2016 was certainly an interesting year shooting-wise. It didn’t seem like I shot that much (barely cracking 30+ concerts), but it was a nice change of pace to trade the quantity of shows for an interesting mix of opportunities. Some of the new opportunities brought in their fair share of challenges, exposing some areas that I could definitely work and develop on in 2017. Enjoy this recap of 2016 and see you out at a show in 2017!
Prince Rama : Murmuration Festival
Band of Horses : LouFest
Thought #1: Accept that you’re getting older.
That sounds like I’m ready to dig my own grave, but I think its more about being realistic that I can’t physically power my way through the grueling festival days like I could 5 years ago. Getting sunburnt at Warped, falling off an RV at Murmuration in front of Prince Rama and spending a long day in mud-soaked sneakers at LouFest Day 1 was each good reminder that even the enjoyable festival circuits could at points be miserable if I didn’t block out times to just sit down and rest.
Dan Auerbach (The Arcs, The Black Keys) : Vintage Vinyl
Mumford & Sons : Vintage Vinyl
Dierks Bentley : Vintage Vinyl
Josh Kelley : Halo Bar
Angel Olsen : Vintage Vinyl
Thought #2: There are a lot of amazing and unique events available for free (or pretty close).
Despite a big trend towards paid VIP events, there were still a ton of in-store/venue opportunities that probably ended up begin more memorable than the evening shows. How crazy was it that folks in town had the chance to see Mumford & Sons, Wilco or Dierks Bentley perform for just the cost of a record pre-order? Want to go record shopping with The Arcs? Want to take a selfie with Angel Olsen? Sure, why not.
For someone like me, these events have also been great alternatives to seeing evening shows, saving me a few bucks at the bar and hours to spend at home (not a very rock star response, but that’s the truth). Also, for anyone trying to get into concert photography, I always recommend in-stores as easy opportunities to practice shooting for free.
Scarlet Tanager : The Pageant
Laura Burhenn : Thies Farm
Thought #3: The pre-show stuff was sometimes more fun to shoot than the evening show.
I pitched a few pre-show / soundcheck shoots this year and was fortunate to have a few really enjoyable ones. On paper, shooting candids of bands that I really don’t know that well doesn’t really sound that appealing for my introverted self, but I found it fascinating to see all the behind the scenes (and sometimes mundane) life of musicians on tour. Thanks for letting me hang around. (Also, I found out that bringing the bands gooey butter cake/cookies is a nice icebreaker.)
Art Exhibit : Murmuration Festival
Dan Deacon : Murmuration Festival
Flying Lotus : Murmuration Festival
Yacht : Murmuration Festival
Scarlet Tanager Press Photo
Nate Burrell : Studio Test Portrait
Thought #4: New stuff was stressful but very rewarding.
The two new opportunities that 2016 brought was 1) getting to serve as the official photographer for the Murmuration Festival and 2) learning how to use a studio for photos.
Until Murmuration, shooting festivals was entirely focused on the bands, but this role forced me to look elsewhere for shots – crowds, atmosphere, merchandise, art, food, festival grounds – basically everything I’m not used to shooting. It also made for a long weekend between running around all day and staying up late to edit to keep a current inventory of photos for PR to use. As silly as it sounds, being the “official” photographer came with new pressure to make sure I delivered great shots that typically isn’t there when shooting for yourself or a music blog.
This year also gave me my first chance to utilize a studio for portraits. I’ve shot a lot of portraits, but usually it’s snapping a few shots of a band before/after a performance for 15-30 seconds tops. To now introduce artificial lighting and artistic direction into the shoot was intimidating. To tell bands where to stand and how to pose was definitely not something I was used to. Thankfully, Nate Burrell kindly gave me a tutorial on using his studio and Scarlet Tanager was a great crew to work with for the shoot.
With both, I learned a lot and would definitely change some things if I have the chance to do it again, so hopefully I’ll get more chances to do more shooting like this in 2017.