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Jupiter and Okwes International from Congo – a festival highlight.

The story

This last weekend I’ve been shooting at the Flow Festival in Helsinki. I’ve been feeling very mature in the company of loads of kids, resisting the temptation to tell them what festivals were like in my day, how I went to Glastonbury in 1980 when there was still only one stage, how I saw Pink Floyd playing Wish You Were Here at Knebworth in 1975. They would only have asked “Pink who?” In any case, I’m WORKING, producing a series of shots for the excellent web site ThisisFinland (you can see my previous galleries by clicking here).

It’s always interesting to compare the photo rules for different bands at festivals. The audio assault otherwise known as My Bloody Valentine, for example, don’t let any photographers into the ‘pit’ at front of house. The terrifying Nick Cave stared down at the gathered throng of lenses last night after our allotted first song shoot and , with a fleeting sneer, waved us goodbye. The standard is to allow us to shoot for the first three songs and that’s normally more than enough. But the variation in rules from band to band makes you wonder about the sensitivities of artist image. In any case, I’m usually quite interested in turning around and seeing what’s happening in the audience, especially on this occasion when I am shooting pics of the festival ambience rather than the specific bands. Tonight it’s Kraftwerk headlining and only a chosen few are allowed to photograph this 3D extravaganza – I don’t appear to be one of them.

As for the festival, it’s very well organised, although the orange-jacketed stewards, especially in the enormous bike park, are somewhat over officious in carrying out their duties. My dad used to say, put anyone in a uniform and they start behaving like they own the place. He had a point. But lots of pluses at Flow, including the very good food stands and variety of eats and drinks on offer, at prices comparable to what you’d be paying in Helsinki city bars. Also, the ubiquitous team of cleaners, constantly at work clearing up behind the drunken morons who think the world is their trash bin.

Highlights? Nick Cave, for whom a new word needs to be devised – charisma doesn’t quite hack it – and Jupiter and Okwes International pictured above and which I stumbled on late at night as I was leaving: the best stuff is usually discovered accidentally.

The technical stuff

Once again, it’s the Fujifilm X-Pro1 called into duty, this time with the 55-200mm lens. I wanted to test this small but versatile camera in a festival environment and generally it passed the test. Since I cycled to and from the festival every day, it was much easier to carry, being half the weight of my other, Canon stuff. The focussing speed on this lens isn’t quite up to that of the best Canon lenses, though, so I might think twice about using it for lively acts like Nick Cave in the future – can’t he stand still for FIVE MINUTES?! The 3.5-4.8 widest apertures and image stabilizer make it fairly versatile, though. I used a new, nicely priced Samyang 8mm fish-eye for some crowd shots too. You’ll be able to see the results on the ThisisFinland gallery, hopefully as soon as Monday (August 12).

Exhibition continues!

A reminder that my exhibition, Village Women, a small show of photos from a village in Odisha, India, is still on until the end of August at the Cafe Aalto in the Stockmann bookstore in Helsinki. The pictures are exquisitely framed and for sale.