Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Shooting a Music Festival as a Press Photographer - 2019 Neon Desert El Paso, Texas

Pictured above, Mark Lambie of the El Paso Times uploads his photos and reports from the media tent at the 2019 Neon Desert Music Festival

The Neon Desert Music Festival is one of the largest annual events in the El Paso area and is not to be missed for music lovers. The festival has drawn marquee performers for the past 9 years and is set in a unique urban location, right smack dab in the middle of downtown El Paso. Covering the festival as a press photographer is exciting and fast-paced, and let's just say, you have to know what you're doing.

I had originally intended to cover the event and submit an article to a local military news publication, but they didn't show too much interest so I shifted to covering the experience of the photojournalists. 

If you've shot concerts and/or music festivals before, then you'll know that there are frequently rules and guidelines that you'll be asked to follow. Some artists even have their own rules and even written agreements that you might have to sign before shooting. One example of how crazy some of the stipulations can be is from Janet Jackson's 2015 Tour. In her contract for photographers it is deemed that they can only shoot for the first 30 seconds of each song and that those photos are property of her production company. The photos may only be used for one news article and they can only be used for portfolios or other uses with written approval! 

As for the 2019 Neon Desert Music Festival, the rules were reasonable and easy to comply with:

- Access to the photo pit for photo pass holders, media passes do not allow access to the photo pit.
- Photography allowed during the first three songs only. No flash and no video allowed.
- Festival team reserves the right to escort you from the pit and remove your credential.
- No drones.
- No photography near first aid tents, medics, police and other emergency personnel.

Compared to the demands of artists like Janet Jackson's concert photography rules, the Neon Desert's rules are quite welcome and from what I saw, every single photographer complied and none complained. Three songs is more than enough time to get the shots you need and get out of the way. 

The process for requesting a press or photo pass is pretty straight forward. The Neon Desert Music Festival web site featured an online request form but the final decision for issuing passes lies with the Public Relations Director. Photographers and photojournalists on assignment fom legitimate news outlets can usually expect to receive passes. The Festival also has their own in-house photography and video team. A strong social media presence is also desirable, after all, the festival organizers are looking to maximize their exposure.

Wear a comfortable pair of walking shoes and be ready to sweat, a lot. There were four, nicely spread out concert stages at the 2019 Neon Desert Music Festival. Three large feature stages and one small stage for local bands. I don't know the total number of miles I walked over the weekend shuffling back and forth between the stages, but it was quite a good work out. Temperatures were in the low 90's, staying hydrated was a must. Thankfully, the festival provided free water and snacks at the press tent. This was a god send. So, thanks for that nice touch Trey!

The photographers pit is obviously, one of the best vantage points from which to capture concert photos. There seems to be a solid camaraderie amongst the photographers in the pit and there's a cordial swapping of prime positions close to the stage so that everyone gets a chance to shoot from the different areas in front of the stage. But I don't think it's the best policy to shoot exclusively from the photographers pit. You definitely need to consider moving around the outskirts of the crowd, perhaps even mixing it up within the crowd. 

All in all it was a great experience and I am already looking forward to covering next years event. Music festival photography is tiring and challenging, much more so in a hot locale such as El Paso, Texas, but the payoff is worth it, you can get some great shots from the photographers pit, resulting in eye-catching images that will impress the editors at your respective news outlets, not to mention the readers.

Thanks for checking out my photos, scroll down to see a preview of my photos of the musicians and performers.

Mark Lambie of the El Paso Times leads a group of photographers into the pit for the first performance of day 1.

Spotted a Sony AX53 4K Handycam on stage.

This looks to be a Sony FS5.

That's a Canon RP mirrorless on that gimbal.

Photojournalists upload their images to their respective news outlets.

(Right) Ace Acosta.

Frequent Hey, Don't Shoot contributor David Davis.

Media tent.

Sony A7II with Canon 70-200mm lens.

David Davis

Sony A6400 video rig with Rode Mic and Sony G 18-105mm lens.

In-house media photographer peers over the fence for a shot.

Patrick Craig lines up a shot with his Leica Q-P.

David Davis and Adal Rivas

Videographer Chris Espinoza, shooting video with his A7RII with a Canon 70-200mm lens.

Leica Q-P in the hand of Patrick Craig.

David Davis in the pit.

The photography pack leaving the photo pit after three songs, a sort of walk of shame if you will. JK.

A Leica Q-P for concert photography? Yes! This one belongs to local photographer Patrick Craig. Check out his festival photos and the rest of his collection on Instagram.

David Davis shooting Tyga

Greg Noire

Above: talented local photographer Adal Rivas, won a photography contest to earn his photo pass!

David Davis

In House Photographer, name?

Adal Rivas

David Davis

A Leica Q for concert photography? Patrick Craig says yes!

David Davis

Patrick Craig shooting with my Leica M240

This is where it all starts.

David Davis shooting fellow photographers Mark Lambie and Tim Schumann

Professional photographer David Davis shoots a photo of Kickpin sneaker shopphenoms, 
Drew and Jaime Frank

From here on down you'll see a few of my photos of the Neon Desert Music Festival. Visit my blog to see the complete gallery FelixGPhoto.BlogSpot.com