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Photographing Bonnaroo for Red Bull: Day 4

Tony Esposito of White Reaper performs at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 11, 2017.
Tony Esposito of White Reaper performs at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 11, 2017.

My final day at Bonnaroo began back at What Stage once again with White Reaper.

White Reaper perform at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 11, 2017.
White Reaper perform at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 11, 2017.

Their backdrop was up in support of their new album, The World’s Best American Band.

Ryan Hater (aka MVP) of White Reaper performs at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 11, 2017.
Ryan Hater (aka MVP) of White Reaper performs at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 11, 2017.

Ryan Hater, aka MVP, was the most fun to shoot as he was the most energetic of the group. Plus long hair and rock music always make for a fun combination. I liked this moment where his hair was just out in front of his face enough to be clear of his eyes.

Red Bull TV Live Stream Trailer at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 11, 2017.
Red Bull TV Live Stream Trailer at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 11, 2017.

My next assignment was an unexpected one, but a cool peek behind the curtain at how things work for the Red Bull TV live stream from the festival. I got to go inside the broadcast truck and see what it takes for it all to run, switching from stage to stage and streaming past performances.

Red Bull TV Live Stream Trailer at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 11, 2017.
Red Bull TV Live Stream Trailer at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 11, 2017.

Above is a closer look from over the shoulder of the director.

After doing a quick edit back at the production trailer, I made my way back to The Other for the duration of my stay at Bonnaroo. Since I was staying here the rest of the day, I brought my laptop with me to download and edit between sets.

Skepta performs at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 11, 2017.
Skepta performs at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 11, 2017.

First up was Skepta, who is a British rapper and producer.

Skepta's crew watches from backstage as Skepta performs at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 11, 2017.
Skepta’s crew watches from backstage as Skepta performs at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 11, 2017.

I was able to make my way backstage and get the above shot as the sun was starting to set. Sometimes my favorite shots are the quieter moments like these that happen behind the scenes.

Skepta performs at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 11, 2017.
Skepta performs at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 11, 2017.

This was another nice moment that happened while I was stage side. I can’t tell if he’s actually looking at me in this shot because of his sunglasses, but I like to think he is.

Borgore performs at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 11, 2017.
Borgore performs at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 11, 2017.

Next up was Borgore! This wound up being my favorite set of the whole festival.

Borgore performs at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 11, 2017.
Borgore performs at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 11, 2017.

And that’s because I was able to get on stage with him. I still don’t know if I was supposed to be on stage or not, but nobody stopped me and I didn’t volunteer to leave too quickly. I started off at a distance, as you can see from the above photo that was shot with the 70-200mm f/2.8.

Borgore performs at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 11, 2017.
Borgore performs at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 11, 2017.

I stayed stage side for a bit to get shots from that vantage point, and snagged this one of the crowd at twilight after sunset.

Borgore performs at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 11, 2017.
Borgore performs at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 11, 2017.

Then I made my move. I walked from stage side all the way up behind Borgore and held my camera up to get some shots then checked to see how they looked. I wasn’t close enough or high enough to get what I wanted with the 11-24 mm f/4. I was worried that I might be pushing my luck, but hey, go big or go home, right? So I stepped up onto the riser that Borgore was standing on and held my camera up again. Bingo. This was the right vantage point, but I hadn’t gotten what I wanted just yet. So I stepped down and waited for the crowd lights to come up again. As soon as they did, I stepped up and got the shot above.

Borgore performs at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 11, 2017.
Borgore performs at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 11, 2017.

I also wanted to get a shot from beside him as he did his thing, so I made a move to try for that. But as soon as I moved, so did he. So I moved again, and so did he. Finally, I got the above shot just before he moved again, but this time I saw him look back toward the other people standing backstage and give someone a look. I took that to mean he was looking for someone to get rid of me, so I stepped down before anyone could approach me. That’s what was happening in my head anyway. I don’t know if it was reality or not.

Borgore performs at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 11, 2017.
Borgore performs at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 11, 2017.

I stayed off the riser for a while, but still captured this moment of pyro going off between Borgore and the crowd.

Borgore performs at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 11, 2017.
Borgore performs at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 11, 2017.

After a couple of minutes, I saw the lights come up on the crowd again and jumped up on the riser to grab a quick shot. Thankfully, he put his hand up in the air at the same moment.

Nils Rondhuis (aka Nizzle) and Jim Aasgier of Yellow Claw perform at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 11, 2017.
Nils Rondhuis (aka Nizzle) and Jim Aasgier of Yellow Claw perform at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 11, 2017.

About 15 minutes after that last shot of Borgore was captured, Yellow Claw took the stage. Again, I started up the middle aisle toward the back of the crowd and shot for a bit.

Yellow Claw perform at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 11, 2017.
Yellow Claw perform at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 11, 2017.

I’ll admit, I was kind of addicted to shooting from this position. The lighting at this stage was just crazy good all the time, and this was the best vantage point to shoot it from. So I kept returning to it!

Nils Rondhuis (aka Nizzle) of Yellow Claw performs at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 11, 2017.
Nils Rondhuis (aka Nizzle) of Yellow Claw performs at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 11, 2017.

Eventually I knew I needed to get closer and get shots of the actual performers, so I went back up the the stage and shot for a bit.

Jim Aasgier of Yellow Claw performs at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 11, 2017.
Yellow Claw perform at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 11, 2017.

I shot for a few minutes from in front of the stage, then made my way around back again to get on stage to finish out. Unfortunately for me though, the stage crew was using heavy machinery to remove gear from Borgore’s set, and I wasn’t allowed back onstage while that was happening. So, that meant my shooting at Bonnaroo had come to an end!

Thanks again to Kelly Garthwaite at Red Bull for bringing me onto the team, and to Jeremy Deputat and Jason Myers for being so gracious to the new kid, and to everyone else I worked with and met while I was there!

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Photographing Bonnaroo for Red Bull: Day 3

Brian Sella of The Front Bottoms performs at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 10, 2017.
Brian Sella of The Front Bottoms performs at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 10, 2017.

Day 3 of Bonnaroo began for me around 1:00pm when I arrived on site with the rest of the team. My first shoot of the day was back at What Stage with The Front Bottoms. I arrived early to scope things out, thankfully, because the thrust that was there the day before was gone. This meant that the entire stage front was free reign for photographers rather than some of them being relegated to one side of the thrust.

The Front Bottoms perform at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 10, 2017.
The Front Bottoms perform at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 10, 2017.

You can stake out your spot if you want, but the reality is that everyone will be moving around during the allotted shooting time. And if you want to be respected by everyone else in the pit, you also show respect by making sure everyone is able to get what they need rather than hogging a spot the entire time.

Mathew Uychich of The Front Bottoms performs at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 10, 2017.
Mathew Uychich of The Front Bottoms performs at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 10, 2017.

My next scheduled shoot was a few hours later, so I went back to the production trailer and did a quick edit before grabbing lunch and heading out to shoot lifestyle/ambience photos.

Attendees enjoy Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 10, 2017.
Attendees enjoy Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 10, 2017.

Before leaving the production trailer, my assistant grabbed a few cans of Red Bull so we could give them to attendees who were willing to pose for photos for us.

Attendees enjoy Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 10, 2017.
Attendees enjoy Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 10, 2017.

I went up in the ferris wheel to take photos, but didn’t really get what I was hoping for. When I came down, there were a couple of girls taking selfies in front of the ferris wheel, so I asked if they would let me shoot some as well. While I was shooting them, this other friend of theirs came along and asked if I wanted him to lift one of them in the air. “Sure, why not?!” was obviously my response, which resulted in the photo above!

Attendees enjoy the Bonnaroo Fountain at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 10, 2017.
Attendees enjoy the Bonnaroo Fountain at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 10, 2017.

The Bonnaroo Fountain at Centeroo is iconic for the festival, so I went there in hopes of capturing shots of people cooling down in the mid-day heat. I climbed up on one of the benches on the outer perimeter and got my 11-24 mm f/4 as close to one of the sprayers as possible and fired off a few series of shots.

Rainbow Kitten Surprise perform at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 10, 2017.
Rainbow Kitten Surprise perform at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 10, 2017.

While I was on my way back to the production trailer to edit again, I walked by Which Stage where Rainbow Kitten Surprise was playing. That’s just one of the best band names ever, so I had to grab a shot from the back of the crowd!

Joseph perform at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 10, 2017.
Joseph perform at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 10, 2017.

After editing, it was time to get back to That Tent to photograph Joseph’s set. This trio of sisters put on an absolutely captivating performance!

Allison Closner of Joseph performs at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 10, 2017.
Allison Closner of Joseph performs at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 10, 2017.
Natalie Closner Schepman of Joseph performs at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 10, 2017.
Natalie Closner Schepman of Joseph performs at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 10, 2017.

I really liked the mirrored sunglasses that Natalie was wearing, so I probably shot too many photos of her!

Joseph perform at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 10, 2017.
Joseph perform at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 10, 2017.

Puffs of smoke kept coming out from behind the drummer, so I shot him until I got a frame where it was perfectly positioned to give separation between him and the darkness behind him.

Future Islands perform at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 10, 2017.
Future Islands perform at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 10, 2017.

After that, it was time to head back to What Stage for Future Islands. Lead singer Samuel T. Herring has become known for his impassioned and emotive performance, and he delivered on those expectations.

Samuel T. Herring of Future Islands performs at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 10, 2017.
Samuel T. Herring of Future Islands performs at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 10, 2017.
Future Islands perform at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 10, 2017.
Future Islands perform at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 10, 2017.

I had a couple of hours between Future Islands and my next performance shoot, so I set out to find some more ambience photo opportunities, especially since sunset was nigh.

Attendees take a selfie at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 10, 2017.
Attendees take a selfie at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 10, 2017.

As I walked toward the back of the crowd at What Stage, I spotted these two ladies taking selfies and got a quick shot of them.

Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA at sunset on June 10, 2017.
Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA at sunset on June 10, 2017.

I also saw that the sun was starting to set and grabbed some shots of What Stage with that golden light adding a lens flare.

Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 10, 2017.
Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 10, 2017.

From there I quickly made my way over to the Centeroo area near The Other and Jake & Snake’s Christmas Club Barn to get a golden hour crowd photo.

Once I was happy with the golden hour shots I had gotten, I went back to the production trailer to edit and upload before heading out to my first shoot at The Other stage. Little did I know that I was about to discover my new favorite place to shoot at Bonnaroo!

Matoma performs at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 10, 2017.
Matoma performs at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 10, 2017.

I wasn’t technically scheduled to photograph Matoma’s set, but I also wasn’t scheduled to shoot anything else until 2:00am. So I tagged along with Jeremy Deputat to check out the stage since I hadn’t been there yet.

This stage had a different vibe than the others I had shot at. While there were other types of performances here, it was primarily the EDM stage. Everyone there was just looking to have a fun time, even security! While the security at other stages was professional, they were also pretty stern and you could tell when they’d had enough. Here, security was dancing along with the music and passing out water to thirsty attendees. Plus there was a big aisle down the middle of the crowd, which allowed for shots like the one above!

Matoma performs at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 10, 2017.
Matoma performs at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 10, 2017.

I’m a sucker for a good silhouette, so this was one of my favorite shots.

After Matoma’s set, I still had plenty of time to kill, so I went back to the production trailer again to make sure I was 100% caught up with all of my editing and uploading, and double check all of my backups.

Marshmello performs at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 11, 2017.
Marshmello performs at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 11, 2017.

Finally, it was nearing 2:00am, so I hopped on a golf cart and made my way back to The Other.

(Side note: The Other was on the complete opposite corner of the grounds from our production trailer, and my first time using a golf cart during the festival was when I tagged along with Jeremy for Matoma’s set. This was LIFE CHANGING for me once I realized I could do this! I still walked to other destinations, but any time I went back to The Other from here on out, it was on a golf cart).

During the set, I shot from the back of the middle aisle and got stage/crowd shots for a few minutes.

Marshmello performs at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 11, 2017.
Marshmello performs at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 11, 2017.

And also up at the front to get closer shots of the infamous Marshmello helmet.

Marshmello performs at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 11, 2017.
Marshmello performs at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 11, 2017.

I shot for maybe 10-15 minutes and wrapped up since it was so late. Hopped back on the golf cart and went back to the production trailer to meet my editor and head to the hotel. When we got back, we worked in the lobby so I could do my editing and upload to the Red Bull Content Pool and the Dropbox folder others were pulling images from before calling it a night at around 4:00am.

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Photographing Bonnaroo for Red Bull: Day 2

Angelique Kidjo is interviewed by Sal Masekela at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 9, 2017.
Angelique Kidjo is interviewed by Sal Masekela at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 9, 2017.
Angelique Kidjo is interviewed by Sal Masekela at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 9, 2017.

We arrived on site for day two of Bonnaroo around 1:00pm, and I started by shooting an interview with singer/songwriter and activist Angelique Kidjo and Red Bull’s Sal Masekela. When photographing interviews like this, my goal is to capture shots that show both the production involved in case the client has a need for it, as well as just photos of the interviewer/interviewee. Depending on the space I have to move around, I’ll use some mix of the 24-70mm f/2.8 and 70-200mm f/2.8 lenses.

From there, I went back to the Red Bull trailer to do a quick edit and check in with my editor before heading out for my first performance shoot of the day at What Stage (the main stage).

Since this was the first day of performances on the main stage, I arrived at the early to make sure I familiarized myself with the entry points and introduce myself to security. The stage had a thrust in the middle (, and I found out that most of the photographers would be stationed on one side of it. I made my way to the opposite side, because who wants to get the same shots everyone else is getting?

Francis & The Lights performs at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 9, 2017.
Francis & The Lights performs at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 9, 2017.

Francis & The Lights, of which Francis Farewell Starlite is the sole member, took the stage with a highly energized set. As the first act of the day on this stage, he really woke up the crowd with his performance. I mostly relied on the 11-24 mm f/4 as my wide lens for his set.

Chance The Rapper looks on as Francis & The Lights performs at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 9, 2017.
Chance The Rapper looks on as Francis & The Lights performs at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 9, 2017.

Part way through the second song, I heard someone say, “Oh, there’s Chance!” I pull back from my camera and look up in the stage side balcony, and sure enough, there’s Chance The Rapper looking on in support of his collaborative partner. Even though I was right at the stage, he was still a good distance away from me, so I used the 70-200mm f/2.8 for this shot.

Francis & The Lights performs at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 9, 2017.
Francis & The Lights performs at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 9, 2017.

I finished shooting Francis, then made my way to  my next shoot.

Nathan Willett of Cold War Kids performs at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 9, 2017.
Nathan Willett of Cold War Kids performs at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 9, 2017.

This was my first time seeing or shooting Cold War Kids, and they didn’t disappoint. The only downside of shooting daytime outdoor performances is that the stage lighting doesn’t have much effect on photos. It’s pretty much all white/warm light from the sun. Thankfully, lead singer Nathan Willett is an energetic performer and gave the photographers plenty to work with.

Brad Shultz of Cage The Elephant hangs with friends at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 9, 2017.
Brad Shultz of Cage The Elephant hangs with friends at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 9, 2017.

After shooting Cold War Kids, I went into the artist hospitality area where various vendors are set up (as well as Danny Clinch and his backstage artist portrait area) in hopes of getting candid photos of artists hanging out. Brad Shultz from Cage The Elephant and his friends were more than happy to pose for a shot! I didn’t want to be right up in their faces, so I shot this on the 24-70mm f/2.8 in order to be wide enough to fit all of them in the frame without being right up in their faces.

Mario Cuomo of The Orwells enjoys a Red Bull at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 9, 2017.
Mario Cuomo of The Orwells enjoys a Red Bull at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 9, 2017.

Mario Cuomo from The Orwells also gladly posed for a shot, and gladly drank some Red Bull for his photo.

Portugal. The Man is interviewed by Sal Masekela at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 9, 2017.
Portugal. The Man is interviewed by Sal Masekela at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 9, 2017.

After getting a couple of candid shots, I turned the corner to Sal’s World, where he was interviewing Portugal. The Man.

Preservation Hall Jazz Band is interviewed by Sal Masekela at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 9, 2017.
Preservation Hall Jazz Band is interviewed by Sal Masekela at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 9, 2017.

Then I followed Sal out to this picnic table where he was joined by the legendary Preservation Hall Jazz Band for an interview!

Tove Lo performs at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 9, 2017.
Tove Lo performs at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 9, 2017.

After that interview, I backtracked to Which Stage again to shoot Tove Lo. Her set was one of the most entertaining ones I was able to shoot during the festival! With the sun going down, the stage lighting was much more effective than before. And she was constantly on the move, which made for a fun shoot!

Tove Lo performs at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 9, 2017.
Tove Lo performs at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 9, 2017.

I believe every photographer in the pit got a shot like this one, but who doesn’t like a good hair photo?

After Tove Lo’s set, I had a little time to go back to the Red Bull trailer once again and download/backup and edit/upload before heading out to That Tent for Preservation Hall Jazz Band’s set.

Preservation Hall Jazz Band perform at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 9, 2017.
Preservation Hall Jazz Band perform at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 9, 2017.
Preservation Hall Jazz Band perform at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 9, 2017.
Preservation Hall Jazz Band perform at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 9, 2017.
Preservation Hall Jazz Band perform at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 9, 2017.
Preservation Hall Jazz Band perform at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 9, 2017.

These guys were my last shoot of the day. Throughout each day, I tried to limit how many shots I took of each performance, but it was a challenge with this one! They were so great and full of energy, emotion, and expression that I didn’t want to take my finger off the shutter.

This was my earliest night of the week, wrapping up shooting around 10:0opm before heading back to the trailer one last time to edit and upload.

Next up, Day 3 of Bonnaroo!

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Photographing Bonnaroo for Red Bull: Day 1

Spectators enjoy Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 8, 2017
Spectators enjoy Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 8, 2017.

We began our first day the same way we wound up beginning all but the last day, with a team breakfast at Cracker Barrel (we went to Waffle House on the last day). These breakfasts gave us a chance to just hang in a relaxed environment and talk with one another, whether it was about life, photography in general, or specific things about the festival. Plus we were able to load up with fuel to face the rest of the long day ahead of us. After breakfast each day, we had a little time to gather ourselves and our gear before we loaded into vehicles to head to the festival.

The Ferris Wheel at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 8, 2017
The Ferris Wheel at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 8, 2017.

Now, let me preface all of this by saying one thing… I know that my Bonnaroo experience was not that of people who were just there in attendance, nor was it that of photographers who may have been there covering it for a publication or media outlet, nor was it that of the people who were shooting for the festival. So, if you’re looking at any of this in hopes of finding out what Bonnaroo is like from any perspective other than covering it for Red Bull, this will only be somewhat insightful. The passes I had allowed me to do some things and go some places others weren’t able to go, but I was also not able to do some things or go certain places others were able to go. With that said, here’s how my first day at Bonnaroo went!

Upon arrival each day, we parked in whatever lot it was we were designated to park in somewhere behind What Stage (aka the main stage), then walked to the Red Bull production trailer. Inside the trailer was a flurry of activity that included everyone from us photographers and our assistants to editors, producers, and a bevy of other people whose roles I’m still not 100% sure of, but I know they were more important than me. I’ll just suffice it to say that there was a lot of people doing a lot of work alongside each other in a relatively small space, but we all had a lot of fun together throughout the event.

The Lemon Twigs perform at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 8, 2017
The Lemon Twigs perform at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 8, 2017.

Also each day before heading out, I would grab some sun block and spray it all over myself, then suit up with the SpiderHolster belt and cameras with lenses (usually the 70-200 and 11-24. My assistant, Jordan, carried the ThinkTank shoulder bag with the 24-70, extra batteries and memory cards, etc, as well as a backpack with snacks, a clipboard with model releases, bandaids, and other random stuff. We also grabbed some cans of Red Bull in case we needed to stage some shots for marketing and branding purposes.

Spectator enjoys Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 8, 2017
Spectator enjoys Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 8, 2017.

The first day allowed me time to wander around the festival grounds to see where everything was, roughly gauge walking time between stages and tents, and shoot some general lifestyle shots of attendees before we needed to photograph any artist sets. We did this for about an hour, finding people who were dressed, um, interestingly, or just straight up energetic and willing to pose for us.

Spectators enjoy Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 8, 2017
Spectators enjoy Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 8, 2017.

A quick note on the stage and tent names at Bonnaroo. It takes some time to figure them out, but once you do, you still get them mixed up because they’re hella confusing! They are as follows:

  • What Stage (main stage)
  • Which Stage (secondary stage)
  • This Tent (I never even made it to this one)
  • That Tent (spent a good chunk of time here)
  • The Other (used to be a tent, but this year became a stage and was the primary venue for EDM artists)
  • Who Stage (the smallest of the stages)
Turkuaz perform at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 8, 2017
Turkuaz perform at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 8, 2017.

There’s also the Comedy & Cinema tent with standups performing and movies being screened, sometimes with the director or star in attendance to answer questions. And the Silent Disco tent, where an emcee is playing and pumping music out to headphones being worn by attendees, but you can’t hear anything that’s being played without the headphones. And we can’t forget Snake & Jake’s Christmas Club Barn, which is basically home to a 24-hour a day rave.

The Orwells perform at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 8, 2017
The Orwells perform at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 8, 2017.

For day one performances, I was primarily stationed at That Tent. I shot sets by Welles, The Orwells, Twiddle, The Lemon Twigs, and Turkuaz. The only band I had shot before was The Orwells, so I had an idea of what to expect from them, but no one else. The photo pits around the festival were all pretty decent sizes, but with the number of photographers there, they were still pretty crowded. But not uncomfortably so. Thankfully you could still move around to shoot from different angles, so I was happy all in all.

Welles perform at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 8, 2017
Welles perform at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 8, 2017.

I shot all the sets I was assigned to, and then when there was time between sets, I would either go back to the production trailer to download and edit, walk around shooting lifestyle photos, or take a lunch/dinner break.

The wrist of someone who needed to get into a LOT of different places!
The wrist of someone who needed to get into a LOT of different places!

For on-site meals, Red Bull arranged for us to have meals in the artist catering tent. Everyone at the festival has a wristband (or multiple wristbands depending on the access you’re granted and whatnot). Each wristband has a different color “belt” on it which houses an RFID tag that gets scanned whenever you go into various areas. The color combinations of the wristbands and their belts also serve as visual guides for security to know where you’re allowed to go. So, when we would go to catering for meals, they would scan our wristbands and that would let them know if we were allowed to eat or not.

The Lemon Twigs perform at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 8, 2017
The Lemon Twigs perform at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, USA on June 8, 2017.

I finished shooting my last set a little after 2:30am, roughly 12 hours after I first set out to take lifestyle photos around the festival. Once I downloaded, edited, and uploaded, got back to my room, showered, and got ready for bed, I got to sleep around 4:30am.

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Photographing Bonnaroo for Red Bull: Workflow

Before heading to Bonnaroo, I wanted to make sure I had a good workflow in place that adhered to both Red Bull’s needs as well as my own. Here’s what I came up with…

CAMERA SETUP

First, I made sure the dates and times were synced up exactly between the two camera bodies. This is vital when you’re shooting an event with more than one camera body, as well as when you’re shooting with other photographers. If things aren’t synced up correctly, it can cause your editor and others huge headaches trying to keep everything straight and in order.

After that, I got all my settings dialed into one body, then copied those settings onto a CF card, put that card into the other camera, and loaded the settings onto that body. After that, I entered in my copyright and artist info into the metadata of each body. I also used the Canon EOS Utility to input “1” or “2” into the Instructions IPTC info on each camera. More on this in a bit.

Here are the basic camera settings that I use as a starting point. They may change depending on the situation, but this is always where I begin:

File Type: RAW. You want as much file/image information as you can get to work with to create the best image possible.

Shooting Mode: Aperture priority.

Auto ISO: If you aren’t familiar with Auto ISO, here’s how it works… You tell your camera the minimum shutter speed you want it to maintain, along with the maximum ISO you’re comfortable with it using. It will only raise the ISO as much as is needed to maintain the minimum shutter speed, until it reaches that maximum ISO. Once it reaches that, your shutter speed may fall below what you want it to be.

I usually set the maximum ISO to whatever the camera’s highest native ISO is, so 51,200 for the 1DX Mark II. And I normally set the minimum shutter speed to 1/250 for concerts, but I ended up bumping it up to 1/500 to make sure there was as little blur as possible.

Aperture: Wide open most of the time, which is f/2.8 on the 70-200mm and 24-70mm lenses and f/4 on the 11-24mm lens.

Focus Mode: Since there’s so much movement at concerts, I use continuous focus (AI Servo on Canon and AF-C on Nikon) mode all the time. If you use single focus (One Shot on Canon and AF-S on Nikon), you’re constantly having to lock focus every time someone moves.

Metering: If your camera allows you to lock spot metering to the focus point, use that. I think a lot of Nikon bodies let you do this, but only the 1D series in the Canon line allows for this. If you’re not using a camera that lets the spot metering lock into the focus point, just stick with evaluative (Canon) or matrix (Nikon) metering and keep an eye on your exposure so you can compensate accordingly.

White Balance: Auto white balance does a really great job in any of the current camera bodies. With concerts, the stage lighting varies so much so quickly, there’s not much point in trying to get a “correct” white balance because you’re going to be making adjustments in post no matter what.

Drive Speed: Continuous High. This can be a blessing and a curse with any of the top of the line camera bodies that shoot 10+ frames per second, because you’re pretty much guaranteed to capture the perfect moment, but you’re also shooting a TON of photos, and that eats up card space and hard drive space. As long as you’ve got those fast cards and lots of space though, why not?

COMPUTER WORKFLOW

I use Photo Mechanic to ingest images from cards. I’ve been using it since college to make selects after downloading, but I only just learned more about the power of Photo Mechanic to help minimize metadata input as I was researching during my prep for Bonnaroo. Basically, it allows you to use “variables” to automatically fill in lots of different information. It also uses “code replacements,” which allows you to set up custom codes to automatically put information in captions. Code replacements are mostly used by sports photographers, but I’m sure some of you could find other ways to use them. Here’s a YouTube playlist that I found particularly helpful to learn about variables and code replacements.

Photo Mechanic ingest dialogue using variables for creating folders and renaming files

Here’s what my Photo Mechanic ingest screen looks like.

It shows what cards are inserted, and below that I have the Incremental Ingest box checked. This means it will detect if there are photos on the cards that have already been downloaded and only download new ones.

For Source Directory Structure, I have it set to ignore the folder structure on the cards and just copy everything to the destinations and folder structure I have set.

On Copy Photos, I’ve chosen “into folder with name,” and below that I have the folder name set up. If that folder doesn’t exist, it will be created, and if it does exist, it will be detected and photos copied into it. Those squiggly brackets/braces with stuff inside are the variables I mentioned before. I use a file naming and folder structure that always begins with the four digit year, then the two digit month, and two digit date, followed by a dash and the name of the project. These variables will automatically detect the date info and create it based on the metadata of the images.

At the top of the right column is the destination section. This tells Photo Mechanic where I want it to copy the photos, and also gives us an option for a secondary/backup destination. This is where those two G-Tech 1TB Thunderbolt G-Drives come in. I have it automatically download to both drives so I have an instant backup as soon as the download is finished.

Under Filter Files, you can choose to copy both locked and unlocked photos, and RAW and non-RAW photos. If you’re shooting an event and have time to chimp during it and make selects in-camera, you can lock those selects, then tell Photo Mechanic to only copy locked files. And if you’re shooting RAW+JPG, and you know the JPG is good enough to use out of camera, you can choose to only copy those so you can get them posted as quickly as possible. In my case, I didn’t have a ton of time to make selects in camera and was only shooting RAW, so I just copied everything over and made my selects on my laptop.

Photo Mechanic IPTC Stationery Pad for applying metadata to files upon import

Next, you have the option to apply IPTC info to files upon ingest. To do this, you just fill out the IPTC Stationery Pad with all the info you want included, and it’ll copy to the files as they come in. This is another place that utilizes variables to automatically fill in lots of fields for you.

Then there’s the all-important Rename Ingested Photos As box. Again, here I used variables to fill in most of the file name. Here’s the exact text since it cuts off in the screenshot:

{iptcyear4}{iptcmonth0}{iptcday0}_Bonnaroo_{instructions}_{frame4}

Again, the first part is the full date, followed by _Bonnaroo_ and {instructions}. If you’ll remember from the beginning of this post, I used the Canon EOS Utility to input the numbers 1 and 2 into the camera’s instructions IPTC field. This just tells me which camera I shot the photos with and ensures I don’t have any duplicate file names if the four-digit frame number (the final variable shown above) happens to be the same at any time.

Lastly, I opted not to format the cards after ingesting them, but I did choose to unmount them when they were done so I could pull them and pop them back into the cameras. I didn’t format till the end of each day, with maybe one or two exceptions, and the 64GB cards were pretty much big enough for the amount of shooting I did each day.

After ingesting, I would go through the take and mark my selects, usually narrowing it down to 10 or fewer frames from each artist, and only a few from each lifestyle setup. I go through all the images at full-size and mark any that stand out to me with the number 1, which assigns them the color pink. Then I hide all the unmarked shots and go through the marked shots again to narrow it down further with the number 2, which marks them red. Then I hide the pink shots and if I still have more than 10 reds, I’ll go through again and either knock some back down to pink or bump them up to orange with the number 3. Once I’m down to 10 or fewer, we select those and drag them over to Lightroom to import.

I generally only bring over one artist at a time, so in the Lightroom import dialog I’ll add the artist name to the keywords. Once they’re imported, I add them to my Bonnaroo collection, then add the artist name to the Title and Headline, then adjust the caption accordingly. Did you know that if it’s a single artist, like The Weeknd or Lorde, the correct verb is “performs,” but if it’s a band with multiple members, like U2 or Red Hot Chili Peppers, the correct verb is “perform?” This has been “Fun Facts with Brad,” now onto our regularly scheduled programming…

Once that’s all done, we head into the Develop module and make adjustments till the photos look as great as they can. I don’t really have a formula for this to be honest. I basically just move all the sliders back and forth until I’m happy with the outcome. I tend to prefer colors that vibrate well off each other, bright highlights and dark shadows, a decent amount of clarity, and just enough of a vignette to make sure the edges aren’t distracting.

Lightroom Export dialogue box with settings for exporting to Dropbox

And then the final step, exporting! Above is the export preset I set up for myself, which keeps in line with all my preferred file naming standards and sRGB color space. I usually export in sRGB because it’s the color space with the least information. That sounds counterintuitive, but it actually means that the photos will look pretty similar across all devices. If you export in a larger color space, the images may display with odd colors if it’s a display that doesn’t support that larger color space. So sRGB is just a safe bet that my photos will most likely look great no matter where they’re displayed.

Lightroom Export dialogue box with settings for exporting to Dropbox

And this is the export preset I used for Red Bull. They have a slightly different file naming convention, and they requested files in the AdobeRGB (1998) color space, so this conforms to those requests. The only thing I had to do manually was update the start number of the sequence to make sure I didn’t duplicate any file names for them.

You may also notice I had a different presets for each day. Each day had its own folder, so I made these presets so I didn’t have to worry about it once I was on site.

From there, Red Bull would pull images from Dropbox for any social media posts they may have used them for, and then I would upload to their FTP to submit images to the Red Bull Content Pool!

Once I got back home, I downloaded and backed up all the images from the event to my server and backup server. I still have them on my external drives just in case I need them for anything, but I’ll delete them as soon as I need space for another project.

Okay, now that all the nerdy stuff is out of the way, we can move on to Bonnaroo Day 1!

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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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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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Third Day and Friends at Infinite Energy Center

Brad Moore tests out a remote camera during Third Day's sound check at Infinite Energy Center in Atlanta, Georgia
Brad tests out the remote camera during sound check

I recently had the opportunity to cover a sold out arena show for the band Third Day, who gave me full access to do pretty much anything I wanted. Today I want to share some of those shots with you, as well as my experience covering the show. I also recently shot some band portraits for another artist that I’ll share after the concert stuff.

As soon as I got the phone call asking if I was available to come to Atlanta and cover the Third Day show, and being told I would have full access, I knew I wanted to set up a remote camera on stage to capture the view of the band performing with the sold-out audience as well. I set it up during the band’s sound check (as you can see in the test shot above) using two Manfrotto Variable Friction Magic Arm with Super Clamp setups (one to hold the camera and another attached to the rail and arm holding the camera for added security/support).

Canon 5D Mark III with 8-15mm fisheye lens set up as remote camera for Third Day concert at Infinite Energy Center in Atlanta, Georgia
I used a Canon 5D Mark III with 8-15mm fisheye lens as my remote camera

The camera itself is a Canon 5D Mark III with a 8-15mm fisheye lens at 15mm, and I put the biggest memory card I had in it to make sure I didn’t run out of card space during the show as I wouldn’t have access to it to swap out cards. Since this was my first time setting up a remote camera on stage, I just took a guess at the settings and hoped it would work. I went with Spot Metering, Auto ISO with 1/250 as the minimum shutter and 12,800 as the max ISO, and f/5.6 just to be safe on depth of field.

To trigger the camera, there’s a PocketWizard Plus III in the hot shoe and connected to the remote port with the appropriate cable (in this case the CM-N3-ACC), and I had another PocketWizard Plus III in my front shirt pocket that I used to trigger it during the show. I could have put the PocketWizard I had on me on one of the cameras I was carrying if I wanted the on-stage camera to shoot at the same time I was shooting, but I opted not to.

David Carr and Mac Powell of Third Day perform at Infinite Energy Center in Atlanta, Georgia

David Carr and Mac Powell of Third Day perform at Infinite Energy Center in Atlanta, Georgia

Tai Anderson, David Carr, Peter Furler, Mac Powell, and Scotty Wilbanks of Third Day perform at Infinite Energy Center in Atlanta, Georgia

Tai Anderson, David Carr, and Mac Powell of Third Day perform at Infinite Energy Center in Atlanta, Georgia

Sparks fly as Tai Anderson, David Carr, and Mac Powell of Third Day perform at Infinite Energy Center in Atlanta, Georgia
Scenes from behind the drum kit during the sold out Third Day and Friends show at Infinite Energy Center in Atlanta

This allowed me to capture some key moments during the show from a unique perspective, as well as show the size of the crowd. These guys aren’t doing too badly for a band that’s both been around for over 20 years, and it’s still four of the founding members!

It’s always a privilege to shoot soundcheck, so here are a couple of my favorites from that:

Tai Anderson, David Carr, Mac Powell, and Mark Lee of Third Day during soundcheck at Infinite Energy Center in Atlanta, Georgia
Third Day during soundcheck
Mark Lee, Mac Powell, and Tai Anderson of Third Day soundcheck at Infinite Energy Center in Atlanta, Georgia
Third Day during soundcheck

The band invited some friends to join them for the show, including one of my other favorite bands, Needtobreathe, who were also in town for their own shows at The Tabernacle that weekend and stopped by for a couple of songs:

Seth Bolt and Bear Rinehart of Needtobreathe take the stage during the Third Day and Friends concert at Infinite Energy Center in Atlanta, Georgia
Needtobreathe take the stage at the Third Day and Friends concert
Seth Bolt, Bear Rinehart, and Bo Rinehart of Needtobreathe perform during the Third Day and Friends concert at Infinite Energy Center in Atlanta, Georgia
Seth Bolt, Bear Rinehart, and Bo Rinehart of Needtobreathe

And here are a few more of my favorites from the evening:

Mac Powell of Third Day grabs a fan's camera during the Third Day and Friends concert at Infinite Energy Center in Atlanta, Georgia
Mac Powell of Third Day grabs a fan’s camera during the show
The sold out crowd at the Third Day and Friends concert at Infinite Energy Center in Atlanta, Georgia
The sold out crowd at Infinite Energy Center in Atlanta for Third Day and Friends
Mac Powell of Third Day greets fans during the Third Day and Friends concert at Infinite Energy Center in Atlanta, Georgia
Mac Powell of Third Day greets fans during the show
A fan takes a photo of Mac Powell during the Third Day and Friends concert at Infinite Energy Center in Atlanta, Georgia
A fan takes a photo of Third Day
David Carr, Tai Anderson, Mac Powell, and Mark Lee of Third Day during the Third Day and Friends concert at Infinite Energy Center in Atlanta, Georgia
David Carr, Tai Anderson, Mac Powell, and Mark Lee of Third Day
Mark Lee, Mac Powell, and Tai Anderson of Third Day during the Third Day and Friends concert at Infinite Energy Center in Atlanta, Georgia
Mark Lee, Mac Powell, and Tai Anderson of Third Day
Tai Anderson of Third Day during the Third Day and Friends concert at Infinite Energy Center in Atlanta, Georgia
Tai Anderson of Third Day
David Carr of Third Day during the Third Day and Friends concert at Infinite Energy Center in Atlanta, Georgia
David Carr of Third Day
Mark Lee of Third Day during the Third Day and Friends concert at Infinite Energy Center in Atlanta, Georgia
Mark Lee of Third Day

And at the end of the show, I went on stage to get a shot of them facing me with the crowd behind them:

Brian Bunn, Tai Anderson, Mac Powell, David Carr, Scotty Wilbanks, and Mark Lee of Third Day pose with the sold out crowd at Infinite Energy Center in Atlanta at the end of the show
Brian Bunn, Tai Anderson, Mac Powell, David Carr, Scotty Wilbanks, and Mark Lee of Third Day pose with the sold out crowd at Infinite Energy Center in Atlanta at the end of the show

It’s a cool experience being able to shoot for a band that you grew up listening to and can now call friends, so I’m hoping to have the privilege of shooting for these guys more in the future!

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How To Get A Photo Pass for Concerts

“How do I get a photo pass for concerts?” This is the question I get asked most often, and it was a question I myself asked a just few years ago. Once I had the answer, I had a front row seat to just about any concert I wanted to see.

Here is the key… You’ve gotta be shooting for someone. That someone could be a newspaper, magazine, website, the venue, the artist, the promoter, a radio station, an instrument company, and the list goes on. But that’s going to be the first question you get asked when you request a photo pass. Who are you shooting for?

Derek E. Miller and Alexis Krauss of Sleigh Bells
Derek E. Miller and Alexis Krauss of Sleigh Bells perform for a sold-out crowd at State Theatre in St. Petersburg, Florida on April 29, 2011

Start Shooting Concert Photos
Of course, no one is going to let you shoot for them unless you’re a decent photographer. So, if you haven’t shot any concerts before, you’ve gotta start out shooting where you can get easy access. Smaller venues may not have restrictions on cameras like the big venues do. I know of at least two venues where I shoot in the Tampa Bay area that get great shows and, once you’re in the door, they could care less if you have a big camera or how much you shoot.

If you don’t have a venue that fits that description in your town, chances are you have a bar nearby that has local acts or open mic nights. Go check it out for a night or two, then introduce yourself to the acts, and ask if you can take some pictures the next time they play. Chances are they’ll say yes, and you’ve got your foot in the door. Alan Hess, who helped me figure all this concert photography stuff out, told me about a woman in one of his classes who started off by doing exactly this and has since become a local legend. She’s even earned the respect of the local lighting directors, who make sure she has great light when she’s shooting!

Jack Parker of David Crowder Band
Jack Parker of David Crowder Band performs on November 20, 2009 at Countryside Christian Center in Clearwater, Florida

Try Alternative Venues
Another great place to get access is churches that host concerts. Not only is access generally easier to get, you’d be surprised at the lighting setups some churches have these days! The church I was attending when I first started shooting concerts had a decent show come through that I shot. I got some photos I liked, then used those to get access to a bigger show at a bigger church. After that, I was able to get a pass for a huge tour that plays at the biggest venues across the country.

Skillet
Korey Cooper, John Cooper, Jen Ledger, and Seth Morrison of Skillet perform on January 14, 2012 at Tampa Bay Times Forum during Winter Jam in Tampa, Florida

Contact Media
Once you have a decent portfolio built up (say 10-20 of your best photos), find a local media outlet to contact and ask if they could use someone like yourself to cover local concerts. Send them a link to your website [Yes, your website… Not your Facebook or Flickr page] so they can see your work. In my case, I was able to start shooting for a local website that covered the Tampa music scene, and that allowed me access to shoot everyone from artists in small, sweaty clubs to Santana at the biggest outdoor venue in Tampa.

If you can’t find a media outlet to shoot for, things are going to be a bit more difficult for you. But, don’t lose hope yet! Go back up to the list at the beginning of this post and start contacting the other people in it. Just ask yourself, “Who needs pictures of this show?” and start reaching out to them. Eventually you’re going to find someone who says yes. Well, if you’re a good enough photographer, that is…

Olga Yagolnikov Phelan of Kye Kye
Olga Yagolnikov Phelan of Kye Kye performs in Tampa, Florida

Get That Photo Pass
Who exactly do you contact to ask for a photo pass, and how do you find their contact info? Nine times out of ten your best bet is the artist’s publicist or manager. Finding this info can be as simple as going to the artist’s website and finding their contact page, or as difficult as using Google to try and track them down like a private eye. If the info isn’t on their website, my next stop is the About section of their Facebook page. If it’s not there, then I turn to Google and search “(Artist Name) Publicist” or “(Artist Name) Manager” and see what I can find. There are also a handful of publicity and management companies like Nasty Little ManBig HassleSacks & Co., and others that have sizable rosters, so I’ll check those. Still no luck? Try their record label. Also, sometimes a phone call can prove more fruitful than an email.

And sometimes there’s just no tracking these people down. That’s when you put your request in the (in my experience) trustworthy hands of the venue’s PR person. Someone at the venue has to be talking to the artist’s people, right? Figure out who that venue’s person is and get in touch with them. They’re normally used to handling these requests since they have to have a list of approved photographers anyway. Once you figure out who this person is at each venue, it’s good practice to copy them on future requests when you send it to the artist’s publicist/manager so they’re aware of it.

David Crowder Band Fans
Fans show their excitement during David Crowder Band’s show on November 20, 2009 at Countryside Christian Center in Clearwater, Florida

Big Shows vs. Small Shows
Now, the tradeoff of shooting small shows and big shows is this… Smaller shows are easier to get access to, and normally have fewer restrictions on how much you can shoot. They also tend to have subpar lighting setups (not always, but most of the time). And they probably don’t have a photo pit separating the stage from the crowd, so you have to get there early to secure a spot up front and be prepared to stay there all night (make a quick restroom pit stop as soon as you get inside, then plant yourself up front).

As you start working your way up to bigger shows, the bad things about smaller shows become better, and the good things about them become worse. Better lighting and decent photo pits, but it’s more difficult to get photo passes and you’re restricted to the first three songs (or less in some cases). You also may not get to stay for the show unless you have a ticket, so you’re escorted into the photo pit for the allotted shooting time, then escorted out when that time is up.

Hillsong United Sold Out Arena Crowd
Hillsong United perform in support of Aftermath before a sold-out crowd at American Airlines Arena on August 6, 2011 in Miami, Florida

Recap
To recap, here are the three keys to obtaining a concert photo pass:

1. Be a good photographer. Start off by honing your skills at smaller shows and work your way up the chain by shooting slightly larger shows till you’re shooting the biggest shows in town.

2. You have to ask for a pass. Know all the people who hold the keys to the access you want and find out how to get in touch with them. Go through that list until someone says yes.

3. I haven’t actually mentioned this one yet, but it’s just a rule in life that also applies here… Be nice. When you’re dealing with any of these people, be courteous and professional. If they tell you no (which they will sometimes), don’t get grumpy. Thank them and go to the next person on your list. It even applies when you’re shooting. The people you’re standing in front of paid for a ticket to see their favorite band and have been waiting months to be standing where they are. Don’t deprive them of a great show by getting in their way. There have been times where I’ve been shooting in a no photo pit situation and there’s only one person between me and the stage. If I have a big smile and ask them to switch places for just one song, most of the time they’re okay with it. If not, I ask for 30 seconds and they usually say yes to that. So, all of that to say, just don’t be a jerk and people are usually willing to help you out.

Aswan North of Paper Tongues
Aswan North of Paper Tongues performs at the 97x Backyard BBQ at Vinoy Park in St. Petersburg, Florida on May 29, 2010.

Good luck, and happy shooting!

This post first appeared on 500px’s ISO Blog.

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