A Busy Week in Photography

Written by
Grace Jones on stage at Electric Picnic 2015 Grace Jones on stage at Electric Picnic 2015 ┬ęDarren McLoughlin

What a week that was!

Friday saw me leaving home to head to a big field in Co. Laois for the biggest and best festival of the year in Ireland, Electric Picnic.

Packing the car with tent, sleeping bag, camera gear, laptop, clothes and everything else needed to keep warm, clean and well nourished I headed
off along with 50,000 others (not all in my car obviously) in the direction of Portlaoise then to Stradbally where, like last year, I parked up in the Red Car Park.

On the way I found a shop that sold the Nicely Spicy multi-pack of McCoy's crisps and a few eight packs of beer. Festival essentials surely, along with baby wipes wouldn't you agree?

Unlike last year I had made it my intention not to make three trips to the car, this time it was going to be two. Those memories of last year's multi-trip adventure on Friday was not to be repeated this year. On that occasion the two trips back to the car after finding the camping section was epic. Each trip took about an hour, and the bands were already starting. On my final trip down, every digit laden down with heavy bags, sweat pouring off my face and sounds coming from the main stage I overheard the words "I pity you", how nice - not enough to help me with my load clearly.

That of course was after getting lost on site, taking the wrong advice and ending up on the opposite side of the festival grounds. Well it all turned out great and the three days were filled with photography of great acts and the people who come to Electric Picnic.

This year I had pre-packed to make one trip into the site and back for another load. And it worked, the heaviest element were the cans of beer that weighed more than the glass in my lenses.

I collected my media accreditation and photo pass from the friendly LH Publicity, necessary to access the photo pit at the front of the stage. Then meeting up with friend and colleague Eamon ahead of our walk to the camping area. On the way we pause every so often, not to admire anything, but to set down the bulky loads that hang from our shoulders. An offer of help to carry some of our bags comes from a complete stranger, who turns out to be Danny from Donegal. At first I'm not sure if he has just assessed my ability to run as being set to N/A and I challenge him on this but he seems genuine and turns out to be. He walked as far as he could with several of our bags making the journey a lot easier. In gratitude we give him a few beers.

Pop-up tent deployed, and yes I do know how to fold it down, it's simple in this case and no need to spend the next three nights in cold sweats at the thought and embarassment of not being able to fold away a pop-up tent. Look up the reviews of these things and you will see that this is
a modern nightmare for many.

First night's necessaries unpacked - sleeping bag, food and beer then it was time to get up to the main stage to photograph the acts.

Electric Picnic is set in the farmland surrounding Stradbally House, the main stage is just one location in this festival that often has acts performing until the wee hours.

Of course I still had my trip back to the car for camera gear, then straight down to the stage. It seemed quick getting there, having paid close attention to where it was parked among the rows of vehicles in the rolling farmland. You know how important this is, each row looks the same so make some visual references stick and it's easy.

On the way back down a girl asks if I know the way to the entrance, by now it's getting dark so I offer to carry her bags as she was only on her way into the site with all of her camping gear. Well it was the least I could do especially after Donegal Danny's helpful offer earlier in the day.

By the time I looked at my watch, it became apparent that time was not on my side. A quick burst of running, followed by a break - well I didn't have proper running shoes on and I needed to take it easy to avoid injury. The breaks lasted longer than the bouts of running, I met someone running also, he was running with the style of a photographer in a hurry to get somewhere that his camera should be. Sure enough he was a photographer interested in getting to the main stage.

It's a difficult task to run at full speed through a festival of 50,000 people with almost two stone of camera gear on your shoulders.

In the end both of us arrive at the main stage, the act we have wanted to capture on film is late starting, unless my phone is fast; no matter, the result is that we get in to the press pit to photograph the most eccentric but absolutely brilliant performance by Grace Jones.

It takes at least the first song for my heart to settle into a normal beat, adjusting camera settings as I go; I'm happy that I have some great shots to send through to gigsandfestivals.com

Next act to see this evening is Underworld, the band that I have heard described all evening on my journey through the EP site as "You know that song from Trainspotting?" usually accompanied with the drive boy, dog boy sequence from the track. This was a completely different act to photograph, whereas Grace Jones was naked and covered in tribal paint, Underworld were two guys behind laptops and Karl Hyde singing, both acts are completely different but both get the crowd going!

A few more acts and general festival images then it was time to head for that tent, ready for Saturday.

Last modified on Thursday, 11 May 2017 14:58
Darren McLoughlin

Irishman and International travel photographer in search of the best bits of Ireland. Leading photography tours and experiences in Ireland.

Contributor to New York Times / Sunday Times / Irish Times / Echtra Echtra and Eonmusic

Cancer survivor.

Ask me about travel in Ireland or about photography in Ireland.


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