Mumford & Sons in Concert

Marcus Mumford
Shutter: 1/1600, Aperture: f/1.8, Lens: 50mm, ISO: 1600

Getting in to shoot Mumford & Sons has been the most nailbiting experience I’ve had shooting a concert, and it ended up being my top overall concert as well. They had just won the Grammy for Album of the Year a few days prior, and they still managed to give DC a two hour set (on two consecutive nights). They could have quit early and no one would have minded, but you can tell they love it. Click below for more pics and this insane story of how I got into the pit.

Marcus Mumford
Shutter: 1/500, Aperture: f/5.0, Lens: 50mm, ISO: 1600

I love how this pic has the slightest bit of grain. It would be cliche’d to wash each of these photos in sepia or black and white to fit the mood of Mumford’s sound, so I really liked when I got that aged look, naturally. There was a persistent fog (courtesy of the audience’s recreational activities?) that led to so come cool looks, but did make focusing a bit difficult at times. The more I think about it, this is my favorite shot from the set, you get the emotion and energy from the concert, with a style that is characteristic of their music, without using trendy filters. Ok, let me tell you about getting in.

Marcus Mumford
Shutter: 1/160, Aperture: f/2.8, Lens: 70-200mm, ISO: 1600

I have gotten passes to the last couple of concerts via the seat-of-my-pants, and this one was no different. I had been emailing Mumford’s publicist every other week for months asking for a pass. I explained that I had a ticket, I just wanted the photo pass. Typically I get a photopass and one ticket for admission. The pass only lets me bring in my gear and shoot from the pit, if there is one. The theory is that it would be easier to get me a pass since I wouldn’t need to take a spot on their limited ticket list.

Finally, around 4:00 on the day of this show, I tried calling one last time. I left a message with the receptionist asking for just the pass, since I already had the ticket. The receptionist told me that it would probably be no problem and they’d call me right back, but they never did. It was Valentine’s day, so my wife and I took our time getting to the venue, and eating dinner near by. We eventually got to our seats and the opener was still on, so I decided to pop by the will-call desk and see if a badge ended up being left for me. It wasn’t. I was prepared to go back to my seat with my wife and enjoy the show, no complaints. But then Josh, the famous tattoo’d door manager from DC’s 9:30 Club came out to talk to me. I’ve seen him every time I’ve shot a concert at 9:30 Club, but we hadn’t ever talked much. Several times he’s been the one I’ve had to show the contents of my bag to in order to get into the club. So I was hoping he recognized me as a legit concert photographer. I explained to him that I didn’t actually have confirmation, per se, but hoped that maybe it was left for me anyway. He disappeared in the back and came back about five minutes later. I was prepared to hear sorry man, but instead he had that (literally) golden ticket in his hand and told me it was my lucky day. I was floored. But I didn’t have time to celebrate, he told me they were going on the stage in ten minutes. I had to run back to my car to get my gear bag and I had parked in the last row, in a spot furthest from the venue. Once I got my bag I ran back and low and behold, Josh was waiting for me. All of the other photographers had been scuttled to the pit already, but Josh was waiting for me so he could escort me backstage to the pit. And about a minute or two later, Mumford & Sons dropped their large drape and took the stage.

Marcus Mumford
Shutter: 1/500, Aperture: f/5.0, Lens: 50mm, ISO: 1600

One of the things I had to be careful about in selecting my photos is that my opinion of the subject matter can cloud my judgement of the photo’s overall quality. Just like when I was shooting Snoop Dogg, I thought every shot was a winner because every shot had Snoop Dogg in it. I was so clouded by my admiration of the subject matter, and I have to admit, my ego was inflated for having gotten in the door, I thought every picture was gold. It took some time and some friends’ opinions to pick which ones really were good, and which ones were less than OK. Same thing here, I was so pleased with myself for getting in the door, and I’m currently in awe with the star level of these guys (and they just won the Grammy less than a week prior) I had a very hard time picking which 35 or so to go with. Its in my opinion that if you publish too many photos, you’ll water down the quality of your superior ones. So After I picked my 50 favorites, I re-ordered them by bandmember so that I could do “this one or that one” comparisons and really whittle it down. Then I looked for nit picky technical faults to disqualify an image. But it’s still tough to focus on the technicalities, since I’m still pretty buzzed from shooting this show. In the future I’ll be able to look back and pick better winners and losers, but for the sake of covering the show, I need to get my photos up overnight. I then pick my nine best (or most telling) to include in my portfolio. You can see my 36 pics below, but check out the final nine that went into my Mumford portfolio.

Ted Dwane
Shutter: 1/800, Aperture: f/1.8, Lens: 50mm, ISO: 1600

I also had to include shots of the other guys. I love this shot of bassist Ted Dwane, however I took a gamble and lost (slightly). I was shooting at f/1.8 which can give you deliciously buttery bokeh, but creates such a slim depth of field that you can miss the desired focus, which I did here. I got that rich, solid blue in the background, but his face is just ever so slightly out of focus. This was the same issue I had when shooting Snoop. I love the richness of the colors, the expression on his face, and the dynamic spot lights coming from behind him. But I gotta stick to f/2.0 or higher for the most part.

Winston Marshall
Shutter: 1/250, Aperture: f/2.8, Lens: 70-200mm, ISO: 1600

One more note about the fate that brought me here. I admit I am a little superstitious. I’m always looking for signs that things are going to go one way or another. When I was rushing down to Jiffy Lube Live to shoot 311, I was so caught up in traffic I risked missing the Aggrolites… who were the band responsible for getting me in the door. I was sweating whether or not I’d have to write that email to their publicist that began Thanks for the opportunity, but… As I was flipping out, sitting in deadlocked traffic on Rt 66, AWOLNATION’s Not Your Fault came on the radio. In that blog post I recount how I got to the pit in literally the last thirty seconds of the Aggrolites third song. Enough time for me to snap five or six pics before security came up to me and told me to stop shooting. Something similar happened at the Awolnation concert, one of their openers had difficulties, so they took the stage early. I had no idea as I was having a drink next door. Hearing one of their songs at that bar prompted me to head on over. I was going through security right as their first song started, so I had to really knock some heads to get through the crowd to start shooting. The day before the Mumford concert, I looked for a sign that I’d get credentialed or not, so I thought if I heard a song by any band I’ve already shot come on the radio prior to getting home in 10 minutes, I’d know I was in. The very next song that came on was Awolnation’s Kill Your Heroes. I think having that conviction that of course I’m shooting this show drove me to wait it out by will call and try to get a pass. Without it, I would have just stayed in my seat. Maybe I’m lucky, maybe I’m in tune with the undercurrents of the universe, maybe I need to add a lot more buffer to my travel times in and around DC.

Photo courtesy Dan Swartz via

I love when this happens, Dan of got a picture of the pit for his coverage, and I’m in it. I rarely get good shots of me in action, and it’s nice having something like this. I’m there on the left with my green camera bag. There were only four journalist photographers total that night, but there were two or three stationary jumbotron cameras. We had to bob and weave around them and not get in their way. Otherwise it was a spacious pit. After the first three songs, I was able to go join my wife and enjoy the rest of the concert from my seat.

Backstage before the drape drops
Shutter: 1/100, Aperture: f/2.8, Lens: 15mm, ISO: 1600

Here’s a shot I’ve never been able to get before. In order to get to the right side of the pit, I had to walk back behind the stage. I had both cameras un-capped and ready to go, so I snapped a pic while I was walking and hoped it came out. Voila.

Check out my pics below, I’m very happy with what I got, and I’m very glad that I stuck it out in order to get that pass. There were several times I should have given up, but luckily I ignored them because of blind faith. Mumford & Sons has a great sound, so swing by their site to hear more of their music and check out when they’re coming on tour. They’re headlining Bonaroo this year.

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