Brother Ali

Brother Ali @ the Pageant -- 2009.05.21

May 21, 2009 – Supporting fellow Minneapolis-natives Atmosphere on the “When God Gives You Ugly Tour,” hip hop artist Brother Ali laid down a taut, devastating performance on the stage of the Pageant in St. Louis.

Brother Ali @ the Pageant -- 2009.05.21

Brother Ali @ the Pageant -- 2009.05.21

Brother Ali @ the Pageant -- 2009.05.21

Brother Ali @ the Pageant -- 2009.05.21

Brother Ali @ the Pageant -- 2009.05.21

Brother Ali @ the Pageant -- 2009.05.21

Brother Ali gained notoriety in 2007 with his track “Uncle Sam Goddamn,” which rails against the US government.

Photographer's Notes:

This shoot was difficult due to the bright backlighting and Brother Ali's mic position, but a fun and thrilling performance to photograph for the same reasons.

I always find rappers a nice challenge to photograph due to the common form of holding the mic close to the mouth. Brother Ali was no exception in his performance, and I focused primarily on photographing him from his left, where visibility to his face was greatest. As much as possible, I also tried to be fast on the trigger when Ali dropped the mic.

I wasn't sure about the lighting for this performance going in, but I was pleasantly surprised by the use of some nice backlighting effects – and in the first three songs, no less. Lots of interesting light blasting from the back of the stage, from color washes to bright white lights.

I setup two speedlights on stage for this set positioned in gaps of the speaker monitors, which lined a good portion of the front of the stage. These remote flashes were triggered wireless using the Nikon SB-900, which I used on camera. The remote flashes were angled in at roughly 45º or so, and used primarily to provide accent lighting and definition to the largely atmospheric treatment.

One thing I love about using flash for concert photography is the ability to dial in a deep or bright exposure for the ambient light, regardless of actual intensity, while exposing separately for the subject with flash.

The Nikon D3 and Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 did the trick for this set. Due to the wedges at the front of the stage and their higher cutoff for clear views, the 14-24mm stayed in the bag.

My Camera DSLR and Lenses for Concert Photography

Nikon Z 7:
I use two Nikon Z 7 for my live music photography. A true do-it-all mirrorless camera with amazing AF, great speed and fantastic resolution.


Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8S:
The 24-70mm is my go-to lens. The range is ideal for stage front photography and the image quality is superb.


Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR:
A perfect pair to the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8, I can basically shoot any job with the midrange and this lens. Superb image quality.


Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8:
Ultra-wide perspective, ridiculously sharp even wide open at f/2.8. I love using this lens up-close and personal, where it excels.

See My Full Kit for Concert Photography

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