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Planet Bonnaroo!

June 21, 2006 by Mark Cornelison  
Filed under Behind the Photo, Mark Cornelison

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Manchester, Tennessee??? Ever heard of it? Me either, until last week when I went with Jamie Gumbrecht – Ms. It’s All About – and we headed there for the Bonnaroo Music Festival. Turns out Bonnaroo is one of, if not the largest, music festival going on these days drawing 90,000 people to the 700 acre farm in rural Tennessee. I have been to events and games before that had 100,000 people but those people were always in the stands or somehow separated from the event I was covering. But not at Bonnaroo. Jamie and I were caught in the current of the “sea of humanity” making it’s way from stage to stage! It was quite a trip. (See our audio slide show here)060616bonnaroofmc023
The show’s lineup was not all to my taste but was cool just the same. Artists ranging from Tom Petty, (my taste), to Cypress Hill, (taste?), cranked out the tunes and heavy bass lines enough to shake the fields we walked across in 90+ degree heat. The sun was brutal! Many people flocked to the large fountains to get soaked with water and get some relief. Sadly, with Canon cameras around my neck I did not feel safe doing this so I just suffered.

The first day we went to cover the shows, Friday, we arrived around 9:00 or so local time and began the trek in from the day parking area to the media trailer. Shows would begin around 2:00 and we could get our bearings and figure out where we, as press, needed to be. We would find that stuff was spread all over and the walk from the car to the press trailer alone was close to a mile each way. With computers and cameras it felt longer.

As the day went on, I tried to shoot from different areas from the crowd and not necessarily the photo pit. The photo pit turned out to be the cleanest shot without all the heads in front, but apparently whoever was credentialing photographers decided to give a photo pass to anyone who had a camera, including point-and-shoot cameras. This proved to be a hassle, as I would be framing up a shot only to have someone hold their Sure-shot up over their head trying to get a good angle with a camera that was not made to handle the intense stage lights contrasted with black backgrounds. The result was nice black backgrounds and totally blown out performers for the point-and-shooters. The worst part of the day came when I remembered Jamie had told me the band she was covering was My Morning Jacket, and they played at MIDNIGHT. This scheduling of course thrilled me and when the shows, which I was shooting for the day, were slowing down, I went and lay down amongst the throngs of people seeking shade and resting under some of the few trees on the farm. I enjoyed a $5 slice of pizza and another $5 bottle of water and relaxed for a while. Midnight was still 7 hours away and I felt every minute of it pass.

When midnight came and My Morning Jacket was about to begin I staked out a spot on the outer edge to shoot with a 300 2.8 and 1.4 converter. Knowing the light would be tough I took my ASA up to 800 to start with. Just as the show was about to begin the 15 fans in front of me decided to climb up on the trashcans and completely block my view! I quickly moved to the side, dodging people sitting on blankets and started to shoot. Jim James, the lead singer seemed to have felt my pain of the poor lighting and simply came out with a camping lantern! Was that supposed to help? It was VERY dark and I ratcheted down my shutter speed trying to get the moment. I feel certain had I not been shooting on RAW I would not have been able to pull it off.
The Saturday was better for us. We knew our way around, knew the schedules, didn’t have any midnight shows, and the night ended with Radiohead, who I kept calling Coldplay, by mistake. I guess there is not much of a comparison. Took a few chances on Radiohead and got a few nice shots.

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5 Responses to “Planet Bonnaroo!”
  1. Amy Crawford says:

    The only thing I remember about Manchester, Tenn., was a really creepy Wendy’s guy who followed us to our car on a family trip to Florida. Good job on the photos. I felt like I was there with you. And BTW, it’s only 113 here in Arizona.

  2. Laurie says:

    These photos and the audio to go along with them was incredible. Thank you for making and sharing such a beautiful recap. My Morning Jacket rules!!

  3. Kelli says:

    Your photos of Bonnaroo are SO very good, especially the one of a lantern-wielding Jim James. I’m into photography, so I really appreciate reading the technical stuff of how you set up the shots. Thanks!

  4. Smitty says:

    I’m jealous.. Great pics and post as always, Mark! Quick question: So you did or didn’t enjoy Cypress Hill?

  5. MJ says:

    Your photo of Jim James and the lantern brings me right back to that amazing friday night with “When You Wish Upon A Star” blaring over the sound system. You really captured the moment with that shot just the way I remember it. I would love to buy a print from either you or your paper!

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