Amazing Opportunities

I can honestly say I have been blessed with many opportunities in my career. Those who know me are aware of my passion and excitement for photography, though it is not really a big part of what brings home the bacon, if you know what I mean. I call it my professional hobby because I do some paid work, but my interest is more in finding gigs that are fun and help pay for new/more gear.

I got my start with professional photo work more on a whim than anything else. I have had a few people that don’t know me as well, or have come to know me more recently, ask for more details about why I have so many Donny Osmond photos. So, with that in mind here is a little history.

How I Met Donny
I helped start and co-owned a little web development company called Infogenix in Orem, Utah. (The company is run by some good friends that still are going strong with it and do amazing work if you are ever looking for that kind of thing.) One of our first projects was for an upstart genealogy company that Donny happened to be an investor in; Donny is very much a genealogy enthusiast. He liked what he saw in our work there and hired us to take over developing his fan site, Donny.com. Over the course of several years working on the site, I got to know Donny well and enjoyed the working relationship. The most common question I get asked is what Donny is like. Short answer, he is genuine, down to earth, and really as nice of a guy as he appears. He is also a bit of a tech geek, so there is an obvious common ground there.

My First Photo Gig
In 2004 Donny was scheduled to go on a short tour as part of a group of artists that were playing temporary venues in front of castles and well known estates throughout the UK. I had never been to Europe at all and thought how cool it would be to travel with the tour and see some of the areas. Previously I had helped Donny on some tour merchandise ideas and had gone on some US tour dates as a part of the project.

This is where the “whim” I spoke of comes in to play. To this point I had only owned two digital cameras, both early models with limited capacity and fixed lenses. I conjured up the idea of following Donny and his band on tour with my camera and capturing photos along the way to produce a photo journal/coffee table style book for his fans. I figured I could do all the work, Donny would give me full access to be along for the ride and we could create something cool and unique.

Donny took to the idea right away, though honestly his manager at the time was less than interested. She thought the idea was great, but why take the risk on this novice when they could hire a “professional” to insure a successful project. To his credit, and forever in my thanks, Donny put his faith in me professionally and as a friend. He told his manager “I know this guy, and if anyone can pull it off he can.” I relay that not to make my ego swell, but to give credit to Donny and to show the pressure that was all of a sudden a stark reality to me. What the heck was I doing proposing something that I really had no experience or skill for! But truthfully, I thrive off of challenges like this.

So, with a small advance for the project I headed out and purchased my first digital SLR, a Canon 40D. With some advice from a thread on the forums at Digital Grin, I bought my first budget lens, a Canon EF 28-135IS, (which was a stellar midrange first lens). Along with some spare batteries, CF cards and a trust laptop, that was my equipment bag in total. I converted a Targus laptop bag into a computrekker by creating my own foam enclosure with custom cutouts for my gear. It was DIY heaven on a shoestring budget.

I was nervous as could be that I would pull it off, but after the first night jitters I immediately realized I loved what I was doing and was able to capture some really fun images. The coolest moment for me was that night on the bus after the first show. I downloaded all my photos and started culling them. I was in the back lounge of the bus and Paul Peterson came back and looked over my shoulder. After a couple of minutes he called in the rest of the band to take a look; Donny, (his sons Jeremy and Don were also on this tour) joined in. They were enthralled with the photos and started helping me rank them as to keepers and throwaways. For the rest of the tour this became an after show routine that we all enjoyed.

Incidentally, Donny’s manager was also on the first part of the tour and after seeing a couple of days of photos she actually commented to me that she was glad I was on the tour and that Donny had pushed it through. Now if that isn’t redemption, I don’t know what is!

Without going through all the details, the trip and experience was amazing.

The Results
In the end I published a book called “On Tour With Donny Osmond: Photos of the UK Summer Nights Tour” which sold out its first printing in a matter of days. The second printing ended up being delayed, but the bulk of it also sold like crazy as well. A number of photos I took on that tour were also printed and sold as 8x10s on subsequent tours and through his site. The stars aligned with the quality and timing of the book was perfectly suited, and I am much appreciated to his fans for making it the retail success it was. I have met many, many of his loyal admirers over these years and can count many as close friends.

So that was my start with concert photography, and professional photography in general. I have since shot countless concerts for Donny as well as a variety of other local and some well known artists. As with most photo enthusiasts who spend (too) much money on gear, I have ended up shooting a lot of family portraits, some weddings, and a variety of other photo opportunities for businesses and individuals. I have yet to find a niche I enjoy as much as concerts, though I enjoy dabbling in everything. There are so many amazing photographers out there that I have no hope of reaching their level, but I sure the ride of trying.

What’s Next
I have been trying to get a foot in the door with a local radio station to get some media access to more concerts from a wider variety of artists. So far that foot hasn’t made it in, but I’ll keep trying. I would really like to add some diversity to my concert footage, particularly because different artists have unique looks and stage performance to capture. Concerts are some of the most difficult lighting situations to capture, particularly with the movement typical to a stage act.

In my mind I was done with Donny photos as I am in a place in my career where taking off a few weeks at a time to travel is not really in the cards. I have also captured so many images of Donny that I am afraid of just repeating myself. A couple of months ago, though, Donny called up and talked to me about doing another book. His entire original family is touring together on a reunion style tour and he really would like to have the event recorded. This is the first time they have toured together in 27 years, and likely the last time, so he would like to see something done for the special event and thought the fans would like it as well. How could I turn it down?!

So, with arrangements made with work who has graciously allowed me the time off, and an even more gracious wife that is taking the full burden at home for the duration of the trip, I am headed back out on tour. With a project like this I am very excited, but I also get that little flutter of nervous anticipation as I look ahead. I know I have the ability to make it a success, but I want it to be the absolute best it can be. I hope to capture images better than I ever have, and hopefully ones that everyone from the performers to the fans truly enjoy.

Like I said, I am blessed. I hope to continue to make the most of these great opportunities.

EDIT:  I completely forgot to talk about the makingof this photo, which was the original intent of the post 🙂  I got caught up in the telling of the overall story.  In the middle of the tour Donny filmed the music video for “Breeze on By” in a loft in London.  I was able to tag along with the hopes of capturing some behind-the-scenes photos.  Not only did I get some shots, I was able to take advantage of the wonderful lighting and set.  When the video crew would stop to change out film, I would jump in and using their current set up to snap off some shots.  How often do you get professional lighting, set design and makeup/hair all provided all provided at no cost to you!