Here's looking at you, 2018.
I’ve not written a blog post in a while - nearly two years to be exact. In fact, I haven’t written much of anything in a while. 2018 put me in a strange place. I hate to attribute my mindset to a number, but it was a very weird year for me and in many ways, it was weird in the best way. I started college in 2018 at SAIT, for New Media Production and Design. So far, it’s been a great experience, but challenging and exhausting at the same time. I’m extremely grateful that I waited until now to go back to school because I know the person I was when I was fresh out of high school (and honestly, the person I was even a year ago) would not have been ready. What I mean by that, because I don’t think anyone is ever truly, 100% “ready” for new experiences, is that I would not have been willing to put in my best effort or push myself creatively in order to achieve the results that I was expecting of myself. When it comes to creative work, I never want to publish (or in this case, hand in) something that I am not proud of. As I’m somewhat of a perfectionist, it can be testing at times and results in me overworking myself, but at the same time, it stretches my imagination and ensures that I’m working to the best of my ability. However, my biggest downfall with this is getting so engrossed that I ultimately feel used up and burnt out. Feeling this way leads me to feel like this is work, and that’s something I haven’t ever felt before. I have a tendency to overthink, which has lead to some second-guessing about whether or not this is my passion, or that I truly love what I do in the way I used to love it when I had just started out. At the end of the day, the answer is yes, I still love what I do. I think that my generation, in particular, has succumbed to a mindset that: "if I’m not doing 100% of what I love all the time, then it’s “work” or a “job” and I don't want to work." I think this originated in that a lot of young people were ending up working in fields they had no interest in or weren’t passionate about, which is valid, and I think the intention of the sentiment is ultimately meant to be helpful and meant to dissuade that from still happening. I think that if you find something you love and feel is fulfilling; once you dive in, you’ll be able to work around any challenges that might arise. Challenge is a part of virtually every aspect of our lives, and it’s how we push through and rise above them that defines us. Perhaps I’m way off on this, but I truly believe it’s naive to think that your “dream job” is just out there waiting for you. I think you have to work towards it, or even in some cases create it, and know that it will come with challenges and not be some perfect fantasy that you love every moment of what you do. I think that in order to love every moment of what you do, you must accept what you don’t like or find to be difficult, and find a way to make something positive of it. Maybe this is naive thinking on my part, but I believe that finding a balance between positivity and negativity is the key to success. That whole fake it till you make it adage does not work for me, so thinking both positively as well as logically and productively is something that I continue to work on. So, to end this rambling and continue my want for that positive thinking, here are some of the shows I photographed in 2018. To start, I'm looking at some of the shows I did where it was my first time photographing the artists, and to conclude, comparing past photos of artists that I've taken to photos I took of them again in 2018.
Always a first time for everything
I got to photograph and see a lot of incredible bands for the first time in 2018. I got to see and photograph legendary bands like the Eagles, Slayer, The Smashing Pumpkins, Stone Temple Pilots and the Foo Fighters - bands that I thought I’d never even get the chance to see live, let alone photograph. I also got to photograph some other bands that mean a lot to me, like Panic! At The Disco.
This show was one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to. I appreciated the Pumpkins’ music before the show, but afterward, I became a diehard fan. I try to avoid writing reviews, especially of concerts, because I think enough people on the internet give opinions that no one asked for. However, I did write a review for this show which you can read here if you would like. To summarize, the visuals at this show were transfixing and enhanced the experience. As an audience member, it felt as if I was a part of something bigger than a concert. When I got the approval to photograph the show, I was pretty shocked, and then slightly disappointed as it was a soundboard shoot. We got to photograph the first five songs, which is pretty uncommon, but the soundboard was essentially at the back of the Saddledome. It wasn’t until the band came on that I realized, us photographers had the best seat in the house. It was a full on view of all the visuals, and I think that those visuals may have been lost if we were to be in the photo pit. I did have a 300mm lens on, but I’ve never been happier with a soundboard shoot before. The photos are simple, but the subject is complicated (Billy Corgan is an extremely interesting human) and the narrative surrounding the photos is visually appealing and enhancing.
I’m sure everyone is sick of me sharing about this experience, but photographing the Foo Fighters was one of the best experiences of my life. I tend to not keep a bucket list of shows I want to photograph, but I know for a fact that every time someone would ask I would say that I’d kill to photograph the Foo Fighters. In 2018, it happened. Being in the photo pit was nothing short of exhilarating. It was so surreal that the only way I can really describe it is that it was like an out of body experience and just an absolute whirlwind. Similarly to the Pumpkins, the Foo’s had some really beautiful visuals as well. Their visuals were definitely better suited to being photographed up close, so it was a relief that we could shoot from the pit. I believe the Foo Fighters are one of the last great rock bands out there, so it was an absolute thrill to be there.
Panic! At The Disco
This concert was probably the highlight of my 2018, both personally and professionally. I’d never seen Panic live before, and I haven’t really appreciated their music up until the last few years. They’re one of my favourite bands, and I love them more at the age of 21 than I did at the age of 14. I got to see them in Vancouver with one of my best friends in the entire world, and the date was August 11th. 10 years prior, on August 11, 2008, I saw my first concert in New York City in Madison Square Garden, and it changed my life. The experience changed me and made me who I am, and it became evident to me even at the age of 11 that music plays such a crucial role in my life. To see Panic for the first time with one of my closest friends on such an important anniversary for me was nothing short of magical. I got to photograph the show, but it was strange because there wasn’t a no camera policy - anyone could have brought a DSLR in. Photographers got access to the first three songs from the sides of the venue but then were able to take their cameras to their seats if they were staying. I’m thankful that we had floor seats, as I was able to still enjoy the show but also take photos, and I was able to capture some beautiful moments that I never would have been able to otherwise.
Once more with feeling
The first show I ever photographed was Taking Back Sunday, The Used and Frank Iero. It was an insane lineup, and honestly, a pretty impressive first show to photograph. At the time, my photos seemed amazing. But as I started to improve and find my style, they really don’t hold up. Some of my photos that I look back on stand the test of time - I have old concert photos taken on crappy digital cameras as well as on phones that I look back on and think “hey, that’s honestly a pretty great photo.” This summer I got to photograph The Used at Warped Tour, and my photos of their set were probably my favourites of the day.
August Burns Red
August Burns Red was the third show I ever photographed, and my first time photographing a metalcore show in a small venue. I had no idea what to expect, but it was insanely challenging and intense. Fast forward to this year, and I was photographing them again. I photographed them in a different venue but still had a small photo pit. I’m so much happier with my photos from 2018 versus my photos from 2015, and I think the comparison below is pretty crazy and I love how similar but different the shots are, and how they work together to be a reflection of my growth as a photographer.
The first year that I ever photographed the Coca-Cola Stage at the Calgary Stampede, back in 2015, I photographed Lights. As she took the stage, it started pouring rain. It continued for the first three songs, and then miraculously and conveniently stopped. I’d never really photographed shows outdoors before, and no matter how long you live in Calgary for, I don’t believe you’re every 100% prepared for the ever-changing weather here. Due to being ill-prepared and inexperienced, the photos I came away with were disappointing. Lights is gorgeous, so it’s literally impossible to take a bad photo of her, but mine were pretty close. The rain caused some focus issues with my camera. This year, Lights played the Coca-Cola Stage again, and I was infinitely more excited with my photos this time around and relieved that it didn’t rain again.
Three Days Grace
The first time I ever photographed two shows in one night was a Three Days Grace show at MacEwan Hall, followed by an X Ambassadors show at The Gateway. I went to a party on campus before Three Days Grace, so let’s just say my photos did not reach their full potential. At the time, I was stoked, and I really liked the images I produced. The last show I photographed in 2018 was Three Days Grace at the Grey Eagle here in Calgary. I didn’t really know what to expect. I find that a lot of times, if you don’t connect with a band’s music, and their live performance is not to your enjoyment, photographing them only really needs to happen once. I’ve always casually enjoyed Three Days Grace, especially in my angsty pre-teen years, but was never a diehard fan. The show they put on in December was phenomenal. As I’d seen them before, I was just going to stay for the first three songs, take my photos and leave. However, I decided after the fourth song I wanted some crowd shots, so I headed up to the VIP seating area and was blown away by their setup. I could see the entire crowd and stage from up here, and I got some photos that I’m really stoked on. The Grey Eagle was electric, and the atmosphere was like a true rock show - lots of moshing and crowd surfing. It was quite a send-off to 2018 for me.
2018 was a great year for shows, and I'm thankful for every opportunity I had this year. I'm looking forward to see what 2019 brings, and I'd like to think that I am ready for it.