A PopPhoto.com editor photographs a legendary rocker on a grand stage
I recently began shooting concerts for Sound + Vision, a magazine also published by Bonnier Corporation, the publisher of Popular Photography. Last Friday, I was asked to make my way out to the Bronx to capture Paul McCartney's landmark performance to a packed Yankee stadium and I eagerly accepted. Having studied traditional newspaper photojournalism in college, shooting concerts is nothing new to me. And while I have shot many large concerts and festivals in the past, I have never shot in anything as insanely enormous and intimidating as Yankee Stadium.
The key to successful images at any concert, big or small, is preparation. Things can go wrong that you may never expect. In fact, it's not out of the question that you show up to the venue with all your gear only to find out that there was a problem with your press pass and you don't even make it inside. Luckily, that wasn't the case on Friday. Before leaving for the show, Sound + Vision editor-in-chief Mike Mettler took some time to brief me on the layout of the concert. Paul McCarntey would be playing on a stage set up in center field, with about 50 rows of floor seats directly in front of him. The photo pit was set up right around second base behind all of the expensive seats. Having shot plenty of baseball games in the past, I knew second base to centerfield was going to be a pretty long distance, so I packed the new Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 EX DG IF HSM APO, a monopod and a Nikon D3s body with more than enough memory cards for the three songs I would be allocated to shoot (more on that later). Also, for good measure, I packed my trusty Nikon D300, an older Nikon 35-70mm f/2.8 lens, and a Nikon 24mm f/2.8 D lens (just in case were allowed to shoot from closer).
Upon arrival in the Bronx, I made my way to the press gate, tossed my two bags of gear into an airport-security-looking X-ray machine and made my way to the press desk. After some nervous waiting around for the photographers list to arrive, I was cleared to shoot and given a cotton stick-on photo badge. I took this time to look at what the other photographers were doing, which is always a good idea, especially if you are at a venue that is new to you. I noticed that the AP, Getty, New York Times and Reuters photographers were all getting their gear set up as we waited to be escorted out to the field -- I had planned on setting up my gear upon arriving down where we would be shooting, but instead followed suit.
We were suppose to be escorted out to the field at 7:30pm, and Paul was set to come on around 8:00pm. As my watched ticked past 7:58pm and we were still standing around in the press room, I began to get nervous. "What if someone screwed up and we miss our chance?" However, it is that sort of nervous mentality that will often lead to unnecessary stress, and a bad shooting experience. And with large events such as this, delays are definitely not uncommon. The important thing is to remain calm, and go with the flow. Eventually we were marched onto the field.