Qu Performing at Baybeats 2017 (Esplanade Outdoor Theatre, Singapore)

Recently I had an occasion to shoot Qu (pronounced “cue”), an awesome Japanese instrumental rock band fronted by a human beatbox at “Baybeats 2017”, the biggest music festival of its kind in Singapore. By the way, listen to Qu on YouTube , they’re real awesome!

Technical Challenges

Interestingly, shooting the live music event at night was completely opposite of what I normally do, i.e. shooting cityscapes at blue hour which is always static (scenery never moves) and shot with low ISO (100) for long exposure that goes for a few minutes.

At this event, I was shooting the singer/beatboxer that moves around a lot (hard to focus), using high ISO (800-1000 due to low light with hand-held) and fast shutter speed to freeze the motion, which was quite challenging.

ISO could have been much higher (to shoot with even faster shutter speed) because most of my photos actually ended up being “soft”, but I was too worried about photos being very noisy. At the end of the day, sharp photos with more noise would have been better than soft photos with less noise. In fact, I now feel that having certain amount of noise seems even cool for this type of photo!

Ideal Lens

I shot with Nikon 50mm (f/1.4) that I borrowed from a friend (cos I only own two lenses and this is why). Although I was seated in the first row, 50mm lens on my full frame Nikon D610 didn’t have enough reach, so I had to switch to DX crop mode to give the lens 1.5x zoom (50mm x 1.5 = 75mm), which in turn reduced the output image size to 3936 x 2624 px (down from 6016 x 4016 px shot in FX mode).

Considering the distance from the first row seats to the stage at this Esplanade Outdoor Theatre, an ideal lens should be 85mm. Nikon has both f/1.4 and f/1.8 lenses for 85mm (astonishingly, f/1.4 lens costs 3+ times more expensive than f/1.8 counterpart at around USD1600), and there are also a few available from third parties like Sigma and Tamron.

A zoom lens like 70-200 (f/2.8) can also be handy, but I feel f/2.8 is way too slow to shoot hand-held in low light situations like this. I’d rather choose a fast prime lens for nicer bokeh effects and letting in more lights than convenience and flexibility of a zoom lens. That said, I’m not getting any new lens for music photography yet, though! Let’s see if my interest grows.

Enjoyed Getting out of My Comfort Zone to Shoot Something Different

To sum up, although I was pushed out of my comfort zone to shoot something unfamiliar, I truly enjoyed the rare experience. What I particularly liked was that I was able to shoot the event using Singapore CBD as a backdrop (if not, I probably wouldn’t even have thought about shooting the event!). Well, my interest never strays from cityscape photography! Anyway, I’ve definitely learned a few lessons to improve upon next time. Until then, stay tuned. ;)


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