ACL Fest – 15 year anniversary of the iconic Austin music festival

2016 marked the 15-year anniversary of the Austin City Limits music festival and the tenth straight year I’ve aimed a camera at its stages. It also marks a time when music festivals saturate the summer landscape and the big productions like Coachella, Lollapalooza and ACL are competing with smaller, curated festivals that cater to focused genres. With all that competition, ACL continues to maintain its relevance, although not always through the music. The 2016 lineup was popular and varied enough to appeal to the wide demographic that attended, but the soul of ACL Fest is increasingly expressed by the fans themselves.

This is a “c0mfort fest” that represents the greater Austin experience; the people, food, attitude, and sometimes its music. Covering ACL is an exercise in bottling that feeling, distilling it into a single photo or series.

Beyond the challenge of executing your photography, festivals are a war waged on the body. Over the weekend my iPhone claimed a total of 33 miles walked, a journey made more bearable by lightweight and compact mirrorless equipment. Read on for a breakdown of the daily gear selection.


Always the day when you overpack – stressing over what you need, even though you’ve done this a million times. I review metadata from prior years to recall what bodies and lenses were used, what worked and what didn’t. The Sony a7RII with GM 85mm f1.4, a6300 and Zeiss Batis 18mm f2.8 got the call, as well as the Sony RX1RII. If you accept the risk and inconvenience of shooting primes on a demanding job, having a crop camera like the a6300 in the mix, conveniently doubles the available fields of view. Using this math equals 18mm, 28mm, 85mm and 135mm with just two primes.

It all worked out. The weather was fine and so was M83 and Radiohead.

Click the circles to view a larger gallery.


Pain and exhaustion set in on day two and the doubts invade, along with the clouds and cooler autumn weather – Do I really need the 18mm today? Should I leave the RX1RII home? Maybe not, Yes.

Trimming down to two bodies – a7RII and a6300, I added the Sony Zeiss FE 55/1.8 to the bag because why not? When the 55mm comes out, you realize the idiocy of not using it every-damn-day. I also exchanged the 18mm for the Sony FE 28mm/2 – another capable performer.

Lots of EDM (Chainsmokers, Kygo) and Rap (Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q) on Saturday, the kids liked it – not sure about this guy…


Finishing strong on the last day of weekend one, the bag got scrambled one more time. It was time to bring out a festival hero, the A-mount Sony Zeiss 135mm/1.8. Anyone who has shot this lens knows what’s up and why it demands admiration. Mounted on the a6300 via the LA-EA4 adapter, it doubles as a super fast 200mm, and in just a month we’ll have the option to shoot that setup with in body image stabilization (IBIS) on the new Sony a6500.

The last day of weekend one did not disappoint, with sunny Texas skies and a cool evening made cooler by indie favs, LCD Soundsystem.

Three days and thirty three miles later, I hung up my gear and tried to sleep. Weekend Two was just five days away.


  1. These are stupendous. Awesome work, good sir.

    Liked by 1 person


  2. I remember seeing a few of these amazing photographs elsewhere and I was absolutely floored. You certainly captured the essence of what such a musical festival is all about. I wanted to cheer myself upon viewing a few of these! 🙂



  3. lovely shots!!! keep up the good work chad



  4. What a photo story!



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