Rukes: The Art of Party Photography

If you’ve seen photographs from major EDM festivals or club nights that made you wish that you were there, there’s a big possibility that the man behind those lens is Drew Ressler, or better known as Rukes. This photographer spend most of his time bouncing around from festival to festival taking pictures of DJs the likes of Avicii, Steve Aoki, Swedish House Mafia, Deadmau5 and many more. The photographer is making an appearance this coming Heineken Thirst. But before that, we spoke to Rukes on the art of party photos…

Tell us how you got started; what made you want to pick up the camera and shoot DJs? And what were you up to before that?
Before I started photography, I worked in the videogame industry as a tester, working my way up to producer, and doing some journalism on the side. I got started when I moved to California, I was a big fan of a lot of DJs, and most of them were playing at Avalon Hollywood in LA. So since I recently got my first DSLR camera, I asked for a photo pass for those gigs so I could try out photography using DJs as my test subjects.

What’s life like on the road, does sh!t gets really crazy every time or are you the chilling type?
I’m very chill; nothing too crazy really goes on for tours, even when touring with Tommy Lee. The whole “touring has crazy things going on!” stereotype isn’t really as big nowadays as it once was. Now touring is a lot of work. Occasionally fun things do happen, but those are on rare days off.

You’ve shot everyone from Avicii, Steve Aoki to Swedish House Mafia. Which DJ really lives up to a rockstar lifestyle on the road?
Nobody really, everyone is just a normal person on the road.

Well, that’s a letdown. A lot of us are uninitiated to the art of photographing party peeps, most probably think it’s just point and shoot. Can you elucidate us more on what it takes to be a real party photographer?
Low-light photography is really difficult since light = a photo. So the less there is, the more difficult it is to capture a good shot that doesn’t look dark or blurry or out of focus. You really have to know your camera and lenses well to know what settings to use at the right moments and with the right production to get a great shot. A lot of trial and error.

What camera and lenses do you use? And which is your favourite?
I use a Canon 1DX and a whole bunch of lenses: Speedlite 600EX-RT, Canon 24L f/1.4 II, Canon 24-70L f/2.8 II, Canon 85L f/1.2 II, Canon 16-35L II f/2.8, Canon 40 f/2.8 STM, Canon 50L f/1.2, Canon 8-15L Fisheye f/4, Canon 70-200L IS II f/2.8, Canon 100L Macro IS f/2.8 II, Canon 90 Tilt-Shift f/2.8, 1.4x Extender III and 2.0x Extender III. My favourite would have to be the 85mm f/1.2 II, when you get a perfect shot at f/1.2, it just looks beautiful!

What’s the craziest thing that has happened to you during a tour?
I would say the craziest thing I could actually mention would be this, as said on Deadmau5’s old blog:

What’s your photographic fear?
Losing amazing photos after I take them. It’s pretty much impossible to delete something, so the fear would be losing the camera or memory card or the memory card breaking beyond repair.

Which is your favourite tour and why?
I would say Stereosonic is my favourite. Getting to tour around Australia for two weeks with all your friends is an amazing experience! Everyone gets to hang out with each other and make new friends.

Why do you call yourself Rukes?
It’s a typo of the world “rules” like “this videogame rules”. I saw it happen in a chat room on AOL in the early ‘90s, so my friends and I started using “rukes” in place of “rules”. Eventually when I wanted to get a new screen name on AOL, I just started it with Rukes and everyone just started calling me Rukes from then on.

Have you shot in our region before? What do you look forward to the most at Heineken Thirst?
Yes, I was with Deadmau5 in Kuala Lumpur in May 2011 at the amazing Sunway Lagoon. We were only there for less than 24 hours before we had to make a journey to South Korea for an “Unhooked” gig, while the live crew luckily got to hang out for a few days in Kuala Lumpur; we were very jealous of them! I always like to see new festivals in new places, so I’m looking forward to seeing how Kuala Lumpur does EDM festivals!

Describe to us your routine; take us from the very beginning to the very end of an event or festival.
For touring, usually it’s waking up about 30 minutes before it’s time to leave. I finish packing, shower and do all that. Meet everyone in the lobby to head to the airport. Take some pictures with my point-and-shoot if anything looks good. Fly to the next town. Land, get to the hotel. Order room service and work on pictures from the day before until dinner (if there is any) then head to the venue to take more pictures. For local gigs, it’s pretty much the same, sleep, eat, work on photos, eat, take photos, sleep.

Rukes will be snapping away at Heineken Thirst 2012, you can also check out the pictures he’s taking by heading out to

Heineken Thirst tickets are available at all Rock Corner outlets. For more information, visit