Dod Morrison is Chief Photographer for Rebellion Festival, member of The Adicts Road Crew, esteemed punk & rock photographer and badger enthusiast. The Punk Lounge got chatting to Dod, taking a look at his work and finding out what it is to be a music photographer.
How long have you been a photographer for? How did you get started?
It all started when I went to a Hayseed Dixie show back in 2004. I took in a small compact camera, took a few pics and enjoyed it. While speaking with the band afterwards they invited me to their show in Glasgow where I went along, did some more pictures, and thought they were great. If I was to look at them now I doubt I would even use them anywhere, but we all start somewhere… It [Hayseed Dixie] is the band I met my wife through too.
You’ve gone on tour with plenty of bands (The Adicts and The Damned to name a few) and are very well involved – would you say building a friendship with the band helps with getting great quality photos?
Yes definitely, they have to trust you and vice versa. They [bands] will give you free range and after a few shows you will get to know their routine and can sometimes pre-empt what they are going to do before they do and get to take more shots than other photographers do. You can also get the exclusive shots like hanging backstage, chilling etc.
What is a typical day at a big event like Rebellion Festival for a photographer?
All festivals are different. I can help setting-up backstage, taking in programmes and helping out with riders for a few days before the festival starts however a typical day at Rebellion for me can be:
I’ll arrive at my space in the office, set up my laptop, check all my cameras are charged and set up all my chargers. I’ll then make sure all of my Rebellion Photography Team has got their photographer passes and their allocated stages. I then need to check all of the bands are happy to with having photographers and then liaise with any that have stipulations and sort this out with the Tour Managers. I then put up my list of bands that I have been requested to do for any magazines and websites.
The rest of the day I run between the office and the Rebellion stages getting any pictures that I have taken ready for the Facebook page and website. If any problems arise about photos I am on call to sort that out too. My normal hours for the festival are about 9am until 2am.
Glastonbury Festival, now that’s a different story. All of the press are put in the Press Tent, which has internet and desks to work from. You are escorted to the stage by stewards to take pictures for the allotted time and escorted back to the press tent until the next [artist].
What are the issues you run into, say with bands/artists or with venues?
At Rebellion we are lucky enough to have only a few bands that might have any stipulations. The main headliners we allow 3 songs [to take photos within] so that the fans can see the show without about 15 photographers in their way.
Now other venues and festivals the normal rules are that after the first 3 songs there can be no flash from the pit, this is allegedly because after 3 songs the band starts to look sweaty (even though I have not been able to confirm this). I don’t get it, because currently everyone at gigs have camera-phones so there are pictures all through the show from the crowd anyway.
With 3 songs you might about 10 minutes to get the pictures, but you also have to contend with the other photographers there. For U2 at Glastonbury Festival there were 98 of us and security too so there was little space to move around.
But it can be even worse than that. Some examples are:
- Nick Cave at Glastonbury: We were all hoofed out after one song even though we had been told 3 songs.
- Joe Bonamassa: We had to stand about 100 feet away from him and pick a side to shoot from, no front-on shots.
- Sometimes you have to shoot from the sound-desk and there are many more, I can go on and on…
You sometimes never know what you’re doing till you get there.
I love your testimonial page on your website! Blag Dahlia from The Dwarves said “Now that we’ve worked with Dod everything has changed! Skies are once again sunny, stars dance in the heavens and church choirs sing ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’”. You’re very well loved! Got any interesting stories?
Sorry what happens on tour stays on tour but I can say The Adicts tour was the best thing ever 😉
But once when I was doing photos of Paul Jones at a seated gig I was crouched on the floor between seats. He noticed me and asked who said I could take pictures, I said his Tour Manager and he then proceeded to stop the gig and ask me about my camera and if I used Nikon. All I could feel was the burning eyes of the crowd on my back and I bowed out gracefully.
You’re a wildlife photographer too, some of the images are amazing! You must have the patience of an absolute saint.
Badgers are my latest passion when I first saw one I was hooked. I had waited an hour and finally I saw a nose appear out of a hole in the ground and slowly I could see the rest of the black and white striped body. I held my breath and was amazed, I felt honoured to see this mystical creature and I still do. Now I champion for their cause any way I can. I sit in fields for hours awaiting a glimpse, longest has been about 8 hours. 25mph winds, rain and snow I have been in it all.
I have also taken photos of other animals. We are lucky enough to have some otters on our local river quite often. A South-African Safari we did was great; seeing Lions, Giraffes, Rhinos and Elephants in a natural surrounding was awesome. But a lot can be down to luck right time right place.
What do you feel makes for a great photo?
I really don’t know, everybody is different, but I believe in trying to make the subject look good and in focus is a start – but I do love an action shot like a guitarist jumping around.
What equipment do you use?
I use a Nikon d700 camera (3 of them) and have a few lenses but usually my F2.8 24-70 and my F2.8 70-200 are the ones I use most for concert photography.
How has photography/being a music photographer changed since you started?
When I started there was only a couple of people doing it and now everybody and his dog wants to do it.
It has changed me in that I still challenge myself as I am never sure that what I get is good and I am my biggest critic. I watch gigs through the lens and so when I am not taking photos at a gig, it is a novelty to watch with me eyes and not through a camera.
What’s been your proudest moment so far?
Anytime I get pictures in a magazine or used as part of a CD is great but winning Scottish Music Photographer of the Year (judged by Harry Benson) for my Hayseed Dixie photo from Glasgow is way up there. That photograph is now being used on Record Store Day as the cover for their live album.
What have you learned over the years when it comes to being a photographer/music photographer?
What I have learned is that people don’t want to ply their trade. Just because they go to College/University or have the best equipment they think they should get to take photos at all the big shows. I often get asked how to take photos/get photo passes for the big venues and I tell them to start at the bottom with small clubs etc. and work your way up like I did but everybody is in a hurry nowadays and they say they don’t have time for that. Well that’s the way it is, you can’t become a plumber or an electrician overnight, you need to do an apprenticeship and it’s similar with photography. HARD WORK never hurt no one.
One of the best things is I get to meet some of the bands and people I have grew up with and listened too, like last year I met Gillian Anderson of the X-Files.
For more information on Dod check out www.dodmorrison.com