Almost every summer since we’ve met, my wife and I have gone to the Grey Fox Bluegrass festival up in the Catskill mountains here in New York. It’s an amazing multi day festival where you can camp, swim, eat and watch great performances on large and small stages.
Camera wise, I’ve never gone to the festival empty handed. For years I brought a point and shoot to grab snapshots, but had always wanted to bring my “big gear” to do some more serious photography. The thought of lugging my DSLR around the festival was never an appetizing one though. I want to eat, drink and enjoy myself — not think about (or worry about) the gear that I’m carrying.
Last summer that all changed. I thought, “Hey, I’ve got this super small, light and very capable camera that’s [somewhat] impervious to the elements, it’s time to use it!” So I tossed the Olympus OM-D E-M5 with the Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 attached and the Olympus 40-150 f/4-5.6 into a tiny bag to bring with me to the festival. Having coverage from 12-150mm is pretty awesome, and since most shots were going to be outdoors, I wasn’t too worried about the smaller aperture on the telephoto. By the way, I’ve talked about how wonderful the 40-150mm f/4-5.6 is before, but in this situation it’s really a no brainer lens to carry with you — the coverage and quality you get for a lens that’s this small and light is incredible.
Having these two versatile lenses with me made it pretty easy to get most of the shots I wanted. Grey Fox is a smaller festival, so I was often able to get right up to the stage and, using the telephoto, get in tight on some of the performers. Yes, I saw other photographers right next to me with big DSLRs coupled with large telephoto lenses, and for a moment I had a bit of lens/gear lust, but that faded quickly when I remembered how heavy and cumbersome that gear was. This is why the small kit is king! I could still get great photos, but also enjoy myself without carrying or worrying about heavy gear.
Along with the main stage, Grey Fox has a few more stages, most of them under some kind of tent. The lighting conditions aren’t as bright in the tents since the performers aren’t in direct sunlight, and you can also encounter color casting issues depending on the light inside of the tent. The OM-D E-M5 handles these situations really well though, and I even pushed the ISO in some of these indoor situations with no problem.
Could I have gotten better shots with a full frame DSLR and some large, fast telephoto glass? Sure. Was I able to still enjoy the festival with my wife AND get some great photos? You bet, and to me, that’s what matters the most.
Have you ever had the internal argument with yourself about bringing the big gear or not? Have you done any music festival photography with a small kit? Let me know in the comments!
Interested in any of the gear mentioned in this post? If you grab it from Amazon or Olympus US, you can help out Less Gear || More Photos with no extra cost to you. Thanks!
- Olympus OM-D E-M5 from Amazon or Olympus US
- Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro Lens from Amazon or Olympus US
- Olympus 40-150 f/4-5.6 Lens from Amazon or Olympus US