Music Monday: Warped Tour

September 3, 2012

Hey look, guys, it’s that thing I shot in July! I’ve had edits from Warped up on the Flickr site for a while now, but finally got around to picking a few favorites to blog. I spent a lot of years at Warped, but this is the first time I’ve ever shot it, and it’s an adventure. I read a ton of advice from other photographers on covering all day, multi-stage festivals, and if you find yourself on an assignment like this, you should too. Running from stage to stage all day, fielding interview and photo requests from publicists, trying not to die of heatstroke, it’s all sort of a zoo. That said, I’d love to do it all again next year.

Yes, getting to watch Antiflag from the side of the stage made 14-year-old-me squeal a little. But backstage isn’t as glamorous as most people think.

There’s not much in the way of a barrier at these shows, except on the main stage. Got to see a lot of interaction with the crowd, which always makes for great photos.

We only got 2 songs for Antiflag. No matter what they tell you, shoot like you might get thrown out any minute.

Mohawk photos, as required by Warped Tour law.

I like to get shots of the crowd as much as the musicians, the atmosphere’s always interesting.

Yes, it’s Billie Joe Armstrong’s kid. Yes, he’s a better drummer than his dad. No, they don’t sound like Green Day.

In case you did Google your way over here looking for tips on shooting, here’s a few.

Sunscreen/Water. This is not advice that you should have to give to adults, but the med tent is just FULL of people suffering from dehydration or heatstroke. See also, eat something.

Get there early. When I showed up, no one had any idea where I was supposed to check in. I asked a total of 9 security guards, hiked the length of whatever they’re calling Starlake Ampitheater these days twice, and wasted an hour. Thankfully, I had time for all of these shenanigans, because I got there early.

Get a map. They have an app for the tour now, which is pretty great. But I’m a dinosaur, and I like my paper and pen. Either way, get a map of the layout, get a schedule, and plan your day. Figure out who you’ve absolutely got to hit, who you’d like to hit, and fill in where needed. I rarely got to hang around and watch a band’s entire set, so I set an alarm on my phone for whenever I had to leave to move on to the next thing. You will almost definitely not get to shoot, or see, every set that you want to.

Have a plan. I shoot almost entirely prime lenses, which I don’t really recommend for this. It’s difficult, it results in a lot of lens switching, and you’re just asking for mounds of sensor dust. But sometimes you shoot with what you have. In my case, I picked three lenses – a 35mm, and 85mm, and an 18mm – and used one per song. As I mentioned earlier, though, you don’t always get three songs. So whatever your most versatile lens is, shoot that one first.

Wear good shoes. I sat down for maybe 10 minutes the whole day. I have a pair of old checkered Vans that you can pry from my cold dead hands, because I could hike 10 miles in those bad boys if I had to. I probably did.

Ear plugs. I picked up a box of Hearos just for this. I have a lot of people tell me that they never wear ear plugs when they go to concerts, so they can’t imagine needing them to shoot one. I don’t generally wear them when I’m attending concerts either, but I’m not usually standing an inch away from an amp stack either.

The more organized and prepared you can be, the less you’ll be bothered by the things that inevitably go wrong.

You can see more music and event photography at mooreclick.com/editorial.

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