I appreciate music as much as the next guy. But I prefer to appreciate it through a nice pair of headphones than going to a concert. I’ve always been that way. I enjoy the studio-perfected sound rather than hearing the drunk girl next to me try to sing along.
Maybe that disdain for live music carried over into my professional life because I’m not a big fan of photographing concerts either. To me, it’s just another assignment that I have to wear earplugs to.
Earlier this year, I had to cover a rock concert at the Rockford Speedway simply called “The Concert.” Regional rock groups performed throughout the day.
Authorized photographers were allowed to shoot from the photo pit in front of the stage for two songs per band. This rule that many bands/publicists require shooters follow is ridiculous. Why wouldn’t they want shooters to stay and get the best stuff possible? Who cares if the musician is sweaty or otherwise less groomed then at the beginning of the set?
Sorry for the rant. Back to the topic at hand. The Concert.
So, as I was saying, shooters were in the pit. An area that is a few feet wide and separates the crowd from the stage. We were sharing the space with security who had to keep crazy fans from getting to the stage or doing some other stupid thing.
As I was shooting, I’d get hit in the back of the head with an empty plastic beet pitcher from time to time. The fans were launching them at the stage. Then I’d get kicked by crowd surfers being pulled down by security.
Oh yea, and it had been raining all day so everything was mud covered.
Needless to say, this experience reminded me of some of the things I hate about concerts.
Flash forward to earlier this month. The big end-of-summer On The Waterfront music festival kicked off in downtown Rockford. I was the one covering it for three out of four days.
In the days following the opening night kick-off concert, the stages were full of mostly local and regional performers, saving the main headliner for the night.
There were four or five stages and only one had a pit for photographers. That meant that fans swarmed right up to the front at the others. I packed a 300mm lens since I couldn’t get close physically.
One night, the main event was country singer Josh Turner. The lighting was nice but he would get so close to the mic when he was singing that it cast a large shadow on his face. I waited till he pulled away from the mic to make most of my images of him.
The big concert for the weekend was also the last – Stone Temple Pilots. The lighting was absolutely crazy. There were huge panels of strobing lights with all sorts of colors filling in the fog from the smoke machines.
I still had the 300mm lens with me so I decided to go for a closeup of STP front man Scott Weiland.
Someone should let him know he has a finger print on his sunglasses lens.
More of my shots from the On The Waterfront festival can be seen on the Rockford Register Star’s website here.
To wrap up this post, let me say that I see a lot of photographers who get excited to shoot the concert because they can say they photographed someone famous rather than to make a decent image. Like I said earlier, I see a concert like any other assignment. I look for the light and composition. More people should try that out. I’m not great at it when it comes to concerts but my coworker, Scott Morgan, does a great job. Check out his concert work.