Trev Eales is a UK based music photographer who has shot for various festivals and other events. On this occasion, he turned his attention away from the stage and photographed the audience. With the Petzval 85 Lens, he managed to capture the essence of a very British summer. Expect fancy outfits, hoola hooping, dancing and lots of beautiful, swirly bokeh from this series of festive portraits.
Please tell us a about yourself and how you got into photography.
I have always enjoyed music and attended gigs and music festivals from an early age. I attended a WOMAD festival in the 1990s. I took some photos which my wife suggested I send to the organizers. This led to an exhibition and an invitation to photograph at future WOMAD events; something I continued to do until 2014. I live in Cumbria, close to the lake district and this feeds my passion for landscape photography. During Autumn and Winter if the weather is interesting I am often found wandering the fells hoping that the changing light and colours will present a photographic opportunity.
How was it shooting with the New Petzval lens?
Shooting with the Petzval lens was a really great experience. I took it to the Wilderness Festival which is a colorful event as much about people having a good time as listening to music. The lens worked best when I could focus on individuals who were not too close to others. The bokeh effect really comes into its own with a background of foliage or colorful people in an audience. As everything operates manually it took a little time to get used to operating the lens. I initially tried using different F Stops but discovered that the bokeh effect diminished drastically above F4. Most of the shots were taken at F2.8 to achieve impact. The best situations for shooting were when people were dancing as the sense of movement enhanced these effects. If any photographer wants to boost their ego or promote themselves, the lens is a brilliant tool. Walking around was akin to being the man with the golden lens! It became a real point of interest with both photographers and audience. Photographers wanted to know what it was and what it did. I was amazed by how many people wanted their photo taken with it and the interest it generated in me as a photographer was phenomenal. As always I take some cards promoting my website to festivals. I had run out before the end of the first day of the festival and hits on my website really spiked over the following week.
Have you had any difficult or challenging situations throughout your photography career?
Photographing at festivals, whether shooting performers or audience, success is all about timing; waiting for the right moment or being able to respond quickly when something happens. Lighting can be both what makes an image or can be what makes it almost impossible. Shooting a band like Prodigy is a real challenge as they never stand still and neither does their light show but when you get it right the results can be all the more impressive. A red wash is a nightmare! About 3 years ago I waited all day to shoot Ed Sheeran headlining in a large tent. He came on stage and with completely red lighting. I don’t think any photographer got a worthwhile image.
At one festival last year the stage was so high and the pit so narrow that performers could only be seen if they came to the very front of the stage and then you were shooting up their nostrils. Everyone complained and on the second day the organizers brought out a stage riser about 40cm high for photographers to stand on. Some acts come with reputations. A couple of years ago, the tour manager of one veteran star called photographers together before he came on and took us to the pit. He drew a box about 3 meters square at one side of the stage, told us we had two songs to shoot the performer and if any of us stepped out of the box we would all be removed. The performer duly arrived as we stood crammed into our box. He then stood on the far side of the stage for the whole of the first number creating much swearing and frustration. For the second track he moved to our side of the stage and spent the next 3 minutes pulling poses for us; brilliant!
What piece of advice would you give to someone who wants to become a professional portrait photographer?
I wouldn’t claim to be a full time professional although the access that I get in photographing festivals probably makes some professionals very envious; semi- professional is probably a more accurate description. To be successful you have to have ability and confidence in yourself. If you don’t ask or try, your work is not going to be seen and you are never going to achieve. Sometimes, as in my case you need a critical friend to give you the confidence to take that first step of approaching a professional body.
Quality comes first but you need enough quality to prove that you didn’t just get lucky with a few images. It’s important to develop your own style but you can also learn from others. Earlier this summer I was photographing a festival in the Lake District. The headline act brought their own photographer, a young guy in his early twenties. After the gig we were comparing images. He had some amazing shots where he had shot wide with the performer becoming peripheral and the lighting dominated the image. Being realistic about what you want and what is important to you is also important. Photographing music, your own location and circumstances are really significant. There have been two occasions when I have had opportunities to shoot on a more professional regular basis in London and Manchester but I live a hundred miles from one and three hundred from the other. For me these opportunities were unrealistic. If I had been single, without a family and a well – paid day job I may have made a different decision. Yet I also know that I get a great buzz from shooting seven or eight festivals each summer and wonder whether I would still get the same buzz if I had been photographing bands two or three times each week for the past twenty years.
For more information on the photographer and his work, visit his official website.