Electric Daisy Carnival Mexico, Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez, Mexico City
Time / Date:
20:07 / march 16, 2014
Camera Body: Sony α99
Lens: Vario-Sonnar T* 24-70mm SSM f/2.8 ZA
Shutter Speed: 1/100
Focal Length: 24mm
There’s a special vibe about EDM shows and festivals, when sometimes the audience matters more than the DJs playing. In my five years as a music photographer, I’m mostly used to shoot rock bands (with a bit of pop and even grupero and regional mexican music!), so going to the first Mexican edition of the Electric Daisy Carnival was a good challenge. I’ve already been to a few EDM shows but this was so much bigger: four stages across one end of the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, a racetrack that’s also used for music festivals, all playing music constantly for more than 12 hours each day, and unlike your regular rock festival, breaks between acts are just under three minutes, so it’s music non stop all day long. Almost all of the time, this kind of shows are just a DJ behind a table doing his thing, something that could seem unattractive to some, but with good stage decoration and lighting it can make up for something interesting. It’s all fun until you are told that there is no pit access, so now you have to get creative. How do I shoot Avicii when there are more than 50,000 fans in front of the stage? Sneak your way into the audience to get a clear shot of the artists, and blend in to capture the vibe and the emotions of the fans. This festival is one huge party, and you have to make sure you get that shot, the one that makes those that didn’t go jealous for missing out on a great festival.
When you work two days straight at the same festival and it seems that nothing has changed at all you can get a creative block on your second day of work, the stages look exactly the same, the DJs are an unrecognizable face seen from afar and even the fans look the same, and that’s one of the worst things that can happen, because you still need photos. Something like this happened to me. I tried to make one photo and I instantly thought “I have one exactly like this from yesterday”. Not the best scenario. Luckily, for a change, this time I wanted to see more acts on two of the smaller stages rather than spending time on the main stage. Yes, the famous owl that guards the DJ booth of EDC’s main stage sure looks great, but I needed to show another aspect of the festival.
For festivals I try to pack as little as possible. My main camera, a backup body and three lenses work just great, although it doesn’t sounds “as little as possible” now that you think of it. This time I brought a 24-70mm, 70-200mm and a 16mm fisheye, this one seems to be mandatory for EDM shows. I also brought a monopod in order to get some aerial shots to show how many people are there and with it I also hunt for fans’ reactions. These are photos that you need in this kind of festivals. Also, if you get a total access pass, you need that fisheye shot from behind the DJ with his hands up and the crowd going mental. We’ve seen quite a few of those but it never gets old.
Making the Shot:
I had to beat that creative block that was getting the best of me on my second day of EDC, so I tried to get a shot in which you could barely see who was playing, instead I wanted to see fans with their hands up, and some standing on the shoulders of others, a common scene which I felt I hadn’t shown yet. That’s when the monopod came in handy, but how could I do it if I didn’t have a remote trigger with me? I started setting a 2 second timer and doing a lot of trial and error shots with poor results. Guess the shutter speed and focus, move the tiltable display in order to compose your shot while holding a heavy camera 2 meters above you, press the shutter, quickly raise the monopod as fast and high as you can and hope for the best, but I wasn’t satisfied with the results because the timer ended when there was not enough light to see the fans or the photo was overexposed. It was getting darker so that didn’t help either. One bad shot after another I was beginning to think I wouldn’t get the photo I wanted so I stopped for a while and saw that there was a pattern in the lights queued up to a song that I had heard at least 5 times before so I could predict when would be a good time to get that shot, and with those previous failed attempts I could get a better guess on what shutter speed I needed. I also decided that the fisheye wasn’t the best lens because the fans reactions got lost in the wide angle composition so I needed something closer to them. I used the 24-70mm, a couple more attempts and I finally got something I was happy with. I felt it wasn’t THE great photo I wanted but it was something and I already had to go to another stage.
Editing & Processing:
As a fan, once the concert ends you go home and get some sleep. As a concert photographer, when the show’s over, that’s when the fun starts, right? Not quite this time. I was so tired that once I got home I quickly skimmed through my photos in order to pick the 30 I needed to send to the editor. I could have gotten some sleep and work early Monday morning but I preferred to have everything ready so they could publish the review and photos as soon as possible. So there I was glancing through the photos while importing them on Lightroom, selecting some candidates for post processing when I got to that group of failed images, thinking “I should have done this, or that, but it’s too late now”, until I got to this photo and I didn’t even believe that was mine. I made some quick adjustments as I try no to alter an image that much. I prefer to keep them as close as they were shot as possible and this photo didn’t needed much treatment, but that’s when I finally though “I have it”.
After I ended editing my 30 photos I kept looking at this picture and thought “maybe I can send this to The image Story”, but like an old cartoon, there was another voice saying “how can you send something you just shot?”, I thought I needed an image with some kind of history or something, one that with time you learn to love more, or maybe one when you could clearly see a famous musician rocking out, jumping or what not. I thought that in the end, this is a different photo from the thousands I already have. Yes, it’s good to see Matthew Bellamy striking a pose, or Trent Reznor singing his guts out, but this was a photo that summed up two days of work in a new festival for me and that perfectly shows what the EDC is for the fans.
Patience. Sometimes shooting shows is something that is done in less than 15 minutes and you need to be fast, but there are times in which you have time to plan your photo. Try to think what you need instead of shooting hit-or-misses, that way you can get the image you want at the moment and save you from checking hundreds of photos later on while editing.
I have found that all music genres have something interesting to capture in photos, even if it’s not your favorite kind of music. I think that even forces you to achieve greater images, to think what do you have to do to make something you don’t like look awesome. Music is such an amazing form of art and I am grateful for being able to translate it into images. In the end, there’s nothing better than seeing fans reacting to your photos. It could have been the best show of their lives and making them live it again through your shots is priceless and worth every second of sleep I missed.
About the Photographer
Diego Figueroa is a music photographer from Mexico City. He started shooting bands just for fun in August 2009, a few months later he got to shoot NOFX for an independent website called Everything Live and in less than a year he was part of the official photography team for Vive Latino’s website, one of the largest music festivals in Mexico. Since then, he has worked with the best music magazines and websites including Rolling Stone Mexico, Indie Rocks!, HYPERLINK “http://sopitas.com”sopitas.com and more.
He’d also like to be a travel photographer, or even better, travel with one of his favorite bands on an international tour.
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