After Midnight Project

After Midnight Project photographed backstage at Warped Tour, 2009

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.

As luck would have it, Todd Owyoung and I did just that at the Saint Louis stop on Warped Tour, 2009.

Shooting Conditions

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.

Lighting Info

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 Grace
Alana Grace

Alana Grace photographed backstage at Warped Tour, 2009

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
Big D and The Kids Table

Big D and The Kids Table photographed backstage at Warped Tour, 2009

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.


Conditions photographed backstage at Warped Tour, 2009

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
Escape The Fate

Escape The Fate photographed backstage at Warped Tour, 2009

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
Forever The Sickest Kids

Forever The Sickest Kids photographed backstage at Warped Tour, 2009

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.

Single File
Single File

Single File photographed backstage at Warped Tour, 2009

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 photographed backstage at Warped Tour, 2009

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
TAT and Scary Kids Scaring Kids

TAT with Scary Kids Scaring Kids photographed backstage at Warped Tour, 2009

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

There For Tomorrow photographed backstage at Warped Tour, 2009

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.”


TV/TV photographed backstage at Warped Tour, 2009

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.

Westbound Train
Westbound Train

Westbound Train photographed backstage at Warped Tour, 2009

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

We The Kings photographed backstage at Warped Tour, 2009

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
Setups - Warped Tour '09

Band Photography with Nikon CLS Speedlight System

Setups - Warped Tour Portrait

Todd Owyoung tests the lighting rig before the photo shoot with Westbound Train

Setups - Warped Tour Portrait

Chris Owyoung makes final adjustments before Todd Owyoung's photo shoot with TAT

Thank You

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.

Stay Tuned

Be sure to check Todd’s website of concert photography for his take on the day.  Also check out the highlights from the Vans Warped Tour 2009 individual portraits.

  1. Band portraits and extensive shooting notes. @toddowyoung and @chrisowyoung rock Warped Tour ’09 —

  2. Chris Owyoung

    Band portraits and extensive shooting notes. @toddowyoung and @chrisowyoung rock Warped Tour ’09 —

  3. UPDATES – I've added behind-the-scenes photos to my Warped Tour Portrait post and added more notes. —

  4. Thanks for going the extra mile and posting the behind the scenes shots. You guys definitely had your work cut our for you!

    Are those Nikon SD-8A battery packs I see in the photos? Been thinking about picking up a couple myself.

  5. what can I say, the Browyoungs came , saw and conquered Warp!

  6. RT @chrisowyoung Band portraits and extensive shooting notes. @toddowyoung and @chrisowyoung rock Warped Tour ’09 —

  7. RT @chrisowyoung Music Photography – Band Portraits from Warped Tour, 2009. | The Best Music Photography in the World…

  8. Cool photos. Wish I had more time for promos, but wanted to get my mix of live stuff in, too.

    You know, one thing that never even occurred to me.. natural light. I should have done that with Alana, but instead went full blown ABs. The 70-200 + fill was a very, very wise choice… I need to remember the ambient!

  9. I'll be posting some of the individual portraits @toddowyoung and I shot at Warped Tour today. Group shots are here —

  10. God those are great Portraits! Wonderful work guys. I really like how you altered the locatiuon after with all the shots. Really makes the pics unique and gives them their own look.

    When using the 14-24 at f13 didn’t that require a lot of flashoutput or have the flashes been that close, that you did not have to think about recycling times that much?

  11. Great portraits Chris, I am beyond impressed…

  12. RT @chrisowyoung: I’ll be posting the individual portraits @toddowyoung and I shot at Warped Tour today. Group shots –

  13. Your brother ‘one of the world’s best concert photographers’?

    I would question that, and my reason is that virtually all the shots I have seen are far too bright (from both of you), and lack atmosphere. They also look somewhat synthetic/unnatural. You both catch some nice live show moments but there’s something important missing – they look sanitised, possibly over-processed.

    Just my view as a concert photographer


  14. That comment depresses me, and I’m already in a funk. Instead of nitpicking chosen words and and phrases, how about a critique of what they could do better in your eyes?

    Better yet – if Todd isn’t one of the best, then who do you consider to be among the top, I would most certainly be interested in seeing their photos – one can never get too much inspiration.

    But I still gotta go with Chris on this one… Todd’s photos are the most atmospheric and best shots I’ve seen in years. I don’t know how you can beat his sets such as Metallica, No Doubt, and Aerosmith. They’re pretty atmospheric to me, and from what I’ve seen on the net, photos rarely compare.

    Just my 2 cents.

    Also, I don’t know how one really over-processes photos. Maybe they just nailed the proper exposure, and upon output & flickr, get sharpened. One can’t really help that, though.

  15. RT @chrisowyoung Music Photography – Band Portraits from Warped Tour, 2009. | The Best Music Photo..