HOW TO SURVIVE A MUSIC FESTIVAL WITH YOUR CAMERA
“Should I take my camera to a music festival?” Great question; glad you asked. The answer, unequivocally, is “yes!”. Music festivals are amazing! Not just the bands, either, although a few decent snaps of a headliner can turn heads and provide a little wow factor.
No, most of the best pictures from music festivals are of the incredibly diverse crowds they attract. Painted faces, wild accessories, people lost in the music – a festival might not have streets, per se, but as places for street photography they excel.
Here’s how to get the best from festival photography – and how to make sure you and your camera make it out in one piece.
1. Don’t be scared
Will your camera survive a music festival? Almost certainly. In the event you get the classic festival experience – two months’ worth of rain in 90 minutes, say – keep it under wraps until the worst has passed, but virtually all cameras will survive a bit of drizzle. Bear in mind that some cameras will go better than others in this regard – the OLYMPUS OM-D E-M1 MKII has over 60 body-mounted gaskets designed to keep water and dust out, and so provides better environmental protection. Remember that a camera stops being weather sealed if you attach a non-weather sealed lens to the front of it!
2. Power ups
These days, festivals are less off-the-grid than ever before. Impromptu 3G telephone masts, potato-powered charging stations, we’ve seen them all. However, charging a measly phone battery with a solar panel takes ages, and mobile camera chargers require an awful lot of juice, so it’s unwise to bank on being able to charge your camera from when you arrive at the festival to when you drag yourself and your sodden tent away three days later.
Allow us to recommend at least one spare battery, if not a battery grip. The beauty of a battery grip is that you can load two batteries at once, and the camera will automatically switch from one to the other when the first is exhausted.
The result; fewer missed shots and, if the weather’s not too hot, no need to open your camera to fiddle with batteries. You should also shoot with the biggest memory card you can get – that way you won’t waste battery power reviewing and deleting images to free up space.
3. It’s not all about the music…
Ironically, some of the best photographs at a music festival are not of the headline acts. Think about the challenges – finding a good spot, using a long enough, bright enough lens, not ending up behind a gigantic flag – there’s a reason press photographers get their own pit at the front of the stage. Instead, think about the less obvious pictures – dozing festival-goers on the grass in the five seconds of sun we get in August, or interesting looking vendors selling everything from artisanal beer to organic smoothies. Think deely-boppers, outrageous makeup, and those little moments of human interaction that make British music festivals great.
4. …and it’s not all about kit…
…but having the right stuff with you doesn’t hurt. During the day, a fast lens with a big maximum aperture will create atmospheric shots with plenty of interesting-looking bokeh once the sun goes down – often when the action gets really interesting – you’ll need every f-stop you can get your hands on, so lenses such as OLYMPUS’ M.ZUIKO Digital ED 12‑40mm 1:2.8 PRO are an absolute go-to for us. Big crowds will also reward wide-angle lenses such as the M.ZUIKO Digital ED 7‑14mm 1:2.8 PRO. Those serious about performance shots should give serious thoughts to the big guns, such as the sensational M.ZUIKO Digital ED 40‑150mm 1:2.8 PRO.
Successful festival? Faced the music? Avoided getting stuck in the mud? If you’ve managed festival shots to be proud of, we want to see them! Head to our Flickr group, or tag us with #OlympusUK on Instagram to show the world what you’ve got.