A photo of the lake stage of the Bregenz Festival in Bregenz, Austria by Ralph Larmann

Performance Photographer Ralph Larmann in the Digital Darkroom

Kingston Technology Introduces Ralph Larmann

A photo of Ralph Larmann

Ralph Larmann studied drums with a focus on popular music at the Rotterdam Conservatorium before he turned towards photography and journalism in the late 80s. Since then, Ralph has created various complex photo documentations on national and international stages, capturing many celebrities, performances, events, and productions by creating fascinating images. 58 of these spectacular productions from the fields of theater, opera, musicals, concert tours, TV shows, and special events can be found in his 400-page illustrated books "Stage Design" and "Stage Design Emotions." Each of the productions featured in his books is rich in visual details and photographed from perspectives that often stay hidden from the audience.

With the Ed Sheeran "Divide" and the U2 "360°" world tours, Larmann photographed the two most successful concert tours of all time as their official photographer.

What makes your setup as a performance photographer unique?

I think it is important to mention that I work alone as a performance photographer. Therefore, a very specific camera set-up is required to capture the often extremely complex stage productions in such a way that my photographs convey the power and magical energy of a performance to the viewers in an everlasting way.

This means that, depending on the performance, I use up to eight Sony Alpha ONE full-frame mirrorless DSLR cameras with specially selected lenses. Four of these cameras I use as handheld cameras with appropriately matched zoom lenses on my body, which allows me to react quickly and intuitively to any conceivable situation.

I install up to four further DSLR cameras as remote cameras at previously selected positions in the performance space to capture further different perspectives parallel to my changing position with my four handheld cameras. I use two 256GB SD cards in each of my eight cameras.

What role do SD cards play in your photoshoots?

Almost every photographic documentation of a performance produces many images. There can be 5,000 to 30,000 images in the form of high-resolution RAW files. These large quantities of images in combination with often fast image sequences require the best possible SD cards in terms of write speed and reliability, as otherwise—even with a large data buffer in the cameras—delays and waiting times can occur that complicate the smooth running of a photo shoot or, in the worst case, even prevent the capture of important moments of a performance. I have experienced all this in the past with much slower cameras and SD cards. In the current combination of the Sony Alpha ONE cameras with the Kingston’s Canvas React Plus SD 256GB cards, such problems no longer exist.

Can you tell us about the digital darkroom?

Ed Sheeran on stage during the world tour production Mathematics – A photo by Ralph Larmann

When it comes to photography, many people only think about the time you spend behind the camera. Anyone who is seriously involved in photography as a hobby or profession knows that after a shoot you can spend a long time in the darkroom to "develop" your images. Nowadays this is mostly a "digital darkroom".

Here, first of all, the data transfer takes place. For the backup that enables further processing of the images, the SD cards used must have a maximum reading speed, which in combination with the highest possible transfer rate of the card readers used, and the best possible performance of the SSD drives connected to the computer, results in a transfer of the image data in the least possible time.

Any delay in data transfer and backup costs valuable time. After a photo shoot I often have to back up as many as sixteen SD cards with 256GB of RAW data. Therefore, every second counts. For import and display in Lightroom, the speed and performance of the SSDs is of course also important.

When you look at the composition of my equipment, it immediately becomes clear how important the quality of each individual component is.

How did Kingston become part of your everyday setup?

My camera equipment, including computers and related accessories, has constantly changed and evolved over the years. I am continually looking for ways to speed up my workflow.

This was also the case in September 2019, when I joined forces with the Kingston team to test the Canvas React Plus SD card with 256GB storage capacity. This was the beginning of a constructive and positive collaboration with Kingston Technology.

As well as continually using Kingston's SD cards, I use two Lenovo ThinkPads with maximum performance features when I travel. These are divided into a P17 with 4TB (2x2TB) internal SSD storage and a P16 with 8TB (2x4TB) internal SSD storage. As this is usually not enough to cover storage, data transfer and editing of the images produced, I also use a Synology DS620 SLIM NAS with six Kingston Data Center SSDs of 3.84TB each, configured as one volume in RAID 5 mode. This setup is my faithful companion both in the office and when traveling. Thanks to the high speeds of the Enterprise SSDs, backing up files during production and retrieving image data at home takes the least amount of time, which is extremely helpful after a long shoot.

However, apart from the high data transfer rates for reading and writing, the decisive factor is absolute reliability. Since I have been using Kingston SD cards and SSDs, I have never—touch wood—had a failure or even a loss of data. This gives me a secure and permanently good feeling about my performance photography. After five years of using Kingston’s products I can say I'm happy to continue to work with my Kingston equipment without any restrictions and at the same time recommend it 100%. I don't think you can have more confidence in your equipment than that!


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