I spent last weekend photographing Ireland’s leading festival, Electric Picnic. I was there as one of the official festival photographers—I wasn’t just there to get shots of the live music, but of the scene as a whole. I spend three jam-packed days getting shots of stages, festival-goers, art, music, and crowds. We were lucky with the weather and the atmosphere was fantastic.
Festival photography is not my favourite. If the weather’s not with you, you’re signed up for days of slogging through mud, hiking across fields from one stage to another. You have to pack for the worst-case-scenario with warm and waterproof clothes. But Electric Picnic has a great vibe, with hippie enclaves and devoted fans. There were some awesome celebrations of the festival’s tenth birthday as well—fireworks and cakes and general good times.
My job was shooting for PR and marketing purposes. They gave me a lot of flexibility as far as which acts to focus on, and I built my own schedule for the most part. It was fun shooting the “scene” itself, and people were happy to be photographed for the Electric Picnic website and facebook. And it’s really a rush to work with so many different bands so quickly.
Because they were using the photos to publicize the event in real time, I had to edit while the festival was still on. For the two busiest days, Friday and Saturday, I was shooting thousands of photos a day, 8-12 bands a day, at least 150 photos per band, plus crowd shots, atmosphere photos, and specific assignments. This meant time-crunch photo editing each day, which is not my favorite way of doing things. I like to get the whole arch of a show or tour, and then edit the whole batch of photos to maintain a certain feel and mood throughout. But this was editing under pressure, and I had to balance getting a broad range of photos with targeting just what I knew I needed. Having a client like the Electric Picnic PR means you’re shooting under someone else’s steam, and doing the work fast. All that being said, I feel like the deadlines and focus meant I did some good work really, really fast.
One of my favourite shots of the festival was a panoramic shot of the main stage I took from a sound tower, four floors up. I wanted to capture the full festival then—the middle of a show and with the stage lights setting the scene. I shot it free-hand panoramic at low shutter speed to get as much light as possible and capturing the atmosphere.
Good energy is the difference between a good shot and a shit shot. You’ve got to have the attention and stamina after days of long walks, cold nights, bad eating, and way too much stimulation. I certainly shot a fair few duds in the course of the weekend. But I felt great as we were heading out—it was a great weekend with good people who had all had a lot of fun.