Back in 1987, An eleven year old me didn't quite get The Proclaimers at all. At the time, "Letter From America" wasn't particularly likeable, but by the same token, if it came on the radio, you were in no hurry to turn it off. Hindsight being 20/20 between that, and "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" are almost anthems to the final years of my childhood before the teenage years would kick off. The latter would appear on several soundtracks and is still played in some clubs to this day, as even people half my age can't resist filling the floor to it. And if you start singing it around people, you're guaranteed that it will be somebody's earworm within ten minutes.
Did I think that approaching 30 years later that the band would still be around? Probably not. I chalked it up being a novelty act who would be forgotten about within a year or two. Again, when you're eleven years old, let's be honest, you don't really have a clue about anything, and as years go by, you'll develop a fondness for different types of music for different types of moods for completely different reasons (and if you don't, then the only person you're denying is yourself). So when you bear all of this in mind, it really should come as too much of a surprise to learn that Vicar Street had sold out to the point that even trying to get across from one end of the balcony to the other was difficult.
The timing worked out quite well for me from a photography standpoint, as my new 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6 telephoto lens had arrived via courier about three hours before the show. If you have been following this blog, then you'll know that I've been covering a chunk of seated shows, and my 55-300mm f/4-5.6 which was designed for a cropped sensor, while producing decent results on a full frame, I was losing quite a chunk of resolution every time I used it. So tonight is the test run. In terms of feel, it's actually quite light considering the scope of the lens (and it does look like a paparazzi lens), and fit into the bag after a little bit of jiggling about.
As mentioned earlier, the show is at Vicar Street, and it is fully sold out. The show is fully seated downstairs, and upstairs is rammed to capacity. So taking photographs up the front is going to be off limits leaving me with the sides and the back of the venue. So the lenses of choice for tonight at 70-200mm f/2.8 and 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6. Needless to say, wide shots are going to be out of the question, especially as a lot of The Proclaimers songs don't tend to last very long, three minutes or so if you're very lucky. So there'll be no time to change the lens in between.
Support is from The Pete Williams band, and there isn't a lot of light to work with, even the 70-200mm f/2.8 is having somewhat of a nightmare with this set. From the sides, it's tricky to get photos from him, especially from stage right where he is literally hiding behind the left hand side of the microphone, so zooming from the desk or shooting from stage left is the only real way to get decent images of him. Using mostly the 80-400mm at ISO 2000 with an aperture varying from f/5.3-5.6 at a shutter speed of 1/125sec makes for dark shots, but nothing too grainy by the time the exposure is improved in post. Purists will hammer on about how you'd never be able to do this with film, but let's face it. Some of us have moved on.
We get The Proclaimers next and the light is significantly better, although it's another case of we can forget getting the full band except for some wide shots taken at 70mm from the sound desk because the focus is solely on the two Reid brothers. Thankfully these Reid brothers (unlike The Jesus & Mary Chain) aren't on the verge of killing each other, although there is a fair amount of distance between the two of them on the stage, which means getting two of them together in the one shot isn't going to be possible. Most of these shots were taken at a range of 340mm-400mm either at the sides, or the back of the venue. I was also luckily given the opportunity to get a few shots from the balcony to really put the lens to the test.
Settings were similar to the support. ISO 2000 with an aperture of f/5.3-5.6 with a constant shutter speed of 1/125sec. I won't lie, on the camera, it looked somewhat grim, and would needed to be brightened in post. While the light was good, it wasn't the usual standard that I'm used to at Vicar Street, but it's The Proclaimers, not Coldplay so expectations shouldn't really be too high for the type of show we're talking about. But what did impress me was the sharpness of the images considering this first generation lens came out in 2001. Yes, there are signs that these images were taken from a long way back, but in terms of quality, I can't fault it. I can see this particular lens getting a lot of use from me in months to come.
Reviews of this particular lens complained that the autofocus was slow. It is slower than the AF-S counterpart, but it's not unusably slow. I don't try to auto track my subject, I just fix one focal point and manually follow it around and as a result, I got the sharpest image. Some motion blur from the hand in some of the photos of Charlie Reid whilst playing the guitar, but nothing that would take away from the image. Given the restrictions from a seated show, and the lens restrictions, the end result was worth the work put in.