Event photographers may be overlooked as they shuffle from corner to corner, balcony to floor, but these artists are working just as hard to ensure you have an experience of a lifetime. After all, these photographers are the keepers of our memories, our feels, and our love for our artists. Anyone who has been lucky enough to see a post-event picture knows the euphoic feeling of “There I am!” We may take them for granted, but these photos will be staples of our youth, a testament to the “we’ve been there and done that” generation, a moniker that we too were a part of the golden age of EDM. We use these photos to brag to our friends who stayed home, to show them that we will gladly trade the bags under our eyes for another night with a full heart and a mind full of happy memories.
These photos we acquire are a part of our lives, a cornerstone both now and forever. These moments that help to define who we are, to friends and strangers alike, are recorded by someone whose name…we don’t even know.
Doug Van Sant is one of the great ones. An East Coast native, Doug can be seen at many of the prominent shows in two of the east’s EDM-metro hubs, NYC, and Washington DC. Doug has been attending EDM events for 15+ years, and he now spends his nights tirelessly pursuing “the perfect shot.” A shot so damned impressive, people will sour the internet for a hi-res version to make it the backgrounds of their computers, or the posters on their walls. The kind of shot that brings back that one moment of chills and stands the hair on the back of your neck all over again.
Having just signed with the same management company as Rukes, we believe you’ll be hearing a lot more about Doug in the near future. We had an opportunity to talk with Doug in our first ever photographer showcase, about his passion for photography, electronic music events, and even collected some tips for those of you aspiring to take better photos.
1) You have captured a number of electronic music events. What is it about the shows that draws you in?
“Well first and foremost, I love the music. I’ve been a fan of electronic music since the 90s when I got randomly dragged into a teen nightclub. I fell in love with deep house while living in Tampa and became inspired by Trance while attending shows at Ruby Skye as a music writer in San Francisco. So I have a true passion for the music. But there is also something about the lights and energy at an electronic music show you just don’t find at a typical rock concert. There is a bigger emphasis put on crowd interaction between the artists and their fans vs. the standard concert. An EDM show is just as much about the fan as it is about the DJ performing, and so I love sitting back and capturing those moments.”
2) How do you decide where to navigate during the sets and shows you’re trying to capture? Is it a routine, or is there something more intuitive to it? What do you do to determine the artists are captured just the way you want?
“It all starts with production. When I arrive to a show or festival, I try to learn as much about what’s being planned (pyro, Co2, confetti, etc.). That helps me map out where I want to be to capture certain shots. I also have a mental checklist of what shots I’d “like” to get. But once the set begins, you just wait and let things happen in front of you. That being said, it also helps to know the artist and their mannerisms. Some photograph better from front of house because they’re also interacting with the crowds. Laidback Luke is a classic example of an artist who is always paying attention to his audience. Some of my favorite shots from Echostage are of Luke smiling and pointing at fans. Those are the moments most of us won’t forget.”
3) Which camera/lens setup do you like the best?
“I shoot with 2 cameras. One always has a long zoom attached while the other is used for wide angle shots. My favorite setup is using my Nikon D4 with the fisheye behind the artist. If the timing is right, those shots always end up being my favorite.”
4) What was the best set you have ever captured?
“Armin van Buuren at Madison Square Garden, hands down. The music was incredible. The pyro blasts are some of my best shots ever. And the significance of photographing the No. 1 DJ in the World at MSG will be something I never forget.”
5) Has being a photographer changed the way you look at these type of events? What’s different?
“Of course it does. I can’t walk into a venue or festival without noticing light and thinking about how I would capture it. I presume it’s similar to a sound engineer probably can’t go into a new club without noticing the setup and thinking about how the sound is being run.”
6) What are a few tips you could give to the “casual photographers” out there trying to capture their moments at the show?
“First and foremost, be patient. Wait for the right moment and lighting. Second, be willing to experiment with your camera. Third, shoot with a beginner camera first. This will teach you how to see and work with available lighting better. You’ll appreciate the higher quality sensors and capabilities of a pro DSLR when you move up but will already know the techniques needed in capturing incredible lighting.”
If you’re interested in seeing more of Doug’s work, like him on Facebook, or check out his Website. Also, the next time you find yourself at an event, and someone with a fancy camera and a media pass walks by you trying to capture their perfect shot, be sure to give them a pat on the back. It may end up being one of photos you’ll show your grandkids in 40 years.