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Photographing Bonnaroo for Red Bull: Preparation

Nashville entertainment and commercial photographer Brad Moore photographs Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, TN for Red Bull
Photo by Jordan Dunn

Back in April, I checked my email one day and found an email from a photo editor at Red Bull…

“Hey Brad, We’re filling up our photographer roster for Bonnaroo and are hoping that you are free and would be down to work with us on it. If you are interested and able to do it, let us know, and we can give you more details.”

Um, YES I AM FREE AND INTERESTED AND ABLE PLEASE GIVE ME ALL THE DETAILS THANK YOU!!!

Well, that wasn’t my exact reply, but it may as well have been. We exchanged a few more emails to go over logistics and whatnot over the next few months leading up to the event, and I was all set!

I had never been to Bonnaroo before, nor had I worked with Red Bull before. So I had lots of questions about what to expect, what photo gear I needed to be as prepared as possible, and what other miscellaneous things I needed to survive being out in the summer heat for four days. Thankfully, I had Drew Gurian on speed dial to help me with all of this! He’s been to Bonnaroo many times and has been working with Red Bull for years.

As some of you may already know, Drew and I go all the way back to my days of assisting Joe McNally. He took over the first assistant role with Joe after I moved on to work with Scott Kelby, and we’ve remained good friends since then. We often call each other to discuss navigating the freelance photographer life and bounce ideas off each other when we’re working on things.

Anyway, after chatting with Drew multiple times, I stocked up on memory cards, extra camera batteries, a cooling towel, sun block, and mentally prepared myself to walk upwards of 10 miles a day around the Bonnaroo Festival site. To some, that may not sound like a lot, but when you live in a city where the primary mode of transportation is getting in your vehicle and driving 20 minutes to get just about anywhere, it can seem daunting.

GEAR OVERVIEW
Here’s a breakdown of the gear I used at the festival:

I wanted to make sure I captured the best, highest quality images I could, so I got a couple of the blazing fast 1DX Mark II bodies from Canon. These, coupled with the “lens trinity,” set me up for success in the photo pits while shooting sets and around the festival grounds capturing lifestyle images. I used the 24-70mm f/2.8 a little here and there, but for the most part I stuck to the 70-200mm f/2.8 and 11-24mm f/4.

Over the past few years, I’ve had a certain brand of memory cards fail on me pretty reliably, so I made sure I had at least a couple of fast, sizable SanDisk cards to primarily use. At one point, I stuck the other brand of card in my camera (I had some as backups) and it immediately gave me a “card not readable” error, so I tossed it and put the SanDisk back in. Still had to use the other brand of card readers though as they’re the most available and affordable ones, but I had four of them just in case any of them failed.

I also mentioned making sure that the CF cards were fast. This is vital in an environment where turnaround time is a high priority. If you’re working in an area where you need to have images going up online as soon as possible, you don’t want to be the person who is holding everything up because you cheaped out on memory cards to save $30. When you’re purchasing memory cards, always look at BOTH the read and write speeds. Just because they say 120 MB/s or 800x instead of 160 MB/s or 1066x on them doesn’t mean that applies to both speeds. You may not see a noticeable difference when you’re shooting, but when you’re waiting an extra 10 minutes for your card to download and everyone else is done editing and uploading their photos, you’ll know why that card was so much cheaper.

After reading this guest blog from Adam Elmakias about wrist and back injuries, I sought out a SpiderHolster dual camera belt and found one that my buddy Pete Collins let me borrow. This took all the weight of the cameras and lenses off my shoulders and put it on my hips and legs. It took a little getting used to, but I eventually started getting the pins that attach to the bottom of the camera into the holster pretty quickly. If you haven’t used this before and want to give it a shot, just make sure your shirt stays tucked into the belt and doesn’t get in the way of the holsters! Pete also let me borrow the SpiderPro Hand Straps, which helped me keep a good grip on the cameras and alleviate some of the weight on my wrist when shooting.

Also, not knowing how many batteries I would be going through each day, I rented four extra Canon LP-E4N batteries from BorrowLenses.com to make sure I was covered. Thankfully, the new LP-E19 batteries that came with the 1DX Mark II bodies lasted all day every day. There was a day where one was down to two notches with one set left to shoot, so I put a fresh one in to be safe. But, it probably would’ve lasted through that last set without any problems. So, while I could look at the rented batteries as wasted money, I still feel like I did the right (and professional) thing by making sure I showed up with all the tools I needed to get the job done.

And, surprise to me, this was the first time I’ve ever had an assistant for shooting concerts! I didn’t know I was going to have one until I received the production guide about a week before the festival. So I touched base with him ahead of time to talk through expectations, what I did and didn’t know about the festival and what we would be doing, and to give him a chance to ask me any questions he had.

Our first day of shooting was Thursday, June 8, so the photo team all arrived in Manchester, Tennessee on June 7. Last year, the team had to make a 30-45 minute drive each way to their hotel and back to the festival every day. This year, Red Bull was amazing enough to put us up in a place in Manchester (next to a Cracker Barrel even!) so we didn’t have to make that drive when we finished each night anywhere between 2:00am and 4:00am. Once we all arrived, I went to dinner with the other two photographers so I could get to know them a bit before getting into the heat of the festival.

Next up… Bonnaroo Workflow

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Five Dudes And A Panda: Shooting Dude Perfect!

Cory Cotton, Coby Cotton, Cody Jones, Garrett Hilbert, and Tyler Toney of Dude Perfect

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to fly down to Texas and photograph Dude Perfect for their Fall 2016 product line launch. If you’re not familiar with Dude Perfect, they’re a group of guys who do sports trick shots and other entertaining things on their YouTube channel and have gained quite a large following. They also have a reality show on CMT that’s rather entertaining.

So, how does one go about getting hired for something like this, then execute it? Glad you asked…

It starts when you get a phone call from your friend who is the chief creative officer at Rivals Group, a creative brand strategy house based in Tampa, asking if you’re available and interested in doing the shoot after filling you in on what it is. You say yes, put together an estimate so they know what it’s going to cost, and then they hire you if they approve of your estimate.

After that, you get to work finding a local assistant, stylist, and place to rent gear. Thankfully the shoot was taking place just north of Dallas, and I have friends at WELD in Dallas who I could reach out to for help with these things. My buddy Hoyoung Lee pointed me in the right directions for these things and I was off. Assistant, check. Stylist, check. Rental house, check. Now what do I actually need to rent?

Being a location shoot and not knowing what the exact status of the building was going to be, I opted for battery powered lights rather than AC units, specifically Profoto B1 Air heads. This allowed me to set up anywhere and not worry about being near outlets or running extension cords. I also planned for having two setups, the white seamless and the lifestyle stuff, so I rented two sets of three lights (that’s six heads for you math nuts out there) so we could quickly move between setups if need be.

Dude Perfect Headquarters in Frisco, Texas, still under construction
An iPhone pano of the new Dude Perfect HQ, still being finished, from upstairs. That’s a soccer field in the back, the just-finished basketball court on the right, an in-progress putting green (that’s the gravel that serves as the base under the actual green), and in the left bottom corner the Dude Perfect Epic Cart (I have an idea for a shot I want to make involving this if I get to go back and shoot again in the future…)

The plan was to shoot at Dude Perfect’s new headquarters, which was still under construction and being moved into, but had plenty of space to set up for this. Our primary goal was to photograph all five Dudes and the Panda wearing their new products, as well as two kids for the youth line. These shots are for the online storefront and shot on white seamless. Our secondary goal was to do some lifestyle shots of the Dudes in action to add a little extra flavor to things.

Seamless paper background and studio lights set up for Dude Perfect photo shoot

For the seamless setup, I used two lights on the background, shot through umbrellas, for an even lighting, and one light up front with a 5’ octa boomed out for even lighting on the garments. This isn’t a situation for creative lighting and dark shadows; the point is to showcase the products, so you use whatever lighting best does that. And thankfully each light came with two batteries and a charger, which was vital since I was shooting at f/11 and the lights were all at full or nearly full power. We kept an eye on battery levels and swapped them out between subjects. To create two separate zones of light (so that the background lights don’t spill onto the subjects), I had everyone stand about 10 to 12 feet off the background.

Photographing one of the youth models while Chief Creative Officer Joel Cook and Stylist Ana Patiño make sure everything is looking good. Photo by Ashley Allen
Photographing one of the youth models while Chief Creative Officer Joel Cook and Stylist Ana Patiño make sure everything is looking good. Photo by Ashley Allen

Photographing Cory Cotton.  Photo by Ashley Allen
Photographing Cory Cotton.  Photo by Ashley Allen

This was all shot on a Canon 1DX with a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens (thanks Canon!) and tethered into Lightroom.

A sampling of all the photos shot for the Dude Perfect Fall 2016 product line
A sampling of all the photos shot for the Dude Perfect Fall 2016 product line

In post, all the seamless setup shots were cropped square to fit the layout of the online storefront, and I used the adjustment brush to make sure the backgrounds were all completely white (the auto masking works pretty darn well for this!). Doing this part with a Wacom Intuos Pro tablet also really helps for getting into those nooks and crannies with precision.

Studio lights set up on the Dude Perfect basketball court at their headquarters in Frisco, Texas
We put cardboard down on the court underneath the light stands to ensure they didn’t damage the court since this was literally the day after it had been finished, and thus the first day anyone was on it.

For the lifestyle setup, I used two strip banks with eggcrate grids for edge lighting, and the 5’ octa again as the front light. We wound up only having time for one setup using this, but there’s definitely possibility for some cool shots in the future. I rented all the lighting and grip gear from Bolt Productions, which is conveniently located just around the corner from WELD in Dallas. For this I used a Canon 5D Mark III and 24-70mm lens.

Brad Moore photographs Dude Perfect on the basketball court at their headquarters in Frisco, Texas
This was a group shot with the youth models without Profoto lighting, but it shows the scissor lift and my position for the lifestyle shot coming up below. Photo by Ashley Allen

Cory Cotton, Coby Cotton, Cody Jones, Garrett Hilbert, and Tyler Toney of Dude Perfect
Cory Cotton, Coby Cotton, Cody Jones, Garrett Hilbert, and Tyler Toney of Dude Perfect

The one setup we did was on the new DP basketball court. They had a scissor lift on hand for the painting and various other things that were going on, so I used that to get up high and shoot down on the court. I tried to set up the edge lights so they wouldn’t be in the shot, but it was such a wide shot that it wasn’t working because they were too far away from the subjects. So I got up on the lift and shot a “plate” image, a shot of the court without the lights in it, then asked my assistant to move the lights back into position. I did some test shots to make sure everything was good to go, then brought the Dudes out for the shot.

Animated GIF showing the photographic and editing process to create the final photo of Dude Perfect
The editing process in layers: plate (clean shot of court), shot with lights in frame, using a layer mask to get rid of the lights, overall toning, color adjustment, selective brightening of faces, more toning and removing light reflections on the floor, brightening Cory’s arm and shadows on the floor, and a little more overall toning.

To create the final image, I took the plate shot and the shot with the Dudes into Photoshop and merged them together to end up with a final shot of the Dudes but no lights.

Screen shot of the Dude Perfect storefront using Brad Moore's photos

If you want to see how the shots were used, head over to the Dude Perfect Store, browse around, and place an order!

A HUGE THANKS to all of these fantastic people:

Chief Creative Officer R I V A L S / / G R P: Joel Cook
Director of Creative Brand Strategy R I V A L S / / G R P: Trevor Erickson
Stylist: Ana Patiño
Assistant: Ashley Allen

And to Dude Perfect and our youth models for being so gracious and easy to work with!

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Choosing Camera Lenses

Canon 11-24mm f/4, Canon 24-70mm f/2.8, Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 lenses

Choosing lenses can be confusing with so many things to take into consideration… Focal length, maximum aperture, weight, price, prime vs. zoom, etc. I’m going to try and break things down as best I can and hopefully give you a better understanding of all this so you can make a more informed decision on what to purchase.

What Do All Those Numbers Mean?
When looking at lenses, you’re going to see lots of different numbers. The first ones are going to be followed by mm. So, 24-70mm or 70-200mm or 16-35mm or whatever. This is the focal length. The smaller the number, the “wider” the lens, so these are called wide angle lenses. The bigger the number, the “longer” the lens, and these are called telephoto lenses once they’re 70mm or more. After these numbers, you’ll see some that start with f/. So, f/2.8, f/4, f/3.5-5.6, etc. This is the maximum f-stop or aperture (the terms are relatively interchangeable). The lower the number, the “faster” the lens, aka glass. The bigger the number, the “slower” the lens/glass. Let’s dig into these two sets of numbers a little deeper…

Zoom vs. Prime Lenses
If you see two numbers, like 24-70mm, on a lens, that means it’s a zoom lens. These lenses let you get closer to or further away from your subject without physically moving yourself to do so. If there’s only one number, like 35mm, this means it’s a fixed focal length, or “prime,” lens. So if you want to get closer or further away from your subject, you have to “zoom with your feet,” as Joe McNally says.

Fixed vs. Variable Aperture
If you see one number, like f/2.8, on a lens, that means it’s a fixed aperture lens. All prime lenses are fixed aperture, as well as some zoom lenses. This means that no matter what focal length the lens is at, your maximum aperture will remain the same. If you see two numbers, like f/3.5-5.6, then it’s a variable aperture lens. This means that as you zoom the lens in or back out, the maximum aperture is going to change. If I’m using an 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 lens, the maximum aperture will change from f/3.5 when I’m at 18mm and then incrementally increase to f/5.6 as I zoom to 135mm.

Putting It All Together
While zoom lenses can be fast, prime lenses tend to be faster. For example, the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 is around $1750 currently. But if I wanted a faster fixed lens, I have lots of options at different price points. I can get a 35mm f/2 lens for around $600 or the original f/1.4 version for around $1000 (there’s a new version that is priced around $1800). Lots of 35mm options for Nikon shooters as well. Or I can look at the Canon 50mm lineup and go anywhere from $110 for the f/1.8 version to $350 for the f/1.4 version  or even tack on an extra grand and spend $1350 for the f/1.2 version. Again, Nikon also has various 50mm options.

But, you have to take into account what kinds of shooting situations you find yourself in most often. Can you zoom with your feet? If so, then prime lenses might be the best for you. If not and you’re in situations with limited space (say, a photo pit at a concert), then zoom lenses might be best. And what camera are you shooting with? Does it handle high ISO situations pretty well? If so, you might prefer shooting at a higher ISO with a slower lens to spending more money on a faster lens.

The “Standard” Pro Setup
A lot of working pros have what is referred to as the “trinity” of lenses. For Canon shooters, that’s the 11-24mm f/4 or 16-35mm f/2.824-70mm f/2.8, and 70-200mm f/2.8. For Nikon shooters, it’s the 14-24mm f/2.824-70mm f/2.8, and 70-200mm f/2.8.

Why these lenses? They’re going to cover you really well in most situations all the way from super wide to telephoto, and they’re all pretty fast lenses so they’re helpful if you’re shooting in low light situations. These are also high end lenses, so they’re going to put a dent in your wallet. Worth it if you need it, but…

Saving Money
Do you really need to spring for the most expensive options? Unless you’re shooting in low light situations, you probably don’t. For example, my buddy Peter Hurley does the vast majority of his work in the studio where he’s controlling the light, so he uses the Canon 70-200mm f/4 lens instead of the 70-200mm f/2.8. What’s the difference? About $1350, a stop of light, and nearly half the weight.

So, for Peter the f/4 version makes more sense because if he needs more light, he’s in his studio and can adjust the power. And he never shoots at f/2.8, so why spend all that extra money and add twice the weight to what he’s holding and carrying around in his gear bag? Nikon makes 70-200mm f/4 and 70-200mm f/2.8 lenses as well. The price difference isn’t as big as Canon’s, but $600 is still a lot of money!

But for someone like me who does concert and behind the scenes work, I need that extra stop of light that the f/2.8 version gives me. Could I get by with the f/4? A lot of the time, yes. But if I’m in a small venue with bad lighting trying to shoot a high-energy artist that doesn’t allow flash, I’m going to be hard pressed to get a single shot that isn’t blurry, even at 25,600 ISO. My wallet may be thinner and my shoulders may be a bit more sore at the end of the night, but at least the images are sharp!

Crop Sensor with Crop Lens and Full Frame Sensor with Full Frame Lens

Full Frame vs. Crop Frame
One last thing to consider is whether you’re shooting on a full frame or a crop sensor camera. Most of the lower-end DSLRs are crop sensors, meaning they are smaller than full frame sensors. Some lenses are made to only cover the size of the crop sensor, so if you use them on a full frame camera, your image will be cropped and you’ll lose some of your resolution, as you see below on the right.

Crop Sensor with Full Frame Lens and Full Frame Sensor with Crop Lens

However, if you purchase full frame lenses, you can use them on any camera without a loss of image resolution. If you do use them on a crop sensor camera, then they effectively become a “longer” lens because of the smaller sensor size. So what was a 70-200mm lens becomes an approximately 105-300mm lens, depending on the exact size of the crop sensor.

So which should you buy? If you never plan on upgrading to a full-frame camera and alway sticking with a crop sensor camera, then you can save some money and only buy crop lenses. But if you think you might make the jump to a full frame camera, it’s up to you if you want to save in the short term then buy new lenses when you make the jump, or go ahead and invest now to save yourself the hassle later.

On Canon, crop lenses are indicated by the letters EF-S (full frame lenses are just EF), and Nikon indicates their crop lenses with the letters DX (full frame lenses are FX). And to find out if your camera body is full frame or crop sensor, just look up the specs online and it should be one of the first things listed. Canon crop sensors will say APS-C sensor (full frame will just say full frame), and Nikon crop sensors will say DX-Format while full frame will say FX-Format.

Conclusion
I hope this helps you when choosing which lenses to buy. When in doubt, you can always rent lenses (and other gear) from places like LensProToGoBorrow Lenses, or Lens Rentals to try them before you buy them. And once you do decide to make the purchase, using my B&H affiliate links for Canon lenses and Nikon lenses will help me keep bringing you content like this.

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Canon 11-24mm f/4 Lens Field Report

Canon 11-24mm f/4 lens

Canon has had a good variety of wide angle lenses for a while, but as a HUGE fan of super wide angle zoom lenses, I’ve had an itch that was almost scratched but not quite. Now with the 11-24mm f/4, that itch has been scratched very well.

Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado

As a concert photographer who is usually limited to the photo pit without a lot of room to move back and forth, zoom lenses are a life saver. That’s why I was thrilled when Canon announced this new ultra wide angle lens, and even more thrilled to try it out during a couple of recent shoots.

Third Day perform on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Third Day perform on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Mark Lee, David Carr, and Mac Powell of Third Day sign the tunnel at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado on June 14, 2015
Mark Lee, David Carr, and Mac Powell of Third Day sign the tunnel at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado on June 14, 2015

Is there distortion on the edges? Well, sure, a little, but it’s incredibly minimal! Check out the completely un-cropped images above, with no lens corrections, shot at 12mm. The guys on the edges would normally be stretched quite a bit more, especially in the first one, but this rectilinear lens handles them really well.

Josh Scogin of '68 performs during Warped Tour in St. Petersburg, Florida
Josh Scogin of ’68 performs during Warped Tour in St. Petersburg, Florida

I also love just how close this lens allows me to get to performers who come out to the edge of the stage or come out for some crowd interaction. The musician above looks like he’s still a decent distance from where I’m shooting from, right? Here’s an iPhone shot from the crowd where you can see me in the lower right hand corner…

Brad Moore photographs Josh Scogin of '68 with the Canon 11-24mm f/4 as he performs during Warped Tour in St. Petersburg, Florida
Photo by Alex Roberts

I’m probably a bit closer than you were expecting, right? My only complaint about the ultra-wideness of this lens is that it makes it difficult to keep the other photographers out of my shots!

 

Third Day perform on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Third Day perform on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado

This thing is a bit of a beast though, coming in at 2.6 pounds (for comparison, another one of Canon’s wide-angle zoom lenses is 1.35 pounds), so it can add a little weight to your pack and shoulders. But for the results, it’s totally worth it to me.

I didn’t see any noticeable chromatic aberration in the images, and I have no complaints on edge to edge sharpness even its widest points.

Mac Powell of Third Day soundchecks on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Mac Powell of Third Day sound checks on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado

This thing handles lens flare like a champ. Normally in a shot like the one above, with the sun beaming directly into the lens, you’d be lucky to see much of anything. But here you just get a little bit of flare near the headstock of the guitar.

As with any lens with a rounded front element, you’ll want to make sure you keep a lens cloth handy for the occasional accidental finger smudge. The built-in lens hood does help prevent that, plus it’s never going to fall off and get lost during a shoot.

Pierce The Veil perform during Warped Tour in St. Petersburg, Florida
Pierce The Veil perform during Warped Tour in St. Petersburg, Florida

So, is this lens worth it for music photographers? If you’re a fan of the ultra-wide look, then absolutely!

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Brad Takes On Red Rocks Amphitheatre with Third Day!

Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado

Red Rocks Amphitheater… It’s one of the most iconic concert venues in the US, if not the world. It was on my list of places where I wanted to see a show during my lifetime, and thankfully I got to do that and more this past weekend! Here’s a rundown of what happened.

Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado

A few years ago David Carr, drummer for the band Third Day, started getting into photography. He found the Kelby videos and books, and through those found some of my concert photography and saw that I had photographed them before. He reached out to me to invite me to shoot an upcoming show of theirs, and since then we’ve been buds! During that time, I’ve had the opportunity to photograph them a number of times, including at their sold-out Third Day & Friends show at Gwinnett Arena in Atlanta last year.

This year they decided to do another of these shows, not just in Atlanta, but also at Red Rocks. As soon as I found out about it, I contacted the band and told them I’d be happy to come out and cover this momentous show if they wanted. Thankfully they agreed, and out I went!

Mac Powell of Third Day sound checks on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Mac Powell of Third Day sound checks on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
David Carr of Third Day sound checks on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
David Carr of Third Day sound checks on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Mark Lee of Third Day sound checks on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Mark Lee of Third Day sound checks on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Scotty Wilbanks sound checks with Third Day on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Scotty Wilbanks sound checks with Third Day on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Brian Bunn sound checks with Third Day on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Brian Bunn sound checks with Third Day on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Tim Gibson sound checks with Third Day on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Tim Gibson sound checks with Third Day on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado

As soon as you arrive, you realize this place is just breathtaking (especially if you’re going up and down the stairs a bunch)! The band took the stage for sound check, and I wondered around snapping shots without getting in their way. Over the years I’ve learned that the stage is not just a performance space, but it’s also a workplace for the band and their crew. As I am their guest, I have to be very respectful of their space and make sure I’m not doing anything/going anywhere I’m not supposed to. Now that I’ve had the opportunity to cover their shows a number of times and gotten to know the crew a bit, this becomes easier to navigate. But if it’s your first time working with a band, you want to tread lightly and triple check with the crew before doing anything.

One reason you want to make friends with the crew (besides just to be a kind, decent person) is if you want to set up a remote camera on stage…

Canon 5D Mark III with 14mm f/2.8 lens and PocketWizard Plus III set up as a remote camera on a Manfrotto variable friction Magic Arm behind Third Day's drum kit on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Canon 5D Mark III with 14mm f/2.8 lens and PocketWizard Plus III  with CM-N3-ACC cable set up as a remote camera on a Manfrotto variable friction Magic Arm and super clamp behind Third Day’s drum kit on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Canon 5D Mark III with 14mm f/2.8 lens and PocketWizard Plus III set up on a Manfrotto variable friction Magic Arm as a remote camera on a Manfrotto variable friction Magic Arm behind Third Day's drum kit on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Canon 5D Mark III with 14mm f/2.8 lens and PocketWizard Plus III  with CM-N3-ACC cable set up as a remote camera on a Manfrotto variable friction Magic Arm and super clamp behind Third Day’s drum kit on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado

This is a Canon 5D MkIII with a 14mm f/2.8. On top is a PocketWizard Plus III connected with a CM-N3-ACC cable, and it’s all mounted to a Manfrotto 244 Variable Friction Magic Arm with Camera Bracket and Super Clamp. The clamp goes around the rigging for the lighting, then I positioned the rest of the arm and camera accordingly. Once everything was in place, I tightened it down and secured it with zip ties and a safety cable. Because of the wide variation of light, I set it to shoot bursts of three bracketed shots: two stops under, even, and two stops over. Auto ISO, aperture priority at f/5.6 (just for depth of field/focus safety), evaluative metering. I also focused the camera, then switched it to manual focus so it wouldn’t be focus searching during moments of low light.

Because of the size and uniqueness of the venue, I wanted to set up a remote camera at the top/back as well (also so I wouldn’t have to be going all the way up and back down throughout the show and missing up-close moments).

Canon 5D Mark III with 8-15mm fisheye lens and PocketWizard Plus III set up as a remote camera on a Manfrotto variable friction Magic Arm at the back corner of Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Canon 5D Mark III with 8-15mm f/4 fisheye lens and PocketWizard Plus III with CM-N3-ACC cable set up as a remote camera on a Manfrotto variable friction Magic Arm and Super Clamp at the back corner of Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado

This is the same setup as on stage, but with the 8-15mm f/4 fisheye lens at 15mm, also set to f/5.6. The fisheye allowed me to capture the full rock on the left side of the image all the way over to the stage on the right, as well as some of the landscape beyond that, which you’ll see later. I triggered both of these remotes with a third Pocket Wizard Plus III that I kept with me and fired by hand instead of putting it on one of the cameras I had on me. I did it this way because the moments I would be shooting with the cameras I had on me wouldn’t necessarily be the moments I wanted to capture with the remote cameras. The remotes were more about the crowd than the stage, so I had to wait for moments where the crowd was lit up and not just the stage.

Third Day hang backstage in their green room on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Third Day hang backstage in their green room on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado

After sound check, there’s a good bit of time to set up the above remote cameras, chill, and grab food before the show starts. Of course even the dressing rooms in this venue are amazing because the venue is built around the natural rock formations!

The first half of the show was the “Friends” portion featuring Warren Barfield, Peter Furler, Phil Wickham, Brandon Heath, and Matt Maher. During this portion, the acts alternated between performing on the main stage and a secondary stage that was set up above the front of house sound area in the middle of the crowd.

Warren Barfield performs on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Warren Barfield performs on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Warren Barfield performs on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Warren Barfield performs on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Peter Furler performs on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Peter Furler performs on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Peter Furler performs on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Peter Furler performs on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Phil Wickham performs on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Phil Wickham performs on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Brandon Heath performs on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Brandon Heath performs on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Matt Maher performs on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Matt Maher performs on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Matt Maher performs on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Matt Maher performs on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Fans look on as Brandon Heath performs on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Fans look on as Brandon Heath performs on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado

To cover the show, I had two Canon 1DX bodies on me set to auto ISO with a 1/250 minimum shutter speed, aperture priority, and spot metering. One had the 70-200mm f/2.8 and the other switched between my new favorite lens ever, the 11-24mm f/4, and the not as favorite but still very useful 24-70mm f/2.8, all shot wide open at f/2.8 or f/4.

After the Friends all performed, there was intermission, so I retreated back to the band’s dressing room to snap some candids of them getting ready.

David Carr and Scotty Wilbanks of Third Day get ready backstage on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
David Carr and Scotty Wilbanks of Third Day get ready backstage on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
David Carr of Third Day gets his in-ear monitors ready on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
David Carr of Third Day gets his in-ear monitors ready on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Scotty Wilbanks, David Carr, Tim Gibson, Mac Powell, Mark Lee, and Brian Bunn of Third Day pose backstage on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Scotty Wilbanks, David Carr, Tim Gibson, Mac Powell, Mark Lee, and Brian Bunn of Third Day pose backstage on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado

Just before they took the stage, they took a minute to go sign the iconic tunnel that leads from backstage, underneath the seating area, and up to the front of house sound area…

The underground tunnel from backstage to front of house on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
The underground tunnel from backstage to front of house on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Mark Lee, David Carr, and Mac Powell of Third Day sign the tunnel on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Mark Lee, David Carr, and Mac Powell of Third Day sign the tunnel on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado

Pretty much everyone who plays at Red Rocks signs the tunnel, so it’s covered in legendary names. You could spend hours searching for your favorite musicians if you wanted!

With that rite of passage under their belts, the band took the stage for their sold-out show!

Third Day perform on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Third Day perform on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Third Day perform on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Third Day perform on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Mac Powell of Third Day perform on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Mac Powell of Third Day perform on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Third Day perform on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Third Day perform on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Third Day perform on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Third Day perform on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado

As the band performed, I shot from on stage, in front of the stage, side stage, the front of house sound area, and anywhere else I could find a decent vantage point. And all along the way I kept an eye on the crowd waiting for moments where it was lit up, then laying down on the remote trigger and hoping for the best.

Third Day perform on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Third Day perform on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Third Day perform on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Third Day perform on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Third Day perform on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Third Day perform on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Third Day perform on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Third Day perform on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Peter Furler plays drums as David Carr of Third Day watches on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Peter Furler plays drums as David Carr of Third Day watches on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado

I learned a lesson about remotes that are a decent distance away from you in large crowds of people that night… Theoretically every time I hit the trigger, both cameras should have fired, thus having pretty close to the same number of shots by the end of the show. But that was not the case… The on stage camera fired over 3,300 shots, while the one at the back of the venue only fired around 500 shots.

When I set them up, I tested the trigger distance, and it worked from the back of the venue all the way to the stage. But my guess is that once the venue filled up, all of the cell phone and radio frequencies caused interference. Since I was much closer to the stage throughout the show, that remote fired more reliably than the one at the back. Should I do another similar setup in the future, the remedy to this would be to set up another PocketWizard Plus III halfway back in the venue to serve as a “repeater.” This would receive the signal from the trigger, then relay it on to the remote with a stronger signal to ensure it fires reliably.

Fans watch as Third Day perform on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Fans watch as Third Day perform on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Third Day perform on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Third Day perform on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Third Day perform on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Third Day perform on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Peter Furler plays drums as David Carr of Third Day watches on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Peter Furler plays drums as David Carr of Third Day watches on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Third Day perform on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Third Day perform on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Brian Bunn performs with Third Day on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Brian Bunn performs with Third Day on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado

At the end of the show, the band took a bow, then I ran out to get a shot of them facing me with the crowd in the background.

Scotty Wilbanks, Mark Lee, Matt Maher, Mac Powell, Brandon Heath, Brian Bunn, and Tim Gibson take a bow at the end of Third Day's set on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Scotty Wilbanks, Mark Lee, Matt Maher, Mac Powell, Brandon Heath, Brian Bunn, and Tim Gibson take a bow at the end of Third Day’s set on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Brian Bunn, Tim Gibson, Brandon Heath, Mac Powell, Matt Maher, David Carr, Scotty Wilbanks, and Mark Lee at the end of Third Day's set on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Brian Bunn, Tim Gibson, Brandon Heath, Mac Powell, Matt Maher, David Carr, Scotty Wilbanks, and Mark Lee at the end of Third Day’s set on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado

And that was that! It was an amazing experience, one that I won’t soon forget. A HUGE thanks to the band for bringing me out to the show and letting me have a dream come true experience!

A view of the sold out crowd on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
A view of the sold out crowd on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
A view of the sold out crowd on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
A view of the sold out crowd on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
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Preson Phillips Band Ring Light Portraits

My buds in Preson Phillips recently released a new album and needed some shots to help promote it. They wanted a close up, kinda harsh and gritty look, so here’s what I wound up doing for them:

Preson Phillips
Preson Phillips, lead vocals and acoustic guitar. Canon 1DX with 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 168mm + f/2.8, 1/200 shutter at ISO 100
Nate Murray
Nate Murray, bass. Canon 1DX with 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 160mm + f/2.8, 1/200 shutter at ISO 100
Mickey Holm
Mickey Holm, drums. Canon 1DX with 70-200m f/2.8 @ 155mm + f/2.8, 1/200 shutter at ISO 100
Tim McTague
Tim McTague, one of a few rotating guitarists. Canon 1DX with 70-200m f/2.8 @ 170mm + f/2.8, 1/200 shutter at ISO 100

Most of my lights were constant lights for these shots; two Westcott TD6s with strip banks on either side and a fluorescent ring light (mainly for the catchlight in the eyes). I used constant lights because I wanted a shallow depth of field so their eyes would really stand out, and it’s difficult to achieve that with strobes. It’s possible, but I didn’t have the right combination of low-powered lights and compatible modifiers to make it work, so constant lights were the way to go in this instance. The background light was an Elinchrom BRX 500 with a reflector aimed at the white wall behind them:

Photo showing ring light and strip bank constant light setup for portraits

If anyone is interested in the TD6s, I think they’re useful for what they are. But the main problem I have with them is there’s no case to store them in with the bulbs in, so you have to unscrew the bulbs and store them in something when they’re being transported/stored or you risk breaking them. If you’re just setting them up and leaving them, then that won’t be an issue.

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