Seal South American Tour Report – Brasilia Brazil was a BLAST!

I’m still recovering from Brasilia and right now as I write this I am back at the Hotel Unique in Sao Paulo where we flew back today for another show. Last night Brasilia was GREAT! The crowds just seem to be getting better and better and last night was insane and just flew by for me. When I arrived at the venue with the band I noticed the stage was VERY high..taller than me. Looked like trouble for Leica M photography but I had a plan…more on that later.

I will rewind a but to when we were in the airport flying to Brasilia from Rio. It was like Deja Vu as we were just in that same airport a couple days prior and was the one where I shot the image of Seal and the one of the little girl. I had the little 28 Elmarit on the M9 and just snapped a couple of shots.

Marcus and the girls…

I was sitting across from this man on his Ipad and it just seems like a great photo opp. Any excuse I get to take a picture I do it!

We arrived at our Hotel in Brasilia and I snapped one of the Tour Manager Steve with the Nocti.

Arriving at the Venue – Soundcheck

We arrived to the venue early and the band immediately started their soundcheck while I scoped out the venue  top to bottom. After I found my way around and the “under the stage” shortcuts I went up on stage to get a few shots of the band playing..all with the M9 and Noctilux…and yes, ALL wide open at 0.95.

So here I was…in a venue hours before the show with an Artist I have respected and enjoyed since the early 1990’s AND doing what I have ALWAYS wanted to do…shoot musicians and live performances. Back when I was in my early 20’s I would often try to get into shows to photograph them but never had any idea how to get into it. I was always a fan of Jim Marshall who used a Leica M4 to shoot concerts, sadly he passed away recently but he has made some iconic images over the years.

It’s not something one can do and get rich from but for me it’s about the satisfaction and excitement I get from creating images that I can look back on with great memories of my time “with the band”. I’m having a blast though I am tired and averaging 4-5 hours a night of sleep, mainly due to editing images after shows and waking up early to get packed back up for the airport travel. Still, it’s an adventure and for someone like me who has limited world travel experience it has been a learning experience. Plus, it’s also cool to not only hang with my friend Seal, but everyone else from the band to the road crew are SO NICE…it really is like one big family here and I respect this whole operation. It’s awesome!


30 minutes before showtime I devised a plan to plant myself out front in with the crowd and so I followed through with that plan. But within 15 minutes there were thousands of people behind me. I felt like I was crammed in like a sardine in one of those roll back tins but hey, it’s all for the photos right? I couldn’t risk getting bad shots due to me not being out front so away I went! While in the crowd I was approached by a few people who must have seen my “All Access” badge as they were asking me  to let them meet Seal, which of course is out of my hands, but everyone was great in the crowd. One thing I have noticed is that Brazilian people are warm, friendly and seem very happy which is quite the opposite of many of those you meet in America. Pretty cool.

The Show kicked off and me and the trusty M9 started clicking away. I did not want to repeat all of the other shots from previous shows on this tour so I decided to tackle this night with a different style if at all possible.

Enjoy the shots. Lenses used were the 50 Noct, 28 Elmarit, and 35 Summicron.


After each show Seal meet’s some of his fans in a meet and greet session. This is always cool for any artist to do as it gives the hardcore fans a chance to meet their idol. I walked around with the Noctilux and the M9 set at ISO 2500 and took some snapshots. Seal always has a great time during these sessions and one night I saw him spend about 25 minutes with one fan. The Brasilia fans loved every minute of it 🙂

On to the next…Sao Paulo Brazil – Show #2

As I type this I am in Sao Paulo…just arrived back here an hour or so ago and have another hour before we head to the venue for sound check. I’ll shoot this show tonight and then we have a couple of days off in Recife Brazil where we will spend almost 4 days before heading to Mexico City for two shows. Fun fun fun!

A shot of our cool hotel as we drove up from the van window…

If any of you are going to be at the show tonight feel free to say “Hey” if you see me walking around 🙂 Until next time!


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  1. I have not been following all the comments so this may have been asked before.

    I do some concert work, just for the fun of it, much as you say. I have just returned to using my M system gear after 20+ years of using other 35mm pro gear. It would be a great help to see a few pics of your gear rigged for concert use.


  2. All are Fantastic! – The Seal silhouette with the blue background and single light is my favorite, simple but powerful and a real sense of the person, but also a graphic and dynamic image. Wow.

    You are inspiring me to do more with my M9. Right now I decide Canon SLR or M9 depending on the situation, but I am going to try and just go M9 for a while and see if I can develop my creativity more.

    I really enjoy your site and your never ending enthusiasm for whatever you are doing.

    all the best,

    • Dave, M9 needs some time getting used to. I don’t know for how long you’ve been using it. If not long, then give it some time and shoot as much as you can. It may be disappointing at first, even frustrating. Then you’ll see some improvement but still not hugely encouraging. And then, after some more time — you’ll be amazed! The camera will become like an extension of your brain and your hand. Some magic will start happening and will continue to happen in a more and more satisfying way. Just give it some time and try not to compare the two systems: that may be distracting and discouraging. I know that many people gave up on M8/M9 just because they haven’t been patient and motivated enough.

      Like any fundamental photographic tool, this camera system is difficult in the beginning and becomes second nature once mastered. Much like your car.

      Good luck!


  3. Greg, looks like his band is, but Seal’s handheld wireless mic is a Sennheiser.

    • I don’t know about Eisenhower but Seal is using a microphone for sure.

      Are you sure you work there? You said you worked there. How could you not see it?


      Relax, mate! It’s a joke. Couldn’t resist, sorry. No offense intended.


  4. Fantastic shots Steve! This is my favorite set so far. Keep up the great work and have fun!! It’s a chilly 32 degrees here in Chicago today, so the thought of being down there shooting pictures helps a bit. The one problem I have with the shots is that Seal isn’t using Shure microphones (sorry, I work there :-))

  5. Votre travail est toujours aussi formidable, je n’y connais rien en technique mais je me régale. Continuez!!! A bientôt

  6. Amazing work!! Loved the shot of the set list the most. Those kind if details are very real and appreciated to see.

  7. Steve,

    Beautiful image making, night after night they have just been fantastic. `6 must be going crazy!, no pun intended, well maybe a little, with the quality of shots that you are creating.
    The B&W image of him with the black shirt and the mic stretched out in hand along with the yellow jacket with purple lights are two of my favourites from this set.

    Great stuff.


  8. Many great shoots. I like the one with the explosion of blue, greenish, red and white and the next picture with the blue background, both with Seal in the foreground.

    I’m not a Leica fan at all, but must complement Steve on his achivement using an M9 with manual focus. For my part I know for sure that I would hate using manual focus when taking pictures of people that move around.

    • AH, Leica M9 is an autofocus camera! Trust me, I have one. It’s just a different type of autofocus.

      The one in your SLR works by way of camera’s computer making a decision based on the data coming from the sensor and instructing the focusing motor to turn the focusing ring on a lens to a certain degree. As a result, you have your picture in focus.

      The one in the M9 works by way of your brain making a decision based on the data coming from your eye and instructing your hand to turn the focusing ring on a lens to a certain degree. The result is the same: your picture being in focus.

      Both systems are quick and efficient if functioning as expected. Both can malfunction. Both are repairable.


      • Interesting way of looking at things. I’m sure practising will help aquiring better focus with an M9, but I have tried an M8 taking pictures in rather low light of people moving around in a kitchen and most of them were out of focus. With my “automatic” Nikon D700 I had no trouble at all getting correct focus almost every time.

        • AH, you can’t compare D700 and M9 in low light category. Totally different beasts. D700 is an advanced night-vision device with great, sophisticated camera built-in. M9 is just a camera. But what a camera!

          That “what a camera” part was meant for Leica fans.

          Seriously, I find focusing with my M9 in low light quite easy if there is at least one tiny semi-bright spot to hold on to. If there isn’t, I don’t shoot. I have this strict rule I follow with my photography: don’t shoot what you can’t see. Easy. Put the camera away and go to bed; sleep well and resume shooting in the morning.

          With night-vision devices like D700 (sarcasm is really just a seasoning here; I do respect that camera a lot) you can focus in almost total darkness, where your eyes can’t see anymore. But only in close distances, as I recall. For other situations you have an AF-assist light.

          I also have an advanced MF-assist light with my M9. It’s actually based on laser technology. Very high-tech stuff. It looks like a pen and it emanates a red laser beam from one end when I push the button on the other end. With that I can effectively focus in virtually no-light conditions. But usually, I just go to bed.

          Regarding focusing on moving objects in the dark, yes, your electro-mechanical focusing system is more convenient and reliable than my bio-mechanical one. No doubt. But again, while you are out there in the dark shooting restless people, I’m already in bed. So, no worries for me!

          As for the kitchen problem with people moving around, there are some ways to deal with that besides pointing a D700 with an enormous tele at them. 1) Boost ISO and make some classic grainy film-like images (b/w of course); 2) Use a flash; 3) Pay them to sit still; and 4) Forget the whole thing and go to bed.

          All but the last of the above options require previous experience of quick manual focusing with a Leica M camera system. Which is not as scary as it may sound. It took me no more than a couple of months. And those first couple of months were fun, too. They will be remembered as my ‘impressionist’ period if I ever make it to the top.

          All right, I’ll try to be serious for a moment. We always have to make decisions and sacrifices in life. D700’s low-light capabilities and AF system is incomparably better than what I have in my M9. But I chose it over the D700 (which I used to own and like). I prefer those special capabilities I get from my M9 over those of the D700’s. It’s a trade off, yes. But life is full of trade offs.

          I paid for my M9 body almost three times as much as I could have paid for a mint D700. But wait a minute… I sold my fully-functioning D700, so that I could make room for the new arrival. Am I crazy or what? I don’t know… I like it, my M9. Maybe it’s the name. You know, Leica = like it… No clue.

          Voodoo or not, I am happy. Not like entirely-completely-totally-crazy kind of happy. But still, quite happy. I wish there was a little red button on my Leica which said “Full AF/Low-light Overdrive Mode”. Alas, there isn’t such a button. So, I have to put up with that. And go to bed when instructed.


          • He..he. Nice and interesting explanation. I sure can follow what you say and must admit that I like the output from the M9 – at least when they are as good as the ones presented here by Steve. Maybe I’ll buy an M9 one day just for the fun of it 🙂

          • Greg man. I support your view that when you can`t see the motive you you go to bed. But my friend there can be light enough fo M9 to take pict at let`s say f:2 and 1/30. Cool. But things are moving up and down within let`s say 1,5m to 3m, I mean moving, then you would be safer with 5,6 and say 1/125 with 35mm whatever. That`s where those silly high ISOs come in handy. Wouldn`t you agree?. Or ice hockey fan trying to catch these not so slow game where 1/500 is minimum. Low light focus aid with laser beam is bright idea but I would forget it some places. How would you feel yourself, seeing small red dot dancing on your belly. Shit. So of course, low light shooting is absolutely possible with M9 or else. As you said, make yourself obvious (tripod, assistents, red tape), fix you subject (bottle of vodka could be handy), tell the bystanders that you are working for charity organization that will save thousands lives or again go to bed, especially when cops tell you that. It`s so true what you said. Life is a trade off. Or you get these exiting/disturbing pictures for the price of uneasy sleep or you sleep well not getting there at all. Cheers

          • Thanks, Stanis. I was feeling a bit silly and perhaps even sarcastic when I wrote that comment but I really do respect serious photographers using serious gear, no matter what system. Honestly, I prefer to look at pictures without knowing what was used to make them. Because it’s not important.

            At the same time, I can’t control it sometimes. Thinking of gear too much is some kind of decease. I have it and I’m not yet cured. I hope I will be some day.

            I went to see an exhibition by Isabel Muñoz today and there was her Russian curator giving a presentation. One lady asked her what cameras Isabel uses in her work. Then her curator, much to my surprise, said that she didn’t have a clue about cameras and she only knew that Ms. Muñoz used one digital camera and one film camera. That’s it. And she is selling Isabel’s works worth €15,000 to €60,000 apiece!

            You don’t need to know “what camera”. Art is Art and that’s what counts. Her customers apparently never ask those kind of questions, so she has no answer. For a moment I thought she was lucky not to know such information. But only for a moment, of course. After all, wouldn’t it be great to know what camera, format, aperture, ISO, shutter speed, film or camera bag she was using for those great images? If I’m paying that kind of money I ought to know!

            Well, I wasn’t paying that kind of money and I didn’t care. Fortunately, they didn’t charge anything for admission and I was lucky to see some true works of Art.

            I think it was Hasselblad and Canon 5D… But I’m not sure. Maybe I should email the Artist and ask her.


  9. Hey Steve, you never tackled on this post how you overcame the trouble of the stage being taller than you. Or did you leave this for another post?

    I know, you are making us to come back for more… It’s working.

  10. mmmm not sure Steve, a Canon 1d mk 3 or 4 with say a 24L 1.4 50L 1.2 or the 85L 1.2 and 135L can give you that special look too, and would give more consistently better shots in my opinion.

    Thanks for your reply and have fun 🙂

    • Well I am sure. Last year I used the M9 and Nocti with a 1ds Mk4 with a 24 1.4 and other lenses right along side the M9 and Nocti. To this day, not one person has said they liked the 1d shots better, quite the opposite actually. Want to look like everyone else with concert images? Shoot a DSLR. Want to be different, unique and have the shots stand out and be more creative? The M9 and Nocti cant be beat in that dept. BTW, the 1dMKIV is a GREAT SLR, but IMO doesn’t beat the M9. Not even close. Maybe for sports and wildlife, but thats it.

      • Fair enough Steve, I know what your saying, but just don’t think the M9 is the right tool for concerts.
        Keep up your good work, and have fun on the rest of your trip.

      • Steve, I remember those pictures. I think you’re right. They were nice pictures and technically superb. But the point is not in technical superiority (which, actually, may not be so in every case of RF vs. SLR) or sheer number of technically good files that you bring back home. The point is in artistic quality alone, in my view. That’s what really counts. You can get fantastic images with any system; it all depends on who you are.

        But each system has its unique look. So I agree with you, Steve: if you want to stand out from the (huge!) crowd with your photography you have better chance with RF. That of course, if one is a great photographer to begin with.

        My favourite picture from this set is what I call ‘Seal under the Moon’. Perfect! The other one I like very much is where Seal is giving someone a kiss on her forehead. I can’t believe it’s ISO 2500, Steve! Is it really so? Wow! What did you do with it in PP to look this way?


  11. Love the shot in the yellow jacket with purple lights. Steve I agree with you that an m9 is so much different than an slr and that is a good thing. Also you can’t use a 50 0.95 with Nokon!

      • Agreed. Also Nikkor 50/1.2 if you feel more like spending $500 instead of $3000 for Noct-Nikkor. But then you don’t get that excellent, one-of-a-kind coma control.


  12. Hi Steve, love your web site and have been a fan for about 18 months now ,and it was you and your site that made me take the plunge and sell all my Canon pro gear for a Leica M9 and a couple of lenses.
    I am so glad I did as I absoulutly love the M9 and feel liberated after coming from a big slr setup

    I would like to say that I don’t think that the M9 is that good for taking concert photos though, it just doesn’t. cut the mustard compaired to a pro slr in any way.

    Enjoy the rest of your trip 🙂

    • I feel the opposite. I feel using an SLR is convenient and easier but teh images you get from an SLR and a Zoom will in no way look as unique or special as those from an M9 and something like the Noctilux. Thanks for looking!

    • Great! Another victory for David over Goliath!

      Paul, I think Steve’s images from this tour actually disprove your statement on M9 not cutting the mustard for concert photography. But, anyway, I don’t think camera equipment is relevant at all in concert photography or any other photography, for that matter.

      One makes great images with what he or she is comfortable with. Steve is apparently very comfortable with his M9, hence lots of great images from this tour. Besides, since he is compelled to shoot from a very close range, those images bear that special feeling of connection with the subject; like the viewer is there himself experiencing the scene.

      I agree with you that SLR with a fast pro optics (tele, in particular, for concerts) is way more convenient to shoot than a RF camera. And not only in concert photography: wild life, landscape, street, portrait — you name it. I don’t want to list those ergonomic advantages here as everyone knows them quite well. What I want to say is: I firmly believe that ‘convenience’ has nothing to do with image making. In fact, it often contributes to degradation of artistic quality. Ergonomically convenient doesn’t always mean suitable.

      Some British invaders of India quickly learned to like tiger hunting. They would go to the jungle with their guns and hunt the tigers from a distance. They thought it was a lot of fun while some Indian Maharajas were quite surprised by this kind of hunting technique. I actually spoke with one real Indian Maharaja and he told me that in his family tiger hunt was a mandatory thing for a King in order to establish himself as a King. But the thing is: they would go to the jungle with bare hands, hunt the tiger down and kill it with bare hands! You may find it unbelievable but it’s true. Of course, this doesn’t apply to our times. They were specially trained for such tasks from their childhood. They knew how to outwit the tiger, how to use its weaknesses and how to use their own, apparently very substantial strength, to kill the tiger with bare hands. They weren’t even allowed to use a sword or a knife, so I was told.

      Now, the results were always the same for both the British hunters and the Maharajas: the tiger was dead. But tell me, who commands more admiration?

      You do what you love and what you’ve been trained for and the outcome will be great. But then again, if you start using all kinds of crutches in what you do, you may end up losing the essential element in your craft, which is your creative powers: something that distinguishes ordinary good from great. Isn’t this why you have traded your Canon gear for Leica? It sure was so for me (Nikon, in my case, though).

      Well, I think I got carried away, as usual…


      • Yes Greg! Like British said Horses for Courses! By the way, Maharajas hunted tigers from the back of Hathi-Hathi but it was a risky business anyway as the nasty cats could paw all their way to the bejewelled ones and rip their balls off which would spell the end of numerous dynasties of Adjmeer, Jaipur, Rajpur and Jodhpur of course because it stands for breeches too. Masai boys in Kenya went for the lion bar to none barehanded. So nowbody, be it homebody or foreignbody will tell me, that in the frenzieed concert situation, in the middle of the heat, two D3s, one with 24-70/2,8 other with with 200/2 don`t rule. Ratling or gatling if you like 7fps to catch that Little Richard twitch or that spit flaying of Kurts Cobains tormented mouth, leaves M9 and Noct in grandma grandsons baseball first try legue league. Yes you can, like everybody cans (it) with their p/s and smarties evident on the fans-fans take, to make the statement tha you were there. And what would you do when surrendered by the crowd of overheated teens and pushed away by security boys in the middle of cosmodrome? Without 400/2,8 or 600/4 you are on editors fire list! That`s life, boyz and galz if you have to make bread out of it. Things are different if you shoot for fun. Where then the M9 and Noct fits most in? Chamber quartet with intimate air of refined tone making. Discrete, subdued shutter noise, yes man. And 21/1,4 for interiour shots, wonderfull. Something no other makes M9 can equal. This wonderfull La Scala moments of pur undisturbed bel canto or those soulfull jazz quartets in tight spaces without gun rattling of Marks and Dses, yes you are my man with M9. And zen monasteries with meditation times. Like master said, the bird sang its song, I have nothing more to say.
        p.s. you can of course take wonderfull picts with whatever you have. Somebody infinitely wiser than me answered the question what`s the best camera around. The one you have at hand! Cheers

          • Henry Ford was once asked what kind of colour he preferred for his cars? He replied that he doesn’t mind any colour, really, as long as it’s black!

  13. WOW! (AGAIN!)…one thing for sure….Seal sure has one incredible collection of images from this tour and to promote his next one!!!!!!!! And to think it is all shot with a manual focus rangefinder camera.
    Considering the limitations that the Leica M9 puts on doing this kind of photography….Steve has capitalized on ALL of the assets of the system and really made it shine….TRULY!!!!!!!
    Those files are amazing looking!!!!! (droooooooooooooool!) Nice work.

      • BTW…I am a Canon 5D Mark II and GF1 owner. I do not own a Leica.
        BUT…I can REALLY appreciate Steve’s approach. “Put a few VERY specific tools on…keep your eyes open and keep it simple”. Focus and attack.

  14. All images are awesome- You’re really capturing some great shots of SEAL!

    I really appreciate the shot of the playlist as a former musician. I would love to see more “behind the scenes” shots of the traveling band- you know – the small things like that that show how the performance works.

    Glad you’re enjoying it all Steve!

    • Thanks! I just manually metered to have the lights correctly exposed but Seal underexposed. In the RAW conversion I added some black level and it worked out 🙂

  15. Did you ever get your Noctilux focus issue worked out ?

    Thanks for giving us a front row seat to Seal and his band 🙂

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