Back when Fstoppers was still pretty much just an idea, I contacted a few photographers I respected and asked if they would be interested in sharing their knowledge and images to an audience of photographers online. One of the photographers I reached out to was David Bergman. What really grabbed my attention was his amazing one of a kind image of President Barack Obama's historic inauguration. I also recognized many of his Sports Illustrated covers he has shot over the years and thought our readers would enjoy hearing from David himself on how he approached his craft. Little did I know what the final Fstoppers video would wind up being about.
Dave and I were in contact for a few months, and he really loved the idea of our site and wanted to be a part of it. We had a few problems with David's schedule since he was on tour with various bands early in the year so the video kept getting pushed further and further back. Then one day I got a phone call from Dave. He said he would be shooting Bon Jovi for 4 nights at the new Giants/Jets stadium and that it would make a great background for his tour photography feature. I really couldn't believe what David was suggesting because the first 4 records I owned as a kid were Bon Jovi albums and my first concert at the age of 7 was Bon Jovi in Anchorage, AK in 1989. The giddy little kid in me was completely flipping out, but I knew I had to keep a collective mind about how to make the best possible behind the scenes video featuring a subject so many photographers are interested in shooting: Tour Photography!
Needless to say, gaining access to any of the New Meadowlands shows fell through. There were talks about us flying over to London for Bon Jovi's impressive 12 date residency at the O2 Arena, but that provided other scheduling problems. I began to think having an Fstoppers video featuring Bergman and Bon Jovi was just wishful thinking; there was no way Bon Jovi's notoriously tight "family" was going to let two young kids run around backstage, let alone film video of it all. But when Jon Bon Jovi announced that the band would be returning for one more show in front of their hometown fans in New Jersey all hope was not lost. David was able to get everything in place, and at last Lee and my schedules both coincided with the show. On the heals of our most successful BTS video (iPhone Fashion Shoot), the next Fstoppers video would be David Bergman photographing the biggest tour of 2010: Bon Jovi!
Upon arriving in New York, David met up with us at Adorama where he was picking up some hard bound books he had made for the band. On the car ride over to the stadium, it was clear that the type of photography we would see at the show favored more of a sport photojournalist angle in place of a traditional "first 3 songs" approach that is so common in music photography. This was going to be all access and all angles! I guess coming from his days working with Sport Illustrated, Dave has incorporated his remote camera technique in with shooting live events. If you have never seen remote cameras used before, basically David will mount D700 cameras with 14-24mm lenses in various locations around the stadium with Bogen Magic Arms. When paired up with Pocket Wizards, David can shoot images from multiple locations at the exact same time. So if he is shooting from the audience towards the stage, with a pocket wizard on top of his camera he can trigger a remote camera that is placed onstage facing back towards the band and crowd. When Jon Bon Jovi jumps up in the air, David can get two very different angles at the exact same moment. He can also place these remote cameras in areas that are hard to access during the concert such as the very top back section of the stadium shooting the entire crowd of people. I have never worked with remote cameras so I was extremely excited to see how David was going to pull this off.
Another interesting story we were able to hear first hand was how David was able to create the most widely viewed US presidential inauguration photo of all time. If I remember correctly, David was at Obama's Inauguration shooting for Corbis. He also just happened to have a Gigapan with him at the event. So instead of trying to fight for position for a classic photo like Obama's swearing in, David decided to try the new tool he was recently given. If you have never seen a Gigapan, basically it's a computer monitored swivel head that allows you to choose the number of photos you want taken in a set time frame and it perfectly maps out the movement of your camera. So with nothing more than a Gigapan unit and a Canon G10, David was able to take 220 images over the course of 20 minute to create a single 1,474 megapixel image. I think it's this sort of thinking outside the box that makes David Bergman such an amazing photographer and brings so much life to his concert photography.
When we arrived at the stadium, the three of us went backstage to a room where most of the inner workings of Bon Jovi's fan club and merchandise was housed. We straightened up our gear and began a tour of where we would be filming. David took us out to Bon Jovi's sound check in the blistering sun and then underneath the stage to see how the overall production of the show was conducted. It was really interesting to see how the stage hands and guitar techs prepared everything for each song and outfit change. We then took some time backstage to get all the juicy details of David's photography through his days shooting sports all the way up to his portraits of rockstars. Unfortunately David gave us so much information that there is no way we could place it all within a short 10 minute video so maybe we will revisit his interview in the future.
After working frantically to capture as much backstage video footage as we could, it was time to meet the band and give them the books David had printed. I never in a million years would have thought I would be escorted deep inside the Meadowlands Stadium to Bon Jovi's personal dressing room to meet the band...yet there we were; and filming it nevertheless! Jon, Tico, Richie, and David were all alone in this huge room waiting to be called out for other press releases and interviews. They immediately lit up as David made his entrance with his special gifts. Everyone was so nice to us and it was amazing to see how genuine and down to earth everyone was towards us. I really cannot say how much I personally thank Jon Bon Jovi and the rest of his management for allowing us as outsiders to come into such a special and reserved place that few ever get to see. In the moment though, all I really remember telling myself was to keep the camera stable and in focus haha...oh well for meeting and chatting with childhood idols.
The rest of the day was spent pretty much just shooting the concert. We were able to warm up for the Bon Jovi show by shooting a lot of footage of Kid Rock's opening performance. Kid Rock is a great entertainer and one hell of a musician. It's a shame all of his footage will probably never see the light of day. Security was really great to us and even helped us with our tripods and cameras from time to time. When Bon Jovi hit the stage the whole stadium cranked up to 11 and the energy level was unlike anything I've experienced before. At times I would look over to Lee and wonder "how in the hell did we find ourselves filming this video?" Shooting this behind the scenes video was a complete blast and just like David, we too tried to get as many creative angles of the concert as possible. It wasn't easy at times trying to move from front of stage, to middle of the stadium, to backstage, then back to the extended catwalk. I also was not as familiar with Bon Jovi's stage show for this particular tour so trying to film the highlights was tough too. Luckily David was a seasoned pro and could cue us in when something big was about to happen. We followed David everywhere and were able to really get a perspective of what it is like shooting as the band's main tour photographer. With multiple remote cameras, two D3 cameras, 24-70 lens, 70-200 lens, and a 600 telephoto lens, there really wasn't anything for which David was not prepared. We even taped a GoPro HD Hero camera to David's 24-70 lens to capture a POV perspective throughout the day (seen a few times with the band rehearsing backstage).
So after about 2 months of culling through the footage, working with David and his images, and editing everything together this should give you a unique perspective into the life of a tour photographer. David is one of the best at his craft and after playing with the high resolution files he sent me for this video I can say that his work is beyond impressive! I think Dave says it best when he says making standout music photos is more about having great access than simply having the best gear. There really is only so much you can do when shooting available light even when that light is perfectly designed for a stadium tour. You really have to go the extra mile or two and try something different that will distinguish your images from everyone else's photographs. David Bergman does this best by learning a band's setlist inside and out, using remote cameras for unique shots not normally possible to take, and building great relationships with the artists he works with. I hope this video is as fun to watch as it was to film and create. Thanks so much to David for taking on this project and letting us take a peak into this crazy world he has made his career. Be sure to head over to his tour photography site www.TourPhotographer.com as well as his blog at www.davidbergman.net/blog
Oh and this video has been given the thumbs up by Mr. Jon Bon Jovi himself :)
Here are some links to some of the gear David uses to create his images. I've split it up based on the images shown in the video for reference.
Bon Jovi Concert:
Nikon D3 camera
Nikon D700 Camera
Nikon 14-24 Lens
Nikon 24-70 Lens
Nikon 70-200 Lens
Nikon 600 Lens
Pocket Wizard Plus Multimax
Pocket Wizard Remote Trigger Cable
Manfrotto Magic Arm for remote camera mounting
Bogen Super Clamp for mounting Magic Arm
Sandisk Extreme Compact Flash Cards
Think Tank Airport Roller
Visible Dust Arctic Butterfly Sensor Cleaning Kit
Etymotic Ear Plugs He claims these are the most important piece of gear to bring to a concert...I don't know about all that though
Portraits and Studio Shots:
Dynalite Studio Lights
Dynalite Uni400 Portable Lights
Lastolite Hot Shoe Softbox
Chimera Two Speedlight Speed Ring This is my favorite on location speed ring as well; thanks David for the recommendation
Nikon SB-900 or if you can find them SB-800s
Written by Patrick Hall. Patrick Hall is the cofounder of Fstoppers.com and a wedding photographer in Charleston, South Carolina