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Sights and Sounds

This assignment ran from Feb 29 to Mar 21, 2016.

Music has been a constant in my life, although I have no musical abilities. I can’t read musical notes, nor do I know how to play any instrument. But still, I love music, and it started with my parents. The band Rush was my soundtrack during early morning commutes with my father on the way to school, and my Mom would play Beach Boys and Beatles tunes as we made our way south for family vacations. Their love of music was passed on to me, and I’ve grown this passion by discovering my own favorite musicians and records.

Years later, I combined my love of music with a new passion: photography. I started to photograph live concerts and take portraits of musicians. I found myself on stage looking for perfect angles from behind guitar amps or drum risers, or I was in the crowd trying to document the experience of witnessing music played live. These moments are special ones to document; they tell stories or capture feelings that may be difficult to express verbally.

Your assignment is to capture images of music, whether it’s a high-energy live concert performance, someone playing a guitar on a street corner, a jazz band, a DJ spinning records, a marching band, an orchestra, or a hip-hop artist. Feel free to even go beyond someone performing. Maybe you see someone moved by music and dancing, or perhaps someone singing along in the front row of a show. I want to see images that make me want to turn up the volume on my computer because I feel like I can hear the sounds from your photograph. And remember, just as some music and photos can be loud, quiet moments can also speak volumes. Maybe it’s someone tuning an instrument, or a Mother singing a lullaby to a child, as it gets ready for nap.

So grab those cameras and let’s document the music that is happening around you.

Curated by:

Matt Adams
Senior Producer, Nat Geo Your Shot
Assignment Status
  • Open

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  • Closed

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  • Published

    Once the submission period is over, we'll review all contributions and select our favorite images to be included in the story. Learn more.
Published Mar 31, 2016.
Thank you for your contributions!

Behind The Edit

Posted apr 15, 2016

There is definitely a science to how an editor makes final image selections for a story. Here at National Geographic headquarters, we walk by rooms that have incredible photos and layouts hung up on the walls, with editors staring at them like art pieces in galleries. They have to decide what works and what doesn’t work, what stays and what gets left on the cutting room floor.

It’s hard to let go of images I love, but sometimes certain images just don’t fit into the puzzle I’m trying to build. The images here show a look at the cutting room floor—the director’s cut, if you will—of the Sights and Sounds story.

Photograph by Amy Sacka

When I pitched this assignment, I was hoping to see moments in crowds and on stage. I wanted to see bands in concert halls or in the streets. Thank you for all of your submissions, this was a great assignment to take part in. I really love the composition of this marching band photo that Amy Sacka captured. I saw a few marching band images when editing through my final choices and did not want to let this one go, sadly sometime when editing down to a final 31 images some get left out.

There were more than 50 violinist images submitted to this assignment. These two, taken by Rebecca Tien and Helene Cyr, were the ones I wanted to include in the final story. But sometimes when you print out images and try to sequence them, some images stand out as the ones that just don’t fit the flow of your story. That’s why these two didn’t make it to the end.

Photograph by Rebecca Tien

Photograph by Helene Cyr

I referred to the building of this story as being like the building of a puzzle and it’s very true. You look for pieces that can work well together. For example, the Adele image fit nicely with the street performer. I loved how those two images stood side by side with each other. They worked well in a sequence, while other images did not.

Terra Fondriest had an excellent image of a child playing a piano in the back of a truck. The location was interesting and going with an overhead angle was a great idea! But I wish I could have seen more of her daughter’s face in this image. That may seem too picky, but when I’m trying to limit images in an edit, I have to find small things like that to help make my decisions. Still, it is a wonderful image and one that I wish I could have kept for the story.

Photograph by Terra Fondriest

Here are some other images that I enjoyed, that did not make it into the final story.

"Centre Sage" Photograph by Shounak Roy

"Playing On Ice" Photograph by Marco Tagliarino

"Boxing Day Junkanoo in The Bahamas" Photograph by Erik Kruthoff 

"Duet" Photograph by Giorgio Vacirca

The Final Countdown

Posted mar 17, 2016

During the first few weeks of every Your Shot assignment, it feels like everyone is trying to find their stride with their submissions. You debate over which images to submit and try to help each other out with critiques and quick feedback. By the time we hit the final weekend of each assignment, I see photographers starting to get into the zone. That’s when some amazing submissions roll in.

When I started at Your Shot I saw this place as not only a great community, but also as an excellent teaching tool. Those first submissions may just be shots in the dark as you try to figure out just what kinds of images an editor might be looking for. Eventually, after some updates and editor’s notes, a light clicks on and the submissions get better as you all continue to grow and learn. During this assignment the submissions just keep getting better, and I continue to be impressed by everything that my eyes have witnessed.

I’m learning about music from all different parts of the world and how you are visualizing it. I’ve seen images of world-renowned musicians and I’ve seen images of street performers who provide the soundtrack to someone’s daily commute. It will not be easy to edit down to my final selections, and for that I say thank you. I want to be surrounded by great and inspiring images and that’s what this community has presented to me.

As we push into the final days of this assignment, keep experimenting with your images. If you’re packed into a tiny back room of a bar to listen to an undiscovered artist, make sure to pull back the focus and show me the environment. I want to see the people packed tightly together, drinks in hand, hoping to hear some tunes that will move them. Taking a portrait of a street artist? Get closer. And if you can, grab their name for the caption. I’m reading lot of great stories about people breaking out of their comfort zones and trying to get new angles for images. Keep doing that; the more you experiment, the more you’re bound to grab an image that no one else will have.

Focus Points

Posted mar 10, 2016

We’re a week into the Sights and Sounds assignment, and I’m very impressed with the images this community is submitting. You have sent in images that show the energy of a live performance, the emotion of a musician getting lost in their craft, and quiet moments that happen between songs or just after a performance. I’m also learning a lot about all of you and the music that inspires you, whether it’s through your car speakers or your headphones while you are staring down a large photo edit.

A few tips dealing with live-concert photography: The most interesting images might be occurring behind you, in the audience. We’re always so focused on the musicians, and that makes sense since most of the action happens on stage, but don’t be afraid to turn around and see what’s happening in the crowd. Do not be afraid to use a wide angle with your images.

Also watch those focal points; capturing fast-moving images is not an easy task. Some blur caused by the motion of a hand playing a guitar or a drummer striking a snare drum is fine. It gives us the idea of speed and movement, which can add some nice layers to your photographs. Too much of a blur can cause a distraction though; you want your viewers to be focused on your subjects and not too concerned with your techniques.

We’re allowing five submissions per member for this assignment, so while you may want to submit all five as soon as possible, make sure to take your time and choose your submissions wisely.

Keep On Rockin'

Posted mar 3, 2016

When I was thinking of my next assignment to run here on Your Shot, I kept thinking about two passions that I have in my life, music and photography. I remember taking my Canon Rebel film camera to small basements and places that we in the states refer to as VFW halls, where I photographed local punk bands looking to get their start in the music industry. My memories of those days are still very vibrant: The ringing of the amps after a song has been played, the sweat from fans packed together into a small room, and the high-energy performances are all memories still etched into my brain.

For the next three weeks I’ll be looking for those same feelings in your images. Can I hear the sounds of the crowd? Can I feel the energy of the performance? I will also be looking for things that all photo editors look for in great images. Are there any layers in the photograph? What’s the story behind the image? Does it catch my eye?

I’ve opened up this assignment for five submissions, but please choose them wisely. I have some tips for submissions and things to watch out for. Singers being close to the microphone can look awkward in photographs—it might look as if the mic has been glued to the singer’s mouth, so be careful with those images. Also be aware of your background. I know that music can sometimes be filled with decisive moments and you may have to act quickly to get the shot, but watch out for cluttered and distracting backgrounds. Focus is key here; while it’s okay to have some blur with the movement of a guitar or hand strumming, too much might be get a photo knocked out early during editing.

Good luck on your assignment and, as Neil Young once said, “Keep on rockin’ in the free world.”

Matt Adams

Matt Adams

Senior Producer, Nat Geo Your Shot
Matt is a Senior Producer on the Your Shot team. He curates and produces the Daily Dozen gallery as well as monthly assignments. Before Nat Geo, Matt was a photography instructor and freelance photographer working for publications such as Wired, Spin, and Pittsburgh Magazine.