“Only the Best” Zack Smith Photography’s Top Moments from the 2016 French Quarter Fest
 Big Chief Bo Dollis Jr. rallies the energetic crowd at the GE Capital Stage at the  2016  French Quarter Fest in New Orleans. ©Zack Smith

Big Chief Bo Dollis Jr. rallies the energetic crowd at the GE Capital Stage at the 2016  French Quarter Fest in New Orleans. ©Zack Smith

My feet hurt, my legs are beat down and my shoulders sore – my heart is filled with accomplishment to put another stellar document of French Quarter Fest in the books. I am honored to be hired and give then task to “find the magic” and tell the story of the largest free festival in the U.S., and often have to pinch myself during the day.

I love photographing this festival but since I don’t shoot festivals all year (or even that often), the first few hours of the first day is often a challenge. Getting my “fest legs” (as we call it in the biz..) is priority #1 as I have to navigate through throngs of eager music loving crowds to get to a stage, a food booth, or sponsor in order to fulfill my duties. Once I am able to move along at the festival’s natural pace, I can them begin to tap into the magic of the festival as I start to notice the patterns of light through the day, the way people move, and the music on stage. I really could not do this without great shoes, sunscreen, water, and my Black Rapid RS-DR 1 strap. As I run around and navigate through record crowds of 760,000+ to hit my marks, I know my cameras are where I need them when running, and at rest. When it’s time to capture the magic – my Canon 5DMII  with the 70-200 2.8 and 6D 35mm 1.4 / 16-35 2.8 are right where they need to be…It’s a serendipitous moment when the Festival Universe comes together and the moments really do FIND YOU…

I have countless duties and marks to hit during the day from musicians, food booths, sponsors, and operational layouts, but I always find ways to get my own creative checklist going. Here are some of my favorite moments throughout French Quarter Fest 2016 – and I do call them moments for a reason. Every one I photograph here, and everywhere I go it is a true collaboration of time, place, coincidence, and things planned. I’m never “taking pictures” at a festival – I like to feel I am listening to it tell it’s own story as I am just along for the ride. I am forever grateful to the folks at French Quarter Festival Inc for giving me this opportunity to work with them to photograph this amazing festival of love, life, and celebration of all things New Orleans.

Feel free to spread this link around to your friends! Tag them, comment on this post and get involved – hopefully I’ll see you on the streets soon!

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