On this date, in the year 2015, a very special someone came into my life - my camera.
I've been a music lover for as long as I can remember, and would occasionally document my constant concert-going with my cellphone or point-and-shoot. However, one year ago, I decided to take advantage of my Canon employee discount and make a proper foray into the world of concert photography.
Since then, my camera and I have chronicled many musical adventures. To be exact:
421 different sets
390 unique artists
142 rockin' shows
58 music venues
6 beautiful cities
It's worth noting that prior to December 8th, 2015, the last time I operated a DSLR camera was for a Grade 10 art class... during which I came embarrassingly close to failing the photography unit. For real.
Here are 15 of my most memorable, interesting, and favourite captures, in chronological order.
The Mod Club | Toronto | December 15, 2015
This was the second gig I ever shot. While waiting for the show to start, I scrolled through concert photography articles, as I was relying on internet wisdom to choose my camera settings. To be frank, the only reason my editor entrusted JoJo’s sold out comeback performance to me was because the original shooter backed out last minute. This show helped convince my editor – and myself – that I had potential.
2. John Legend
SXSW AXE Collective Showcase | The Belmont | Austin | March 17, 2016
Fast forward a few months, and this newbie found herself as a member of the SXSW Photography Crew! Over the course of this ten day festival, Austin is saturated with ‘the-next-big-things’ in music, film, technology, and overall culture, resulting in photo ops galore! My camera was slung around my neck for every waking hour of the festival, which was an absolutely exhausting, but incredibly valuable, learning experience.
One of my biggest takeaways from SXSW was how to edit photos in Adobe Lightroom. The practice, and technical skills I developed were invaluable… but most importantly to me, I was able to accomplish one of my bucket list items – attending SXSW – in a pretty cool way!
This particular photo was captured on the 7th day of the festival. A very tired Kat decided to wander into a random venue, and ended up photographing none other than John Legend from the front row.
3. Killswitch Engage
SXSW Roadrunner Records Showcase | Empire Garage | Austin | March 17. 2016
The first, and only, metal show that I’ve ever covered. The blessing/curse of being an official SXSW photographer is that you’re assigned specific events each night. This can be great, as it forces you out of your comfort zone and comfort genre. Though I’ve attended a small handful of metal shows in the past, photographing them is an entirely different experience… especially when there’s no photo pit. During the duration of the performance, I was shoved around, kicked in the head, and even backflipped onto!
I love this photo because it captures the energy and aggression of both the frontman, and the audience itself. Considering how this energy and aggression almost broke my camera, my self, and my sanity, it’s definitely deserving of a mention.
Bowery Ballroom | New York | May 23, 2016
Bernhoft is a Norwegian R&B/Soul/Rock performer, and one of my all-time favourite artists. I found out that my weekend jaunt to NYC coincided with his performance at the iconic Bowery Ballroom.
On a whim, I decided to shoot Bernhoft a message asking if I could photograph his performance… and to my surprise and delight, he responded and granted me media access! I can't seem to locate my hi-res version of the file, so in the meantime you can enjoy this low-res version... and use it as a point of reference to appreciate the image quality of the other photos ;)
Bestival Toronto | Woodbine Beach | Toronto | June 12, 2015
Bestival Toronto was my first major outdoor festival, also my first time shooting from a photo pit. This capture of Grimes was reposted by the artist herself… to the tune of 33k likes. Pretty cool!
6. Father John Misty
NXNE | Toronto | June 18, 2016
NXNE 2011 was the first music festival I ever attended, so having the opportunity to photograph it was a pretty surreal experience. Father John Misty has a penchant for theatrics, and I love how this image captures his melodramatic persona. This was my first time playing with black and white post-production – out of necessity due to poor lighting rather than by choice – and I’m really happy with how this edit turned out!
WayHome Music & Arts Festival | Burl’s Creek Fairground | Oro-Medonte | July 23, 2016
WayHome is the biggest outdoor festival that I’ve covered, and Foals is one of the best bands I’ve had the privilege to photograph. Whereas most artists allow media to photograph them for the first three songs of their set (aka while their makeup is still intact), Foals gives media access for the last three songs in their set – during which they go absolutely apeshit.
8. Billy Talent
102.1 The Edge Secret Thing | Horseshoe Tavern | Toronto | July 28, 2016
The lineup of ‘The Edge Secret Thing’ is, well, a secret. Listeners gain access to the show by winning on-air radio contests… and some fortunate photographers get access through media. Though I’m not too familiar with the latest offerings on their discography, Billy Talent’s first two albums are a staple in the soundtrack of my teenagehood. Getting up close to some of musical heroes was pretty cool. Taking their photos was even cooler.
Mad Decent Block Party | Fort York | Toronto | August 19, 2016
When it comes to concert photography, EDM is a tricky beast. As I outlined in my original Mad Decent Block Party post, DJs can be difficult to capture because:
1) They are constant standing behind a table, meaning your shots will be obstructed
2) Their tables are sometimes on a raised platform, causing a less than ideal angle
3) Their arsenal of poses often seems limited to:
- the fistpump
- the outstretched arm
- the two armed fist pump
- the outstretched arms
- the stare down at table in concentration
- the stand on table
- the scream
- the outstretched mic
- a combination of the above
However, there’s just something about that smiling anthropomorphized marshmallowy face that makes you want to smile right back.
10. Bamboo Manalac
The Opera House | Toronto | September 11, 2016
Filipino rock musician, Bamboo, chose Toronto as a stop in his world tour. The crowd went absolutely wild for Bamboo’s performance: shrieks littered the sonic space, and outstretched hands reached toward him whenever he came near. Photographing a musician from my country of origin was very special to me, and I love how this picture embodies the international community that music helps create.
11. James Bay
Toronto Urban Roots Festival | Fort York | Toronto | September 16, 2016
James Bay has mastered the art of the photogenic hat angle. This is a simple capture, but I feel that it captures the emotional intensity of Bay’s performances.
Danforth Music Hall | Toronto | October 5. 2016
Bastille is one of the biggest bands I’ve photographed to this date. On their most recent tour, they revisited the first venues they originally performed at in each city. Photographing the band in a smaller venue was a treat for me both as a photographer, and a fan of their latest album.
13. Sam Roberts
The CASBYs | The Phoenix | Toronto | October 20, 2016
I love the angle of this capture... especially because I was very close to falling backward shortly after this was taken. It’s nice knowing that my photographic acrobatics were used for a good cause.
14. Machine Gun Kelly
The Phoenix | Toronto | November 24, 2016
I knew absolutely nothing about Machine Gun Kelly going into this show. My editor was looking for a last minute photographer to cover the show, so I decided to help him out. And I’m so happy that I did.
Though rap isn’t usually my genre of preference, I’ve found rap artists to be unbelievably fun to photograph due to the boundless energy with which they often perform. Machine Gun Kelly was by far, the most fun performer I’ve had the privilege to photograph, with an array of absolutely photogenic movements and lighting that were at times a challenge to capture, but so so so much fun.
15. The Chainsmokers
iHeartRadio Jingle Ball | Air Canada Centre | Toronto | November 25, 2016
One of my last shows of 2016 also comprised many of my firsts –
My first time shooting the Air Canada Centre
My first time shooting a stadium show
My first time shooting from soundboard
My first time shooting with a monopod
My first time shooting with a 400mm lens
Shooting from soundboard is an interesting experience – you’re limited to a single angle, and it can be difficult to focus on the subject when it’s so far away! Regardless, I’m glad I was able to cross off an item on my photography bucket list. In the past, I’ve had terrible luck when it comes to timing jumps, so I also love how I captured him midair in this image.
Here’s hoping this image is indicative of a 2016 filled with well-timed jump photos, access to more stadium shows, and even more photography ‘firsts’!