Uddevalla Solid Sound 2014 was the first real music festival I have covered as a concert photographer. It also marked the start of my collaboration with Decibell Media, a small image agency focusing on providing high quality concert images to anyone who wants to buy them. In total, I shot 18 of the 22 concerts that took place during Uddevalla Solid Sound 2014. All within 35 very intensive hours at the Riverside meadow in Uddevalla, Sweden. So, after a lot of hard work, here they are. My images and thoughts, in chronological order, from my first ever experience shooting a music festival. Almost 2500 words and 117 images make up for my largest blog post to date. Enjoy!
It’s not an easy task being the opening act on a festival like Uddevalla Solid Sound. It’s the middle of the afternoon on a Friday. In Uddevalla. There is practically no one there to listen. I always feel a bit uncomfortable photographing bands when it feels like there are more photographers than fans present in front of the stage. Cavern People did alright. Apart from a boring background and a little lack of expression I guess the images are fairly decent. However, I think I would have preferred to photograph this band on a smaller and more intimate stage.
The Naima Train
Microphone stands are a concert photographer’s worst enemy. It’s hard enough trying to deal with one microphone stand between the lens and the subject so when Maria Nyström, or The Naima Train, decided to hide behind two microphone stands on stage she made things even more challenging. As a result, the number of angles that offered decent images was lower than normal and it was much more difficult to find variation. In these situations it’s hard to choose whether to prioritize a lower number of more aesthetically pleasing images or a higher number of varied images that include more distracting elements in them. So far I have always prioritized the aesthetics but maybe, in the future, it’s time to try something else for a change.
If microphone stands are a concert photographer’s worst enemy then a great backdrop is his best friend. Unfortunately, there were not a lot of acts that offered great backdrops during Uddevalla Solid Sound 2014. One exception, however, was Syster Sol. Her backdrop compensated for the fact that the concert started almost 20 minutes late as it took forever and a day for her band to perform their soundcheck. Since the background is one of the most important elements in a photograph, having a nice backdrop to work with makes a concert photographer’s life much easier. And my life did actually feel quite easy during Syster Sol’s performance at Uddevalla Solid Sound 2014…
Linda Pira, Stor & Salazar Brothers
Two people walking back and forth on stage waving their arms and trying to cover their faces with microphones. That pretty much sums up the performance by Linda Pira, Stor & Salazar Brothers at Uddevalla Solid Sound. This is not really my kind of music and it’s definitely not the most inspiring act to photograph. There’s just not enough visual stimulation or variation provided. The fact that there was more than one artist on stage to focus on and that the lighting was decent saved the delivery of images from this concert. But only just…
When I shot Hoffmaestro at Gothenburg Culture Festival 2014 (images available here) I had absolutely no idea of what to expect. The experience from that concert meant that I was much better prepared for their show at Uddevalla Solid Sound. The chaos that started the moment they entered the stage didn’t come as quite a big surprise this time around. I did manage to capture a couple of great moments when Jens Malmlöf, the frontman of Hoffmaestro, used the PA system as an extension of the stage to get even closer to his fans but, apart from that, the main challenge was sorting out what to focus on in the middle of all the typical Hoffmaestro chaos.
The main goal of a hip hop artist seems to be to hide as much of his or her face as possible behind the microphone. Movits! may not be a straight up hip hop act but the “hide-your-face-with-a-microphone” goal seemed to apply anyway. Their performance at Uddevalla Solid Sound was far from the most memorable of the festival. Both from a musical and a photographical perspective. It’s never a good feeling when I walk away from a concert shoot thinking that I’m definitely going to need some luck in order to get something out of this. I got that exact feeling when I walked away from Movits! performance but maybe a got a little lucky after all…
Timbuktu was probably the act I was looking forward to photographing the most before the festival started. I really enjoyed shooting his concert at Liseberg back in May (images available here) and I was glad to get the opportunity to do it again. The show itself was very similar to the one at Liseberg, even if the lighting conditions differed a lot. Just like Hoffmaestro, Timbuktu often used the PA system as an extension of the stage which, if you timed your position in the pit correctly, offered great photo opportunities. In the end, I walked away with a couple of nice photographs of one of the hottest acts of Sweden’s festival summer.
A lot of experts considered Angel Haze to be the biggest and most exciting act of Uddevalla Solid Sound 2014. However, looking at the rather small crowd in front of the stage it didn’t seem like the people who actually visited the festival agreed. As usual, I didn’t know much about Angel Haze beforehand but I was quite impressed with what I heard and I have actually started listening to her music after her performance. In terms of photographing the show I had to be a little more creative than usual as the lighting conditions and her movements on stage were quite difficult to master. I think I managed to come up with a couple of decent images and maybe it’s because they differ from what I usually create that I like them quite a lot.
This was the second time ever I tried to shoot some kind of a DJ act, the first time being Nause at Gothenburg Culture Festival 2014 (images available here). Adrian Lux‘s show was even more difficult to photograph compared to Nause’s. Even though I am a fairly tall guy I couldn’t see Adrian at all when I was standing in the photo pit. I therefore focused on getting some crowd shots before I left the pit early to capture some images from a distance instead. When I felt I had a couple of decent shots I called it a day and left the first day of Uddevalla Solid Sound 2014 after shooting concerts for almost 10 hours straight.
Bad weather, together with a feeling that I would be better off preserving my energy for later acts, made me skip the first two acts on the second day of the festival. Heavy Tiger‘s performance was therefore the first one I shot on the Saturday. Much like Syster Sol, the girls in Heavy Tiger had brought a very photogenic backdrop that, from a distance, seemed to offer an opportunity for great images. However, when I entered the photo pit I realized that the backdrop was mounted really high up and it was much harder than I thought to create well composed images with great backgrounds. Instead I had to focus on attitude and expression for most of the images which, luckily enough, there was a lot available of during the show.
I can’t say that I was surprised that Jakob Hellman‘s performance at Uddevalla Solid Sound 2014 was a rather quiet one. That’s just who he is I guess. For a concert scheduled in the middle of the afternoon the balance between ambient and stage light was actually not too bad during Jakob’s performance. The quality and variation of the lighting compensated, at least somewhat, for the lack of variation in his expressions on stage and I did manage to get a couple of nice images after all. This type of act may not be the most exciting to shoot but it’s important to be able to handle such acts as well and deliver under all circumstances.
I had absolutely no idea that Thomas Stenström is somewhat of a local hero in Uddevalla. Well, to be honest I had no idea who Thomas Stenström was at all before his performance at the festival. This concert was probably one of the easiest to shoot as there was plenty of ambient light available and Thomas offered plenty of nice poses on stage. Of course, the level of ambient light makes the images look a little flat and therefore lack a bit of character but that is pretty hard to circumvent. However, I do like these images despite the somewhat flat lighting and I hope you like them too.
Looking back at Nicole Sabouné‘s performance at Uddevalla Solid Sound I actually don’t think I remember a single note from any of her songs. I guess that means that she didn’t leave much of an impression on me. From a photography perspective the concert had its ups and downs. On the positive side there were a couple of moments where Nicole offered some great expressions and plenty of emotion. On the negative side she hid deep inside her hoodie for most of the first three songs which made it difficult to get interesting images of her. In the end I got some decent ones but perhaps not the most memorable concert images I have ever created.
Since I shot Melissa Horn‘s concert at Liseberg just over a week before (images available here), I had a fairly good idea of what to expect when she entered the stage at Uddevalla Solid Sound 2014. The two shows were very similar and I found it just as difficult to get relaxed pictures of Melissa here as I did at Liseberg. However, even if it is difficult to create spectacular images of her there is something about her that I like. Maybe it’s just because she seems to be really uncomfortable in front of a camera that makes it that much more special when I manage to capture an image where she truly opens up and reveals her feelings on stage. There is something very genuine about an image like that and I think I managed to create a couple of them during Melissa’s performance in Uddevalla.
Graveyard is yet another of the acts that I had shot previously during the summer (images available here). In general I like to photograph heavy metal bands but there is something about Graveyard that I don’t understand. It’s probably the most boring heavy metal band I have ever photographed. The moment they enter the stage I immediately get the feeling that they would rather be somewhere else and that was a feeling that I just couldn’t get rid of during my time in the photo pit. Unfortunately, I think the images suffer from this sensation as well, even if a couple of them turned out to be acceptable.
This was the third time I have photographed Laleh this summer. Her performance was more or less the same as the previous times so there was little opportunity to create something new. Compared to the other shows, the only difference was the lighting conditions which were much more challenging this time around. To be perfectly honest I think Laleh and her music are both better suited for a concert where there is plenty of ambient light available but maybe that’s just me. I do however, like the images from her previous concerts (available here and here) better than these. Do you agree?
Kvelertak‘s concert at Uddevalla Solid Sound 2014 is the most challenging concert I have ever photographed. The rain that started during Graveyard’s performance earlier in the evening intensified just before the show started and it was very difficult to see through the viewfinder, as both my glasses and the viewfinder itself was covered with water. During these wet circumstances I also find it difficult to see which of the 51 available autofocus points in my Nikon D800 that is currently active. Together with the fact that the performance was quite poorly lit all these challenges really made me struggle to create any acceptable images at all. I managed to get a couple but it was a long time since I had so few images to select from when editing a concert shoot.
Even though the rain was pouring down and I was really tired, Teddybears‘ performance was still one of the concerts I enjoyed shooting the most during the festival. After Kvelertak’s concert I actually thought about skipping Teddybears’ show any go home but I’m glad I didn’t. I had never photographed Teddybears before and I had a feeling that it would be worth the wait. As opposed to a lot of the acts that played during the second half of the second day of the festival, the lighting was actually quite inspiring to work with this time around. The lighting, together with the big karaoke screens in the background, provided plenty of graphical elements to consider when composing the images and that is something that I really enjoy. It was simply the perfect ending to two great days of shooting.
Working on a deadline at a large festival like Uddevalla Solid Sound taught me a lot of valuable lessons. I had to modify my normal post-processing workflow a bit in order to be able to deliver my images to Decibell fast enough. It really is a lot of work trying to cover this many concerts without having a second photographer to split the work load with. But, at the same time, it’s so much fun that I tend to forget about how exhausting it is! Hopefully, my collaboration with Decibell will intensify in the future and I will get more opportunities to photograph concerts than I have ever had in the past. So please, keep your fingers crossed for me!