With the music season still being about three weeks away from starting in China, I was asked to go shoot some theater shows by a local newspaper. I was not told much about the theater except that I would be one of only three photographers given permission to shoot in the theater and that we would be restricted to the back and sides of the theater and we could not use a tripod or mono-pod in the theater.
So I went to the theater with two Nikon bodies and two lens, the 80-200 2.8 Nikon and my 150-600 Tamron lens. Once I arrived at the theater, I saw that it was extremely dark and I would have very little room to shoot from. The 80-200 len would be way to short to shoot the stage and I would be stuck shooting with the Tamron lens for the show. I guessed my settings before the show started to be about ISO 8000 and a shutter speed of around 320 and I was fairly close to the mark.
As soon as the show started I knew two things that I needed to do, firstly I had to watch my white balance very carefully as the lights were changing all the time and they were mixing Halogens with LEDs and that can make it very hard to keep a good exposure and with shooting such a high ISO, I would not have much room to edit the RAW files. Secondly, I would have to keep a fast shutter speed as this was going to be a fast acrobatic show and I was shooting almost exclusively at 600mm. I think most of the shots from the show ended being shoot at 500mm to 600mm with a shutter speed of 320 and sometimes as slow as 200.
The performers in the show were simply amazing. Their skills in dancing and acrobatics were world class and I felt like I was watch a Kung Fu movie. I was also very lucky as the show did not have much dialogue, so it was easy for me to follow as my Chinese is not that great.
Working for the press means I got to watch this show for free but I would have been very happy to have paid for a ticket to watch their performance. To be honest, I enjoyed the performance so much that I went back to the theater the following night with smaller camera so I could use my press pass and I watch the entire show again with missing anything because I was shooting.
White balance at times was a huge problem, and because I was so busy shooting, I had to trust my gut and make adjustments without doing much chimping. There are times a camera can capture what the eye is seeings or even what the eye cannot see, but during this scene, no still image could do it justice.
The performance of the Tamron lens in this dark environment was incredible. It focused and tracked the performers very well, the vibration control is simply the best I have ever used on any lens, and there is no way I would have been able to get my shots with out this lens. I was shooting at 600mm and sometimes I had the use a shutter speeds under 200 and I still got sharp images. The Tamron performed so well, that I have decided that I will slowly replace my Nikon lens with Tamron lens in the future as the Nikon lens wear out.
The choreography during the scene was so amazing, I trying to move in front of the performers to shoot it head on but the security dragged me away.
At the end of the show, I was exhausted, hand-holding a big Nikon Dslr with a 600mm lens for 2 hours is a real work out for your shoulders. I thoroughly enjoyed the show but I was leaving the theater feeling very apprehensive though. I did not do much chimping during the show and I was not sure if the photos would be in focus or sharp. I was shooting at shutter speeds way below the focal length and by the end of the show I was having a difficult time keeping my hands still as my shoulders were aching from holding the camera up to my face for 2 hours.
It was only once I dumped my files onto my computer at home, that I began to smile and I truly knew what a great piece of glass the Tamron lens is. I editing the photos that night and send them off to the newspaper editor. Taichi was simply one of the best theater shows I had ever seen. I am not sure if this group will ever take the show outside of China but if they do and it is playing somewhere close to you, make sure you do not miss it. It is a great show and I had a great time shooting it.