I am pretty pleased with what I managed to get out of two days at Maryland Deathfest back in May. I saw and shot 32 bands (!!!), enjoyed most of them, tripped my shutter probably 4,000 times, ultimately posted 400+ keepers, got a few published in Decibel (see below), took advantage of awesome access to get some relatively unorthodox shots, and escaped it all without so much as a mild headache.
In looking through my favorite shots, it occurs to me than many of them are a bit non-standard. When one shoots 32 bands in a row, the usual live band shots start feeling pretty cookie-cutter and boring. Thankfully, the extremely liberal MDF rules for photographers allowed for a lot of experimentation: flash or no flash; photo pit or stage perspectives; a multitude of opportunities for great fan shots; etc. I tried to make sure I bagged a few “normal” shots of each band, but if I was feeling up for it, I spent some time looking for different things as well.
Sometimes, different things just happened, and it was easy, like the headline photo where Sigh’s Dr. Mikannibal spat fire at the audience to close out the festival. I stupidly didn’t realize what she was about to do even though I’ve seen videos of her doing it at previous shows, so I stayed in place right in front of her instead of moving to get a profile view. Oh well: a side view would have been more illustrative, but the head-on view is arguably more dramatic.
I’m not quite sure I got the hang of shooting from the stage or the side of the stage, especially without flash - balancing the exposure was tricky, especially indoors. But I got some neat things like the above. Outdoors, it was a bit easier, especially at the time of day when the fading sunlight on the crowd was roughly balanced with the lighting on the stage. Then, I could get some wonderful shots like this one, which was one of the ones to appear in Decibel:
That one was taken with a rented 10.5/2.8 fisheye, which brings me to the gear question. For the most part I used my D300 with fisheye attached alongside my D700 with rented 24-70/2.8 (amazing lens, by the way, and likely my next acquisition once I make enough money to pay for it). I got occasional use out of my 80-200/2.8 on both bodies, depending on my needs. On the inside stage I sometimes pulled out the SB-800 flash, and I actually wish I used it a bit more. Inside, when shooting available light I was generally at ISO 6400 on the D700, and I think I could have gotten some more consistently good stuff with more use of flash. Still, it’s way too easy for flash concert photos to all start looking the same after a while, so I’m not all that torn up about it.
Anyway, I won’t even try recapping my highlights here. For that, check this Flickr photoset, or if you’re really brave, go look at the full Saturday and Sunday sets - over 400 shots between them.
Below, my tearsheets from the August issue of Decibel.