Back in June Rocks Off brought you Houston's ten best music photographers, as selected by a small panel of insiders and professionals. Now we'd like you readers to choose the best. Before voting opens, though, here's a little more about our finalists, in alphabetical order -- and a lot more of their spectacular photography. Best of luck to all ten.
Rocks Off: Tell us a little more about yourself. Julian Bajsel: I'm 32 years old and Houston has been my home since as long as I can remember. No formal training in photography. I actually studied to be an electrical engineer, which led to a job with a large construction firm designing petrochemical plants.
The first album I ever bought was Smashing Pumpkins' Siamese Dream. I've watched Aliens more times than any other movie in existence. I've never had a happy meal. Let's be friends.
What inspired you to become a music photographer? I'm not a musician but have always been passionate about music, even the Jerry Jeff Walker and John Prine tapes my dad would play into oblivion on car trips as a kid. In the 6th grade, my parents agreed to take me to my first concert, a Megadeth show at the now-closed International Ballroom, for my birthday. They had no idea what they were getting into. The environment was just plain nuts, and I've been hooked ever since.
A few years ago I got the idea to start shooting shows after seeing the work being produced by several established photographers. Just really mind-blowing stuff. I decided I wanted to try my hand at it as well, so I began sneaking my camera into shows and taught myself how to create. I didn't really have any idea what I was doing at first but you gotta start somewhere. Music photography is my contribution to the scene I love.
Do you prefer concerts or portraits? Why? Concerts. Well-done portraiture shots can be absolutely killer, and some of the awesome press-kit images I see out there make me want to quit photography altogether. It's not really my strong suit. I also don't own any studio equipment. All the gear I own fits into my backpack. I think my talent lies in capturing moments as they happen naturally, not creating them.
What is your favorite camera(s) to use at concerts? How long have you had it/them? I originally started out with a loaner Canon Rebel T2i and eventually upgraded my way to the full-frame Canon 5D Mark III. I've had it for a year now and love it. It greatly outperforms its predecessor when met with subpar lighting conditions.
However, it's important to note you can take great pictures with almost any camera, especially with the technology being packed into them these days. It's the photographer that creates a compelling image, not the camera.
What would be your ideal camera to shoot live music? I guess either a Canon 1DX or Nikon D4s. Both of those are the flagship cameras of their respective brands and cost as much as a small car. Not sure I could ever justify such a purchase but I've totally dreamed about it a time or two.
Do you prefer shooting at small clubs, larger venues or outdoor festivals? Why? They're all fun, especially when the crowd is into it and the lighting is on point. I'm gonna have to go with outdoor festivals on this one, though. Nowhere else can you photograph so many top acts in one place.
For many, road-tripping to a big music festival is akin to a religious pilgrimage. People get so hyped up, and I get to photograph them at their maximum level of awesome.
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What is your best/hairiest photo-pit story? You see a bunch of inappropriate shenanigans going on in the crowd since it's usually the most hardcore fans up at the front. Some of it entertaining, some worrisome. The funniest thing I've probably seen up close in the photo pit was at FPSF in 2011. Chromeo and Cut Copy were scheduled to play the main stage back to back, but between their sets the festival decided to mix it up and give B L A C K I E a brief time slot.
For the uninitiated, B L A C K I E is pretty much the furthest thing from Chromeo and Cut Copy you could imagine. I'll never forget the look of confusion and horror on the faces of those girls in the front row as he launched himself into the crowd screaming his head off while wrapped in an American flag. It was a good day.
How often do you make eye contact with the performers? Has anyone ever called you out onstage? People pay money to see the artist, not the guy with the camera. Also, I'm actually kinda shy and try as much as possible to not interject myself into the performance. However, getting certain shots requires you to step outside your comfort zone and do just that.
Lately I've been shooting a lot of Djs. They love to interact with the camera. Sometimes I get asked to stand on the decks so they can take a family photo with the crowd.
What to you is the most rewarding aspect of being a music photographer? Definitely enhancing the experience for fellow concertgoers. People often look forward to the shows for a very long time and nearly everyone tries to take a piece home with them in some form or another, whether it be a cell phone pic or set list.
When a person tells you they felt like they were there just by looking through your photos, that's a pretty damn good feeling. Music should be both seen and heard. Through photography I get to help people hold onto those memories and influence them to come out to the next show. I think that's kinda super-special.
MEET THE OTHER FINALISTS
Come back tomorrow, when Rocks Off will introduce you to finalist No. 5, Victor Cervantes.
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