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Photographing the Incomparable Rick Ross Live on Stage
A street photographer’s approach to concerts
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Last month, I found myself in a situation where I was on stage, popping flash after flash, next to Rick Ross as he performed to thousands of people in Chicago. I rarely say yes to photographing performances but with complete creative control and free rein to be anywhere on stage (within reason), this would be one of those rare opportunities to document an interesting subject in my own style.
This week, I wanna share a handful of images from that day, go over the techniques, and just shed some light on my process.
I wanted to capture Ross in a more raw, journalistic style with an emphasis on showcasing his larger-than-life personality through my photos. For that reason, I went with my Leica M11, Summicron 28mm, and Profoto A10 speedlight as my main kit. This combo meant that I could fill a lot in each frame, punch close for drama, and have plenty of flash power to create deep contrast and shadows. Things that would really stand out from traditional concert images.
But in the event that he or his team had an issue with my shooting style, I had my Leica SL2-s with the 24-90mm slung across my body as a backup solution. While I’d end up using this for some coverage shots, the A-camera is what captured all my favourites. And thankfully, our man had no issues with my style.
I’d largely shoot these images at F8.0 or F11 and a shutter speed of 1/125 to get the look I was going after. These apertures meant that I would have a range of roughly 1 to 5 meters to keep Ross in focus. It also meant that I would need some serious light power.
I knew I needed the power, versatility, and fast recycle time of a proper speedlight for this performance which is why I went with the Profoto A10. To make this as easy to operate as possible, I had a wireless trigger mounted to my M11 that’d sit in my right hand and freely move the A10 with my left hand to get the shot I needed.
With any performer, it’s a bit of dance to figure out space and timing. You don’t have much time but you have to find a way to be patient and wait for an opening. As soon as I felt like I could telegraph his movements, I went for some tighter shots to really put Ross front and centre. For shots like this, you have to be quick. The audience is here to see the artist, not you.
Thanks to the access we had, I’d move between the stage and media pit to capture my images. My goal was to be on the lookout for these moments where the artist would inevitably interact with the audience. Rick Ross made this part easy.
What caught me by surprise was how often Ross would look right into camera. This isn’t uncommon when I have a rapport with the artist but he and I never spoke ahead of time. Times like this you really gotta know your kit like the back of your hand and thankfully, mine came through. I landed a collection of shots of Ross looking right down the barrel and it really helps humanize the series a bit more. Unconventional concert photography to say the least.
Street and portraiture is where I cut my teeth but I’m a photographer above anything else. Which means that if there’s something that sparks my curiosity where I can bring my perspective to it, I’m gonna give it a shot.
“What would it be like to photograph Rick Ross live on stage?” That was the impetus for me agreeing to this opportunity. An opportunity that led to some dope shots and more importantly, some valuable reps with my kit.
If there’s one thing I’d like you to takeaway this week, its to make sure you don’t shut the door on creative work that may sit outside your domain of expertise. As a photographer, you should stay curious and always look to challenge yourself through new experiences.
To know what you love is also knowing what you don’t. And you can’t get there without playing outside your comfort zone once in a while.
July Contest: Last Call!
For July, I’ll be giving away a Long Weekend Santa Fe Shoulder Bag from Moment. This is something that I bought and loved to use. One lucky person will get their own to enjoy this summer.
How am I picking the winner? I’ll be taking the mailing list here, randomly picking one person, confirming they meet the requirements and then contacting them directly before announcing the winner publicly.
Once again, this contest is void where prohibited by law.
My thanks to the team at Moment! Not only for this contest but for being the longest supporter of my work online. They’re a lean team of passionate creators that truly believe in supporting other creators on their journey. Whether it’s a new camera, lens, workshop, or just some great articles, visit ShopMoment.com today.
Reader Question: What’s a movie or show that you can’t stop thinking about right now?
The Bear. I was a huge fan of season one and season two exceeded my expectations. From the dialog, to the themes, to the sheer anxiety-inducing tension that builds over the course of a 30-minute episode, The Bear is a much-watch show. The second season also ushers in a holiday episode with an all-star cast that might go down as one of the best episodes of TV ever.
It’s called The Bear. Watch it.
June and July are bookended by two major projects for a local client so I'm using the weeks in between to prepare myself mentally and physically. If you have great book recommendations, be sure to let me know in the comments.
Anyway, that’s enough for one week. Hope y’all are enjoying these stories as much as I enjoy sharing them. I got some fun stuff planned for the summer so make sure to be on the lookout every other week.
See ya next time!
Thanks for reading Church & Street. Be sure to leave any thoughts or questions in the comments and if you really enjoyed this post, share it with your circle ✊🏾