Photo Spotlight

Photographer Spotlight: Nate Zoeller

A gifted lifestyle photographer based out of Sacramento, CA, Nate Zoeller's other passion is music, especially of the hardcore variety. I've seen Nate's live shots of bands like  Forced Order and Cruel Hand being shared all over social media sites for the past few years, so that's how I discovered his work. Nate's also been mentioned in previous interviews I've done with other photographers, so that's even more reason why I needed to have the guy featured on the site.

Thanks to Nate for spending some time out to be part of the Photographer Spotlight series.

Where were you born and raised, and were your parents into the arts?

I was born in San Jose, CA and moved to Sacramento as an infant. I've lived in and around here for my entire life. My dad plays the guitar and was in some bands years ago. I think they mostly played cover sets at bars and parties. I never got to see him play [laughs].

Mindset at Thee Parkside, San Francisco, 2014. (Photo: Nate Zoeller)

When did you get into music and what kind of stuff did you gravitate towards early on?

Music has always been a part of my life in one way or another. I was in choirs and musicals when I was young, started my first band when I was 12 or so, and started going to whatever shows I could walk or get a ride to shortly after that. I loved heavy music from the first time I heard it. Metalcore was popular and readily available at the time, so I started there, made friends, and eventually wound up going to hardcore shows on an almost weekly basis for years.

Ecostrike at Sound & Fury, Los Angeles, CA, 2017. (Photo: Nate Zoeller)

Who were some of the photographers you looked up to during your formative years?

Honestly, I can't say there was anybody that I totally looked up to. My only exposure to big names were in whatever photo class I was taking in high school or community college at the time. I didn't know of many music photographers aside from the handful around here. In particular, Matt Gill's photos were always cool to me and he was at every show I went to for the longest time. His photos always made me think "man, I wanna do that!"

Strife at The Colony, Sacramento, CA, 2015. (Photo: Nate Zoeller)

What is your camera and post set up?

I shoot (currently) with a Canon 5D Mk III. I had a Nikon D3000 for the longest time before the big upgrade, just over a year ago. As far as post, I strictly use Lightroom. It does everything that I need it to do with very few frills. Photoshop was always too complex for me.

Photo: Nate Zoeller

Who are some of your favorite bands to shoot?

Trapped Under Ice, Step For Change, Forced Order, and Madball, to name a few.

Madball at Trees, Dallas, TX, 2016. (Photo: Nate Zoeller)

If you could go back in time, who are some bands that you would have loved to shoot?

Rest In Pieces immediately comes to mind, Dinosaur Jr. back in the late '80s, early '90s, too. Any of the formative late '80s youth crew bands would be a dream for me as well.

Freedom at The Colony, Sacramento, CA, 2014. (Photo: Nate Zoeller)

What are the toughest aspects to shooting live music events?

Getting access is always the hardest part for me, honestly. I'm the world's worst planner in that way. I usually just show up and shoot until somebody tells me not to. I've only dealt with backstage/press passes a handful of times.

Title Fight at 924 Gilman, Berkeley, CA, 2013. (Photo: Nate Zoeller)

Tell me about some newer bands that we should all be on the lookout for.

Extinguish, Natural Selection, Initiate, Diztort, Step 4 Change, Dead Heat, and Jawstruck. All from California and all currently killing it.

Westpoint at Sound & Fury, Los Angeles, CA, 2017. (Photo: Nate Zoeller)

Who are some modern-day music-related photographers that you admire?

Man, there are so many good ones out there. Brett Sweeney, Angela Owens, Kiabad Meza, and Danielle Parsons, to name a few.

Angel Du$t at 924 Gilman, Berkeley, CA, 2015. (Photo: Nate Zoeller)

If you had to pick one of your photos that best encapsulates why you love shooting bands, which one would it by and why?

I'd have to go with a shot of Cruel Hand at Gilman from 2013 of Chris jumping onto the crowd. I was 17 and showed up to a sold out show with my friends and I weaseled my way up on stage. I barely knew what I was doing at that point, I didn't know how to shoot a venue like that, and I barely had a grasp on any kind of editing software. It's certainly not the best photo I've ever taken, but it's fun to me because it was about being there in that moment. That, to me, is what photographing hardcore shows has been about ever since.

Cruel Hand at 924 Gilman, Berkeley, CA, 2013. (Photo: Nate Zoeller)


See more of Nate's work on his official website, and he's also on Instagram, obviously.

Tagged: nate zoeller, photographer spotlight