Tommy Penick Photo

Commercial and Outdoor Adventure Photographer

Lost Photo Story -- Cadillac Sky


Over the past few years, my intense appreciation of bluegrass music has progressed to something that more resembles obsession. I've always found the scene to be so grassroots, humble, and of course fun to listen to. Merlefest, just 30 minutes down the road, is one of the largest bluegrass festivals in the country, and this year, I was given the opportunity to follow Cadillac Sky, a young, energetic band with the energy and showmanship of a young newgrass band with the tact and deep lyrics of traditional.

I had huge expectations for myself to produce a ground breaking photo story showing the true side of Merlefest--how hard the bands work to make so many show times, the camaraderie backstage between bands, and how these guys aren't exactly living like rockstars they resemble on stage, but down-to-earth, humble folks trying to make it, just like the rest of us.

Months in advance I started talking with the record company people, and found them to be awesomely accommodating, but some mis-communications happened and I got a late start. So now it's halfway through the weekend, and I'm just starting to make my first frames. After meeting up with the guys for a little while, shooting some photos and getting to know them, I split off with intentions to meet back up. A few hours away turns into my ride to the festival returning back to Boone, and never catch back up.

Next morning, I'm informed that my camera was smashed the previous night while the car was being unloaded. And so the story of the lost photo story ends--missed connections, my poor planning, and destroyed gear. I was pretty upset about my main camera being destroyed, and downloaded the photos never to take a look at them until this past week. Here's what I found, plus a few just from around the festival.

Merlefest also marked something personally for me. It was one of the first times I felt like I started seeing differently, specifically in layers, geometrically, and different types of lighting. While my attempts that weekend were very elementary and pretty much a fail on all points, it was the beginning of new things for me photographically.

To the Cadillac Sky guys if you see this--I'm sorry I was such a flake. I'd really love to give this another shot in the future; y'all are a great group of folks and a great band.