The Oakville festival shoot was very different from the Beaches Jazz Festival work. The Oakville festival is much smaller and more intimate. Where the Beaches festival attracts over 100,000 people and gets really crowded on the Friday and Saturday nights (go Thursday night for the best photo opportunity) to the point it’s tough to walk around, the Oakville festival maintains its small town atmosphere.
Nevertheless there are big crowds at the Oakville festival for the big acts.
My guess is the downtown square might hold 2,500 people and they were all there for the amazing piano playing of Oliver Jones. I like jazz and I love good playing in any genre but Jones’s playing was transcendent and was very well received by the older crowd. Jones’s performance was worth every moment and if you ever get a chance to hear him in person you will not regret it.
Another big favourite with the crowd was the ever-youthful Toronto All Star Big Band. These kids were terrific with first class players and three young teenagers whose singing was reminiscent of the girl singers of the 1940s.
A couple of surprises for me came in the guise of Swamperella which despite playing on a small stage in near total darkness rocked the crowd with its Zydeco Cajun music. Tough to shoot though as there was almost zero lighting.
The other big surprise was sweet sweet Meagan de Lima who was backed up by a bunch of kids who nailed their performances as this beautiful singer just stole hearts right off the street.
Dr. Draw finished the show on the Towne Square Stage and won a standing ovation. The crowd wouldn’t let the band go without an encore. Closing off the Centennial Stage, Joanne Shaw Taylor who I’ve never heard of but this 23-year-old Brit has played with the Eurythmics-front man in his supergroup D.U.P. when they toured Europe in 2002. This is one blues player to watch.
Now as for shooting the Oakville Festival. Because it is a smaller festival there’s less happening at anyone time. What this means is during the golden hours to shoot outdoor jazz festivals from 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm there are only a couple of acts and then it gets dark.
Shooting available light coming from portable festival lighting is tough and using a flash is just painful for the artists, the audience and the photographer. Fast prime lenses are absolutely necessary as the slower kit lens just can open enough to let in enough light so you can shoot at a high enough shutter speed to stop any movement.
More and more professional and semi-professional photographers plus amateur photographers are finding jazz festivals wonderful photo opportunities. Most of us who are shooting professionally dress all in black (despite the heat) as we do tend to blend in better with the stage and aren’s a distraction to the audience. If you want excellent images or videos of the performances you’re going to have to either shoot during the daylight hours. It’s also essential you get out of your lawn chair as even events as intimate as the Oakville Jazz Festival still have lots of people walking back and forth through your frame.