Hazy Eye Music Media is proud to announce another interview in a series of interviews I’m currently conducting with some of my favorite concert photographers. I’m stepping outside of my comfort zone and have been picking the brains of some phenomenal photographers. My interviews in this series focus on “local” concert photographers. That is photographers around DC, MD, and VA. The DMV as we call it.
Anyway, check it out! I, Andy Jillson, was fortunate enough to interview Max Ruehrmund. Max is an extremely talented concert photographer and has covered a wide variety of concerts and music festivals. Max truly loves music and photography, and it shows in his work. All photos copyright and courtesy of Max Ruehrmund.
AJ: Hi Max! How are you?!?
MR: Hey Andy – thanks for reaching out. I am doing well, keeping busy and enjoying the warm weather.
AJ: Can you introduce yourself and tell us your general location and where you primarily shoot shows?
MR: My name is Max. I am from Annapolis, Maryland but currently live in South Baltimore. Fortunately, this region is conveniently located in the middle of several fantastic live music destinations. Between DC and Philadelphia, there are several major venues that almost every major tour goes through. Large music festivals are also very popular. Firefly, Moonrise, and Breakaway Festivals to name a few.
AJ: You’re definitely among the most talented concert photographers around DC, MD, and VA. When and how did you start shooting concerts and reviewing live performances?
MR: Thanks, that’s very flattering. I have been into photography for as long as I can remember but only started shooting concerts a few years ago. My friend Cameron @cameragilson took me along to assist in covering a music festival, and I have been covering my own shows ever since. All of my music work has been direct with musicians, an artist management company, or a venue. It is less expensive for smaller groups to hire a regional photographer than have one full-time on tour.
AJ: What inspired(s) you as a photographer? Why photograph concerts?
MR: Visually sharing my perspective of the world around me through photography is a big driver. When it comes to concerts, I am always impressed with the production. Most people don’t think about the practice and hard work the artists and crews do off the stage to make their shows unforgettable. I want to capture the BIG moments and the fans having the time of their lives. Second, some of the photographers/videographers I look up to are truly inspiring. Conor McDonnell @conormcdphoto, Doug Van Sant @dougvansant, and Chris Yoder @chrisyoder and Tania Hauyon @taniahauyon are all worth checking out.
AJ: Do you also write live concert reviews, album reviews, or interview musicians? If so, what inspired(s) you as a writer/music journalist? Why write about live music or musicians?
MR: I’ve never thought about writing reviews, but I would be open to the idea. Photos and video tell my story for now.
AJ: What are some of your favorite venues to photograph at around the DMV?
MR: As for venues, Echostage, Merriweather Post Pavilion, and Power Plant Live. Although the Anthem in DC has been a long-time goal of mine, and hopefully, I will have the opportunity sometime soon. However, some of my best memories are from my coverage of music festivals. I’ve attended Firefly six times as a member of the audience and/or working with an artist directly. Moonrise, Breakaway Festival, EDC Orlando, Boston Calling, Groovin the Moo (Aus), and Grass is Greener (Aus) are all worth checking out.
AJ: What type of camera equipment do you normally use when shooting shows? What are your preferred lenses and camera settings?
MR: Everyone has their own preferences, and all the major camera brands make fantastic products. I have used Nikon equipment my entire life, but I recently made the switch to the Sony mirror-less system. I picked up the Sony A7iii body and a Sigma 24-70 f2.8 lens for my go-to kit. Sony has fantastic Auto-focus features, 4k video, and 3rd party lenses that are very affordable. As for settings, try and pick up a camera that has a histogram and slightly underexpose your photos. At night drop your f-stop as low as possible, shutter ~1/125-300 ISO~900-1250. It will take some tweaking. If you are looking to get into photography, introductory kit level cameras are surprisingly decent. When you are ready to upgrade, start by picking up some Prime lenses, they are inexpensive, fast, and have a low f-stop.
AJ: How do you edit your photos? Any particular editing programs or techniques you regularly use?
MR: Most photographers use the Adobe Suite of applications. Lightroom, Photoshop, and Premiere Pro are my go-to resources. Start by using the Lens Correction feature, adjust the Tone Curve, do the basic corrections (Contrast, shadows highlight, and clarity) and finish by correcting/calibrating some of the colors. There is no correct order to editing photos, play around with the settings, and see what you like. If there isn’t a time crunch, I will normally edit the photos and come back a day later with fresh eyes for reevaluations.
AJ: What were the first 3 shows you obtained photo passes for? How were you able to obtain the photo passes? What were the experiences like?
MR: My first show was Moonrise in Baltimore as an assistant to my friend who was hired to cover a show. Honestly, I had no idea what I was doing and was 100% there to learn from others. From there was the White Panda at the Fillmore and a bunch of local bands at the 8×10 in Baltimore. If there is an artist you are looking to cover, general contact info can be found on a band’s website or the marketing team for a venue. Be polite, brief, and provide links to your previous work.
AJ: Any photographic or musical projects planned for the near future?
MR: Unfortunately, due to COVID, the music industry around the DMV has completely shut down for the foreseeable future. However, I do not exclusively cover music. I have stayed busy photographing landscape architecture, lots of dogs, and might move towards interior real estate. Looking to the future, work with drones as they become more affordable is certainly the next big thing. They are loosely regulated at the moment, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that changes. So be smart!
AJ: When and where was the last show you photographed? What bands were playing? What do you remember about it? Anything particularly interesting about the last show you covered?
MR: January 30th Camp Super dope Tour – Two Friends, Matoma, Win & Woo – Echostage. I had never worked with the artists before, but I have a great connection with several crew members. It’s always great to catch-up with friends, make new connections, plus! Echostage is a fun well-lit venue.
AJ: How have you been staying active/keeping yourself busy since coronavirus altered our world?
MR: Luckily, I have a full-time job that has not been hindered due to coronavirus. I generally have the flexibility to do photography work during hours that do not conflict with my day to day job. I am lucky my boss might be as into photography as I am.
AJ: What have you been listening to? Any particular artists and/or albums you’ve recently discovered or rediscovered?
MR: The new Kygo album Golden Hour is incredible, even if you are not into EDM I would recommend his work. Quin XCII, VHS Collection, Smallpools, and Bronson are also commonly found on my playlists.
AJ: Are you a record collector? If so, what are a few of your most valued/loved records? If not, do you collect something else?
MR: Not sure I really collect anything, but I am big into fishing. Think I end up in a shop every other week.
AJ: Have you watched or read anything interesting lately?
MR: Still waiting on the next Game of Thrones Book and I have wanted to read the books behind the TV show The Wire. But I am a fan of Westworld, Mind Hunter, Game of Thrones, and Breaking Bad.
AJ: What are your best memories/proudest moments of being a photographer?
MR: Seeing one of my photographs published by an artist for the first time was an emotional experience. I also enjoy covering shows with some of the friends I’ve made over time. Seeing their perspective of the same show can be enlightening, it’s a great way to learn and grow.
AJ: Any funny, embarrassing, or awkward moments while in a photo pit?
MR: Truthfully, I don’t think the photo pit is the best place to capture photos. Many stages are very high, and the upwards angle can be harsh. Try and get some shots of the band with fans having the time of their life (side of the pit looking front of house or all the way in the back with a bigger lens). As for an awkward moment, last summer I was hired to cover an artist who was headlining a festival that night, there was also a media blackout for the show, meaning I would be the only photographer allowed to cover that set. Unfortunately, for the first 10 minutes of the show, I was dragged around by security who thought I was breaking the blackout rules. Fortunately, the tour and stage manager were easily accessible to reassure security I was working for the artist.
AJ: Top 5 best concerts you’ve photographed?
MR: In no particular order: Walk the Moon – Firefly Music Festival, Zhu – Moonrise Festival, Third Eye Blind / Jimmy Eat World – Merriweather Post Pavilion, Cheat Codes – Echostage, and San Holo – Frightnight Festival
AJ: Top 5 all-time favorite bands/artists?
MR: Foo Fighters, Avicii, Paul McCartney, Blink-182, and Peking Duck. Just a suggestion, check out the Australia music scene. You won’t regret it!
AJ: What artists are on your bucket list? Who do you dream of photographing one day?
MR: Artists who historically have captivating production, such as Odesza, Tame Impala, and Gryffin to name a few. As for goals, being the go-to house photographer for a major venue is an absolute dream.
AJ: Anything you want to add to this interview? Any last words for the readers?
MR: For anyone looking to get into the industry, there are plenty of local bands in your area that would likely let you cover their sets. Once you build up your portfolio, don’t be intimidated to reach out to venues, publications, or bigger artists – always try and network and talk to everyone. Lastly, believe in yourself, seriously believe in yourself. Photograph everything you can and don’t let being denied access put you down. Feel free to connect w/ me on socials…Instagram: @maxlifephoto, www.maxlifephoto.com, or firstname.lastname@example.org
AJ: Thanks Max! Fin.
Check out these other great photos courtesy of Max…