311 in Concert

311's Tim Mahoney
Shutter: 1/320, Aperture: f/2.8, Lens: 70-200mm, ISO : 1600

I got to shoot 311 at Jiffy Lube Live this past weekend. This is the biggest concert I’ve shot so far, and it’s a great story of how I got to this particular point. I got a ton of sweet, face-melting rock ‘n roll pics (see more below). Check it out.

Nick Hexum with 311
Shutter: 1/125, Aperture: f/5.6, Lens: 28-135mm, ISO: 1600

Let me tell you how I got here. I started shooting concerts more than a year ago. One of my friends told me to check out the Brooklyn-based band Black Taxi, as they were coming to local club DC9 and they were friends with lead singer Ezra. I reached out to their publicist, and they put me on the door list and gave me permission to shoot. A few weeks later, I saw that the Aggrolites were coming to DC9. I was familiar with their song Banana from my son’s favorite show, Yo Gabba Gabba. I reached out to their publicist, but never heard back. So on a whim, I reached out to the manager of DC9, sent them a link to my Black Taxi pics, and asked if I could shoot Aggrolites. They said yes and put me on the door list. Once I tweeted the Aggrolites photo, a publicist reached out to me for permission to include the photos on their site. I was elated! So then a few weeks after that, I saw that the Aggrolites were opening for 311, I wrote back to my contact and they got me on that press list. I love how this all came together. But there’s more.

Nick Hexum with 311
Shutter: 1/400, Aperture: f/2.8, Lens: 15mm, ISO: 1600

I usually skip the openers. I’ve spent a lot of time shooting them, and rarely to much benefit. Sometimes I really enjoy them, often times I don’t, so I just skip them. However, Aggrolites were the guys that got me into the show, so I had to be there to shoot their set (plus I really enjoy them as a band). Earlier in the day I completed a 3.5 hour drive home from the beach. I unpacked the car, kissed the wife and kid and headed back out on the road to Jiffy Lube Live (another hour from my place). Traffic was surprisingly heavy for a Saturday afternoon (well, it’s DC’s beltway, that should tell you something) and after awhile I started sweating if I’d get there in time. Traffic would slow, I now only have a 20 minute buffer, then it would stop, now I’m down to a 10 minute buffer. There was no way I could miss Aggrolites, I really owed it to them to be there and get pics. My GPS updated to say I’d arrive at 6:25 (good-bye buffer), Aggrolites were to take the stage at 6:30. I started to panic. But I pressed on, perhaps laid on the gas a little bit more, but I got to the parking lot right at 6:25pm. I ran through the crowd of stoned tailgaters in the lot and got to the will-call line. I got my photo passes and head to the bag check. The people at the door started hassling me about my DSLR and pro-lenses. I explained that the photo pass I was showing them was to allow that. They had to flag down a superior to approve my gear. Finally I’m in and I hot-foot it (I’m not the sprinting type, so I assume this was amusing to watch) around the perimeter of the pavilion to shoot. I get there and immediately start clicking away… I get 10-15 shots total before someone comes up to me and explains that is the end of the 3rd song, and the photo policy is first 3 only. Now that’s pretty much industry standard, but I had to get photos of Aggrolites, and if I wasn’t hassled at the door, I would have been there sooner. None the less, I had to cap the lens (gah!) and wait for Slightly Stoopid to come up before I could shoot again. I’m a very lucky dude. I was lucky to even have this opportunity, but that’s not all. Had I been 30 seconds later to that spot, I’d be writing a very apologetic email to the Aggrolites publicist. But I think I got some decent stuff. Nothing epic, but decent enough. Here’s one.

Jesse Wagner with the Aggrolites
Shutter: 1/125, Aperture: f/2.8, Lens: 70-120mm, ISO: 640

So I got a few shots of Aggrolites, enough to say I was there, but no real mind-blowing shots. I’m grateful for what I did get. While I was waiting for Slightly Stoopid to take the stage, I walked up to the lawn area. I thought I’d get some crowd shots while the sun was still up. The sunset was going on full force and really lit up these epic clouds. I love the look of jubilee in the crowd, with the slant of the grass, and the clouds in the back, and is that a bong?

Revellers enjoy the sunset on the lawn
Shutter: 1/800, Aperture: f/5.6, Lens: 28-135mm, ISO: 200

I sped up the shutter so the sky wouldn’t blow out (I really do need a circular polarizing filter) and then just waited for timing. I walked around the crowd a little to get some other interesting shots, then I went back down to shoot Slightly Stoopid from the photo pit. I was a bit anxious because the stage was about 6 feet off the ground (I’m used to 4 feet, or less). So I was afraid all my shots would be up-the-nose.

Photo pit at Jiffy Lube Live

But to my relief there were a couple of wooden boxes in the pit that we were allowed to stand on. I’m not sure if Jiffy Lube has these for every show, or if they’re common to all venues with a stage this high, but without it, I’d be holding the camera above my head and employing some spray ‘n pray and just hope for good stuff. During 311, the jumbotron camera operator occupied one of the boxes, so I had to be more mindful of the other photographers when I climbed up on the other one. I didn’t want to hog it too long. But this is the view.

311 on stage
Shutter: 1/250, Aperture: f/2.8, Lens: 15mm, ISO: 1600

This was also a time where I really wish I had two camera bodies. I switched lenses several times while I was up on the stoop because I was capturing a wide-shot and then saw something really cool going on. All I could think of was another photographer in the pit looking at me and thinking I was wasting time while at that precious vantage point. There were only two or three other photographers there, and they were all very polite however, and we did not get in each other’s way.

311's Nick Hexum takes the stage
Shutter: 1/250, Aperture: f/2.8, Lens: 15mm, ISO: 1600

This is the vantage point if I were to just look up. I actually got some shots I’m really proud of when my feet were on the ground with the zoom. Actually the shot of Nick leaning on the monitor speaker was a fluke, I had just put on the wide-angle lens to shoot the audience. I cranked the shutter down pretty slow to get the ambient light on their faces, but I noticed everyone’s face was lighting up and they were pointing and reaching, so I turned around real quick and at the same time spun the shutter wheel up to 1/400. This is a good reason to really know you camera without having to hunt and peck over the controls (or why two bodies would be so helpful).

I got a lot of images I’m really proud of. I had a very tough time picking out my top nine for my concert portfolio. Click below to check em all out. (Including the only four shots I got of the Aggrolites.)

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