Open Letter To The New York Islanders

Dear New York Islanders.

Congrats on the win today. Great game on the ice despite the outcome. Would have liked to see a little more overtime but that’s hockey. Unfortunately the fan experience left something to be desired. In fact it was the worst experience I have had in 30 years of attending sporting events.

NYC Caps Fans

I am a member of the New York City Capitals Fans and a dozen of us decided to take a trip to Long Island to see our Capitals play. We paid $158 each for terrible seats way up top with an obstructed view of the score boards but not quite high enough that we didn’t have drunk Islanders fans screaming at us to shut up.

Anyway, the day started out well. We got there early and tailgated and were greeted with plenty of smack talk but 90% of it was good natured. We had a great time before the game and even got to meet up with Caps play by play announcer John Walton who interviewed us for Caps Radio.

NYC Caps Fans

Unfortunately once the game started things went decidedly downhill. We were told to shut up and yelled all manor of things at us. The fans directly around us were pretty friendly but the people a few rows in front and a few rows behind were not. When the Islanders scored their first goal one of the guys behind me poured beer all over me. Homophobic bullshit was shouted at us all game and my friend Fatou had a number of racist comments directed at her.

Our group had bought seats in two different sections so during the second intermission we all met up at one of the out door smoking areas. We walked in together and were booed by everyone. It seemed good natured at first but then we were surrounded and things took a much darker turn. We were surrounded by several dozens of Islanders fans, some of whom blew smoke into the girls in our group’s faces. Several of them were actually pushing us but we clearly weren’t about to start a fight with that many people. I just held my Caps “Unleash The Fury” towel above my head (as seen in the above photos) and just took all the boos and chants of asshole and fun stuff like “fuck you faggot”.

At some point a drunk Islanders fan grabbed the rally towel out of my hands and as I tried to get it back Islanders fans swarmed me and it looked like it was going to turn into a brawl but security was quick to break it up. Of course the security guard blamed it on me for “instigating a fight” when all I was doing was silently holding a rally towel and smiling. When someone threw a bottle at our group I told the same security guard about it and he said “no one is throwing anything at you” despite the bottle landing at his feet.

It should be noted that a few Islanders fans defended us and gave us props for holding our ground but the racism and homophobia and near violence wasn’t exactly a positive experience… and of course it would get worse.

When the game went to overtime and the Islanders won the fans around us started kicking our chairs and pounding on the seat backs on either side of our heads. The guys in front of us turned around and gave us the middle finger. As we left I had people yell “FUCK YOU” in my face and of course more “faggots” and comments about Fatou’s “black hair”.

When we made it to our cars we noticed that our friend Justin’s car had been keyed twice and his rear license plate had been stolen. A few Islanders fans could’t believe it and were pretty great about it but another drunk fan started screaming and bumping up into the face of several of our crew. At some point one of our members pushed him away after he jumped into us and that nearly started another brawl. I fortunately broke it up since I had no interest in going to jail but the guys still pissed right next to my friends car so that he had to stand in a puddle of urine to get into his car.

There was of course almost no security in the parking lot so when a couple of security guards finally came by in a golf cart we stopped them to let them know what happened to Justin’s car. They just told him to call the cops and as they drove off I saw one of them turn to the other and started laughing about the stolen license plate. It was pretty infuriating.

Caps Fans Car Keyed

On top of that some of Islanders fans we had tailgated with earlier said they saw the guys who did it. As soon as we left they keyed the car and said “Fuck these Caps fans” as they took the plates off in front of a bunch of other fans who did nothing to stop them. I don’t know why they told us they saw it because they wouldn’t tell us who took it.

I have been to hundreds of professional sporting events in my life, mostly as an away team fan. While I have had some problems with fans in the past (Jets fans mostly) I have never had so many people be so shitty to me and my friends. There were a ton of Islanders fans that were cool to us but we had incident after incident today in a way that I have never seen. The combination of racism, sexism, homophobia, vandalism and violence was something almost impressive to behold. I even heard that some Isles fans were abusing a disabled child in an Ovechkin jersey.

Hopefully when you guys come to Brooklyn, the city I have lived for the last decade, you will do a much better job of controlling your drunk abusive fans and hire some security guards who do their jobs instead of just treating the visiting fans as the enemy. At the very least I am glad there won’t be any seats where you have to duck to see how much time is left in the game.

Thanks and I hope we are the last team to ever play in that awful “barn” you currently call home,

Nate “Igor” Smith
NYC Caps Fans

Update: Since this post blew up on the Internet I had a bunch of Islanders fans point out that I Tweeted that “These assholes should move to Brooklyn”. I could have deleted this Tweet but I am not going to. I am going to link to it instead. I talked plenty of smack today and I got a lot of smack talk back. 90% of it was fun. The other 10% was over the line. I could deal with most of it. What I don’t find acceptable is the vandalism, the shitty security or the racism/homophobia. I don’t care if some drunk asshole calls me a “faggot” that just looks bad on them. I do care when they say racist shit to my friends, pour beer on me and fuck up my friends car. And if any one of those things happened. I never would have written this post. But all of those things happened in one day. And I paid $158 for that experience.

I am a loud fan and I certainly don’t back down from anything, but calling all Islanders fans assholes is a very different thing from walking up to someone’s face and calling them an asshole. I never put a hand on an Islander fan and we certainly didn’t do anything to deserve any of the vandalism/ threats of violence or bigotry. Let’s Go Caps!

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How Not To Suck At Twitter

Lily Is Doing It All Wrong!

There are a million websites out there that teach you how to gain users on Twitter or how to be “engaging” and nonsense like that, but very few of them teach you how not to be a fucking idiot. I guess they take for granted that you are not a moron even though they are giving you advice like “interact with people” and “provide thoughtful content”. I am gonna teach you a few things that will keep you from looking like a complete asshole on Twitter despite your ridiculous avatar.

I am not a social media expert or “guru”. No one has ever asked me to be on a pannel at SXSW or asked me to give a talk at TED. My personal Twitter, @drivenbyboredom has over 7,000 followers but that is more of a result of me posting naked photos than any social networking skill. In fact, I would probably have a lot more followers if I didn’t constantly post insane Tweets 20 times a day.

I do run several Twitter accounts, the most popular of which is @TinyFurniture, the Lena Dunham film that predated her HBO show Girls. I also work for numerous clients in my professional photography life and constantly deal with people who run social media accounts for major brands. I have been on Twitter since 2008 and have seen Twitter rise and change and seen the way people interact with Twitter change. But in all that time there are a few mistakes people make over and over again that blow my mind. So I decided I would address them and create a simple article that I can send people when they are doing Twitter wrong. If you run a brand and hire an intern or even a social media “expert” send them here first.

(Read the article)

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Happiness Is Irrelevant

My whole life I have had depression. When I was younger it was really bad but it really hit it’s peak when I was about 20. I remember thinking how great things were going in my life. I had a girlfriend, a lot of friends and I was working a bullshit summer job but I enjoyed it. Despite this I felt overwhelming depression and when things in my life got worse my depression got worse. A break up and two break downs later I had dropped out of college and found myself on some anti-depressant meds that ended up working pretty well. I went back to college, got my degree and by the time I was 27 I was living in NYC and I had stopped taking the meds completely and had never been “happier”.

So what changed? The meds helped for a while… they at least stabilized me when I was at my worse and the move to NYC was fantastic for me. I had always wanted to live in NYC and pretty much the moment I moved here I knew it was at home. But I’ve been off meds for more than 5 years and New York’s charm has worn off a bit, but I am still “happier” than I have ever been. How did I do it? I made a conscious decision to not prioritize happiness. I decided living an interesting life was far more important than being happy. If I have depression, I am always going to be depressed so why try to fight that? I decided just to live an interesting life and if bad things happen I can just write it off as a new experience. The horrible break up I went through when I was 21 made me realize that even the worst pain fades eventually and that when bad shit happens you can to some degree move past it. Humans are very adaptive and can deal with anything. You just keep moving and everything will be fine.

I just decided that I didn’t care about happiness and that somehow made me happier. I was able to deal with depression with a realization that in the future whatever was bothering me wouldn’t make that much difference. If I get mugged tonight I might have a black eye and $100 less dollars but a year from now all that I will have is a cool story about getting mugged. I don’t let myself get upset about parking tickets and broken cell phones and the little bullshit in life because I know that in 6 months none of that shit will have any effect on my life. I go to events I hate because I know that the great photos I get will be all that remains and the lack of sleep and bullshit I had to deal with won’t make any difference in the long run.

The whole thing sounds pretty stupid and fairly reminiscent of a t-shirt worn by one of the kids on my high school wrestling team had “Pain is temporary but glory lasts forever”. The idea of just ignoring happiness and wishing away sadness is easier said than done, but it has some real scientific basis. I recently read The Upside of Irrationality by Dan Ariely. Ariely was burned severely as a teen and has spent his entire life dealing with crippling pain but he was able to deal with it and lead a reasonably happy life. Much of his book is about the adaptability of man and how no matter how good or bad things are in life they eventually average out. He talks about how people who move from a cold weather climate to a warm weather climate are much happier for a few months but eventually they get used to it. The same thing works in reverse. If you move from LA to North Dakota you might hate it for a while but you eventually get used to it.

I had this idea in my head that if you are a innately happy person you are going to be happy no matter what your situation and if you are an unhappy person, nothing material is going to make you happy. Ariely’s research seemed to back this up but it wasn’t until I saw a TED talk by Dan Gilbert about happiness did I want to blog about it.

Gilbert talks about the science of happiness and how you can trick yourself into being happy and that false happiness is just as valid as natural happiness. Humans overestimate how happy or unhappy things will make them. He talks about how a year after someone wins the lottery or becomes a paraplegic their happiness returns to where they were before their change in fortune. His argument is that you can trick yourself into being happy. My argument is that happiness is bullshit and you just shouldn’t prioritize it.

If you aren’t happy, don’t look for happiness. Look for something else that give you meaning. Ignore happiness. Lead an interesting or meaningful life and in the long run you might end up happier than you think you can be.

Ps. Sorry for this rant but this is exactly what these new DBB B-Sides are all about. It’s a place that I can blog about anything without fucking up the main page of my site.

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Why Music Festivals Suck For Photographers

Every time I shoot a music festival I have a bunch of kids come up to me and ask me how I get my press pass. They want to stand in front of the stage and get access to their favorite bands and are envious of the photographers who get paid to do it. I just want to break it down for everyone and explain why I hate covering music festivals and why they are often the hardest and most annoying things I have to photograph.

First the good stuff. I get to take photos for a living and I should stop my complaining right here. But I won’t. There are some things I really enjoy about covering music festivals. I love to travel and I love to get paid well for my work. I get to fly all over the US to shoot these things and I get paid pretty well to do it because they are usually long and full of billable hours. Plus airline miles! I like to see my friends who are in the music industry who I only get to see at these things and often I get to see a band I really dig. Plus they are hard work and that makes me feel like I am doing an honest days work instead of shooting a party for three hours and then going home to edit photos in my underwear. That being said, music festivals are a huge pain in my ass.

Music Festivals Are Huge– Often music festivals are spread out over a massive area, some times in the case of SXSW or CMJ over a whole city. When you are carrying two cameras, three lenses (including a huge telephoto), extra batteries, memory cards, chargers, a jacket, food & water and your camera bag it gets fucking draining. Think about how tired you are after a day at a festival and add 50lbs and the fact you pretty much have to run everywhere to get to the next stage. Fun times.

This Is Only One Of Lollapalooza's Many Stages

This Is Only One Of Lollapalooza’s Many Stages

Long Hours – I know I just told you how I actually enjoy the long hours and hard work but I don’t enjoy that stuff until it’s over and I am looking back. When I am on day three of working from noon to four AM and then editing photos until 8am I am not happy about it. I am in fact miserable. Which brings me to clients.

Dances With White Girls Naps At WMC

Take Naps When You Can – DJ Dances With White Girls Naps At WMC

Clients Need Photos Right Away – Most of the time I shoot an event a client needs the photos by 8am the next day if not sooner. So when everyone else is going out to party you are stuck in a hotel room or on a friends couch editing and uploading photos. Clients don’t understand why you can barely keep your eyes open the next day and half the time they don’t even do anything with your images until Monday. Still, I always make sure to have a fast turn around to keep clients happy. Nothing pisses off a client more than a photographer taking forever to get them photos.

The Weather – No matter what happens you are expected to get the shot so if it rains you better be prepared. I don’t mind getting wet so I rarely bring a poncho but I have weather gear for my camera and my camera bag. Music festivals are often in the summer so the sun can be brutal, but then it can get freezing at night so you better have a jacket because you sure as hell can’t go back to your hotel. If the sun is bright your photos can suck, if there’s no sun your photos can suck. No matter what festival you are photographing something nature is going to do to you is going to make your job harder.

Don't Forget Your Rain Gear!

Don’t Forget Your Rain Gear!

Festival Press People – Before I bash all these PR people that work music festivals I have to point out that they have a hard job. It’s not always their fault that shit is fucked up and they are dealing with journalist after journalist yelling at them for the same things. Because of this they tend to be extremely bitchy and unhelpful especially if you are working for a smaller outlet. Fortunately, I shoot a lot of this stuff for Village Voice Media and I have a little more pull than if I was shooting for my blog, but it’s still a huge pain in the ass dealing with getting credentials, getting the right credentials, getting access to whatever you need access too, etc. An amazing amount of stress is put on a photographer just because we have to deal with people who for some reason want to make our jobs really difficult for seemingly no reason.

Band Press People – Music publicists are often a weird breed of people and the more successful they are the harder they are to deal with. I don’t even run a music blog and I get hundreds of emails a week from these people but when you need a favor from them they often don’t respond to emails or give you a hard time. Some of them are great at their jobs and a pleasure to deal with, but I have dealt with so many bad ones it’s hard not to include them on this list. The biggest problem though is with these insane contracts PR people try to get you to sign if you want to shoot bigger bands. Acts like Foo Fighters, Lady Gaga and Britney Spears all have these crazy contracts that say the band owns the photographs once you take them. They are total bullshit, legally suspect and I never sign them. All other photographers should do the same.

Then Again Maybe Dealing With PR Girls Isn't All Bad...

Then Again Maybe Dealing With PR Girls Isn’t All Bad…

Photo Pits – Photo pits are the bane of my existence. They are the three feet in front of the stage full of photographers. At big festivals like Lollapalooza the stage is 15 feet in the air and you can’t even shoot the bands without a telephoto lens shooting straight up at them. Often you can only enter them from the far side of the stage so you have to walk through a crowd of thousands of kids just to get to the pit. They are filled with photographers who all are getting the exact same shot and you have to pretty much shove people out of the way just to get an unblocked. I am generally a very friendly photographer to work with in a pit and always there to help people and make sure everyone gets a good shot, but recently as more and more amateurs show up in photo pits I have started to become a dick. Which brings me to my next point.

Nothing Like A Bunch Of Photographers To Ruin A Shot - Fishbone At Voodoo Fest

Nothing Like A Bunch Of Photographers To “Enhance” A Shot – Fishbone At Voodoo Fest

Other Photographers – I have been shooting music festivals for more than 15 years and I started shooting bands for a little zine I published when I was in high school. I didn’t really know how this shit worked but I was trying. I am sure I pissed off some of the seasoned pros, but it wasn’t as big of a deal because there were never more than a handful of us in the pit. With the advent of blogs and digital cameras more and more people are getting media access to music festivals and most of them have no idea what they are doing. So many kids who have no experience are willing to shoot these things for free because they want to go to the festival but they have no idea how to act in the pit. Now I truly believe that if you are a good photographer you can get the shot you need with nearly any camera but filling up the photo pit with kids with kit lenses, point and shoot cameras and iPhones is insane. If you are shooting with a lens that can’t even fill the frame you are just wasting everyone’s time and getting in the way.

Nicki Minaj Being Charmingly Blocked By Cell Phone Cameras

Nicki Minaj Being Charmingly Blocked By Cell Phone Cameras

Other Photographers Part II – Some photographers are so obnoxious they need a second section. For some reason people with no photo pit experience decide they need to lift their cameras in the air to get a better shot. Doing this gets in everyone’s fucking way and ruins shots for everyone behind them. If you need to lift to get the shot do it from the back of the pit so you aren’t in anyone’s way. 90% of the time you are going to get a horribly composed shot anyway because you are just guessing wildly. When I see people do this I will grab their arms down because I don’t really respect them enough to ask nicely. Keep your fucking cameras at eye level. On this same point, almost every festival has a no flash rule so take your flash off your camera so it’s not in anyone’s way. Also, if you have a good place in the pit shoot a song there and move so someone else can get their shot. You want a variety of angels anyway, not just a shot right in front of the lead singer.

I Know You Love DFA 1979 But Keep Your Damn Camera Down!

I Know You Love DFA 1979 But Keep Your Damn Camera Down!

Videographers – I have a lot of the same complaints with videographers as I do amateur photographers but the videographers are worse. They hold their cameras up in the air and look through their monitors and get in everyone’s way. Often they have fuzzy microphones or big lights attached to the top of their cameras and it ruins shot after shot of the photographers behind them. On top of that 99% they aren’t even supposed to be shooting video and if they get in my way I will rat those mother fuckers out so fast.

Not You Too Joel McHale! You Are So Great On Community!

Not You Too Joel McHale! I Love You On Community!

Three Songs, No Flash – Three songs, no flash is the standard rule at most big concerts and festivals. Basically it means that the photographers get to be in the pit for three songs and they can’t shoot with flash. The flash part makes perfect sense as most concerts should be lit well enough that you don’t need one. Flashes get in the way of other photographers and they are distracting to performers. The three songs part completely sucks. I get the idea. You can easily shoot 100 photos in three songs and then you get the hell out of the fans way… the problem is that the first three songs are never the songs you want to shoot. I would take the last three songs every time. If you are dealing with a rap group some times the whole group won’t come out until half way through the set. You are never going to get a photo of a special guest performer or an amazing encore. Imagine if three songs and out was the rule in the 60s. No one would have ever caught Jimmy Hendrix setting his guitar on fire or the Who smashing their equipment. On top of that every photographer gets the same exact shots and they don’t capture the real essence of the performance. Plus you only get to hear three songs and then you move on to the next one. I have photographed so many bands multiple times but I couldn’t tell you anything about their set from the fourth song on.

My Only Decent Shot Of A$AP Rocky At Pitchfork Because He Came Out During Song Four

My Only Decent Shot Of A$AP Rocky At Pitchfork Because He Came Out During Song Four

Photographing DJs – DJs are usually boring to shoot anyway but if you can’t shoot them from the stage you are just waisting your time anyway. Photographing a DJ from the photo pit is completely pointless because you can just see the top of their head over the table and their laptop. My favorite DJ’s to shoot put on a show and get away from their table. I will shoot Steve Aoki, Girl Talk or Major Lazer any day because they put on a better show than most bands, but for most DJ’s I don’t even bother. I just turn my camera away from them and shoot the crowd.

Steve Aoki Is One Of The Few DJs That Puts On A Show Worth Photographing

Steve Aoki Is One Of The Few DJs That Puts On A Show Worth Photographing

Bands Suck – One of the most over looked things about music fests is that most bands suck and a lot of the ones that don’t suck are really boring to photograph. If you are just going to stand there and play music you might as well stay home and just have someone play your CD for us. 75% of bands have terrible live shows and 75% of those make awful music anyway. If you are working for a festival for a client you often have to shoot band after band that you hate that you don’t even want to look at much less photograph.

Say What You Will About The Insane Clown Posse... At Least They Know How To Put On A Show

Say What You Will About The Insane Clown Posse… At Least They Know How To Put On A Show

I am going to stop whining now. But If this article stops one 20 year old kid from agreeing to shoot photos with their brand new $400 digital SLR for free fo some mediocre music blog I will have done my job. In fact, I will make a promise to any music blogger right now. If I am covering a music festival I will let you run my images FOR FREE if you apply for a photo pass, get the pass and then don’t give it to anyone. One less photographer in the pit will be well worth it to me.

Now it should be said that if any photographer is coming to a music festival for the first time, or just wants some advice I am not here to give you shit. If you come to these things excited about photography and music and willing to listen to some of the pros in the pit we will welcome you with open arms. We all started because we loved this stuff and we respect young photographers with passion. We just need you to not make our jobs any harder than they already are.

I recommend to anyone just getting started in music photographer to check out the book Concert And Live Music Photography: Pro Tips From The Pit by J. Dennis Thomas. It has great tips on everything you would need to shoot music from equipment to post processing but most importantly it has a fantastic chapter on photo pit etiquette that everyone should have to read before they shoot a concert for the first time. It will go along way to helping you gain acceptance from pro photographers plus if you are ever in Austin J. Dennis Thomas WILL be in the photo pit with him, and he is a dude you do not want on your bad side.

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