Photo | Courtesy of David Bergman
David Bergman’s “Shoot from the Pit” concert photography workshop will teach amateur and more advanced photographers alike how to shoot like a professional at the upcoming sold-out Luke Combs show at The Wharf.
Band: “Shoot from the Pit” photography workshop
Date: Saturday, March 9, 2 p.m.
Venue: The Amphitheater at The Wharf, 23101 Canal Road (Orange Beach), alwharf.com
Tickets: Visit shootfromthepit.com to register (limited space)
When country superstar Luke Combs returns to The Amphitheater at The Wharf for an already sold-out concert March 9, veteran photographer David Bergman will be on hand to capture the show’s visual magic.
With 30 years of experience, Bergman has photographed numerous musical acts, including Bon Jovi, Sarah McLachlan, Barenaked Ladies, Avril Lavigne and Gloria Estefan. Now he’s offering a select group of amateur and seasoned photographers the chance to learn his techniques in a concert setting. Bergman’s “Shoot from the Pit” experience is a crash course in live concert photography, including technique and etiquette, and climaxing with a session in the exclusive photo pit during that night’s concert.
Lagniappe spoke with Bergman for an inside look into what participants can expect.
I’ve known several amateur and professional photographers who have really gotten into live concert photography. What do you think it is about live concert photography that appeals to people?
You know, it really combines two passions that a lot of people have. I don’t have to tell you about the live concert experience and what a joy that is, and what an adrenaline rush it is to see your favorite artist. Even if it’s not an artist you’re a big fan of, that environment is so awesome. It’s big concerts and lots of lighting. The music is usually really loud, and you’re surrounded by a lot of people who share the same love for the music that you do. Photography is kind of similar. It’s something that a lot of people have gotten into, with the advent of digital photography. It’s opened the doors for more people to pursue their passions in ways that they couldn’t before, because the technology was out of reach.
In my life, that’s how it happened. I was a musician before I got into photography as a kid. I always loved the live music experience. Now, as a professional photographer, being able to combine those two things into one is just unlike anything else.
What made you want to create the “Shoot from the Pit” experience?
I’ve taught a number of workshops over the years, and I’ve been a working professional photographer for nearly 30 years. Over the past 5-10 years or so, I’ve done a lot more workshops and speaking gigs for other clients and companies that I represent as well. I really looked at the market and tried to figure out what I could bring to the table and what I could do differently than what everybody else is doing.
There are plenty of workshops out there where you can learn studio lighting and apertures and shutter speeds. I’ve done those as well, but I’m more interested in experience-based workshops.
As a former sports photographer, I have friends who teach sports photography workshops. They take people out to football games, and you get to really experience what it’s like to be on the sidelines and to be literally on the frontlines of an event like that.
So, as somebody who has toured with bands for many, many years on and off, I know what a great joy that is to do. Also, I get emails from people all the time who say, “I wanna do what you do. I wanna shoot concerts and be in the photo pits. I go to shows and see photographers up there, and I wanna know what that feels like.”
This is a great way for me to teach people and give them an experience at the same time. This is, first, a learning experience. It’s really a photo workshop. It’s not so much about going to a concert. It’s more about learning photography.
We use the concert as a backdrop to this experience, and it takes it to a whole other level. You’re actually in the photo pit at the front of the stage and feel the sweat come off of the artists, maybe literally. You’re right there with the fans in the front row. You have all-access to go around the arena and make pictures from places where most people can never go. It’s really something unique. There’s not many people who can actually bring that experience to everybody else.
This workshop doesn’t only teach photo techniques, but it also teaches proper etiquette in the photo pit. How important is proper etiquette in the photo pit?
Etiquette is huge when you’re working alongside a bunch of other photographers, especially in the concert environment. I spend the first half of the workshop really talking a lot about how to act not only during this particular workshop, but also if you’re shooting concerts in general and how that works. You’re usually in very tight quarters with a number of other photographers who may be working there as well.
Also, you’re around the band and the band’s crew members. Those people are working. This is their home. This is their work environment. Those of us who tour, we live on the road and live on tour buses. We know each other very well, because we spend a lot of time together.
When somebody comes into that environment as a photographer, you need to know how to act around those people and be professional and not get in people’s way. That also includes the security guards working in the arena. It also includes the fans. The show is happening because of the fans. None of us would be there if it wasn’t for the fans. Just because we have better access than the fans doesn’t mean that you should stand right in front of them and block their views. If they don’t have a good time, then there’s no reason for us to be there. I spend a lot of time teaching that part of concert photography.
What will the day be like for participants?
We start generally around 2 p.m. in most cities. I go and pick everybody up, and they get their passes. They have all-access passes for the days. Then, we have a room backstage where I teach a workshop. I have a projector, and I have a few hours of information that I’m going to overload people with.
I’ve had people who are just beginners, and I’ve had people who are much more experienced working professionals. Everybody learns something throughout the experience. I start at the beginning with the exposure triangle and all the basics of photography and work all the way up to advanced concert photography, including setting up remote cameras and how to work a smaller show that might need some flashes and dealing with different environments. I cover the whole gamut over the first half of the day.
In addition, we take a tour of the venue and show people what to look for. When I get to a new venue, I’m scouting the venue throughout the day. I want to see where all the angles are and what the place looks like and maybe something interesting or unique to that venue that I might want to make pictures of that evening when the crowd is there. We do that together.
Then, we take a peek at the tour buses. I bring everyone on my tour bus, and I give them a little insight into how the logistics work and how we go from city to city with 45 crew members and create this show in just a few hours every morning and then tear it down in a few hours every night. Then we have dinner with the crew.
Then, the main event starts. In most cities, there’s two opening acts, and we can photograph both of them. At the Alabama show, we’ll have two opening acts. That’s kind of a nice warmup, and we get a good feel for the venue and how it actually feels to be in the pit.
Then, Luke comes on, and that’s the main event for us. He’s on for an hour and a half, and we have the whole venue to ourselves to make pictures. The evening wraps up at 11 o’clock at night. At that time, the adrenaline is still flowing, and people’s heads are exploding with information.
So far, people have said that the experience has blown them away. That’s satisfying, knowing that people get a lot out of it.
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