Opening up for Lil Wayne on the I Am Still Music Tour, Travis Barker and Mix Master Mike performed in an epic set mixing turntablism and live drumming.
First off, I feel as though I owe Mix Master Mike an apology. While the legendary DJ came out first and started first, I barely shot him after Travis Barker came out to his kit. A big factor in this was the lighting, which favored Barker and his kit.
And, not to say that a DJ can't be energetic and photogenic, but Travis has such an active, physical style of drumming that make makes for a tremendously magnetic subject – even from the soundboard.
Speaking of soundboard, the shooting position for this set was indeed right in front of the soundboard.
Press were positioned right within the barricade for the soundboard, which was a relatively large pen at the back of the arena's floor, opposite the stage. One nice thing about the setup was that this fenced off area was a relatively long rectangle, the long end of which extended toward the stage, with press at the front closest to the stage.
Nikon TC-17E II 1.7x teleconverter from BorrowLenses.com
Camera & Lens Support:
Bogen 3021 Tripod
Wimberley Gimbal Head from BorrowLenses.com
To close the relatively massive gap between the stage and myself, I used the Nikon 400mm f/2.8 VR II, which is a monstrous and beautiful chunk of glass. However, on the full-frame Nikon D3, even “just” 400mm alone would have left me a little short, so paired the super telephoto prime with the Nikon TC-17E II 1.7x teleconverter.
Needless to say, this is a pretty heavy combo, so I used an old Bogen 3021 tripod with a Wimberley Gimbal Head. Even though I have a BH-55 ballhead from Really Right Stuff, I decided to go with a gimbal head do to the ease of use with a super telephoto like the 400mm f/2.8 VR. If you've never shot with a gimbal head, they make using a super telephoto extremely easy.
Thankfully, there was plenty of room in the barricaded area to use a tripod, which I almost never normally use for live music photography. At the very least, a monopod would have been necessary to support this combo. Even if you're pretty diesel and could handhold the 400mm + TC + D3 combo, the tripod definitely helped stabilize the setup in ways that not even Nikon's VR could have helped with.
More on this shooting setup in the sets from Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, and Rick Ross – all coming up next.
When You Need A Super Telephoto But Don't Have $8,000
Shout out to my friends at BorrowLenses.com who hooked up half the gear I shot with. Lenses like the Nikon 400mm f/2.8 are so hugely expensive that unless you're a pro sports shooter or a very wealthy amateur, buying them isn't even a consideration, nevermind an option, so it's nice to have a rental house that can deliver!