Photos: Janelle Monae @ The Pageant

Going into this show, I had a feeling that Janelle Monáe would have a pretty dim treatment. After all, Of Montreal has been touring with a minimal/non-existent lighting setup and generally relies on the house lights for the past few years, so I didn't dare hope that Monáe would receive any special treatment (even though she deserves spotlights).

So, I came packing a trio of Nikon's bright, f/1.4 primes. My only question – would they be up for the task of focusing for a firecracker of a stage performer like Monáe?

Photographer's Notes:

I'd heard nothing but good things about Janelle Monáe, and after this fantastic performance and witnessing her live, I believe them all. This woman has got serious talent.

Even with what started out as a dim lighting treatment, Monáe was magnetic on stage. Thankfully, the treatment did have its brighter moments, but never really achieved more than a fraction of the Pageant's lighting potential.

One of the best parts about this show? Thanks to Of Montreal's photographer-friendly shooting policy, there were no song restrictions at this concert. So while shooting Of Montreal's full set is pretty much a given, it was a pure treat to photograph Janelle Monáe's entire performance. Considering that she's opening for Prince next month, this opportunity felt like an honor.

Cameras Used:

Lenses Used:

I shot most of this show at a solid 1/160 at f/1.4 and ISO 3200. And, after tracking around Janelle Monáe for her full set with Nikon's new f/1.4 primes, I am happy to say that they were more than up to the task.

My main lenses for this shoot were the Nikon 50mm f/1.4 and the Nikon 85mm f/1.4. While they don't have hugely different ranges on paper, in practice they're different enough on full-frame to fulfill different roles for a shoot like this, and I was glad to have them both.

The main question was whether these lenses could keep up with Monáe's explosive movements with regard to AF. Nailing focus with fast lenses like these are critical in my opinion, especially when low house lights necessitate shooting wide open at high ISO.

Here's a 100% crop from the above photo, which was shot at ISO 2000, f/1.6, and 1/250 with the Nikon 85mm f/1.4 and the Nikon D700.

Needless to say, I'm loving the performance of these new Nikon primes.

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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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