I’m now going to be writing and photographing for Music Weekly Asia, a web site out of Singapore. My first assignment was Rihanna’s opening night at the Cotai Arena at the Venetian in Macau.
I was really excited about this because, let’s face it, most of the “star” acts I’ve photographed have been ones who were heroes to my generation. This would be my first chance to shoot a current super star and I knew that under normal circumstances, I’d come away with great photos. But these were not normal circumstances.
So I get to the Venetian (they comped me for the ferry tickets, too) and find my way to the media registration desk. I’m one of ten photographers there. We’re all given these over-sized blue vests with “Cotai Arena” written really big across the back. Our media passes are then pasted onto the vests – and we’re told we have to return the media passes as well as the vests. Normally you receive a laminated pass on a lanyard and it makes a nice souvenir of the gig, but not this time. Okay.
Then the PR lady leads us inside and takes us to the back, next to the control desk, on the floor, and we’re told this is where we will be shooting from. WTF? The opening act, a pair of DJs from Miami called We Are GTA, are midway through their set so it’s too loud in there to make any attempt to rationalize this with the staff. So sure enough, once Rihanna hits the stage, we are behind the thousand or so people on the floor, all of whom are waving their hands – and their mobile phone cameras – in the air. And the longest lens I had with me was my 70-200mm F2.8 zoom.
You want to know how far away I was from the stage? Here’s a shot I took with my 50mm lens to illustrate:
Does this make any sense at all? Does it allow the media to present the artist and the venue in the best possible fashion?
(By the way, I stand just under 6 feet tall. Many of the other photographers were definitely under 5 foot 6; I have no idea what kind of shots they got.)
I later heard from two friends who have shot shows there in the past saying this is always how they do it at the Venetian. One claimed that by protesting loudly and arguing with a manager that he was allowed to shoot by the stage. In my case, every time I tried inching forward, there was a tap on my shoulder telling me to move back again.
Well, when you are that far back from the stage, you can’t see expressions on the artists’ faces, you can’t try to time your shots at all. Holding the camera way above my head and using LiveView meant that I couldn’t shoot in burst mode – and LiveView on the Nikon means click, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, click ….
Most attempts to use the viewfinder resulted in shots like this
or like this
Fortunately, the Nikon D800 allows you to crop the hell out of shots and still have something usable. Right now, this is my favorite photo from the night:
Not awful, but certainly nothing that will go in my portfolio.
You can click on over to my review at Music Weekly Asia, where you’ll find my review as well as 20 photos from the evening.
I was asked if I wanted to shoot the upcoming Justin Bieber show. Actually, I would do it. I’ll shoot anyone. And even if they make me stay in the back, it’s a free ride to and from Macau and a free show. But I’ll be in the U.S. when he’s in Macau. I’ve written to the staff at Cotai to explain why how they’re managing this is a very bad idea, and I received a very polite note saying they would pass my message on to “the relevant people.”
I suppose that the next time I get to shoot at Cotai Arena I will try to rent a 500mm or 600mm lens and bring along a tall monopod!