Day N Night Festival: A Tale From The Photo Pit

Lil Uzi Vert

Lil Uzi Vert at Day N Night Festival; photo Lauren Ratkowski

Hit the ground and hustle. My motto for tackling this year’s Day N Night Festival. First order of business, as always, was to grab my credentials. I arrived at the festival grounds around 3:30, and to my surprise there was still a healthy line of people waiting up to enter. Wristbands on, I made my way inside, walking halfway around Angel Stadium before seeing the first stage of the day.


SZA at Day N Night festival; photo Lauren Ratkowski

I wanted to be sure I had plenty of time to catch SZA. I’ve really come to like her debut album, CTRL, and was excited to be able to shoot her. I was one of the first to arrive in the photo pit, so I made sure I picked out the best spot. Festival pits are amazing in that they are often quite spacious compared to the trenches we photographers experience in venues. However, there are a lot more security guards when it comes to festival pits. Add them, about 15-20 photographers at any given time, and overheated kids being pulled from the pit and space disappears quickly.

Considering this festival was entirely outdoors, I knew the sun was going to be a concern. This time, it presented a bit of a challenge in that as it lowered, it passed behind the main stage, which meant everything was backlit. And standing in the wrong spot created the type of lens flares I am not too keen on. Funky, flat colors and no detail. SZA’s set was nearing the time in the day where this sort of thing is a problem, but the sun created no issue for her set. SCORE!


POST MALONE at Day N Night festival; photo Lauren Ratkowski

Next up was Post Malone. This is where lighting became a challenge. I learned very quickly that standing in one half of the pit was going to leave me with the bad sun flare all over photos. The sun was much lower now, peaking out the side of the stage’s background and backlighting everything. Great. Moving over a few feet and adjusting my camera settings took care of my issues. I always have to be able to think quickly!

By the time Lil Uzi Vert hit the stage, it was dark. I was back in the right setting for shooting shows – in the dark. Lil Uzi was easily one of the most energetic performers I’ve photographed. He ran from one side of the stage to the other, commanding the audience to engage with him. He jumped down to the barricade, causing a rush of cameras following. Next minute, he was back on stage and on the other side, climbing up to the side screens. The LED screen behind him was red by the time he took center stage again, but even white stage light balanced him out. Moments later, fog canons were shooting off, covering the stage as he bounced to the beat. Lil Uzi’s set was easily one of my favorites of the night!


THE NEIGHBOURHOOD at Day N Night festival; photo Lauren Ratkowski

I hustled over to another stage immediately after Lil Uzi to catch the only rock band on the bill, The Neighborhood. I’ve been waiting to shoot them for a few years now, so I knew the hustle across the festival grounds in a matter of minutes was worth it. I arrived to see the sound crew stringing up lead singer Jesse Rutherford’s mic, which was hanging off a chain from the stage’s upper scaffolding. Yes. This meant something new! Despite the bands darker, monochromatic lighting, the combination of fog machines and Rutherford’s undeniable charisma made for a strong set of photos.

Three songs and we’re out! Hustle back to the main stage for that night’s headliner, Chance The Rapper. I arrived early, knowing the pit was going to fill up fast. Being that I don’t have the telephoto range I wish I had for these settings, I knew getting a good spot was going to be crucial. After talking with security, we were told that media would be allowed to enter the pit when Chance went on stage. It seemed as if the audience was getting crazier and security needed room to remove those from the crowd that needed an escape. About five minutes before Chance was due, we were told all media was barred from the pit. No shooting. It’s unclear to who ended up making that call, but many of us went into borderline panic. We were now faced with no pit access, a giant crowd that there was no way to plow through to get a good spot, and the need to capture the headliner. This would have been the perfect time for that long telephoto! Nevertheless, I am always grateful for my time in the pit!