISO 1600
Nikon D700 , 200mm, f/3.2, 1/250, ISO 1600

After shooting from in front of the sound board, I made my way over to the left side of the venue and was able to catch John as he sat down at the piano for a few seconds during the song. Was this the second song or the third? At this point I didn’t know, but kept shooting for a few minutes anyway.


Nikon D700 , 200mm, f/3.2, 1/250, ISO 1600

It was a great show, and John was a lot of fun to shoot, but I do wonder why the photographers only got two songs while those in the audience got to shoot al night long?