Q: Do you bring a few bodies?
A: Just one, but it's kind of scary, because you never know what’s going to happen. My 5D is starting to show signs of wear. During a recent shoot, the mirror came off and lodged itself in the viewfinder. I pulled it out, but every time I’d take another picture it would fly off again. I super-glued it back in place, and it’s been working well. But I don’t advocate super-gluing your camera together unless it’s absolutely necessary.
Q: How do you keep the pictures interesting?
A: That’s very hard, particularly with live concert photography— it’s difficult to differentiate yourself. We’re all using the same equipment and standing in basically the same place. But if you’re lucky enough to get onstage, you can shoot through things, try interesting angles, and try to do something other than shooting straight up at the performer.
A lot of it is anticipating the moment, which takes experience and a bit of luck. There have been plenty I’ve missed, but then there are the ones I capture, like a shot of a guy from Taking Back Sunday, who throws his microphone into the air. I watched him three nights in a row and knew exactly when he was going to do it. The third night, I finally got it—the microphone is perfectly sharp and just inside the top of the frame. If you see a band a few times and learn how they perform, you can anticipate those things.
Q: How do you compose?
A: I’m not even aware of it anymore, and often I don’t even look through the viewfinder, especially with a wide lens. I’ll just hold the camera up over my head—I have a decent idea of what I’m getting.
For the shot seen here, I wasn’t looking through the camera—the only way to get close was to hold the camera near his face and shoot three or four frames. It also works well to put it really close to the guitar, or shoot from down low. It’s fun, because you don’t actually know what you’re going to get. You can’t do that with longer lenses, though.
Q: What’s the trick to great audience shots?
A: Most people don’t mind when you point a camera at them—you just have to be bold enough to do it. I shoot some on-the-fly stuff, but I’m often very confrontational. When you’re in front of a crowd of fans, they usually want to have their picture taken and give you great expressions. I really like to photograph the fans, particularly in big, outdoor music festivals.
Metalheads, like at the Mayhem Festival, are a lot of fun and all ages—they tend to have a lot of bad tattoos and sunburns. I was initially kind of intimidated by photographing these people— a guy who has a tattoo on his face and looks like he just got out of prison—but they’re great. The Warped Tour teens, though, all have brand-new, nice tattoos.
Q: Can you do this forever?
A: I’m living my life like I’m 30, and I can still pull it off. I’ve got tattoos and I don’t dress like a businessman. One of these days I might be that old guy who’s still photographing the bands, and I’d like to have a certain amount of respect so people don’t judge me by my age. But if you love it, then really that’s all that matters. If you like the music, keep doing it as along as you can.