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Leeds Festival Official Photo Team Wrap Up

 (Todd Owyoung)

There are just some opportunities that take a few years to realize. This weekend, I had the pleasure of being part of one such opportunity and adding “international music photographer” to bio as part of the official photo team for Leeds Festival in the UK. 

The team for Leeds was being headed up by my friends Danny North and Andrew Whitton, who were tasked with the official photo coverage for the festival. With this opportunity, Danny and Andrew decided to assemble an international team, inviting Australian photographer Daniel Boud and me from the US to be a part of it, as well as UK “locals” Jenna Foxton and Seb Barros.

Avengers assemble.

The real story for this team started about seven years ago, when Danny, Daniel, and I  were all part of the Concert Photography Group on Flickr. Back then, we were all basically starting our careers as music photographers. In fact, at that time, music photography blogs were basically non-existent, and Dan Boud’s website was my inspiration to start

Apart from beginning our journey as music photographers at the same time and having become friends over the years, what made me truly excited to be a part of this team was the pure talent at its core. Danny, Andrew, and Daniel are all photographers whose work I have loved and respected for years, and it was an absolute honor to be part of a team with them.

It was actually about 3 years ago when Danny called me and asked what I thought about coming over to shoot a festival with him and Daniel. It took three years to find the right festival, but the idea of bringing together this international team of photographers has been something Danny has pursued ever since. And with Leeds Festival 2013, it all came together.

When I got the email from Danny asking me if I would be interested in coming over, my answer was simple and emphatic. Did he even need to ask? We received approval thanks to the photography manager for the Leeds and Reading photo teams, Marc Sethi, and flights were booked.

Apart from working along side some of the best music photographers on the planet, this was a chance to do a music festival properly. Good access, fair pay, and, most importantly, the opportunity to make images that mattered. Shooting directly for the festival, our images would be showcased in a live stream throughout the day on the official festival website, uploaded often while the bands were still on stage, in big, beautiful galleries.

For me, photographing a UK festival was something special. While the US certainly has its share of festivals throughout the spring and summer, there remained something of an exotic allure to a proper English festival that has held my fascination as long as I’ve been shooting music. Perhaps its was seeing photos of the massive photo pits, or the enormous tent stages, or the ubiquitous mud and Wellies — somehow, all these details added up to something I knew that I had to experience at least once.

On the mud and Wellies front, this was something to which I got a proper introduction. No, not so much as an introduction as a full on immersion, as three days of rain turned Bramham Park into several square miles of thick, sloppy mud by the end of the festival. While it mildly awful in the moment slogging through slow-moving rivers of ankle-deep mud, part of me is actually a bit pleased to have gotten the opportunity to get that sort of festival experience I think is somewhat unique to the UK. It’s quite a thing to be surrounded by thousand and thousands of festival goers who are literally all wearing rain boots — I wore mine with pride.

Between the start of coverage on Thursday afternoon through Sunday night, I’m pretty sure I clocked no more than about five hours of sleep. Between jet lag, long days shooting and late nights editing, Leeds Festival was definitely a marathon event. However, for all the aches and lack of sleep, I’m sure I won’t recall any of this in the years to come. What I’ll really remember is the opportunity to shoot along side world class peers and my friends.

With that said, here are some of my favorite images from Leeds Festival 2013, Big Picture style.

Leeds Festival 2013 Photo Highlights

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End Notes

For me, photographing Leeds Festival as part of the official team was something of a hallmark. In a year when I’ve covered fewer shows in my own city than I have since I started shooting live music as a photographer, I’ve also traveled more than ever for national work.  In the past seven weeks, Leeds marked the fifth time traveling for photo work, which I think was a record amount of travel for me this summer.

When I started shooting live music, I started shooting in smoky dive bars, showing up hours before doors to dim clubs just to grab a piece of the stage and photograph my favorite bands. To think that all those sweaty gigs and my battered cameras have led me to being able to be part of a massive production like Leeds Festival — well, that kind of blows my mind a little bit.

Moreover, Leeds Festival wasn’t just a photo job. Being part of the official crew as the photography team wasn’t even about the money, or the access, or even truly the bragging rights of international commissions.

The most special part of the festival was being able to work with hands down some of the best music photographers in the business to create a killer body of work to highlight the event. Each and every one of them made images over the weekend that made me want to push myself to be a better photographer. What’s more, I’m happy to call these photographers my friends.

Big shout out to Danny North for the heart, vision and tenacity to bring together the Leeds Festival 2013 photo team after all these years. And a thank you to Marc Sethi for having the trust in us to bring this team together. Big love to my peers Andrew Whitton, Daniel Boud, Jenna Foxton and Seb Barros.

See the full highlights gallery of Leeds Festival from this team at the Official Leeds Festival gallery.

Speaking of these fine photographers, here’s a little “selfie” we took after filing the last of Sunday’s image after the festival wrapped.

Leeds Festival 2013 Official Photo Team

 (Todd Owyoung)

(L to R) Leeds Festival 2013 Official Photo Team: Daniel Boud, Jenna Foxton, Danny North, Seb Barros, Todd Owyoung, and Andrew Whitton.

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There are 15 comments

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  1. Priten Vora

    My goodness Todd, and I thought the preview images were good! These are godlike! I’m glad to hear you had such an amazing time! Oh, what I wouldn’t have given to be there! I’d love the chance to shoot with all of you wonderful photographers someday. You seem like an awesome bunch to hang around =)

    Keep it up man. This is some of the best stuff I’ve seen on your site.

    P.S. I asked this in the comments in the preview as well – do you happen to have any photos of We Are The In Crowd from this festival? I’d love to see those!

    • Todd

      Hey Priten, thanks for the kind comment. I hope I get to shoot with these guys again soon.

      I did not shoot We Are The In Crowd, unfortunately. We all had various assignments for the festival, but they weren’t on my targets. I don’t believe anyone else on the official team shot them, though I may be mistaken.

      • Priten Vora

        You’re welcome, Todd! I’ve been watching your work for a few years now and you never cease to impress =)

        It’s a shame that no one shot them! They’re gaining traction very quickly and shooting them from the crowd and meeting them after a show last November really confirmed to me that music photography was something I wanted to have in my life. Definitely give them a look if they come around your area, and meet them if you can as well. You won’t be disappointed by their kindness. These guys and Halestorm are the only bands I’ve ever seen who have made it pretty big (or to some extent at least) and yet still go insanely far out of their way for their fans. And they’re really fun to shoot – I can attest to that!

        • Todd

          Hey Priten, thanks again for the kind words. I will definitely check out We Are The In Crowd if I get a chance, thanks for the heads up. Always very nice to see a band making every effort to connect with their fans.

          • Priten Vora

            Any time, man! Are you going to shoot the House Party Tour when it comes to Bloomington? I may get to shoot it and I’d love to be shooting in the same pit as you and Adam Elmakias! They’re coming by Bloomington on October 3rd – you should look into it!

            And I look forward to We Are The In Crowd photos from you in the future! ;)

  2. Diego

    I literally spent hours every day of the week after the festival concluded checking out the official gallery, and there were 3 things I kept thinking all the time:
    1. Some of my favorite photographers are gathered in one place: Danny (who I could meet briefly when he came to Mexico), Daniel, You. It made me want to be there even as a fan, just to see if I ran into you guys.
    2. THAT is how an official coverage is done. I’ve worked for festivals here in Mexico and we don’t have that kind of access and even when we also publish images in real time, I feel that the results don’t make quite an impact, these are more of the same photos you see everywhere else. It was great seeing someone care about photography that much.
    3. Finally, just like you said, seeing these galleries, as well as your work over the years, makes me want to shoot even better images. All of you guys are truly an inspiration. Congratulations!

    • Todd

      Hey Diego,

      Thanks for the kind comment, I really appreciate it! It was an honor working with these guys, and I certainly learned a few new tricks during the weekend.

      We were fortunate to be working for a festival that does seem to care about photography, which was a very nice and refreshing change!

      Thanks again.

  3. Paige K. Parsons

    Well done, Todd! It’s great to see a UK fest from an American’s POV. You’ve done us proud. Inspiring work, as always.

    I’m curious how the festival pits differed in the UK from the US, and if the bands ever get to interact with the crowds since there’s such a huge space between the stage and the crowds. It was also interesting to see so few women at the rail – was that the norm up front at the larger stages?

    • Todd

      Hey Paige!

      Sorry for the late reply. Some bands did go into the pit on the main stage, but one that I photographed. I believe Bring Me The Horizon, Deftones, and Foals all had band members go into the photo pit during their sets.

      As for women on the rail, I think those are just for those two shots. There were tons of women at the front, it just depended on which gig it was.

      Thanks for the kind comment, Paige. This was really a fun shoot, I hope I get to do more UK festivals in the future.

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