By: Alex Frank
In the final episode of Electric Eye, Alex will be discussing the finer points of covering MR Fest.
If you’re going to be in San Marcos next week, and you’re looking for a place to romp, you’ll probably end up at Dakota Ranch presents KTSW’s MR Fest. In terms of set-up, it’s analogous to SXSW, but not in scale, not by a long shot, but then again this is San Marcos, not Austin. But here’s the best part, MR Fest is an L.A. Guyz free-zone, so that’s why you should go. I should get to the pith of this segment, covering MR Fest.
Every time I cover a festival type event, I change my set-up. At Fun Fun Fun Fest, I was over encumbered, and much like in Skyrim, fast travel was not an option. At SXSW, I packed light and was able to traverse the vastness of the festival. At MR Fest, I’m adjusting my loadout again. Since the entirety of MR Fest will be on the square, I’ll be able to pack more gear than SXSW, but since I was a moron at Fun Fun Fun Fest, I won’t be bringing nearly that much gear. I’m forgoing the backpack, and going with a shoulder bag, which I just discovered can hold 2 cameras w/lenses attached, external flash, my nifty fifty, and various accoutrements. I’ve seen a lot of old dudes workin’ the 2 camera scene and was curious about it, especially whether the benefit of having two lenses ready to go outweighs the encumberance of holding two cameras at the same time. My main shooter, the 6D will be rotating between my zoom lens, and 50 mill, while my sidearm will be my T2i with an 8 mill fish eye, and my flash (if I’m inside, or when it gets dark). I don’t plan on using the fisheye all that much, but when I need it, it’s a pain to have to change the settings and get the flash seated properly mid-shoot. Also, my fisheye lens is for APS-C cameras, and on a full-frame camera, you can see the lens hood in the shot, but I can fix it in post, so it’s not that big of a deal. I’ll also bring spare batteries and extra memory cards, since I’ll be shooting all day. I probably won’t change my camera battery, but its better to be prepared then left in the lurch with a dead camera.
Enough about me. For MR Fest, I’d approach it in a similar way that I did SXSW. Bring a zoom, a fisheye, and a 50 mm for low-light. You could honestly just bring a 50mm and you’d be totally fine since Texas Music Theater is the only place that really needs a longer lens, since all the other venues are bars, youll be fairlty close to the artists.I can’t stress the utility of the 50mm f/1.8 lens for beginning photographers enough, but if you only have the 18-55mm kit lens, and no external flash, you can still get some good shots, but you’ll have to work harder for them when the sun goes down, or when you’re inside a venue. You can use your pop-up flash, or rely on the kindness of the gods, and hope to get a shot when the stage lighting properly illuminates your subject, or even better, you catch someone else’s flash firing (which is like having an off-camera flash, which is ideal).
Equipment aside, the biggest challenge you’re going to face is the variety of stage lighting at each venue. Texas Skate, is not a regular music venue, it’s a business, so the lighting will be decent in terms of intensity, but poo with regard to quality. I’ve been there before, and they use fluorescent lighting (enemy of photographers). If you don’t know, fluorescent lighting has a greenish hue and is in the garbage light spectrum. Other places like Triple Crown, or Taxi’s, that regularly have concerts, will have a more sophisticated lighting system, but as we all know, concert lighting is super wonky, and also garbage. MR Fest will also have an outdoor stage on the courthouse lawn which is an ideal lighting situation, as you should be well aware of. Consider the outdoor stage a gift from the photography elder’s council, well, at least when it’s light out, and the weather is fair.
When you’re shooting in a festival environment, you need to stay hydrated (I’m talking about water, not poisonous energy tinctures), and eat your vegetables and fruit (energy from nature!). I also need to mention that you need to watch your alcohol consumption, and if you see me, remind me, because I always forget about moderation. Not only does moderate consumption of alcohol reduce your risks of dehydration, but it also reduces your risks of looking like a dingus in front of your friends and colleagues.
MR Fest is going to be one of the best photo opportunities in San Marcos. There’s going to be an influx of people in the downtown area, actin’ a fool, and hopefully some of that weirdness from Austin will blow over to San Marcos. Also keep in mind that the best way to enjoy a music festival is to see the bands you know, but also just walk around and sample all the music you can. You never know what you’re going to stumble across.