Exploring Entertainment in Florida's 850 & Beyond
Michael Smith runs Take Cover and Shoot!, is a writer for the Pensacola News Journal, and is a top area photographer.
What first attracted you to photography?
I love the history aspect of photography and how it ties into an artist’s creativity. I started taking photos of my friends skateboarding for my zine, Rude Zine back in the late 80’s. I enjoyed taking family photos as a kid, but it was cool to go on these skate adventures around town with disposable cameras. I’d drop them off and a few days later, I’d have photos to play with.
I wasn’t interested in the nuts and bolts of photography until 20 years later, and almost a decade after I’d stopped playing in bands. I was guitarist for a local band, Cockfight and a friend had posted photos from a few shows. It was cool to see those moments and memories from another perspective.
At that time, I was working at a local therapeutic group home for teenage boys. Almost all of the boys were victims (sometimes abusers with a history) of severe physical and sexual abuse. The job was highly stressful and some of the things I experienced on the job, I’ll never be able to forget.
Working in that type of facility takes a toll and some people self-medicate with alcohol but I turned to photography. Before I started shooting concerts, I did the usual landscape and portraits. Photography occupied my mind and was the most fulfilling diversion I found from the stress of that job.
When was the first time you felt like a professional photographer?
Photographing big music festivals; DeLuna Fest on Pensacola Beach and the Vans Warped Tour. Credentials, access and shooting in the same pit as guys whose work appears in major publications like Rolling Stone.
Favorite style or subject to shoot?
I love concert photography. It’s like racing a fast car in the trickiest terrain possible. I have to be technically sharp and physically aware. The whole process engages my mind and body. Every show presents an unpredictable environment and I love the challenge of trying to create art under those conditions.
Favorite piece of equipment?
My Canon 5d Mark ii. It’s a low-light champ that produces big, fat files for days and huge prints with excellent detail. It’s the second DSLR I’ve ever owned, replacing my Canon 450d. Making the jump from crop sensor to full-frame was a tricky, yet rewarding process.
What is your dream photography gig?
I’m living the dream gig now. In addition to the touring artists I shoot, I get to photograph the men and women who are living the dream that I had a decade ago. I’m trying to make the best representation of their work and pay respect to their passion with my passion.
Any advice for others who are interested in photography?
Stephen King is one of my favorite authors and he tells writers to “write what you know”. I would add, “Photograph what you know.”
Some people make money doing photography and some people don’t, but as long as you follow your passion in photography, you just might earn something that money can never buy.
Best piece of advice you got starting out?
It would be hard to narrow down their wisdom, but starting out I got a lot of guidance and support from local photographers Al Graham and Jody Link. They are artists who have taught me so many things about photography; etiquette in the pit, technology advice, how to get paid for your work, etc. They’ve taught me so much over the years. They should write a book.
How can someone contact you?
My cell number is 850-292-0126 and my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org