Maryland Deathfest was one of several large festival-style music events I’ve photographed in the last month and a half or so. I’m late on posting about the others but I’m going to go ahead and do it, as I’m very happy with some of the shots I got from these. Shooting at festivals is always fun not just because of the variety of bands, but also because I really enjoy taking pictures of festival-goers, who (especially at something like MDF) often make for really, really interesting people-watching.
In late April I took a gazillion photos at the Earth Day Climate Rally that took place on DC’s National Mall. This full-day event was a weird cross between a political rally and a music festival, with a massive array of speakers interspersed between brief sets of music (3-5 songs per artist). Of the speakers, I particularly enjoyed Jesse Jackson Sr. and Rep. Ed Markey, and was bummed to have gotten there too late to hear what new AFL-CIO president Rich Trumka had to say.
There was a rudimentary media tent set up – just a couple tables and chairs, no food or drink or anything like that – where various VIPs came and did interviews and photo ops. I found these photo ops bizarre and awkward. Though I’ve never shot a red carpet event, I suppose this was similar – random VIP arrives, poses for dozens of photographers in front of a cheesy pre-fab background, continues on his/her merry way. So strange. I actually preferred to wait and take photos while the VIPs were doing their interviews instead of awkwardly posing. Here’s TV personality Maria Menounos:
Taking photos of people speaking at podiums is not a recipe for stunning art. That said, here’s my favorite such photo of the day, of the aforementioned Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.):
Oh, and there was music to be photographed, of course! This actually turned out to be a bit of a challenge. There was a nice, ample photo pit, but we were only allowed in there for two songs per performance. This wouldn’t have been a big deal, except the way the performances were structured, new performers would come out with every song. So for instance, three songs into a set, someone like Bob Weir or Joss Stone would wander onto the stage and play a song or two. So for probably about half of the big names on the performance roster, the photogs never actually got a proper chance to shoot.
The presence of a large media platform set back maybe 100 feet from the stage and raised up high was a mitigating factor. With a 300mm lens on a crop body I got some OK shots of performers I wasn’t able to shoot from the pit. But I realized that I had a better chance to get good stuff outside the pit by simply shooting from ground level in the crowd with the 300mm. A clumsy proposition at best, but the Joss Stone photo below (for example) was taken that way, and I’m perfectly happy with that shot.
So anyway, here are some pictures. First up, salsa legend Willie Colón:
Indie-rockers Passion Pit:
The Roots (who played their own set in the middle of the day and then performed as the backing band for every single performer after them):
Robert Randolph; this is another shoot-from-the-crowd shot:
And finally, Mr. Headliner Man, Sting:
I also spent some time sniping away at rally attendees using a long lens. There were a bunch of people with N’avi facepaint, and there was this strong Avatar vibe running through the whole event, thanks to the presence of the film’s director, James Cameron. I have to say, I find this Avatar fanboyism pretty inexplicable. I finally saw the film a few weeks ago and thought it was terrible. But I digress!
And finally, a view of part of the crowd, looking back from the media platform. There were a lot of people there.
Check out my full photoset here!