Photographing musicians while performing on stage is great but in my humble opinion some things are 'a must' to deliver qualitative results, a good camera with a usable range around 800 tot 1600 ISO, good low light auto-focus (no manual focus for me please) and some good glass to put between the artist and your camera.
My chosen setup for the Afro-Latino festival of 2012, including some rented material because a lot of this stuff does not come for free, is The Nikon D800e, the Nikkor AF-s 70-200 f:2.8 Vrii and the AF-s 300mm f:2.8 Vrii.
I'm impressed, really impressed by the quality delivered by the optics regarding the demanding 36Mpix sensor in the 800e, the details are mind blowing, sometimes there's even to much detail ;-)
I'm impressed by the Dynamic range of the D800e, even at ISO 1600 it is super, the conditions on stage are ever changing, dynamic, light changes direction every 2 seconds, etc
I tested the 3D AF-C modus on the D700 last year with mixed results, so i went back to the AF-s and a single AF-point. The 800e being a new generation camera i tried the 3D following mode again and it's "wow", it's so good i used in 90% of the photos. Really great for tracking artists with too much energy.
My camera setup is almost always the same, White-balance is set to sunlight, ISO 1600 (or 3200 if necessary) Shutter speed at 1/125 and Aperture set to full open f:2,8.
I tried automatic modes in the past but they are easily fooled by the constantly changing conditions, the full manual control gives me the best ratio of acceptable results, to give you an idea on the 3 days I made about 1600 pictures and i uploaded 505 out of them which i found to be good pictures, about 30% is not bad. the trick is to not get carried away with some acts and keep photographing after you are sure you already nailed "the shots", also make sure you make the safe pictures of the main artist as soon as possible because it can happen that you are only allowed to photograph the first 3 songs or even less....
This picture was made from about 20meter distance with the 300mm, hand-held, i was standing on a chair to shoot 'over' the public, Mr. alpha Blondy decided to give us just 3 songs of front stage access so we had to move a little further.
I want to place a big thank you to all the people involved who made this possible and friends to make it a good weekend to remember!
Some results after the jump : (make sure you also check the pictures of the Fire breather )