Earlier this year, I was looking back on some of my favorite photos from 2015 and feeling pretty discouraged. I was so happy with my work from last year and how diverse but very me it was, and I was scared that this year, I was just going to fall flat, find myself falling into familiar patterns, and just create the same work all over again. I was scared that I was going to feel like I peaked in high school, so to speak (bad analogy considering I'm 24, but you get what I'm saying.) I think it's safe to say that every photographer hits a rough patch now and then or feels like they're stuck, and I definitely felt that way at the beginning of this year. However, a few months into 2016, I made the decision to keep working hard and trying new things, and almost a year later, I can't even begin to understand why this year was so kind to me.
This year, much like last year, was full of a lot of firsts. To start out the year, I shot my first out of state festival, So What?! Music Fest in Texas for my publication, The Prelude Press. This was a huge step for me, and for my website because we had never done anything on that scale before. It was such a huge learning experience. On top of that, I got to shoot Warped Tour again (with all access, which made me feel much cooler than I actually am) and Riot Fest, where I got to see and shoot some bucket list bands. I shot a lot of shows that I would have said no to before and got a lot of opportunities in return. Toward the end of the year, I was offered a position shooting for Interscope Records, which I still honestly cannot believe.
Here are some of my favorite photos from 2016 in no particular order. So many goals were achieved this year, and now I have so many more new ones for 2017. Let's do this!
Troye Sivan @ The Ogden Theatre, 2/16/16
I mean honestly, it would be wrong to start this with any other photo than this one. This Troye Sivan show was one that, two years ago, I never would have thought of shooting. But I've been a fan of his for a little while and really loved his new album, and jumped at the chance to shoot this show because I knew how fun it would be and how dedicated his fanbase was. That's exactly why I love this photo so much. The kids up front were so passionate and emotional and singing along with every word and he was so charismatic - it was perfect. It was also amazing being one of only like two photographers at this show.
On top of all of that, Troye's fans are probably some of the nicest people in the world. For weeks following this show, I had kids messaging me telling me how much they love this photo and reposting it all over the place. It was insane and super cool!
Mutemath @ The Gothic Theatre, 4/8/16
I had been dying to see Mutemath for quite a while, and I was kind of literally dying at this show. I was super sick, but I toughed it out because I did not want to miss them, and it was totally worth it. Would do it all over again. This photo was taken right at the end of their third song. I was hanging toward the far end of the barricade, trying to get some wide shots of the band and the crowd when I saw Paul Meany drop to his knees, and I literally ran across the pit to get this shot. I didn't even have the time to adjust my settings or compose things properly, I just took the photo and hoped I got something good, and this was the product. It, and the rest of the photos from this show made going out when I felt like crap totally worth it.
Thursday @ Riot Fest Denver, 9/2/16
Do I really need to say anything? I love Thursday. I've loved Thursday since I was in middle school, but I never had the chance to photograph them before they split up a few years ago. Flash forward to Riot Fest, and there I was trying not to cry like the little emo kid I am in the photo pit while they played "For The Workforce, Drowning." Right before this photo was taken, Geoff grabbed my shoulder and sang at me. It was magical.
But for real, this was all about being in the right place at the right time. I had seen photos from their performance at Wrecking Ball a few weeks before this, so I knew that the chances of Geoff jumping in the crowd were pretty high, but I had no idea when he was going to do it, or where for that matter. I honestly just ended up being right where he was going and ended up taking a photo that I've been dreaming of getting for years. It's kind of surreal.
I The Mighty @ The Fillmore, 3/27/16
This isn't necessarily the best composed photo, and the lighting during this moment was actually pretty challenging, but I really, really love this one. Not only was it my first time shooting on stage at The Fillmore (which was really cool, okay?) it was also a really cool moment during I The Mighty's set. This was the last day of the Color Before The Sun tour, and it was the last note of their last song. The crowd was going fucking nuts for these guys and they were all really excited about it. It was all just perfect.
Emarosa @ So What?! Music Festival, 3/20/16
Bradley Walden is a crazy person. Do I really need to say anything else about this photo? This was at So What?! Fest, and he climbed up the scaffolding of the stage, and when I thought that was it, he proceeded to climb along the ceiling before hanging upside down above the barricade. It was nuts. He makes me so nervous, but of course I had to take some photos of the madness.
Die Antwoord @ The Ogden Theatre, 9/26/16
This show was incredible. I was definitely not expecting to get approved for this one, but I got an email the day of saying that I was approved to shoot, but no closer than soundboard, which would have been terrifying a year ago, but this time around I was thanking the photography gods for my 70-200. I was still a little concerned about getting a good spot, so I got to the show early and camped out right behind soundboard so I wouldn't have anyone in front of me. The cool thing about The Ogden is that it's tiered, so after soundboard, the next people in front of me were slightly lower than me, which was nice considering I'm only about 5'3".
But yeah, like I said, this show would have been a huge challenge a year ago, but I felt really confident this time around. Die Antwoord were amazing to shoot, even from far away, and their production was INCREDIBLE. I just really love the framing of this photo and how crisp and clean it is. 10/10 would do again.
LAYNE @ Lost Lake Lounge, 8/21/16
This was probably one of the smallest shows I shot this year. There were not a lot of people there (which is a damn shame, but LAYNE is incredible. Mark my words, they're gonna blow up next year.) But it also gave me a chance to play around and get a little creative during their set. The lighting at Lost Lake is generally god awful, and it was for this show, but I felt really disruptive using a flash, so I was shooting with a really high ISO and pretty slow shutter speed. This was actually shot from the back of the crowd with my 70-200 and a prism, and I really, really love how it turned out!
Tame Impala @ Red Rocks, 8/31/16
This shot was 100% unplanned. When we were all waiting to shoot Tame Impala, security came by and told all of the photographers that they would be shooting confetti off during the second song. Usually, you don't get forewarning about those kinds of things, so I was super excited and decided that I would shoot the first song with my longer lens to get some good close up photos of the band and then switch to my wide to get crowd shots during the confetti. (Because come on, wide photos of the crowd at Red Rocks are always cool, but with confetti it's even better.) But the downside was that security was counting the intro as a song, so the confetti actually happened during the first song, not the second, which meant I still had my long lens on and didn't have time to switch, so while everyone else did what I was planning to do and turned around to shoot the crowd, I looked up at the stage and saw this moment. Sometimes, the unplanned, accidental photos are the best ones!
Pierce The Veil @ Summit Music Hall, 6/7/16
There isn't really a crazy story about this photo or anything, it was just one of those perfect moments where everything was just right. Sometimes it can be hard to get photos of Vic away from the mic stand since he sings and plays, but when he stepped away, all of the lights pointed down at him and it was just perfect! Also, I normally hate yellow lights, but I love this photo.
Underoath @ So What?! Music Fest, 3/20/16
This was a moment where everything that could go wrong did go wrong, but somehow, it worked out in my favor. A couple of hours before Underoath's set at So What?! Fest (and my first time seeing them in years since they broke up) all of the photographers were told that there was no photo pit access for their set. I was super upset because it was one of the main reasons that we flew out to Texas in the first place, and now I wasn't even going to get to shoot them. But after a few pep talks, I decided that I was going to shove my way into the crowd to get some good photos, and as it turns out, they ended up being some of my favorites from the entire festival. This photo in particular was taken off to the side of the barricade with my 70-200 as Spencer stepped up to the edge of the stage, which cleaned up the background and framed him really nicely with the crowd. It just goes to show that sometimes the worst shooting conditions make for the best photos if you work your ass off.
Raz Simone @ 1st Bank Center, 6/5/16
This was another one of those shows where things didn't really go my way. Raz Simone was opening up for Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, but when I got to the venue, I found out I was only allowed to shoot Raz. I was super bummed at first, but then Raz went on and I was completely blown away. His live presence was amazing and he let us shoot his entire set, which made for some awesome photos like this when he jumped into the crowd. I'm really adamant about shooting every band on a bill, and this is why. Sometimes the openers are incredible and you walk away with better photos than you would have expected.
Rae Sremmurd @ The Ogden Theatre, 11/3/16
I shot a lot more rap and hip-hop shows this year than I ever have before, but Rae Sremmurd was definitely the best of the best. Their energy was insane, their lights were gorgeous and they were all around super fun to shoot. The only challenge of this show was that there was a small catwalk (shorter than the stage) that went into the barricade and made it kind of hard to navigate quickly. But when this moment happened, I said "fuck it," kneeled on the catwalk and got this shot that wouldn't have been possible from a lower angle. I wouldn't really recommend doing this under any other circumstances, because the last thing you want to do is piss off the band or security, but thankfully everyone on their crew and in the barricade was super chill and didn't care. 10/10 would do again.
The 1975 @ Red Rocks, 5/2/16
I don't really have much of a story behind this photo either. It was just my first Red Rocks show of the year and my first time shooting The 1975 and it was an unreal experience. It was also kind of a difficult shoot because we were told that we could only shoot from the sides and not the center of the stage, so up until this point, all of my photos of Matty were profile shots, but then he turned and this perfect moment happened.
letlive. @ Summit Music Hall, 7/22/16
I mean, do I even really need to explain why I love shooting letlive.? Every time I shoot them, I walk away with a new favorite photo and a new found love and passion for concert photography, and this show was no exception. Jason jumped into the crowd, I quickly threw my flash on and hoped that my settings were all correct before firing away. I'm always on my toes at a letlive. show, and I feel like they make me a better photographer every time. Over the years, these guys have taught me to expect the unexpected and do whatever it takes to get the shot, and I'll always be thankful for that.
Every Time I Die @ Vans Warped Tour, 7/31/16
Can you tell I love crowd shots yet? I can't even count how many times I've shot Every Time I Die, but this is definitely one of my favorite photos of Jordan Buckley. Not only that, but I always tend to get photos of vocalists in the crowd, never the guitarist, so this was really cool. I just really love ETID.
Coheed and Cambria @ The Fillmore, 3/27/16
Coheed was a really special show. My friend Blake, who was on the tour with I The Mighty was telling me about this amazing guy who went by Captain Keywork (I can't remember his real name) that was following the entire tour. His whole story was unbelievable and super inspirational, so when he climbed on top of the crowd during Coheed and Cambria's last song on their last day of tour, I HAD to get the shot, and I'm so happy with how it came out. The connection between this guy, all of the other fans in the crowd and everyone on the entire tour was so beautiful. This moment was really special.
Prophets of Rage @ Red Rocks, 9/7/16
This was a show that I had been looking forward to for months, and I was really nervous about getting good shots because of how important it was to me. Leading up to the show, I spent some time watching live videos and checking out other photos from the tour and I knew that I wanted to get a shot of Tom Morello like this. Unlike a lot of the other photos in here, this shot was specifically planned out, and I'm really happy with how it worked out.
Blink-182 @ The Pepsi Center, 9/13/16
This was my first time shooting Blink-182 and my first time shooting at the Pepsi Center, so it was a really special show to me. This photo isn't insane or mind blowing by any means, but I really love the saturated colors and the way that Mark is barely balancing on one foot.
Empire of the Sun @ 1st Bank Center, 12/2/16
This was another band that I had been dying to shoot for a while. I remember first seeing photos of Empire of the Sun a while back, and even before ever listening to them knew that it was a show I needed to shoot. Thankfully, they didn't disappoint. Their live setup, the lights, the dancers and the costumes were all so perfect (you know, and they sounded really good, too). Shooting at the 1st Bank Center can be a little rough for me because I'm only 5'3" and the stage is taller than me, so this was taken standing on my toes with my camera in the air, hoping I got the right shot (sorry for being in your way for a few seconds, people in the crowd). I love how the dancers are levitating and the lights almost make them look like they're underwater. Such an amazing experience.
Porter Robinson & Madeon @ The Fillmore, 12/1/16
This was the only electronic show I shot in 2016, and damn it felt good to be back. When I first started shooing shows for a publication about 5 years ago, I shot a lot of EDM shows and they were always amazing experiences. Everyone is always super friendly and happy to let me shoot in front of them for a second, and the lights are to die for. Porter Robinson and Madeon were no exception, and they had confetti, which I'm a sucker for. I really, really want to shoot more electronic shows next year. I missed it.
Click here to check out the full gallery.
Too Close To Touch @ Vans Warped Tour, 7/31/16
I know I'm running a little bit behind a lot of my peers on this, but this was my first time shooting an artist on stage at Warped Tour. Too Close To Touch are some of my favorite people in the world and I'm really grateful that they let me invade their space for a few songs this day. I was really hoping to get some photos with the Denver skyline in the background, which is a little harder to do at Pepsi Center versus Invesco Field, but I'm really happy with how this photo turned out!
Weezer @ Fiddler's Green Amphitheater, 7/24/16
This is easily one of my favorite photos I've ever taken. It was my first time shooting Weezer, and I was struggling a little bit to get the exact photos I wanted with a small barricade full of lots of gear and videographers, but it ended up working out in my favor. Before their third song, the band's videographer called me over, pushed me in front of him (thank god for being short) and said, "You're going to want to be right here." I didn't know what was going to happen, but I trusted him and stayed put, and partway through the song, Rivers, Brian and Scott came over and basically posed for this shot, something they probably do every single night but I wouldn't know about if it weren't for an awesome guy helping me out. I shed a tear. I screamed a little. These are the moments I live for.
Underoath @ Riot Fest Denver, 9/2/16
Whoops, Underoath made their way onto this list twice. Sorry not sorry. This was taken at Riot Fest, which ended up being my third time shooting these guys this year (which is just crazy to think about). Lights were gorgeous, but it being an outdoor festival, there wasn't much front lighting on the band, there were a TON of photographers, and I was struggling to get the shots I wanted. So instead of getting frustrated, I took a few steps back away from the barricade and into the center column of the crowd (whatever you want to call it) and this moment happened. Sometimes it's good to step away and rethink what you're doing to get a unique shot.
OneRepublic @ The NFL Kickoff Party, 9/8/16
Everything that lead up to getting this shot was seriously unreal. The NFL kickoff was the first show that I officially shot for Interscope Records and it was unlike anything I had ever done before. The day of the show, I had to stop by a hotel downtown to pick up my credentials, then haul ass back down there after work to make it in time to check in, where they corralled photographers in some fenced off area while we waited for the musical acts to actually start. Shooting conditions weren't really favorable. We either got to shoot on the side of the stage behind part of the crowd, making for a weird angle and mostly profile shots of the band, or we could stand at soundboard, which was behind the stage, a crowd, a catwalk and more crowd. It was a really hard shoot, and I was sort of freaking out about getting good photos to impress Interscope.
I did walk away with quite a few I really liked, but for this photo, it was another case of being in the right place at the right time. Ryan Tedder came out onto the catwalk with a mic stand and everything, which made me think that something was about to happen, and right as I found a clear shot of him, orange and blue confetti went off and this moment happened. I cried a little. This was such a hard shoot, probably the most challenging thing I did all year, but it paid off.
Yellowcard @ Summit Music Hall, 10/29/16
This show was so bittersweet. Yellowcard have always been one of my favorite bands to see and shoot, and this was the last time I'd ever shoot them in Denver. I was looking forward to it, but dreading it at the same time, but it ended up being one of the best shows all year. My friend Dave (go check out his work because he's amazing) hooked me up with his AA pass, which allowed me to shoot the whole show from the barricade, I wouldn't have rather shared this whole night with anyone else.
Also Sean is a goofball and I have WAY too many awesome photos of him from this show, and I'm eternally grateful for how supportive he has been of me over the years. It was amazing to send him and the rest of Yellowcard off like this.
Forty Fathoms @ The Marquis Theatre, 10/21/16
I saved the best for last, even though these weren't supposed to be in any particular order, because Forty Fathoms' final show was hands down my favorite show I shot all year for many reasons. When I first picked up a camera, they were the first band I ever photographed in some tiny DIY church basement show, and years later, I got to take some really emotional and intimate photos of their last show together. The crowd was wild, the band played better than ever, and I had a really hard time choosing just one favorite photo because they were all really important to me. It was super bittersweet, but amazing nonetheless.
This show also reminded me that it doesn't matter if you're shooting a huge internationally touring band at Red Rocks, or some of your friends in a local band at The Marquis, a house show or a church basement. It doesn't matter if they're playing to 5,000 people or 5 people. What matters is the emotion and the energy of the band. I love shooting well lit, high production tours as much as the next person, but this show reminded me why I got into concert photography to begin with. It's not about taking pictures of pretty lights or shooting only the biggest artists you can get your hands on simply for the sake of saying you shot them, it's about capturing moments that make you feel like you're still at that show... It's about taking photos that capture that emotion and energy and inspire you to keep doing it, no matter how challenging it may be.
This year was incredible, and I can't wait to see what the future holds.