Shooting Blastfest 2015

In Concerts

Hellcome to Blastfest 2015

In 2011, my second year of shooting concerts, I shot a festival named Hole in the Sky. Up until that point, I hadn’t shot too many metal shows, and almost no shows in the extreme genre. I think that festival was a defining moment for me as a photographer. It was a crash course in the most difficult conditions that you can encounter as a concert photographer, and, incredibly, I got a few good shots out of it (I even still use a few of them in my portfolio, hundreds of shows later). Unfortunately, my first year at Hole in the Sky, ended up being the last year of the festival.

Hole in the Sky was, in a way, made up of two parts. A series of “underground” shows at the small venue Garage, and bigger shows at the venue USF Verftet, with some of the biggest bands in black/death metal headlining. The following year, the former part became the festival Beyond the Gates, a festival I’ve shot every year since. But, the USF Verftet part, died.

That is, until last year. Then came Blastfest. Blastfest is doing more or less exactly the same thing Hole in the Sky did, only in the middle of the winter rather than late summer. I must admit, I don’t particularly enjoy going outside more than I have to during the winter, but Blastfest has turned out to be such a great festival that it’s more than worth it.

This years edition boasting even more bands than the 2014 incarnation. Highlights of this years festival were bands like Watain, Rotting Christ, At the Gates, Decapitated, Dark Funeral, Orange Goblin, Primordial and Satyricon.

Pits of hell

Much like last year, I decided I wanted to catch as many concerts as I could and do all the editing when the festival was done. Not working for a publication this time around, gave me freedom to do just as I liked. Naturally, working as hard as I could felt like the most tempting option. To be honest, I regretted the decision painfully during the final day, but then I had made myself that goal, and there was no way in hell I was opting out. Working continuously from noon to 2 AM for four days in a row is really hard work. Especially when you have to run to each show and half of them are shot within a mosh pit (no photo pit at the smallest stage at USF Verftet).

Last year there were quite a few problems with there being too many photographers in the pit, and because of it, I ended up not caring too much about getting the shots prioritizing things like sitting, eating and watching the shows instead. This time around, all those issues had been resolved, so actually working in the pit wasn’t as tedious. The other photographers seemed, in general, a lot more professional to work around as well (when everybody gets the “courtesy tap”, you know you’re well off!)

When the festival was over, I was so tired I could barely move at all, with soreness, aches and bruises all over. Leaving the festival, I felt that I had gotten a lot of good shots, so even if I could barely stand up straight at that point, it felt well worth the effort.

Dark Funeral at Blastfest

Sounds of hell

Shooting 53 concerts in just four days doesn’t leave you with too much an impression of the music, unfortunately. I know I really liked the general mood of the festival and all the people I worked alongside. There were a few gigs that stood out, though. I think my favorite performance of the whole festival, was by an underground black metal-esque band called Kall. A really strange sight to see, building up from weird sounds and some sort of interpretive dancing (!) into a really vicious top point, with really long songs, and lots of droning (my favorite genre to shoot!). At their angriest, they reminded me a lot of another Swedish black metal band and their performance at the same venue and festival last year, Shining. Listening to Kalls album after the festival, I was somewhat disappointed, but rarely have I seen a concert as well-built up as theirs.

Another band that really stood out to me, was Asphyx. Performing late on the final day at the second stage at USF Verftet, I shot them from the mosh pit. At that point, I was really tired and was losing energy fast. They played kinda straight forward death metal, but the energy of the show was insane and gave me the adrenaline boost I needed to get through the rest of the festival.

Other honorable mentions are Rotting Christ and my long time favorites Primordial. Both with captivating performances and great audience control.


Editing hell

Immediately after the festival was done, I got the flu. Like my body had been keeping it at bay just long enough to get the final few shots. I think I’ve read somewhere that it’s actually a thing. Sorting through close to 20 000 pictures and editing the keepers with a high fever in a short time as possible, I recommend to no one. It had to be done, though. I think I spent four days on the editing, but really, I don’t even remember anymore (I got really sick!). Consequently, I didn’t do too much trickery with the editing, just boosting the contrast a bit and removing noise, relying, rather, on the shots being good enough on their own merits.

Blastfest 2015 was an amazing festival and looking back now, a few weeks later, I feel I got a lot of good shots out of it. Hopefully I’ll be back next year!

Pictures from all concerts (and then some) can be found here.

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