Kista World Music Festival 2013
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Kista World Music Festival 2013

When asked if I could help photograph Kista World Music Festival[a], I was first doubtful whether I'd have the time to do it. But I thought I could help out a little at least, so I signed up for a single show that I was going to anyway - Pedram Shahlai and Kaveh Mahmoudiyan.

But then I figured I might as well dive in.

I wrote and asked if there were a list with more assignments, got that - said I'd do it all, and got that, too. It ended up being four interesting days when I shot a number of performances.

For the performances, my weapon of choice was a Nikon D3200[b] and a set of three lenses:

  • Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 EX DC, for getting those dramatic closeups. Unfortunately, at f/4 wide open, you end up shooting at ISO 3200, which is about where the color image quality starts to fall apart. Still, it's my favorite lens, just for the ultra-wide perspective that pulls you into the picture.

  • Nikon 35mm f/1.8 DX, for getting that razor-thin depth-of-field and mid-range ISO 800 or even ISO 400 shots. Everyone already raves about this lens, and I have nothing to add, except that you should use live view focusing at f/1.8 to really get that sliver of depth of field where you want it and not somewhere else.

  • Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 EX DC OS, a.k.a. The Beast, for low-light tele work. A lens so big, "composing a shot" with it can involve pushing the artists around on stage with it. As I write in my review of it, it is a dependable performer when used for what it is built for.

The next challenge was to figure out how to move during the performance. After all, nobody has paid to watch a photographer run around on stage, so you have to get the shots you want without being noticed by the audience. (It goes without saying that heaven help you if you get in the way of the artists.) I solved this by - with a single exception that I'll get back to - never going directly in front of the stage. Any shots not taken from the sides were taken from well behind the audience, so as to not disturb them with the shutter sound.

The single exception was Saxtas. The four musicians stood in a U-shaped formation with two at the back and the two in front facing each other - and sometimes facing the ones in the back. The only way to get everyone's faces was simply to get a camera with an ultrawide "inside" the U. I grabbed a seat in the front row during a break, took the shot and got out of the way. I think it was worth it. I hope the band thought it worth it. But let's be honest - the audience did most certainly not get anything out of it, and they are the ones paying and the ones the performance is for; so I'll keep this as just an option in extremis.