Shooting a concert with micro 4/3 - the Olympus OM-D E-M5
We saw the TSO tonight and what a show! As always, TSO puts on a spectacle of incredible music, showmanship, storytelling, flames, smoke, lasers and more. Playing everything from Bach to Zeppelin, they wowed us for 2 ½ hours at the TD Garden in Boston.
This time I brought my camera, an m4/3 Oly and put it to the test in these somewhat demanding conditions.
For the photographically curious, all shots are from the single vantage point of our seats in the balcony, so the point of view doesn't change across all of these compositions. I don't know how far it was from our seats to the stage, but it was some considerable distance, perhaps 40 yards / meters.
To reach across that distance, these were all shot with an Olympus 45mm 1.8 lens mounted on an OM-D E-M5. This little lens is really great, it's sort of a mini-telephoto, but the lens itself is downright tiny. The entire camera + lens setup is almost, but not quite small enough to fit in a coat pocket.
I was particularly excited that the camera could shoot so well from such a distance and do so in alternating dark & super-bright circumstances.
The OM-D is not new and it's well known as a tool which renders colors well. But capturing the myriad colors and ever changing brightness generated by the concert lighting system is quite a nice test. It's a testament to the ability of this sensor and this glass to reproduce this color and these details so nicely.
As you may discern from the variable sizes of these snaps, these are all cropped down. All were processed using Apple Aperture, my favorite post processing tool. Too bad it's going away. I really hope the replacement is equally powerful and easy to use.
One of my favorite shots in this series; the musician bowing, as if in abeyance, to the crowd, upward lights symbolizing their gaze. This composition doesn't render especially well on mobile phones in portrait orientation, it's a bit too dark. Perhaps I should have brightened up the rocker a little bit, to emphasize his figure a bit more, but I tried not to radically change any of these pics.
Almost of these shots were enhanced with sharpness, some with a tiny bit of definition, many with a white balance adjustment and all were cropped down in some fashion.
While I first began shooting at ISO 650, I quickly realized that's way too high. It would expose too much. Having some aspects of a composition in the dark, lends them a sense of mystery. Shooting at lower ISOs let me expose for the bright spots, leaving parts in the shadows, so I reduced the ISO to 400.
Before the end of the concert, I'd further reduced it to 200, the lowest setting on my OM-D. Most of the shots here were taken at ISO 200 with a shutter speed of 200 using spot metering. The exposure compensation I dialed individually for each shot, depending on how nice the contrast looked through the view finder.
Of course I was also thinking of the dramatically reduced noise I'd get with ISO 200 vs 640. The low noise levels may not be readily discernible in these reproductions, as they're a) JPEGs and b) reduced to 1500 pixels for web hosting, so they're a bit different from the original RAW files.
Now that I've seen what the 45mm lens does, I'd really like to try the put the Oly 7mm 1.8 to the test under these conditions. I supposed, given similar seats, I could really get some close up shots of the performers, though I wonder if it'd be too close to also include some of the scene.
Some I processed as B&W, mainly because I felt that color detracted from a few individual compositions.
Perhaps it's the very white, almost coherent nature of the lights upon the audience, but they do seem sort of frozen in time, similar to scenes I've seen in some old paintings.
Sometime I'd really enjoy shooting a concert with the ability to walk around, perhaps with a press pass or similar access, so I could get really close to the action. This spectacle features too many pyrotechnics for that to work, but for a bit more mellow show, that'd be quite a photographic adventure.
I have to say the Olympus made it reasonably easy to get some shots with which I am quite happy. ...and ultimately, I take these for myself. Olympus marketing won't want to hear this, but I'm not sure how the improved E-M1 could have made this experience much better.
See sandtosnow.net/blog for other photography commentary