David Conger | Sasquatch Photographer Series

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Name: David Conger
Occupation: Father, Engineer, Photographer
Number of Sasquatch’s Photographed: 3

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1. How did you get your start in photography?

My start in photography came at a young age as my Father enjoying shooting with a large format camera. We frequently spent time taking photos on vacation and during our daily lives. For a science fair project, we built and used a pinhole camera to take black-and-white and color photos, developing them a make-shift darkroom in one of our bathrooms. We would later build a darkroom in our basement, where I learned how to develop the photos taken by our family. I drifted away from photography when I went away to college, but after getting a DSLR in 2008, I found my way into shooting concerts through the radio station where I worked as a part-time DJ, 106.1 KISS-FM, and fell in love with the challenge of capturing music. Since then, I’ve had an amazing time shooting over 1000 concerts and festivals!

2. What are some pro tips for those who want to try concert photography?

Shoot. A lot. Photograph anything you can, in a variety of settings and shooting conditions. Understand how to use your camera, compose photos, and develop them. Concert photography can be incredibly fast paced, with frequently changing lighting, moving performers, smoke, and many other challenges in less than ideal conditions. You must know how the settings you choose will interact with the situation immediately since the time you spend away from the viewfinder can be key moments that you miss.

Don’t feel that you need to have the best gear to start shooting. I started with a Canon Rebel XSI and kit lens. I remember early on shooting a show with “Iron” Mike Savoia where he asked me what gear I was using. I was a bit embarrassed to say, “just an XSI”, but how he responded is now I respond to every young photographer. “That is great camera. It doesn’t matter what your gear is, it is all how you use it and I’m sure you’ll get great images.” (Well he said it better than that I am sure.) Identifying the right moments and composing a great shot with the right settings for your setup is the key. If I was covering Sasquatch for the first-time accessories I’d make sure to have is a Giottos Rocket Blower to get rid of dust from The Gorge and a BlackRapid camera strap to take the weight of the camera off your neck and give you a more active way to carry and handle your camera.

3. With so many acts to see, how do you decide which artists to photograph?

For me, who I cover is dictated by which artists connect with the outlets I shoot for and the artists performing at the venues I work with. This allows me a great variety in what I get to cover, shooting literally every genre of music. Every artist brings something and the variety results in vastly different opportunities as well as fan interaction, which is fun to see and capture. Because we are such a rich area for local and national tours, about half of the events that come across my desk are covered by great partner photographers like Sunita Martini, Alex Crick, Christine Mitchell, Jason Tang, Joshua Lewis, Mocha Charlie, Neil Lim Sang, and many other photographers that I am honored to have support me and my outlets. I love giving them opportunities to shoot some of their favorite artists while also getting to experience new artists they wouldn’t conventionally listen to or cover.

4. Aside from your photo gear, what else is in your bag during a festival?

I generally overpack my bag with gear that I really don’t need, though am somehow able to limit the “non-photo gear” out of my bag. Hearing protection is a necessity, and I am lucky to have great custom molds to keep me safe when I am at the stage and standing next to a speaker. It’s a joy to find a note from family or a small toy dropped by one of my kids in my bag, since the biggest challenge for being at a festival is being away and trying to connect with them while tirelessly working for multiple days. Extra power bricks have become vital, especially with my phone and a memory card reader for it have being two pieces of “not strictly photo gear” that now play a pivotal role. Being able to edit from my phone without going back to a media room has changed the way I cover festivals. I can spend more time shooting performances, moving between stages and shooting atmosphere and fans when I can process photos in the mobile version of Adobe Lightroom CC and immediately post to my outlets or send to my editors.

5. Some of your favorite acts you’ve photographed at Sasquatch / favorite Sasquatch memory?

Even in just the few years I have covered there are a lot of great performances across all the Sasquatch stages. I can’t forget the first time at Sasquatch in 2013 and having all the Seattle love for Macklemore and Ryan Lewis headlining as they were hot off first part of The Heist World Tour. What an incredible sight to see a massive Sasquatch audience in support of local guys that were continuing to highlight Seattle as a city of strong musicians as my first Sasquatch experience. I also remember the next year when M.I.A. came to perform and her team asked us to come back later in the set as they were planning to use some drones on-stage, which was the first time most of us had ever seen a drone. That year was also a great memory for me getting to fill-in for the amazing Christopher Nelson, teaming up Matthew Lamb as the festival photo team. Opportunities to work with a team of photographers always out weights working alone since your able to produce such a rich view across the whole of the festival together. 2015 had a load of performances that I remember too, with Ayron Jones, Thunderpussy, Alunageorge, Natalie Prass with Ryan Adams, MØ, St Paul and The Broken Bones and many other than I caught on my radar that year that I would try to cover in return visits to Seattle. Finally, Sasquatch is always memorable because of the comradery of the photographers and the experience we have together that weekend, trying to get great shots, best each other, and endure the challenges of covering a festival that is the scale of Sasquatch. Photographers like Mat Hayward challenge and encourage me to do my best capturing images, while guys like Jim Bennett make sure we are all feeling the love and having a great time. The other photographers paired with Sasquatch festival end up making it a great weekend.

6. Favorite thing about Sasquatch?

There is nothing like being at The Gorge for Sasquatch weekend. Everyone should go at least once and experience of all the stages against the iconic Gorge backdrop. It’s also a festival where I always come away with finding local and smaller artist to add to my playlist that I might not have otherwise had a chance to catch while also seeing some of my favorite headline artists.