It was not until I showed up at Golden Gate Park on Aug. 11 at 10 a.m. and walked the length of the Outside Lands Music Festival grounds that I fully grasped the scope of the fest that I was attending for the first time, and the wide distances I would have to cross many times over. Over the next three days I got brief glimpses of some amazing shows and great ambience, and I would walk many miles, the distance quickly accumulating.
As I realized the long weekend ahead of me, I familiarized myself with the distances between stages and the times it took to traverse them. Did you know it is a bit over half a mile between the Lands End and Twin Peaks stages? Before gates open, it’s about a 10 to 15 minutes. Then you add the thousands of people in your way, the hills, the high traffic intersections, dust, the smaller stages that require stops along the way—blame my editor!—and nearly 20 pounds of camera gear. After shooting for 10 hours each day, while you were going to a party or resting up for the next day, I had four more hours of editing photos ahead of me. RIFF prides itself of operating like a newspaper. For me, that means having my photos ready to go by 6:30 the next morning.
Repeat for the next two days. The fact that I am just now writing about this, a week later, gives you some idea of the recovery time needed!
My main job was to document what happened onstage . My team had a carefully constructed schedule; who would be at what stage, at any given time. And for the most part, I and editors Roman Gokhman and Daniel Willis were able to stick to that.
Once a band hits the stage, my camera settings have to be on-point in seconds. I put my earplugs in and don’t listen to the music. I zone out and concentrate on getting the best out of the people on stage. My finished work is a reflection of the artists’ performance. Their very best is my very best.
Here are my favorite performances based on how attractive they were to my lenses.
The interaction between SchoolBoy Q and Action Bronson (who performed at different times and on different stages) and their fans caught my attention. I learned that a daytime performance with simple lighting, a turntable and two mics is enough to bring the house down.
British band Alt-J performed with a very unique production and lighting. The three band members were separated by walls of thin vertical LED lightposts and a back LED wall. Although shooting it was challenging because of the quick changes in light brightness, I still managed to obtain one of my favorite shots of the weekend.
Australian duo Empire of the Sun is well known for its magical stage perfomance. But it’s one thing to watch them online and a something completely different to photograph them from the photo pit. Although the Twin Peaks stage was the most annoying stage for us photographers because it’s so high. I’m taller than most, but even. I had a problem seeing over the lip. Still, this electronic duo knows how to put up a great show. They use highly detailed alien-like costumes, futuristic guitars (including one that was completely see-through) and music equipment that was entertaining to photograph.
To tell you the truth, I had to YouTube Above & Beyond to learn about the act. After watching a live set, I knew I had to shoot the trio. The English group knows how to interact with its fans in the most European way: By putting an incredible amount of lights on stage and shoot them all at the crowd. The fans certainly enjoyed their performance.
Cage the Elephant was the most exciting band for me to shoot the whole weekend at Outside Lands. I went from having no expectations to having the busiest first three songs of the entire weekend.
It was surprising and unexpected to me that lead singer Matt Shultz, and guitarists Brad Shultz and Nick Bockrath would interact so much with the crowd.
Brad Shultz jumped into the crowd jamming for the first two songs; Matt Shultz would entertain the front part of the stage (on this night it was Metallica’s snake pit walkway), while Bockrath would stay mostly back, but still was dynamically interacting with the other musicians on stage. There I was, trying to shoot the lead singer ahead of me, one guitarist right next to me (literally), and another right behind me. It was tough, but it was great. Their energy made it easy for me to get the best shots of the weekend. That energy can be seen through my photographs and that’s what I always will be looking at from a performer.
If you haven’t yet caught up on all of our coverage, including many more of my photos, as well live videos and stories from the rest of my team, don’t miss out!
- Outside Lands 2017 storified
- Frenship keeps the boat afloat after “Capsize”
- Goldroom brings West of the West to Lands End
- Eric Rachmany of reggae rockers Rebelution reflects on SF homecoming, new music
- Electric Guest hits the reset button
- James Vincent McMorrow brimming with confidence on True Care
- Outside Lands musicians on the ultimate festival experience
Until next year, you can catch me in the photo pit.