Shooting my first music festival

July 28, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

As a music lover all my life I've shot pictures at various concerts over the years but I've always been in the position of having to smuggle cameras in to photograph a gig purely for my own pleasure.  This week was different though - I was delighted to be shooting a music festival as the official photographer and what a fabulous experience it was!!  I have four main passions/hobbies - photography, flying, music and watching great movies. 


A conversation with Ben, the landlord of my local - the Rising Sun Pub led to the opportunity to shoot their annual music festival 'Millfest' which has been building a large audience over the past five or so years.  Last year over 2000 people attended this superb event and enjoyed music by several great bands but Ben was determined this year's event would be even bigger and better.

I had some T shirts and polo shirts printed up with my logo just in time and am really glad I did because if you're pushing past people at a concert or even just photographing them, having some official clothing on certainly avoids people getting annoyed when you point a camera at them...

I knew that because the concert went on deep into the night that I would need very fast lenses indeed to cope with the low light levels.  I already have an excellent Tamron 70-200mm F2.8 but decided to purchase a Tamron 17-50mm F2.8 for this gig as well to give me a very fast and ultra-sharp standard zoom (I normally use a pentax 17-70mm USM DA at F4.0).  Benjamin Kanarek the top-line fashion photographer who shoots covers for Tatler, Vogue and Conde Nast uses the very same Tamron lens so I knew it would be superb and he's very much an idol of mine because of his stunning work.  I can only say how glad I was during the night that I bought one!! 

Events started around 4pm, it was boiling hot and a sizeable audience was building, you could feel the sense of anticipation in the air.  All of the artists were provided by the Alex and Phil management company and they had provided a stunning line-up culminating in Alex Katsi and his band International Naughty Boy.  In the event we got something even better when members of some of the other bands playing earlier in the day joined them on stage and supplemented their line-up!!  I had been asked by the organisers to get plenty of candid pictures of people attending so I spent quite a lot of time while the light was good doing just that - it was as pilots say a 'target rich environment'!  There were lots of attractive people in funky clothing having a great time and that's always a good start!  I also captured some great pictures of the earlier artists on stage before the venue became too crowded - it was a great buzz to be shooting while hearing superb live music.  In a way it was just like flying airliners - it was so enjoyable it didn't feel like work! I also elected to shoot some panoramic pictures of the event by shooting blocks of three or four pictures which could later be joined to produce a 180 degree panorama of the festival and these worked very well. 


As the darkness fell and light faded the concert built to a crescendo as International Naughty Boy and Brando took the stage.  It always amazes me how a great band can really take the energy at a concert to another level and that's exactly what happened.  The crowd were going wild, the band were on fire and I reflected that this is what it must have been like if you'd seen Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street band in the 1970's when they were young and hungry for success.  I kept shooting throughout the whole nine hours of the festival and by the end of the night had over 1300 shots on the camera.  At one point I decided to try and shoot from behind the band on stage and their security and sound engineer let me on and I achieved another lifetime ambition - to be on stage in the middle of a rip-roaring set with a rock band in full flow!!  What a great band and what a great bunch of guys!!   While watching International Naughty Boy I was struck by their lead singer Alex Katsi who has a similar stage presence to Freddie Mercury - the same kind of way of holding himself erect like a Greek God, the same panther like grace about the stage - I feel I captured some of that essence.

Like Springsteen and the E-Street band in 75...

Festival in full flow

To say I'm thrilled with the results is an understatement - I think there are some great images here!  I was pushing the Pentax right to its limits, shooting wide open on my very fastest lenses, pushing the ISO sensitivity right up at one point as high as 6400 and all the time battling with shutter speeds which were dangerously near the redline where camera-shake is an ever-present danger.  That extra stop to F2.8 though made all the difference and meant I could carry on shooting where lesser camera-lens combinations would have rendered blur.   I'm really pleased with the resulting pictures of an awesome band in full flow and best of all I think they capture the interplay between musicians on stage, their energy, style and emotion.  I'm also genuinely thrilled to have found a new genre that combines my love of music with photography and I would definitely love to do a lot more concert and band-related work as part of my photography.  So if you're a band member, manager or promoter get in touch!!

Here's some more pictures from Millfest 2014 enjoy and let me know what you think on my guestbook.

Till next time...  Jonathan




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