Having had a lot of my Glastonbury festival shots on the Boston Globe’s “Big Picture” site, I wasn’t sure how to put this blog together as I didn’t want to just repeat shots that a lot of people have already seen. In the end, I’ve decided to go for a mix of some of my personal faves, some that I’ve had good feedback on and one particular shot that even I can’t stop giggling at whenever I see or even think about. More on that one later..

The weekend started on Wednesday and after setting up Camp Tabasco, it was out and about to see what’s new since last year and to catch some weather pics while the sun was still out.

With previous experiences of virtual trench foot and apocalyptic devastation, I always try to catch the blue sky when it’s there. There does seem to be something about Worthy Farm that causes a unique weather system to hover over the area whenever an amp is plugged in.

The evening drifted on and the floating candle lights were soon appearing up at the stone circle and fading off into the clear night sky. For anyone who’s never been before, one of my snippets of advice is to head up to the stone circle on your first night without looking back. When you reach the top, turn round and remember that every light that you can see is part of the festival, not some nearby city. Incredible.

One of the many reasons that I love Glastonbury so much is the feeling that whenever you go out for a wander, you are guaranteed to come back with a set of pictures of the most unusual and bizarre people such as the woman pushing around a stuffed dead dog wearing a sombrero in a pram. Class. The only downside to this is that it’s so hard to actually “sign-off” for the day. I find that I shoot all day and when the music’s finished, I carry on shooting but in “shooting for me” mode. It’s a fine (if not entirely non-existent) line.

The first act this year was Maximo Park on the Thursday night at the Queen’s Head bar. This in itself was unusual as normally the music only runs from Friday to Sunday. As you can imagine, 60,000 on site by this point and one average-sized marquee playing music. Cue chaos. The show was delayed by 20 minutes after a few people were trampled during the dash to get to the front when they finally opened the doors.

The media area is still backstage (between the Pyramid and Other stages) but the hospitality camping is now on the old cinema field which was a bit of a pain but it did make sure that you got to actually get away from the backstage area and see the festival. When I last worked at Glasto, the media camping was in the same field as the press area and a lot of the photographers never left the field. When Kate Moss and Peter Doherty are wandering around, a lot of the celebrity guys hardly had to leave their tents to get a picture!

This year started off beautifully on the Wednesday but then “the fear” started to spread when thunder and lightning skimmed the site on the Thursday night. My first attempts at trying to shoot lightning failed miserably but thankfully not as badly as a photographer from Getty who killed two Canon 5dmk2 bodies in the downpour. Ouch.

With the mud came the traditional japes and blitz mentality including the guy above who was carrying four litres of lager around one ankle, in what I can only guess was an attempt to free up his hands and keep it cool in the puddles and mud he walked through. Why he put it all on one leg is beyond me though. By today, he must have a left leg like a bodybuilder and will be having to constantly stop himself walking in circles.

As the evening wore on, the first signs of the big story of the weekend started to appear. I received a text news alert saying that Michael Jackson had been rushed to hospital. Soon, as fellow photographer Ian Gavan and myself walked along the old railway line, we were passing more and more groups saying that he was dead. Among these we heard “Janet Jackson’s dead” and “Jackson Lane’s (?) dead”. At first we put it off as a rumour but when it got to a certain point, we realised we should check it out. Cue a call from me to Ms. Mavric and one from him to his Mrs. to check the headlines. Blimey. I can say I was at the gates of Shangri-la when I heard that the King of Pop was officially dead.

By the next morning, the panic was on to get some sort of picture that could connect the massive news to the Glastonbury festival. After an early wake-up call from the picture desk, I headed out for a quick scout and only managed to find a couple of pieces of graffiti but then hit onto the idea of checking out the t-shirt stalls. Having noticed a sign on the first day offering “print your own shirts”, I headed back there and after convincing the owner that he wouldn’t get into copyright trouble if I took pictures of him at work, he allowed me into the back of his van where he was just about to print the first “MICHAEL JACKSON IS DEAD” shirt. After getting the pictures out, I headed past again to find that he’d branched out a little and strayed across the copyright line this time but by this point he was happy to be photographed.

Back to the music. As photographers know, the deal at concerts is “first three songs, no flash” but this time, the Health and Safety had sunk their teeth in and we all had to wear ear-plugs. No-one really questioned it but its a bit odd when you block your ears for 12 minutes of music while the festival-goers two metres behind you have been stood at the front for 7 hours without them. A friend of mine got a shot of Lily Allen carrying a little girl backstage and when editing the shots, found the kid had a mouthful of them so they had some use after all..

Of the sets I shot, the most photogenic was probably Lady Gaga although I can’t say I’m particularly impressed by the music. It all sounds a bit too much like a more commercial version of Peaches to me. However, there’s no denying her stage presence and the three songs we got to shoot saw rotating plinths, reflective cocoons and all sorts of randomness.

After shooting and wiring the music from the main stage, I love to go and wander around as many fields as I can cover with my Nikon D3 and the new 50mm f1.4G lens. I took two flashes to Glastonbury with me and never used them once in the end. Shooting at 3200 is perfectly usable for the night shots. I’d love to get hold of a 24mm f1.4 too but can’t afford it at the moment. *Hopes random generous Nikon salesperson is reading* 😉

As soon as the music finishes on the main stage, the green fields and Trash City area get rammed as 100,000 of the 150,000 revellers head to the narrow alleyways and paths, looking for after-hours entertainment. With the old rail line at a standstill, the back routes always prove to be quicker and, again, will present you with the most beautiful sights.

The glowing pathway (above) was spotted by fellow photographer Mark Large as we wandered up to the Stone Circle (below).

With morning comes the hunt for more features and random beauties to grace the Nation’s pages. As I previously said, it’s always easy enough to find the unusual here with today being no exception.

I never quite managed to work out what the score was with the “bride” below as she was there with her bridesmaids but I’m sure she said her bloke was at home so I can only guess it was deemed to be a good choice of clothing for Glastonbury’s famous mud-baths!

The evening ended with Bruce Springsteen headlining the main stage and, after a few problems with restricted numbers into the pit, the fantastic press team in the media tent got me in. Unfortunately, we had the choice of stage right or stage left. Having opted for right, I then discovered that this was where the camera boom arm was positioned and spent the whole of the three tracks running up and down my stepladders in an attempt to shoot under or over the damned thing. Grrr..

After seeing some stunning shots by Guardian photographer Martin Godwin of enthusiastic dancers in the dance village, I decided to head down there in the evening. Aside from missing the climax of the “2 Many DJs” set by seconds (including the ticker tape, streamers, strobes and assorted photogenic bounty), I managed to stumble across a few frames including what I can only describe as an extra from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre stood, stationary, in the corner. Sober or not, I still wouldn’t particularly like to bump into him on a darkened dancefloor.

Every year, the festival has a “guilty pleasure” style slot on the main “Pyramid” stage with acts such as Rolf Harris, Shirley Bassey and Tony Bennett playing previous events. This year the honour went to Status Quo and I have to say that despite the crowds turning out en masse, the band looked unimpressed. Having read an interview with them before where they’d said that they didn’t like Glastonbury and wouldn’t be staying to watch anyone else, it came across very much as a case of take the money and run. Boo hiss..

With Sunday afternoon came my personal musical highlight of the weekend with British ska band Madness. Having grown up on them (even to the point of taking an album cover into the hairdressers when I was 10 to get my hair cut like the drummer), it was a real pleasure to shoot them but even more fun when I went out into the crowd with another photographer and could enjoy the incredible atmosphere out there. It’s great to have a band that play top songs with such a strong back catalogue that everyone can sing along to. Bravo, chaps.

With newspaper deadlines looming, the next mission was to try to get some pre-emptive scenes of the devastation that would be left for the clean-up crews to deal with in the morning. With headliners Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen out of the way and only a handful of bands left, some were starting to gather their gear and head for the exits. Every year, it amazes me how much stuff is left behind. Arriving with brand new tents and chairs and sleeping bags, a certain percentage of the people seem to just up-sticks and go. It’s a real shame as the festival is the largest green fields festival in the world and it’s only through respecting the farm that it will be able to continue in the future.

On a completely different subject and going back to the picture I was talking about in the opening paragraph, I’d had an idea in my head for the last few years of going on how to shoot the toilets. In no other job does the picture desk ring you and specifically ask for shots of the latrines but Glasto is different. The long-drops are the stuff of legend. With myths of seat collapses combined with the very probable chance of dropping your phone down them, it really is a sight to behold. The usual picture that’s been done to death is the rows of wellington boots under the doors. Pish to that, thinks I so I shot the picture below. After loading it onto my screen and realising that I’d actually caught two people “in action” as it were, I decided that it probably wasn’t likely to be printed in a national paper so kept it for this blog. Before you ask how I got it, don’t.

Sunday’s headline act on the Pyramid was recently reformed British pop group Blur who apparently went on to play a blinding set. Unfortunately, the festival rumour mill was in full effect with word being whispered around all day that Justin Timberlake was on site and would be appearing as a special guest with The Black Eyed Peas. As the BEP were onstage shortly after Blur, there was a mass exodus of photographers across the site to the jazz stage to catch what would surely be in every paper the following day.

You can pretty much guess where this is leading, I’m sure. In the end, we came, we saw, we saw some more, then they left the stage. No special appearance. No JT. Bah..

With the bands all in the bag, all that was left to get was the last few minutes of the festival before Monday morning’s carnage on the roads began. The stalls began their half-price sales and the food kiosks began to pack up shop. People walked slowly across the main field with their heads down, looking for lost treasure and mobile phones. Fire crews wandered across the site, putting out the remains of camp fires as they smouldered.

To some people, this place will probably sound like hell but I can honestly say, it’s one of my favourite places on earth. Bring on next year.

35 Responses to “Eavis: Outstanding in his field.”

  1. Stunning pictures as always Leon! Beautifully blogged as well x

    Posted by petra
  2. That is one set of fantastic photos. Roll on 2010. See you next year perhaps?
    btw I spotted one of yours on the BBC news site over the weekend.

    Posted by mistersnappy
  3. Absolutely superb; stunning set. Well done buddy :-)

    Posted by Edmond Terakopian
  4. great work very impressed i was thinking about going next year,i am defo going now


    Posted by Dermot Carlin
  5. Ha, sorry to have stolen any of your thunder, Leon – but they were a stunning group of photos to choose from, many thanks. Looks like you had a great time, very nice blog entry too, I love hearing more of the backstory. Keep up the great work. -Alan

    Posted by Alan Taylor
  6. Fantastic stuff, a great tour through the festival. Remarkable.

    Posted by Adam Blenford
  7. A very enjoyable blog and set of pics. A great quick overview of the festival, which I’ve only enjoyed courtesy of the BBC.

    Posted by andysnap
  8. I bow before you, my liege. I am so jealous & mad at myself for not coming down. That’s the last time i do Hard Rock Calling. Nice set of pics, my liege. Outstanding! Loved the couple’s kiss a alot.

    Posted by pixgremlin
  9. Thanks, all! I think they’ll have to surgically remove the smile from my face from this weekend.. :)

    @Alan If it keeps you happy, I’ll keep going! I love your Big Picture blog and jabber on about it to every photographer I meet. It’s been a real honour to be on there.

    Posted by tabascokid
  10. How DID you get the crap shot? :-)

    Posted by pixgremlin
  11. Hey Leon, wicked work! I just wished I’d known you were there would have been nice to put a face to the name n that. We shot a few of the same punters! Well when I say punters, I mean a dead stuffed dog.

    When I say great work as always, I sincerely mean it, you never fail bud. Outstanding.

    Posted by Danny North
  12. Amazing, amazing shots. Well bloody done!

    I am only a moonlighting photographer, but I took along my Canon DSLR plus some of my non-L lenses (well ok one L lens) intending to “really photograph” Glasto this year… but the many various distractions of friends, food, drink and revelry meant that photos were always being snatched opportunistically and I never really got into a groove photography-wise. To a degree, I envy your and the other press snappers’ singularity of purpose – and you can see the results here.

    Next time – I am going to bring a proper tripod. I compromised with a Gorillapod and found it next to useless.

    My (relatively poor) efforts here:

    Posted by Luke Robinson
  13. Brilliant Leon :) Bravo on the Long Drops, but my personal favorite is the yellow, masked fella passed out in the puddle! I think I should start saving for next year!

    Posted by Slowbo
  14. Nice set of pics – I enjoyed looking at em! Ever thought about photography for a career? I could envision one or two of those photos in The Glastonbury Times…..

    Posted by adriano
  15. @Akin: What did I tell you? 😉

    @Danny North: hehe Yeah, I thought I spotted you in the pit once from previous pics of yourself on various sites. Next time, we’ll have to have a beer!

    @Luke: Nice selection on your flickrstream. Don’t worry about the tripod. You don’t need one really.

    @Slowbo Slowbo! Yay! :) Good to see the name’s stuck..

    @Adriano Ahh, Mr. Dennis.. I can teach you all about photography in February. 😉

    Posted by tabascokid
  16. Fantastic collection Leon, you’ve outdone yourself.

    Posted by Miles
  17. I take it was monopod lowered upside down into toilet on timer?
    Either that or you have taken up the sport of bog snorkelling….
    V. enjoyable read.

    Posted by Jack
  18. @Jack These shoes will never be the same again..

    Posted by tabascokid
  19. Lovely write up Leon me old, you should take up copyrighting…

    …maybe not – top shots as always, glad you’re doing well.

    Posted by Jim
  20. still amazes me how much of the festival you seem to capture – do you even sleep?!

    some genuinely remarkable images here and I hope you did well in the papers! saw a couple flying around.

    great to meet you too, amazing who you bump into in the press tent eh?! which other festivals are you at?will have to grab a beer!

    PS – my glasto blog: http://www.music-photographer.co.uk/blog/?p=270

    Posted by Nick Pickles
  21. Hey man your shot of Status Quo is being used on BBC Iplayer. Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised but I am. Thought I recognised it… and sure enough!

    Posted by Tom Ashmore
  22. @Nick Yeah, was great to catch although it was all too brief. Not sure what else I’ll be covering yet but a beer is certainly on the cards. :)

    @Tom Cheers for the heads-up. It’s always nice to hear where the shots are cropping up!

    Posted by tabascokid
  23. Lovely stuff. You do a stellar job of capturing all the atmosphere.

    Posted by Dan
  24. Regarding “that” shot – I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall if you had to explain to the “people upstairs” what happened to your D3 should it have fallen in the bogs.

    Great collection of shots here.

    Posted by Michel
  25. Yeah, I must admit that even though I didn’t drop anything, everything got a thorough scrub with anti-bacterial wipes on my return..

    Posted by tabascokid
  26. fantastic photographs.
    You are a brave man to attempt that picture. I’m always terrified my glasses will fall in before I sit down, I don’t think I could get my camera anywhere near.

    Posted by mark
  27. Amazing photos! And even better I’m in one of them :-) My son is the boy wearing the cape, with fairy lights in his hat, walking through the amber glowing misty path, and I’m walking behind him. We would love to have a print of this, could this be arranged? Would be the best Glast souvenir ever.

    Thank You, it was so good to discover this photo when we got home.

    Posted by Sue Cattanach
  28. these are amazing!! is it wrong i found myself wondering where I can get an adult size zebra print babygro :(

    Posted by carrie
  29. @Carrie Not in the slightest. I’m wearing mine right now.

    Posted by tabascokid
  30. Without a doubt these are some of the best Glastonbury images i’ve ever seen. You’ve covered every aspect of the weekend (even the toilet waste!) Really makes you want to be there.

    Keep the pics coming. Feel free to add a link on our blog… http://www.paphotocall.wordpress.com.

    Many Thanks

    Posted by Penny Joyner - PA Photocall
  31. Thanks Penny! As long as I have anything to ramble about, there’ll be updates.. :)

    Posted by tabascokid
  32. WOW! WOW! WOW!

    Posted by Nathalie
  33. any chance these photos may be reuploaded at some point?

    Posted by james
  34. Consider it added to my list. I’ll have a shufty for the files tonight. :)

    Posted by tabascokid

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