ACL Fest – 15 year anniversary of the iconic Austin music festival by Chad Wadsworth

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ACL Fest – 15 year anniversary of the iconic Austin music festival

by Chad Wadsworth – His Website is HERE, More articles by Chad HERE. 

2016 marked the 15-year anniversary of the Austin City Limits music festival and the tenth straight year I’ve aimed a camera at its stages. It also marks a time when music festivals saturate the summer landscape and the big productions like Coachella, Lollapalooza and ACL are competing with smaller, curated festivals that cater to focused genres. With all that competition, ACL continues to maintain its relevance, although not always through the music. The 2016 lineup was popular and varied enough to appeal to the wide demographic that attended, but the soul of ACL Fest is increasingly expressed by the fans themselves.
This is a “c0mfort fest”that represents the greater Austin experience; the people, food, attitude, and sometimes its music. Covering ACL is an exercise in bottling that feeling, distilling it into a single photo or series.

Beyond the challenge of executing your photography, festivals are a war waged on the body. Over the weekend my iPhone claimed a total of 33 miles walked, a journey made more bearable by lightweight and compact mirrorless equipment. Read on for a breakdown of the daily gear selection.

Friday

Always the day when you overpack – stressing over what you need, even though you’ve done this a million times. I review metadata from prior years to recall what bodies and lenses were used, what worked and what didn’t. The Sony a7RII with GM 85mm f1.4, a6300 and Zeiss Batis 18mm f2.8 got the call, as well as the Sony RX1RII. If you accept the risk and inconvenience of shooting primes on a demanding job, having a crop camera like the a6300 in the mix, conveniently doubles the available fields of view. Using this math equals 18mm, 28mm, 85mm and 135mm with just two primes.

It all worked out. The weather was fine and so was M83 and Radiohead.

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Saturday

Pain and exhaustion set in on day two and the doubts invade, along with the clouds and cooler autumn weather – Do I really need the 18mm today? Should I leave the RX1RII home? Maybe not, Yes.

Trimming down to two bodies – a7RII and a6300, I added the Sony Zeiss FE 55/1.8 to the bag because why not? When the 55mm comes out, you realize the idiocy of not using it every-damn-day. I also exchanged the 18mm for the Sony FE 28mm/2 – another capable performer.

Lots of EDM (Chainsmokers, Kygo) and Rap (Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q) on Saturday, the kids liked it – not sure about this guy…

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Sunday

Finishing strong on the last day of weekend one, the bag got scrambled one more time. It was time to bring out a festival hero, the A-mount Sony Zeiss 135mm/1.8. Anyone who has shot this lens knows what’s up and why it demands admiration. Mounted on the a6300 via the LA-EA4 adapter, it doubles as a super fast 200mm, and in just a month we’ll have the option to shoot that setup with in body image stabilization (IBIS) on the new Sony a6500.

The last day of weekend one did not disappoint, with sunny Texas skies and a cool evening made cooler by indie favs, LCD Soundsystem.

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Three days and thirty-three miles later, I hung up my gear and tried to sleep. Weekend Two was just five days away.

Chad Wadsworth

Reference – Sony A7RII Review, Sony A6300 Review, Sony RX1RII Review, Sony 85 1.4 GM Review

17 Comments

  1. Chad,

    Phenomenal images, man! Well done. As Ashwin said, I could feel the energy of the show by simply viewing each image. That is event photography at its finest. Keep it up.

    Did Explosions in the Sky make it to the fun?

  2. spectacular work. breathtaking. THAT is how event photography should be done. i could look all day. congratulations and thanks.

  3. Chad, superb work! The exhaustion was obviously worth it. 😉 I don’t know if I have a favourite among this set but #0080 is quite special. It’s understated yet it stands out.

    I also like your disciplined approach to equipment – you took exactly what you needed, and nothing redundant.

    I’d like to ask you a question: functionally, without regard to details such as DR and tonality and ISO, could you have taken these photos with an RX10 III? I think cameras like that are almost ready to replace system cameras for press work.

    I’m imagining that by 2020, a lot of press photographers will be using the latest version of the RX10 instead of their huge DSLR kits. That’s a whole other story though!

    • Thanks Karim (and to all the others!)

      #0080 is a personal fav as well.

      Certainly the RX10 series would be more than capable of covering the fest but I personally prefer to have the shallow DOF capability that the larger sensor formats enable.

  4. Awesome as always, Chad! Your ability to capture the spirit of the show makes me feel that I am there, enjoying it alongside you. Great work with the musicians and attendees!

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