I think that it is safe to assume that every photographer has someone that they absolutely would love to have the opportunity to photograph, "a dream subject" if you will. For me, that dream subject was my favorite musician, Adam Young. For over six years now, his music has entranced me in its various forms, from the upbeat oceanic-vibed Owl City to the lush nostalgic tones of Sky Sailing to his recent project entitled "Adam Young Scores" in which he creates a score (like a film score) to a historical event (two of my favorite things in one project: history and music). Most people generally know him as his "Owl City" moniker, however, and last October I had the chance to shoot his Nashville show during his On The Verge Tour.
It was a dream come true. I was nervous of whether or not I would even get a photopass, especially since this was my first time shooting a show under my business (my first show was LIGHTS, but I shot that before starting my photo business), but to my great excitement his management team (who is lovely, by the way) was kind enough to entrust me with a photopass. It was like a golden ticket, a small treasure of sorts. I was beyond elated.
I was also a bit nervous. Since this was my first professional concert shoot and since I was required to deliver the final photos to his management, I felt that they had to be perfect. Plus, since it was a dream to shoot his show, I wanted them to be perfect for me as well. There was a bit of pressure, but I was determined to take the best shots possible.
The long-awaited day finally arrived and I was ready. I had been having a very arduous week and had an even more arduous week ahead of me (I had mid-terms and was still working on my research proposal for Chile which as I am sure you can tell thankfully turned out well). I was stressed to say the least. But, I was determined to go into this thing and underneath the nerves and the stress, I was terribly excited.
I was able to go into the barrier to shoot, which for those of you who do not know, the barrier is basically a photographer's best friend. You don't have to worry about people's cell phones or arms getting in the way, and you are free to move around the stage (depending on how many people are shooting with you). My dear friend and concert shooting buddy Jerod Smith was shooting the show as well, so that made it even better. After the opening act performed her set and the OC team had finished their setup, we were allowed to re-enter the barrier and anticipation began. I prepared my camera and readied myself. Concert photography is an adventure and an effort: you have a short period of time to get the best shots possible. You have to be quick; shooting has to be automatic and you don't have a lot of time to process or decide, you just do it. You go with your gut and flow with the motions of the show, moving with the artist and quickly adapting yourself to whatever light (or lack thereof) you are being bathed in. Stimuli are high: the music is loud, there is lots of movement, various flushes of colors that dance and engulf your entire vision, people singing or yelling behind you. It takes the ultimate focus to truly hone in on the task before you.
This is all to say that I was so focused on my camera that I began very spooked when the band finally came on stage. The speakers were louder than I had imagined and the vibrations from them seemed to slam into me full force. Since my nerves were already shot due to exhaustion and stress, this was too much for me. I began to shake vigorously and felt my breath leaving me (not an unsimilar feeling to what happened during my snorkeling spooks), but no more than two feet in front of me was Adam Young himself in all his lovely splendor, and I knew I had to get myself together. I ignored my nerves and tuned everything and everyone out except him. It felt like it was just the two of us, I was so focused. Everything unimportant, the screaming fans, the pulses from the speakers, the extra personnel, all of it was tuned out and ignored. I hardly even noticed which songs he was playing. It was only my camera and Adam Young.
I also tried to divide my attention between the other background musicians as well, so I would change my focus to them and shoot them for a little while. I followed the lighting and predicted movements, shooting quickly and deliberately.
Those 15 minutes in the barrier flew by. Eventually my time was up and I returned to my spot with my friends, but stored away on my camera were my shots. It was like I was holding something that contained precious materials. These were important, these were my payment for the pass. I kept my camera close and the moments stored on it closer.
The rest of the concert went by and I smiled and breathed in the moments as old favorites of mine were played. My nerves were still shot and I was still shaking, but I allowed myself to enjoy the moment despite the over stimulation around me. You learn to turn things off when you are an introvert or a person who has difficulty in highly-stimulated environments. I learned this well in Chile. I was typically never alone, which for an introvert is detrimental. I had to learn not to focus everyone else's energy and block it to stay sane. I had to create a "bubble" so to speak. It was the same at this concert. But as I heard songs like "The Yacht Club," I was able to further ignore my nerves and enjoy the moment.
Before I knew it, the concert was over. But for a photographer, a concert isn't really over after the band steps off stage. You still have to edit and post your images, so you constantly relive the moments as you sift through all the shots and edit them. An aspect of concert photography that most people don't think about or realize is that the majority of the time, the artist never gets to see your shots. As much as it pains us, with concert photography and bands/musicians who are constantly being drowned in photos, it is very easy to miss the professional shots that we photographers worked so diligently to create.
But sometimes, we get lucky.
A tweet asking for images to be sent to the official Owl City Twitter caught my attention and I immediately tweeted out a shot from the show, crossing my fingers that it would be seen. To my incredible excitement, he did see it and even favorited the tweet. This is more than I could have ever wanted. I was beyond excited, and it made everything so worth it.
This show was nearly a year ago. I can hardly believe it. Sometimes I still see my shots floating around on Instagram and Tumblr, and I am often honored and humbled by the response to them. I've even seen art inspired by my shots (I was out of my mind)! You never realize how far something you create will go, and it's truly an exciting experience. I hope to have a similar one sometime in the future.
Here's to more concert-shooting adventures.