Posts Tagged ‘Merriweather Post Pavilion’

Virgin Mobile FreeFest: the fans

Friday, October 19th, 2012

Virgin Mobile FreeFest 2012

One of my favorite things about outdoor festivals is the opportunity to take lots of crowd shots. People having fun and going nuts for their favorite performers generally makes it pretty easy to take interesting photos, especially at a fest like this where there’s inevitably (in the memorable words of my editor at the City Paper) lots of peacocking going on.

Before diving in with a few of my favorite shots (the full fan gallery is here, or you can sift through my Flickr set), a note on the above headline photo. This was the first time I really felt like I was pushing my new Nikon D4. There was no foreground light aside from the light from the hula hoop; I shot at ISO 25600 and even then was only getting 1/80 (just fast enough to freeze the action enough) at f/2.8. The blue trees in the background – lit by the stage effects – was a nice bonus for this shot. I spent probably 10 minutes shooting these hula dancers, who were crazy good, and got some really cool photos.

Alongside the hoopers, most of the peacocking was happening in the dance forest:

Virgin Mobile FreeFest 2012

Virgin Mobile FreeFest 2012

Virgin Mobile FreeFest 2012

Virgin Mobile FreeFest 2012

Virgin Mobile FreeFest 2012

Virgin Mobile FreeFest 2012

Just a few more favorites, outside the dance forest:

Virgin Mobile FreeFest 2012

Virgin Mobile FreeFest 2012

Virgin Mobile FreeFest 2012

Virgin Mobile FreeFest 2012

Virgin Mobile FreeFest 2012

End of a long day:

Virgin Mobile FreeFest 2012

For more, see the full gallery at the City Paper, or my Flickr set with all the fan and music photos combined into one huge photoset.

Virgin Mobile FreeFest: the bands

Friday, October 19th, 2012

The Dismemberment Plan @ Virgin Mobile FreeFest 2012

In 2009, as the country struggled through the aftermath of the 2008 economic crash, the two-day Virgin Festival became a one-day FreeFest. Richard Branson and co brought big-name acts to Merriweather Post Pavilion and gave away free tickets to 50,000 people. The tradition has, remarkably, continued, and 2012’s incarnation of FreeFest felt quite a bit like 2009, albeit with a bit less gimmickry (that year featured skydivers and Branson handing out free beers with Flava Flav of Public Enemy).

There were some challenges shooting here. The fest had three stages as usual: the “pavilion stage” (Merriweather’s main stage), the “West stage,” and the dance forest. The lighting at the pavilion stage generally sucked and the pit was tiny, making it impossible to move around for the later acts. The West stage had a nice huge pit but the stage was extremely high, probably five and a half feet, and featured a big extension in center that, bizarrely, almost none of the performers used. So, wide-angle shots at this stage were generally fruitless. Finally, the dance forest also featured a very high stage, and all of the DJs stood behind a table, and we weren’t allowed onstage to shoot. For all these reasons, I’m only moderately happy with my band shots, and actually am much more excited about the crowd shots I got (some favorites of which I’ll slap up in a separate post).

Here are a few of the decent performance shots I did get, in chronological order. Local favorite The Dismemberment Plan is highlighted above.

Justin Jones (well, his drummer):

Justin Jones @ Virgin Mobile FreeFest 2012

Future Islands, by far the photographic highlight:

Future Islands @ Virgin Mobile FreeFest 2012

Portgual. the Man:

Portugal. The Man @ Virgin Mobile FreeFest 2012

Trampled By Turtles:

Trampled By Turtles @ Virgin Mobile FreeFest 2012

The Dismemberment Plan again:

The Dismemberment Plan @ Virgin Mobile FreeFest 2012


Nervo @ Virgin Mobile FreeFest 2012


Santigold @ Virgin Mobile FreeFest 2012


Nas @ Virgin Mobile FreeFest 2012

ZZ Top:

ZZ Top @ Virgin Mobile FreeFest 2012


M83 @ Virgin Mobile FreeFest 2012

Skrillex, for whom we had to shoot from FOH without any raised platform:

Skrillex @ Virgin Mobile FreeFest 2012

For more photos, check out the article at the Washington City Paper. It’s a huge and unwieldy slideshow combining my photos with those of fellow WCP photog Erica Bruce, so here are direct links to each individual artist:

Pavilion Stage:
Jack White (Erica’s photos only)
ZZ Top
Alabama Shakes
Trampled By Turtles
Allen Stone
Justin Jones
West Stage:
The Dismemberment Plan
Portugal. the Man
Future Islands
Dance Forest:
Above & Beyond
Thomas Gold
Alvin Risk
Volta Bureau

Finally, here’s a link to my full photo set on Flickr, which includes some band photos not included in the City Paper slideshow.

Long weekend

Monday, August 31st, 2009

Richard Branson @ Virgin Mobile FreeFest

Yesterday I covered Virgin Mobile FreeFest, which was fun even if much of the lineup wasn’t really anything I was interested in. Public Enemy made up for all lineup deficiencies anyway; they were awesome. I’m knee-deep in photos and will have 200+ up by tomorrow or Wednesday. An initial cut ran at Black Plastic Bag today.

There were lots of silly publicity stunts at this thing, including Sir Richard Branson, Flavor Flav of Public Enemy and Tom DeLonge of Blink-182 handing out free beers sometime in the middle of the day. Plus Branson hanging out with DC mayor Adrian Fenty, skydivers dropping out of a helicopter to land on the pavilion roof, etc etc. For a free event there sure were a hell of a lot of bells and whistles.

In addition to FreeFest and the Flaming Lips show I posted about earlier, I also shot a couple rounds of the Chesapeake Open, the area’s biggest Ultimate tournament featuring top teams from all over the country, helping out official photog Kevin Leclaire. I culled 200 of my best shots and sent them to Kevin for cropping and any other post-processing. I normally like to have complete control of my workflow from start to finished, and don’t really like showing people unfinished products, but the prospect of editing those 200 photos in addition to everything else I had to do this weekend was incredibly unappetizing. So I guess I’ll see those photos tonight when Kevin is done with them.

Finally, I hit up a studio workshop in Rockville, which was interesting enough that I’ll post separately about it later.

The Flaming Lips FTW

Sunday, August 30th, 2009

The Flaming Lips 08

Before The Flaming Lips started their set at Merriweather Post Pavilion last Friday, frontman Wayne Coyne came onstage, introduced himself to the folks standing in the front row center, and warned them that he was about to roll over their heads in a plastic bubble.

This probably came as no surprise to many of those in attendance – the Lips are not known for varying their live show all that much, and they’ve been doing this schtick for a while now. Still, it’s hard to describe the sheer madness and visual energy of a Flaming Lips show to anyone who hasn’t experienced it firsthand. As a photographer, these guys make me very happy indeed. There’s the aforementioned plastic-bubble-crowdsurfing, but then there’s also the oversized balloons, the confetti, the smoke, the random fans chosen to be onstage dancing in ridiculous outfits, the monstrous gorilla, and more… all in the first three songs. You’d have to be a pretty awful concert photographer not to get some amazing images from this show.

The Flaming Lips 23

I came equipped with my new (used) Nikon 14-24/2.8 ultrawide, which I’m offsetting by selling my 17-55/2.8 and 12-24/4. Boy did this thing come in handy, as above. I spent the entire set with it mounted on my D700, using the 24-70/2.8 on my D300. That combination actually worked pretty well. Most of my successful shots were really wide, so the D700 saw the most use.

Following are just a few of many highlights. Check out the full set, there’s lots there.

The Flaming Lips 05

The Flaming Lips 14

The Flaming Lips 20

The Flaming Lips 29

The Flaming Lips 11

Incidentally, a legitimate argument can be made that while the Flaming Lips are damn near impossible to top visually, Explosions in the Sky actually stole the show musically. I was afraid that an outdoor pavilion would totally destroy the ambience and feel of their songs, but they met the challenge head-on and in fact delivered a set that absolutely crushed the one I saw them do at the 9:30 Club a couple years ago. Bravo.

Explosions in the Sky 3

Recent concert shenanigans

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

Andrew Bird 16

Last night I banged out some quality shots at the Decemberists and Andrew Bird sets at Merriweather Post Pavilion. The lighting was glorious. Decent amounts of white frontlighting and a beautifully colorful backdrop, all bright enough to get shutter speeds well over 1/160 at f/2.8, ISO 1600. Big venue and big stage, so I did the dual-body thing, with my D300 and 17-55/2.8 alongside my D700 and 80-200/2.8. Interestingly, the nature of the two bands meant that I used these two cameras in opposite amounts for each set. For Andrew Bird’s expressive but relatively compact stage presence, I liked framing tight on Bird himself (above is an extreme example), and used my D700 about twice as much as the D300. For the Decemberists, the epic lighting and grandiose rock-star flailing compelled me to go wide (as below), using the D300 twice as much as the D700. I found it interesting that I shifted compositional styles to fit the performances without even consciously thinking about it.

The Decemberists 25

A Merriweather staff member told me I could shoot three songs of each band, and when I asked if I could continue shooting from outside the pit after three, he said yes, “just don’t get in people’s way.” That was sweet. Except the rest of the staff didn’t get the same memo. I was questioned repeatedly, and although invoking the staffer I’d originally spoken with held off the first three security team members from kicking me out, eventually (after I’d gotten a couple shots of Shara Worden doing her thing) I left on my own volition to join my friends on the lawn. It remains unclear to me what the actual “correct” policy was.

Here’s the full Decemberists/Andrew Bird set.

Opeth 4

On the other hand, when I shot Opeth (above) and Enslaved at the 9:30 Club a couple weeks ago, the “correct” policy was very clear – and was not followed. I was supposed to get two songs for each band, which was reasonable because both these bands play quite long songs (especially Opeth). Unfortunately, the length of Opeth’s songs got the 9:30 Club security confused, or at least one of them, who told me after the first song, “Heir Apparent,” that my two songs were up and I had to exit the pit. There wasn’t really anything I could do but insist he was wrong but leave anyway. Bummer. I got some decent stuff during that one song, but would really have loved another because I was getting a lot of silhouettes and the frontlight ramped up during the second song. At least Enslaved was fun to shoot and the show itself was solid. And I just can’t get enough of these metal show crowd shots:


Here’s the full set.