So you’re standing backstage at an all day music festival with a bucket full of Nikon speedlights, a brother who happens to be one of the premier music photographers in the world and a few hours to kill – what would you do?
If you answered correctly, you’d shoot the hell out of whatever band was in front of you and lather, rinse and repeat until you find yourself slumped over your plate of shoestring cheese fries in a suburban Steak ‘n’ Shake at 1:00am.
With the exception of TAT, who we photographed on two occasions that afternoon, we averaged roughly 6 minutes of shooting time per band. Setup time ranged from just 3 minutes to about 10. Shocked? Horrified? It was insane but after all, it was Warped Tour.
When you’re in the challenging situation of having back to back shoots scheduled hours on end either you get very good at setting everything up or you end up pissing everyone off and going home with a lot of people who think you’re unprofessional and no photos.
For anyone who wonders whether the Nikon CLS system has enough power for daylight use, here is the answer – most of these photos were taken under the full intensity of the afternoon sun.
As many as 7 nikon speedlights were used for each portrait. In general, at least one Nikon SB-600 was placed behind the subject with one SB-900 on either side of the subject. An additional SB-900 was fired into a small softbox (for more examples see my portraits of The Energy and Todd’s portraits of Dragonforce) that was boomed overhead. Additional SB-600 units were added to the existing setup if more power was needed. All of these speedlights were configured as remote flashes.
The output of the each group of remote lights was controlled by an on-camera SB-900 in Command mode. The ability to change the output of three groups of remotes without running around to adjust each light made the shooting process extremely efficient.
Alana’s photos were taken in a shaded area just outside the press room. For this specific shot, a silver reflector was used to for fill, held low and camera right, just out of frame. The Nikon 70-200mm lens was zoomed to 160mm and stopped down to f/3.5, which gave the photo a pleasing background blur (bokeh) while maintaining a high level of detail at the point of focus.
Big D and The Kids Table
With a total of 9 band members, Big D and The Kids Table was one of the most difficult portraits to pose. Taken after dusk, almost all of the light in this photo is courtesy of the remotes. The background would have been completely black if not for the slow shutter speed of 1/20 at ISO200. I liked how the flare from rear lights added accent to the edge of the frame.
As you might infer from their name, everyone from Big D and The Kids Table is incredibly nice in person.
Even though we only had a few minutes with them, the guys from Conditions were great to work with. My favorite thing about this photograph is the how “Hollywood set” the tool shed looks. Earlier in the day we were kicked out of this very area because one of the venue staff couldn’t imagine “why anyone would want that shed in the background.” She went on to suggest we take all of our photos inside where there were “plenty of nice [blank] walls.”
Escape the Fate
I was eager to shoot Escape the Fate as they were one of the very first bands I ever photographed live. Since my photos of that show were nothing short of horrible, I was glad to have another crack at them.
Forever The Sickest Kids
When I discovered a discarded floor-standing sign frame in a pile of junk, I knew there was only one band capable of doing it justice. After shooting a few “normal” photos of FTSK, I threw this in front of them and they knew exactly what do it. Todd got in close on this one with the Nikon 14-24mm stopped down to f/13.
Don’t let this understated group shot fool you. Despite a long day of rocking out, the guys from Single File cut loose for their individual portraits (I’ll be posting individuals from nearly all of the bands).
TAT takes this year’s award for Band Most Fun To Shoot at Warped Tour. Whoever said that brits are known for their dry sense of humor clearly never met Tatiana, Nick or Jake. Despite dislocating her knee cap during the band’s live set and being bitten by Pouyan Afkary of Scary Kids Scaring Kids, Tatiana brought humor and poise to every frame we shot. If that weren’t enough, Nick and Jake took turns outdoing one another with facial gags and rock attitude.
This photo, shot between a pair of tour buses, came from the second of two sessions with the band. A group of three SB-600s were ganged up behind the band with a diffused SB-900 for key light overhead.
TAT and Scary Kids Scaring Kids
You don’t have see the group hugs or the wagon circle of tour buses to know that Warped Tour is like a gigantic traveling family. TAT dropped by our session with Pouyan and Tyson of Scary Kids Scaring Kids and we had to get a shot of everyone together.
One of the most amazing things about the Nikon 14-24mm is how sharp it is across the entire frame – not something one associates with a zoom lens let alone an ultra wide. It allows the photographer to get right in on the action without worrying about image quality on the wide end. This shot was taken at 14mm, just inches from the band and it’s tack sharp all the way out to the sides.
If I can remember correctly seven different speedlights were used for this photo.
There For Tomorrow
There For Tomorrow was one of the first bands we photographed. The guys kept their cool despite the fact that Todd and I put them inside a smelly recycling container that had been cooking in the 90 degree heat for hours. “Don’t lean up against the walls guys, they’re sticky.”
Our shoot with TV/TV tested the limits of the Nikon CLS system. Shot in full sun, the speedlights had plenty of reasons to fail (overheating + infrared interference) but they didn’t. Although the background of the unedited shot could have come down a stop, it wasn’t anything a 5 second pass with the burn tool couldn’t fix.
What are the chances that a ska band with seven members will all show up on time? Better yet, what are the chances that all of them remember to bring their glasses? Westbound Train, it must have been fate.
We The Kings
We The Kings was definitely the fastest shoot of the day. Two minutes to set up, two minutes to shoot. Thanks for squeezing us in guys.
Behind The Scenes
At the end of a 14-hour work day, there are a lot of thank yous to be given. Thank you to all of the bands for coming out in the heat, playing your asses off and then pulling it together for awesome photo shoots. Thank you to whoever in the catering staff decided to put those wafer-thin slices of lemon into the fried shrimp poboy sandwiches – absolute genius my friend.
Finally enormous thank yous to Todd and Bethany – without your numerous talents and steadfast friendship, none of these photos would have been possible. You will be paid in full with boom-holding and ice cream when the time comes.