Pitchfork: The Gear That Worked

At last year's festival, point & shoot cameras seemed to dominate the photo pit, with DSLRs in the minority. This year saw a reversal of that showing, as the Pitchfork Music Festival attracted bigger media outlets and appropriately bigger cameras.

Pitchfork 2007: the Pit at the Connector Stage

As a bookend to my previous posting on what gear I was bringing, here's a rundown the essential gear for this year's event:

Top 5 Most Useful Pieces of Photo Gear at Pitchfork

  1. Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR: Indispensable given the stage sizes and number of other photographers competing for space in the pit. The telephoto offers great isolation, image quality, and speed for photographing musicians.
  2. Kinesis bags: This belt system is a complete necessity for long events, offering more comfort than even a backpack without the penalty of awkward accessibility.
  3. Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8: The wide-to-short-tele range of this lens perfectly compliments the 70-200, especially at the front of the stage, where the wide angle really shines.
  4. Ridata 4gb CF cards (3x): The nice capacity of these cards let me shoot without worrying about changing cards. This is a key factor given the song limits and time lost wading through the sea of photographers in the pit to change positions.
  5. Nexto CF portable storage drive: With a 100gb drive installed, this little piece of hardware ensures I don't have to carry a dozen CF cards, nor do I have to review and delete. With the Nexto and similar portable storage devices, I never have to worry about memory.

Below is an expanded summary of what worked during the two-day shoot.
Bigger Event, Bigger Cameras

While my D2X and 70-200VR were among the bigger pieces of gear last year, the two slid in comfortably among plenty of other big rigs this past weekend. Cameras in the Canon 1-series and Nikon D2-series were out in force, as were a number of Canon 5Ds and Nikon D200s. Many among the press were also shooting two bodies this year, with a 70-200mm f/2.8 zoom on one and a wide-to-tele midrange f/2.8 zoom on the other.

70-200mm Domination

Pitchfork 2007: the Pit at the Connector Stage

Similar to last year, I used the 70-200VR almost exclusively at the smaller Connector stage. With large bass speakers positioned in the pit at the front of the stage, the increased distance between photographers and the stage made a telephoto necessary for any tightly framed images of performers.


The 70-200mm f/2.8 also saw a jump in use at the main Aluminum stage, where I had heavily used the 17-55mm f/2.8 last year. This wasn't a complete surprise, as when reviewing my images from the 2006 event, I saw that many of my favorite images came from the long lens. Overall, the telephoto was my most tused lens at Pitchfork 2007, with the midrange zoom took a close second and the 85mm a distant third.

The Nikon 85mm f/1.4, which I brought knowing it would see limited action, was used briefly during Yoko Ono's set, and to limited effect, given the relatively bright lighting used during her performance. For the most part, f/2.8 was completely acceptable, with very high shutter speeds thanks to the bright weather.

Clipse @ Pitchfork 2007

While it saw slightly less action than last year, the Nikon 17-55 was still key for telling the story of the festival. The range of the lens is highly suited for working in close proximity to the stage and the wide angle helped provide a nice contrast to the more abstracted headshots the 70-200mm made possible.

Iron & Wine @ Pitchfork 2007
Belt-Bag Power

Once again, the Kinesis bag system proved its sheer functionality, letting me carry the above gear comfortably for both all-day events. Especially with the weight and size of the 70-200mm and 17-55 mm lenses, the belt system made lens changes a breeze. The bag and lenses casees were also great for the equipment I wasn't using dust free and protected from knocks while in the pit.

Data Storage

As with any long event, data storage was a key issue at the 2007 Pitchfork Music Festival. However, thanks to a great pair of products, it was never more than an afterthought as I worked the weekend event.

The first item was simply a set of large, fast Ridata CF cards. I used three 4gb capacity cards for a total of 12gb of memory, which alone is a healthy amount and kept me focused on shooting without the need to review and delete images throughout the day. Even with the large RAW files of the D2x, the nice capacity of the cards let me shoot entire sets without having to slow down to change cards.

As a compliment to the Ridata cards, I used a Nexto portable storage device to dump images periodically during the day, roughly every several sets. The model I have is the Nexto OTG CF, though I'd recommend the newer Nexto Ultra for anyone in the market. The new Ultra is faster and supports both CF and SD cards, while the OTG model only accepts CF natively.

I have 100gb drives installed in my Nextos, which is plenty of space for day-events like music festivals even with heavy shooting. For longer trips, I'll take two of these and a laptop, which make on-the-go editing a breeze and give me peace of mind with plenty of space for backup.


Overall, the gear worked great. Aside from bringing the relatively unnecessary 85mm f/1.4, the whole kit worked very well, with no surprises or hitches. With another festival down, I feel pretty comfortable with events of this size and look forward to other opportunities. At the very least, I know the gear is up to it.