Joshua Tree Music Festival 2016 - Fall

Bringing to life the Joshua Tree Music Festival 2016 was a true experience. I honestly have never attempted to shoot a music festival prior to this, so I was not sure what to expect. From a technical standpoint I went into the entire experience fairly blind, which turned out to be at my advantage in hindsight. I had no preconceived ideas of what standards or norms of event photography should or should not entail... Instead I went with the mindset of a huge wedding and brought gear that I trusted to never let me down, no matter the lighting or environmental conditions would throw at me.

The one thing I must say is that the Joshua Tree Music Festival is probably one of the most amazing music festivals I have ever experienced. It's personal, small (but not too small), big but you never feel crowded, and most of all the people that attend are genuine. I felt a connection to all that I encountered and never once felt out of place.

The music lineup was stellar and diverse, a mix of just about everything on the spectrum but very well balanced at the same time. The organizers of the event have been doing this for a long time, and this finely tuned experience really exemplifies itself in the overall flow of Joshua Tree Music Festival. Sometimes you go to a music festival (even big ones) and the vibe is just chaos, (controlled chaos) but still lacks real forethought and instead you get the feeling that the festival wants to drive the experience into you like a rusty nail in a bare foot... Joshua Tree Music Festival is the complete opposite... It is a harmony of spirit and mind that comes together with passion, love, amazing venue and a lot of hard work.

The stage for the Joshua Tree Music Festival is a patch of desert in the middle of nowhere ... Driving there from central California I watched the landscape peel away from granite domes and pine trees to open desert and joshua trees. You arrive and you know you arrived.. Hell, there is nothing else around so that small tent city in the middle of the desert must be the place, right?

You walk in and instantly you feel at home, everyone you encounter is on a good vibe, even the security guards are nice and all smiles. Normally these subtleties are overlooked or underappreciated. People fail to realize how much added confusion and stress unorganized staff or discourteous staff can cause even before you walk in the event. Getting into anything “fun” should be “fun” and stress free.. Any good show producer understands the nature of personal experience whilst getting to a place or event. An understanding that your experience begins before you step foot into the venue, and this was something I appreciated from the Joshua Tree Music Festival. I pulled up, got my ticket, parked my car and walked in.. No fuss, no stress, no aggro security.. Just simple.

Another aspect to this festival that I personally enjoyed was being able to jump in and out of “the mix” with little hassle or discomfort. Don’t get me wrong, it’s awesome to enjoy the music and dancing for hours on end, but it’s equally awesome to sleep and recharge after a while. Never once did I feel that the festival was obtrusive or mentally suffocating. When I decided to check out, go to my tent and sleep the music never disrupted me from catching some zzz’s or sitting to read a book. Mornings are usually reserved for coffee and social time, the music does not start kicking off until you get some coffee and breakfast in your stomach. Again, the timing of schedule is just “adult”, I wish I had a better description but that really is the best way to put it. This is a spiritually mature and refined festival, far removed from the rave scenes that you usually encounter these days.

There is so much I can say about the Joshua Tree Music Festival, I unfortunately can’t explain every subtle nuance of the experience. I can only say that it truly has become my favorite and most anticipated music festival of the year. You can find information on the event at


My impressions as a photographer:

My main camera was my Sony A7Rii with the Zeiss Batis 85mm f1.8, << this lens is my ultimate "go to", it never fails me, never once ... The A7Rii is so solid that I had zero concerns about light or dynamic range of the photos. The rest of my arsenal included a Sony A6000 with a 135mm Canon FD f2 and a assortment of lenses that I am very comfortable with .. Canon FD 50mm f1.4, Canon FD 35mm f2, and the Sony 28mm f2.

I switch a lot of shots between the Sony A6000 and the A7Rii and it's sometimes hard to tell the difference even though the A6000 is a fraction of the cost of the A7Rii, it is one of the most solid cameras I have ever shot with and for fast moving subjects or burst frame mode, there are few cameras on the market that can compete and most all the others are also Sony’s. Once you pair the A6000 with good glass, you really can't go wrong... I use the crop sensor to my advantage, especially equipped with the 135mm f2, there was a rare moment I could not get really up close and personal while being far enough away to allow an organic natural moment to play out from anxiety of a camera in presence of the subject.

Never once did I feel the need to have a zoom lens, my primes just dominated nearly every scene. Yes, I had to change lenses but I personally feel that is part of the experience as a photographer and part of the challenge.

The images shown here that were captured during my 3 days at the festival are only a fraction of the total captured. In those 72hrs I shot over 2,200 photos, I refined those down to almost 600 deliverables to the event organizers, which is some of what I am showing here... Normally a photographer would take some extra amount of time selecting his or her "best" photos of any given event... That is not me, I randomly uploaded these and I am extremely happy and connected with all of them.

The Joshua Tree Music Festival happens 2 times a year, May and October .. If you have the opportunity to attend this event, I would highly recommend it.