January 8, 2009 – Fresh off the critical and commercial success of Tha Carter III, Lil Wayne returned to the Chaifetz Arena, headlining the I Am Music Tour with support from T-Pain, Keyshia Cole, Gym Class Heroes, and Keri Hilson, as well as special guest Mack Maine.
Going into this performance, I was highly curious as to how it would stack up with Lil Wayne's previous performance at the Chaifetz Arena in August of 2008. With Tha Carter III going strong right through the end of 2008, the I Am Music Tour featured a deeper bill and promised a much larger production than we'd seen before.
As news about the tour trickled out, it was confirmed that there was no pit access for this performance, which immediately changed the game plan going in.
For this event, I rented the Nikon 200-400mm f/4, a lens I'd used once before for Carrie Underwood. While f/4 is generally considered slow for concert photography, the bright stage lighting and spotlights accommodated the aperture just fine.
We were allowed to shoot from just in front of the soundboard, in the space between the mixers and the back end of the floor seating, roughly 100 feet back from the stage.
An elevated platform behind the soundboard was also an option, though this was very crowded with people allowed VIP access by the time Lil Wayne took the stage. While the higher elevation would have been nice, the closer position in front of the SB ultimately won out. Fans waving their hands in the air and holding cameras up were an issue, but one that could be minimized with the right timing and a little patience.
Regarding the range of the 200-400mm, I had some doubts whether it would be adequate on the full-frame sensor of the D3 given the distance, but in the end the range worked quite well. 500mm on the long end would have been welcome, but as it was, 400 was perfectly serviceable for the distance. The convenience of the zoom was a huge boon, especially when framing multiple subjects.
Overall, this shoot went better than I expected considering the distance. That said, it's really hard to compare this shoot to Lil Wayne's last show at the Chaifetz. For that gig, I shot from the pit and was allowed to photograph for the entirety of the set, which, needness to say, can't help but spoil a gig shooter.