This past weekend, I got the amazing opportunity to shoot the 2024 Dreamville Music Festival at Dorothea Dix Park in Raleigh, NC. Put on by J. Cole and his label, the two day festival drew over 52,000 people and was an amazing medley of music, food, people and culture. Perfomers included J. Cole, Lil Yachty, JID, Nicki Minaj, Earthgang, and Central Cee.
It was my first time shooting a music festival, and my previous concert experience was practically non existent as well. The high energy, hectic environment was similar to sport.  The actual shooting process, however, was completely different. The movements and range of the subjects were much more limited. The stages were relatively large and flat, and during the day (which is when most of the sets were) the sunlight prevented any significant lighting effects. On top of that, I didn’t have pit access until the very end with J. Cole, so I spent the majority of my time in the festival fighting the general crowd to get in to position. I could never get that close to the stage. That restrained my own range and freedom significantly.​​​​​​​
These limitations really pushed me to try and find new ways to make creative compositions. I’m so used to bouncing around, being intentional about light in interesting backgrounds, and emphasizing subjects emotions and movements. With these tools taken away from me, I had to focus a lot more on things like negative space and post-processing. The highlight was definitely Rae Sremmud’s set, when Swae Lee hopped down in to the pit and ended up coming right to me in the crowd, which made for some phenomenal images with the crowd in both the foreground and background.
Overall, it was an extremely interesting and different experience, and I’m glad I got to try out shooting a music festival!
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