May 21, 2009 – Supporting fellow Minneapolis-natives Atmosphere on the “When God Gives You Ugly Tour,” hip hop artist Brother Ali laid down a taut, devastating performance on the stage of the Pageant in St. Louis.
Brother Ali gained notoriety in 2007 with his track “Uncle Sam Goddamn,” which rails against the US government.
This shoot was difficult due to the bright backlighting and Brother Ali's mic position, but a fun and thrilling performance to photograph for the same reasons.
I always find rappers a nice challenge to photograph due to the common form of holding the mic close to the mouth. Brother Ali was no exception in his performance, and I focused primarily on photographing him from his left, where visibility to his face was greatest. As much as possible, I also tried to be fast on the trigger when Ali dropped the mic.
I wasn't sure about the lighting for this performance going in, but I was pleasantly surprised by the use of some nice backlighting effects – and in the first three songs, no less. Lots of interesting light blasting from the back of the stage, from color washes to bright white lights.
I setup two speedlights on stage for this set positioned in gaps of the speaker monitors, which lined a good portion of the front of the stage. These remote flashes were triggered wireless using the Nikon SB-900, which I used on camera. The remote flashes were angled in at roughly 45º or so, and used primarily to provide accent lighting and definition to the largely atmospheric treatment.
One thing I love about using flash for concert photography is the ability to dial in a deep or bright exposure for the ambient light, regardless of actual intensity, while exposing separately for the subject with flash.
The Nikon D3 and Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 did the trick for this set. Due to the wedges at the front of the stage and their higher cutoff for clear views, the 14-24mm stayed in the bag.