I've said many times before; I haven't had an assignment yet that my Fuji cameras could not perform exceedingly well and produce top professional results. Monday night was a prime example.
Photographing live music of any kind poses many unique challenges. Lighting variables, movement of the performers, color balance and access limitations can turn what sounds like a fun job into a nightmare. Monday evening I had the pleasure to photograph country star Kelsey Waldon at Club Cafe. It was a laid-back performance in an equally laid-back venue. Of course, that doesn't mean there weren't unique obstacles to overcome, primarily, lighting, or rather, lack of it. The spotlights were not set to illuminate the entire band. One spot was on Kelsey, and the others seemed to be where ever they happened to be, mostly aimed at the floor. Oh, and the main spotlight was very weak, too.
Many would have shuttered at the conditions, but I knew my X-Pro2 could handle the situation without a blink. First, I always shoot in RAW no matter what the job. After that, I selected my auto ISO #3 setting which gave me a range of 3200 to 12,800. I wanted to keep my shutter speed at 1/125 as much as possible, so I set that manually. The light color varies tremendously I set the camera to auto white balance, expecting to custom white balance in post. Knowing my prime lenses are razor sharp it was with great confidence I set them at f/2. Because it was a concert, I wanted my camera to be nearly silent. No problem, select electronic shutter (es), then go into the sound set-up menu and change the audible levels of the shutter. I could have set the camera so there was absolutely no sound whatsoever, but I like a very faint click to help me in timing. Also, so my presence was minimalized, I selected EVF only on view mode and turned off the image review. Now my LCD screed would remain dark and therefore, less obtrusive. With everything set, I was now free to make pictures at will.
I knew I would be able to photograph the entire concert, so I packed prime lenses for the job. I always prefer primes whenever possible. My selection included the following: Zeiss 12mm f/2.8; Fujifilm 18mm f/2; Fujifilm 23mm f/2; Fujifilm 35mm f/2; Fujifilm 50mm f/2 and Fujifilm 90mm f/2. If this had been a typical concert where you can photograph the first three songs, I would have instead carried zooms, so I didn't have to take the time to change lenses. Thankfully I didn't have that restriction.
In the end, my shutter speed varied from 1/125 down to 1/15 depending on who in the band I was photographing and where they were standing. My ISO ranged between 3200 and 12,800, the latter being most predominant.
I could stop right here, but that's not the end of the story. Once back at the office I uploaded my images into Lightroom CC. Yes, I use LR for my Fuji processing. There are a couple of methods I've learned that have eliminated the crazy wormy grain effect seen from LR in the past. First, LR CC is not the same LR from before. They have improved the program significantly. But, in the last update, the "default" sharpening setting is now at 40. That is much too high for Fuji RAF files. So the first thing I do after editing my selects is to adjust the sharpening from 40 to 10. An ISO of 12,800 is going to be slightly noisy. So when shooting at this extreme, I apply a LR noise reduction setting of 22 to 27. I batch the entire shoot with these two corrections right away. The noise reduction is just enough to take the edge off the noise but not significantly soften the image. From here I proceed as usual and color correct, adjust tone, contrast, exposure, and shadows. Most of the time very little needs to be done. Fuji is like that, almost dead on, right out of the box.