Live on Stage – Nicholis Louw
Last night, 29 February 2012, Maritza and I had the privilege to do photography at the live stage performance of Nicholis Louw at the Klerksdorp City Theatre. The show was opened by Megan Pereira, a young lady you should look out for in future! The show was great as can be expected by one of South Africa’s top Afrikaans artists. Nicholis sang most of his popular songs and threw in a couple of surprises as well, such as his rendition of the Gummy Bears theme song, which entertained the adults more than the crowd of young ones he had called forward to sit in front of the stage. Nicholis is a very energetic performer on stage and keeping up with him is hard work, from a photographers perspective. Nicholis has an amazing on stage personality and his audience interaction during songs and during pauses between songs really keeps everyone entertained.
Photography, as with any stage performance, was a challenge. The light setup was different from most other stage performances I have covered in the past. The lighting was set up close to the artist and only about shoulder height. Though this looks great for the audience it presents a photographer with rapidly varying lighting requiring virtually constant adjustment in camera. Since both Maritza, my second photographer, and I shoot in full manual we had to keep our finger rolling through settings all through the show. Any kind of automatic mode gives unpredictable results in stage photography. Aperture mode cannot keep up with the constant changes in lighting and Shutter mode usually bumps the aperture wide open, which is not desirable in all cases and makes focusing very difficult. I shot the performance using my Sony A55 and 28-75mm f/2.8 lens. Maritza used the Sony a230 and a Minolta 50mm Prime f/1.7 lens.
Stage photography is tricky at the best of times, and a fast lens is a must. For manual settings on the A55 I use f/4 on the 28-75mm lens with an ISO of 200-400 and shutter speed of 100-160 depending on how much light comes in. The noise on the A55, even at ISO 800 is very little so I can push the shutter speed up even further if need be. The odd thing with stage lighting, especially the modern moving lights, is that they can cause blurring on edges irrespective of shutter speed. I have shots taken at much higher shutter speeds that still show blurring where moving lights crossed the image. Many of these newer moving lights introduce another element of motion you need to contend with. The best advice I can give is to learn the motions of your artist. If you carefully watch them for a while you quickly notice patterns and you learn to anticipate pauses in their motion which is where you want to snap your shots. You also need to learn to pre-focus and wait for shots within your planned focus area. Often these don’t come through and you have to refocus for a new setup, but this is worth it when you start seeing results. The other problem is that you may get hundreds of great shots which are in focus, but then the lips, position of the head or other element may not fit into the image to make it a good photo. There are some photos I choose to publish which aren’t even perfectly in focus, but the composition makes up for the loss (but obviously the focus needs to be acceptable!).
More photos from the show can be found in the Facebook Album