As a Photographer at Treefort

I spent five days in Boise Idaho photographing live music at the Treefort Music Fest. This is what I learned to be a better photographer.

Treefort Music Fest is as the title suggests, a live music festival. Five days at multiple venues and multiple stages. I have been a big fan of Treefort since my first appearance in 2015. I like the structure, format, and the vibe of this music festival. Unlike other music festivals, this is not a camping festival. It’s more like a SXSW thing. It’s just not as “big.”

I went out to Boise for Fade In Chorus although we are not a huge media outlet, it was nice to still be on the attending press list. There’s a lot of press from all over the country. It was a ton of fun talking with so many photographers from around the country. It was also great catching up with photographers that I had met in years past.

The Press

I’m glad that Treefort issues media passes to different outlets outside of Boise. I imagine that all of the local Boise outlets are represented, but number two is certainly the Portland media. There are several free-weekly print/web publications that send teams of writers and photographers. I have noticed that most of them end up covering the Portland bands and the more popular touring bands.

There’s a photographer I know, Daniel. he’s a really good photographer, but he was shooting for one of those local Portland weekly papers and while he’s able to shoot whatever he wants, at the end of the day he knows what they want and what they are going to publish. I didn’t think to talk to him about that. I would have liked to pick his brain about the process.

I saw a couple of unicorns in the media pool, veteran photojournalists. These photographers stand out not just because of their gear, but the way they approach covering the event. There is a certain cold and calculated way they work the event. I’m not sure if they actually like music, but even if they did, it wouldn’t matter. They are there to do a job. The young kids with cameras seem to enjoy wearing the media lanyard; It’s a badge of honor. The veteran photojournalists are too busy taking pictures to worry about how many people see them in the photo-pit.

While walking around, I’d spot a unicorn, I just put my camera down and watch them work in their natural habitat, hoping to glean some magical photo-wisdom. I’m not sure I learned anything, it wasn’t for a lack of trying.

The photographers I met this year were great to work alongside. They were courteous and friendly. This year I only had one not so great interaction with a fellow photographer, after he fired his flash into my eyes while he was crouched in front of me. He was attempting to use bounce flash. I told him, but he didn’t seem to care. In past years, photographers would push each other out of the way, pretending not realize what they were doing. In 2015, a young PDX photographer dropped a camera on my head when it slipped out of his hands.

This year was an especially great media pool.

The Press Lounge

This was a nice sanctuary for many of us. It was a nice bright room on the fourth floor with a couple of nice couches, plenty of desk work space, wi-fi, a little interview area, and most importantly…good coffee! This is where I spent a lot of downtime, usually in 10–20 minute coffee breaks.

For an event like Treefort, photographers need a place to work, relax, and meet with other photographers. I talked to dozens of them up in the press lounge. We chatted about everything from gear, the weather, bands, venues, the lines, and especially how tired we were. This contact is essential. If photographers didn’t have this place, I don’t think many would return.

The Press Lounge is where the real interviewing education was happening. I sat back and listened to maybe 8 or 9 interviews. I was able to quickly discern the difference between the pros and amateurs. I listened an interviewer on the first day do a quick 10 minute interview and really get to the meat of the conversation and kept her subject at complete ease. Her questions were succinct and to the point. Then I watched an interview happen that was all over the place. I was there listening to it and I couldn’t tell where it was going. Seeing all of these interviews happen in one place brings a lot of perspective.

I’m not a great interviewer, but I think I picked up a few things, “Let the subject tell you their story.”


Every year that I come to Boise I’m more impressed with that town and the people in it.

Let’s start with the food. YES! So amazing. I can judge the food culture just by how good the food trucks were. I had everything from pizza to tacos to gyros to corn dogs to bahn mi sandwiches. I wasn’t disappointed once. I had great pizza at Guidos, a wonderful burger at that place next to the Olympic Venue, I don’t know the name of that place. I also ate at this awesome little cafe on Grove St, Big City Coffee and Cafe. The bars are cool, and Boise has a solid beer culture.

Did I get what I wanted?

I wanted to shoot live music, and I did that. I wanted to record some video interviews, that just didn’t happen. I went solo to Treefort this year, and I didn’t even try to get interviews, I know how hard it is to get those things done even when you have a team. It would have been impossible to shoot the way I wanted being out there by myself. I’m pretty disappointed.

Next year, I guess.

Final thoughts.

Treefort is my favorite music festival. Those guys do a helluva job putting this thing together. I enjoy my time at Treefort every year. I will apply for press credentials again, but I’m afraid 2019 was my last year running from venue to venue shooting live music. I have some photography ideas that I would love to explore for 2020!

Happy Treefort!

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