About a year ago I was heading out to shoot a concert with my Leica M8 and 50 Summilux ASPH lens. I remember before I left, a photographer friend of mine who shot with a Nikon D700 exclusively told me “there is no way you will be able to get good quality results shooting a concert with an M8”. He was used to the blazing fast AF of his D700 and relied on this to do much of the work for him when he was out shooting. But I knew otherwise! My mind, brain, and soul have been trained with a manual focus M and I knew that I would be able to get some amazing shots with it. Well, at least I HOPED so!
The concert I shot that night was a Seal show in Chicago, IL and after the show, the man himself, Seal, told me that they were some of the best photos he has ever seen of himself while performing. Imagine hearing that from the artist himself? To say I was excited would be an understatement. After that night, I became really great friends with Seal and just a few weeks ago he invited me to join him on his European tour for a week, or as long as I wanted. I was going through some personal issues and he offered this to me so I could just get away and do what I love to do. Take photos.
Of course I jumped at the chance so I accepted the invitation and before I knew it I was on my way to Budapest, Hungary. I had a 10 hour flight and when I arrived a driver was there to take me to the hotel. Here I was, in a place I have never been before. A bit nervous, very tired, and in desperate need of a shower. But it was all good. I could not wait to start shooting!
As I arrive at the hotel I noticed everyone was already leaving. My plane was two hours late so by the time I arrived to the hotel, instead of getting a room and a shower I entered the bus and it started driving to the next location, which was Pecs, Hungary. I saw Seal, met the band, and everyone was amazingly nice to me. Seal told me everyone was like family, and that statement was indeed true. So within minutes of entering the tour bus, I was already 100% comfortable. After a few hours of driving we arrived in Pecs and it was straight to sound check. I was given an all access pass and was allowed to shoot whatever I wanted. A dream come true!
After a couple of hours it was showtime and Seal handed me his M9 with Noctilux f/ 0.95 attached and asked if I wanted to use it. Wow. Another dream come true! Shooting a show with the Noctilux. But, would I be able to pull it off with only a 50mm lens? “Of course I could” I told myself. This is the M9 and Noctilux, and that combo inspires confidence no doubt! The first night provided some beautiful photographs and when I compared the images taken with the M9 and Noctilux to other cameras I used for that night, there was no comparison. The M9 and Noctilux have a way of rendering a scene in a magical, organic, and very unique kind of way. This set may not be cheap, but it is indeed one of a kind. The results are simply breathtaking at times.
After the show we were on the bus going over the images and they just jumped out at us in a 3D way on the display. I was thrilled with the results, but knew I could do even better. This was my first night and I considered it my “Warm Up” show. As we traveled day and night by bus I realized that life on the road is not so glamourous. Sure you have food, drink, TV, and conversation but it does get tiring and after 2-3 days with no shower I was starting to stink and couldn’t wait to get to the next stop in Zadar, Croatia where I would get a room and a shower! Woo hoo! Don’t get me wrong though, I would have stayed on that bus for two weeks straight if it was part of the deal. I was having a GREAT time and doing what I love to do. My passion. Even better, getting to do it with a Leica M9 and Noctilux combo!
The rest of my time with the tour was amazing. Florence, Italy was breathtaking. Lucca, Italy had some amazing food and the whole experience was one I will never forget. I hope to do it again soon, but next time I will be better prepared with more clothes, and stronger deodorant! One thing is for certain, and I told Seal the same thing…the Leica M9 and 50 Noctilux ASPH is to me, the ULTIMATE concert camera/lens combo. If you want to stand out from the crowd, this is a sure fire way to do it.
As a side note, I also shot some of the shows with the Leica X1 and as long as I could get close it provided some fantastic images, and they all had that “Leica” feel and spirit. Due to some personal issues a few weeks ago I had to sell my Leica M9 and ever since I have been in a photographic funk. I am once again saving for one though and will hopefully soon be back with the M9 one day soon. After that, I will save for the 50 Noctilux ASPH. For photography, that set is ALL I would ever need.
I want to thank Seal for inviting me on this trip as it did wonders for my mind and spirit. Also, thanks to Leica for creating some of the best cameras and lenses on the planet.
To see Steve Huff’s gallery of favorite images from the shows, please visit his website stevehuffphoto.com. A few of the images from the Seal tour are available as limited edition prints.