This past Memorial Day weekend, I photographed the Sasquatch Music Festival at The Gorge for the 4th year in a row. It’s my absolute favorite music festival to shoot in the Seattle area due to the always-stellar lineup and turnout of awesome photographers from all over the U.S., but it is often my most painful weekend of the year. The pain is due in most cases to the tons of walking and running around while carrying way too much camera gear and staying up til the morning light processing photos, although last year in particular it was due to a surprise bout of appendicitis. This year, I was able to survive Sasquatch with all of my organs intact and, thanks to my FitBit, I even have numerical stats showing just how much work my body did during Sasquatch:
3 days. 60 bands photographed. 19.13 miles walked. 12 hours slept.
Generally, I finish out my Sasquatch weekend needing an entire week to recuperate with pain shooting from my neck, down my back, through my arms and legs, and into my feet. Two years ago, I did so much damage to my upper left shoulder by carrying way too much gear that it took a full year to recover from the injury. This year, I was shocked to find that at the end of the Sasquatch madness, the only thing I was suffering from was a minor lack of sleep. No major body pain was felt at all. How was this possible, and how could I ensure I felt this way after every music festival? Here are my recommendations, based purely on feelings and assumptions.
Eat real food, and eat it often.
In the press area, temptation is strong to dive into the bags of chips, cookies, and candies that are lying around up for grabs. While I admit to having my fair share of Rice Krispy Treats, I also made the conscious decision to pay to eat real food at The Gorge. I made the sad mistake on day 1 of eating the chicken noodle stir fry (terrible quality), but from then on discovered The Gorge’s mondo-sized burritos. Huge and stuffed with semi-fresh ingredients, these burritos were 3 meals in 1 and totally worth the $9 price tag. Totally eating these every time I shoot at The Gorge.
Hydrate with water.
No Red Bulls, Five Hour Energies, or any of that processed crap. I had one water bottle full of Starbucks Via to start off my day, and then switched to water. The rest of the liquid I fed my body throughout the day was straight up H2O. Nothing else.
Avoid drugs and alcohol.
Drugs are bad, mmkay? ‘Nuff said. One of many times in my life that I consider myself blessed to be allergic to booze–there is zero temptation for me to drink any of it, and I’m convinced I was better off for it in this case.
Use ergonomic photography gear.
In my case, this involved two Black Rapid R-Straps and a Think Tank Change Up waist bag. Using these two items, I was able to carry two DSLRs with lenses attached to them, a flash, a spare lens, and an extender on my body, and not feel even the slightest bit of shoulder or back pain throughout the weekend.
Wear ergonomic shoes.
For perhaps the first time ever, I decided to forgo my signature Converse shoes and wear a pair of Columbia hiking boots throughout the weekend. Best. Decision. Ever. Maybe not fashionable, but wearing these boots led to zero foot or leg pain that I generally get after a weekend of running around a music festival. This is my new plan of footwear attack for all future festivals.
Prepare the weeks before the event with vitamins and exercise.
Everyone who’s ever been to a concert at The Gorge is familiar with the huge hill leading down to the mainstage and the pain associated with having to traverse said hill several times a day. Knowing this, I prepared the few weeks before by making it a goal to run 20 miles a week. I also fueled up my system for a weekend of poor eating by taking Orange Triad vitamins, and fueled my brain up by playing daily rounds of Lumosity. While I don’t have any tangible proof that any of these preparation tactics worked, I can attest that I made it up and down that mainstage hill like a rockstar with no shortness of breath, and I was able to post-process and upload my images like a maniac, often well before my next-day deadline.
If I follow these exact steps again, would I emerge pain-free from a music festival? I don’t have an answer yet, but I have at least 7 more music festivals left this year to test and refine my methods. Stay tuned!