Living in the Cotswolds means endless picturesque events to photograph at, but The Big Feastival has to be one of my favourite events to shoot. It’s one of the only major music festivals in the area, and it pushes your skill as a photographer to the limit.
The site is rather large, so there is a lot of walking involved, however this year (2017) they have a new PR agency, FRANK.it, and have also changed the layout of the site, making life much easier for press having placed the press tent in the centre, rather than out on a limb like in the 2015 and 2016 events.
Throughout the day, there are lots of challenges for a photographer. The time of year (August) usually means uncertain weather patterns and fast moving small clouds, so continuously changing natural light. You find yourself often shooting through into dimly lit tents, which means either over or under exposing, or extremely quick multiple exposures.
If an interior is lit, like The Big Kitchen for example, it’s often lit with a mixture of natural light, tungsten and fluorescent, with at least one of said lights placed way too close to a presenter. So timing is not only key for a presenters facial expression, but also for their physical positions on stage. It can be a frustrating test of patience.
However if the mixture of natural light, tungsten light and fluorescent light isn’t enough of a horror story, try throwing LED light, lasers and smoke into the mix, which is exactly what happens at The Main Stage. Nothing narks me more than a main stage having an ENORMOUS LED screen as its background, which is what The Big Feastival has. Yes it is visually stunning for festival goers present at the time, but please, think of the poor photographers!
The Big Feastival isn’t alone with their sin of using a huge LED screen as their backdrop, as Bristol Fashion Week is a huge sinner for this also.
Lighting is everything, and LED backlighting is awful. You’ll find that if a subject is too close, or if the LED light shines too bright, a pixelated edge all around your subject appears, making your subject appear not too different from an old 8bit computer game character from the 80’s. Camera sensors just don’t like it. Luckily smoke helps disperse the LED backlighting, along with the other lightning thrown into the mix.
The Main Stage then holds rows of large fluorescent lighting, in front of the LED screen, mixed with lasers, and enormous tungsten lights across the front. With this horrific mist mash of lights, you can be really creative with your photographs, it is as fun as it is difficult. However the lasers can really take their toll on your camera sensor. When you’re packing a £5000 camera body, I can understand why photographers are reluctant to take too many risks with their images unless they’re being paid from somewhere.
For me what makes photographing The Big Feastival so enjoyable is that, because of all of the above, it’s a time when I can get to really ‘nerd out’ with my equipment and equipment settings. The vast majority of other events I can shoot using minimal thought, but for events photography, a big music festival is when you get to exercise the knowledge you’ve gained throughout your photography career.