The U2 360º Tour 2011 finally made it's way to Busch Stadium last night after two years of seemingly non-stop world touring. In that time, this tour feels like it's become a must-shoot for music photographers, in spite of the ubiquity of the images and perhaps even because of that same fact.
For a band that's taken the world's largest touring stage to the edges of the globe and back, I don't think there's much need to introduce these guys. But for insight on how these images were made, stay tuned for the full shooting notes at the end of the post.
First off, big shout out to BorrowLenses.com, who hooked up the D3s, D7000, and Nikon 200-400mm f/4 VR. The latter was indispensable for this this big shoot.
- Nikon D3s
- Nikon D3
- Nikon D7000
U2 is an interesting show. For one, the band credentials what seems like every legitimate outlet that applies. At this show, there were about 17 or so press photographers. But more than a crowded photo area, the technical shooting considerations of this show added up for some challenges.
The shooting position for the show is a small platform that's about 1-foot off the ground, just outside the outer ring that circles that main stage. There are no fans in between the platform and the walkway, but there are fans in between the walkway and the main circular stage.
Overall, the shooting position is pretty close considering the scale of the show, but it's still deeply telephoto lens territory.
Here's a multi-image pano shot from the shooting platform – just outside the outer ring of the stage, but within the legs of the claw.
In terms of gear, I shot with the Nikon 200-400mm f/4 VR II on the Nikon D7000 as the main setup. While I was using the amazing Nikon D3s, I still wanted the 1.5x crop factor that the D7000 gave me, even at the expensive of high ISO image quality. Sometimes, you just need to get there. This was one of those shows.
The next most-used lens was the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8, which I paired on my Nikon D3 body. This was good for full-stage shots at 70mm (full-band that is) due to the distance. The 24-70mm f/2.8 on the Nikon D3s was the least used lens of the three, simply due to the distances involved.
In terms of lighting, this is technically a challenging shoot for the first two songs, due to the fact that the band is rimlit, with every little frontlighting, if any. Compounding this fact is the use of lots of haze for the first two songs, including haze that was blowing out from directly behind the photographer's platform!
The third song arguably has the cleanest lighting, but it's also the song where the photographer's attention is split the most. Bono moves away from the mic and takes a little walk to pal around with Adam Clayton, while The Edge also takes a stroll stage right, crossing over the inner GA section and out to the outer ring. For this show, The Edge was walking at a good clip and basically passed the photo pit without pause, which was a little disappointing.
No epic guitar posturing to be had, unfortunately, as we've seen in images from other shows. The fact that The Edge's face was lit entirely with red light didn't help. Though I was expecting the money shots of The Edge to come from this third song positioning, I think the best opportunities came during the first song, where the haze and lighting worked out a little better for The Edge due to his body angle.
Shortly after The Edge's walk, Adam comes to the front of the main stage nearest to the photographers, which did make for some good photo ops, though that's as close as he got to our position. 200mm was perfect as a horizontal frame while he rocked a power stance.
At the end of the third song, Bono came out on the walkway and started walking toward the photographers' island, but stopped quite a ways away – again, more 200-400mm territory than anything. As a tradeoff, though, Bono is lit with pure white light for totally clean shots – the best he was lit of the set, easily.
For me, a show like this is all about playing the band's game. The shooting position and lighting for the first three songs all seem very carefully designed to ensure photographers can make a relatively narrow range of images, for better or for worse. Work within these constraints, and a shoot like this is a cakewalk. Fight them, and it's just a big headache that you can't possible fight against and win.
Still, it's been very interesting to see what images other photographers have made over the last two years as the band has changed it up and as the shooters differ. I think that despite a lot of strict limitations for this show – distance, lighting, duration – there's actually a beautiful range of different kinds of images from this tour. I'm glad I got to throw my hat into the ring. Or the Claw, as it were.
Big shout out to BorrowLenses.com, from whom I rented the Nikon D3s, D7000, and Nikon 200-400mm f/4 VR II that were used for this shoot. If you ever in the market to rent equipment for a gig or want to try out some gear before deciding to buy, check these guys out.