As a creative, there’s no more fulfilling feeling than getting “the shot”, or leaving the pit after the first three songs quietly confident you took a few bangers you can work with.
But what happens when it doesn’t all go to plan? The adrenaline and the high is quickly overshadowed by the heartbreak that will inevitably happen the longer you’re in the business. You know - a dropped lens, exposed roll of film, formatted memory card, missing the opportunity, the list goes on and on. So, here’s my story…
Laneway Festival, 2nd Feb 2020
I hadn’t shot a festival in about a month and was looking forward to this one. Laneway is always one we circle in the diary and here I finally had the opportunity to photograph The 1975. They’ve been a band I’ve seen live and followed for a while, and their lead singer, Matt Healy, has got such a great stage presence - someone I’ve been wanting to photograph.
The day started off normal - beating the sweltering heat, hopping from stage-to-stage while catching up with old photo mates. It was a good vibe. While it was forecasted to thunderstorm I didn’t think too much about it, but at the same time, I had my wet-weather gear ready to go.
At about 6pm during RUEL’s set, a torrential shower poured through which stayed fairly consistent right up until the last act; The 1975. While both of my cameras were wrapped in plastic, there was no possible way of completely covering them from the rain while photographing undisturbed.
I figured, both cameras are weather-sealed and have endured worse conditions during travels and at other festivals - it should be OK. But before I knew it, one had already begun playing-up; firstly with the monitor not responding, and then with the lens having issues connecting to the body.
Not the worst scenario - I mean, I still had my trusty 5D Mk III. What are the chance it would happen to both, I thought?
But literally as I walked into the pit and the opening of ‘People’ began to play, I looked down at my 5D Mk III - the only option I had left wigging out in a world of it’s own. Anxiety hit hard - I only have three songs. What do I do?!
Thankfully I turned to my friend Bruce Baker, who had a spare Canon that I was able to use. But the settings were all out! He had configured the auto-focus in his own customised way. I could barely get a shot in focus!
It ended up being the most disappointed I’ve been in a shoot. Mainly because of just how much I wanted to get it right and how everything seemed against me in that moment.
But there was a silver lining…
As I trudged off, shattered, telling myself I wasn’t going to shoot another festival. I tried to look at the positives - at least I still got a couple of good shots in.
What if Bruce was using that camera? I would’ve been left with no alternative, not one photo even. That’s all you need really - one clear shot. It could’ve been worse - imagine a formatted card?
I didn’t think I’d get another chance to shoot Matt Healy, but then I remembered… The Bushfire Relief gig he announced earlier that day - It was being held at Metro Theatre - One of my main clients. But despite being their venue photographer, these high-profile, stripped-back events hardly accredit anyone - especially for a charity gig.
It got to 4pm on the day of the gig and still no word. I didn’t even bring my kit to work that’s how little of a chance I gave it and I supposed I could use work’s if it got approved.
Then I got the email. “The impossible happened but we’ve got you a photo pass” was literally the first sentence. I quickly raced home to pack my gear as I knew this was a second chance I didn’t want to stuff up - thankfully the Metro is an indoor venue. I was in a state of excitement and disbelief - I’ve been shooting gigs for years so I knew how rare it was to get this opportunity.
Sold out as expected I arrived at the venue to see queues around the corner on George Street, fans waiting to get in. I went through my usual process at the box office - providing ID to pick up my pass and on the list I am the only photographer approved to shoot (other than the band’s touring snapper). For context, there were 20-30 photographers in the pit at Laneway getting similar shots - but here I had exclusive access to such a unique and intimate gig. It was only Matty - no band - with an acoustic guitar, a cigarette, a glass of red and a set up that felt as though we were in his living room, flies on the wall, while he played acoustic songs to friends and told stories.