bands and artists
My commercial portrait work has a definite vibe. It’s typically well lit; there a sense of emotion and I always want my subject to look beautiful. It’s a style I’ve fallen into over the years. When I first started out in photography I heard about the need to have a style, but didn’t know how to get one. Without knowing it, my style found me. In most cases when I am shooting portraits I want emotion over everything else. I want sexy and sultry yet still commercial.
Every once in a while I look at other photography and ask why cant mine look like that? I’m drawn to moody, uncontrived photos; very spur of the moment, filled with life or mystery. Sometimes I go out and deliberately try to shoot in a style that’s not my own. But there’s this force-field that pulls me back. My experience, knowledge and what I know resonates with the people I have photographed pulls me back to my comfort zone – well-lit and pretty.
This happened on my shoot with Taylor. I’ve known and been working with Taylor since 2006 . Unlike our previous shoots where I was driving the shoot, she called me with a concept that suited her needs as an artist and musician and the direction was out of my norm. When a client approaches me with a job that is a different style from what I do I always ask for reference photos. When I saw her reference images I thought quirky, edgy, snap-shots. Even though that’s not my style she felt comfortable enough to come to me with her concept knowing that I could take her input and produce photos that matched her goals.
A few years ago I made a slideshow using photos from every assignment I shot during the year. The idea stuck and has become a great way for me to reflect on what I did right and what I did wrong during the year. 2012 was both challenging and incredibly rewarding. All of those experiences brought one theme to the forefront – Family is Everything. And by family I’m not limiting myself to the family I was born into or married into. It’s the people that I have chosen to surround myself with. This year we have had the warm blanket of family wrapped around us when we needed it and we were able to be that same blanket of warmth and strength for others when they needed it. This year was life-changing for so many of our friends and loved ones.
Over the past couple years I’ve skipped using photos of my family in the slideshow, after all they weren’t paid assignments and so many were just snapshots. This year I’ve included them because my wife and kids are my world and are definitely the most photographed subject in my life. I also opted to include more than one image from the assignments. Limiting myself to one single image per shoot didn’t represent the scope and the fruits of my labor.
As with every slide show I always struggle with music. Each year I want to use a song that I fell in love with during the year. This year there were a couple of contenders.
Mumford & Sons – I will wait
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – Thrift Shop I dare you to not bounce your head while listening to this song. I was bouncing my head for a couple weeks before I even listened to the words.
Ryan Adams – From The Ashes In January NPR streamed a pre-lease of this entire album. I listened to it over and over until the day it was released. Go buy it directly from his label/website.
Walk the Moon – Anna Sun This is probably my favorite song on the album but I opted for Tightrope becaue it matched the tempo I wanted for the slideshow.
For those of you that supported me and helped me create this year I owe you a world of thanks. Without you I’d be stuck behind some desk.
Music and photography. Other than my family, these are the two biggest influences in my life. I walked in to the Who Shot Rock & Roll exhibit at the Annenberg today and felt the power and weight of those two influences on my life.
I’ve grown up with music and photography. Music more than anything helps me tell time. As a kid whose father was in the Army we moved a lot. I can’t remember 8th grade without trying to figure out where I lived. When I think of where I lived I can remember the music in my life. 8th and 9th Grade was Anchorage Alaska. I was introduced to new wave and was coming off my introduction to heavy metal. I remember being introduced to The Cure, Violent Fems, INXS, REM, and The Beastie Boys. This is also the time in my life when I picked up my first camera.
The amazing thing about the exhibit was that in a lot of cases the photos weren’t made of rock gods and superstars. They were made by kids of other kids. Friends taking photos of their friends that happened to be in a band. In most of the images in the exhibit many of those friends went on to rock & roll greatness.
Don’t take my word for it. Go see it. Now. It closes in four days.
As I looked at the photos and read stories about how the photos were made I started to reflect on my music photography. Sometimes shooting music is great. It’s exciting, it’s loud, it’s fun. Other times it’s all wrong; they handcuff us together so that it makes it hard to get original and great images.
This was shot at the Bamboozle Left Festival a couple years ago. Here’s the reality of shooting most shows; you get to shoot the first three songs and then they kick you out. So basically there are a handful of us looking up the nostrils of the artist trying to get something cool and unique.
The key to so many of the great images showcased at the exhibit is access. Either being friends with the band or the band having enough faith in your work and vision that they trust you. They need to know that you aren’t going to make them look bad. In the case of this shot of Darrin Pfeiffer, the drummer from Goldfinger, I had access. I was on the stage a few feet away. Why did I have access? I know the lead singer.
Here’s another shot I love and it was made because I had access. Ever been to the Viper Room? It’s the size of a large walk-in closet. This shot of Run Run Run was made during a private showcase the band was putting on for a record exec. That shot would have been impossible to make had their been a crowd.
So many musicians I’ve shot know a lot about marketing and they want to look a certain way in their photos. With the case of The Josephine Collective they were in town living their dream, recording an album, looking cool was the farthest thing in their head. The producer invited me to his home where they were recording. As much as a Bel Air mansion screams success it doesn’t register well with a pop-punk band from Tennessee. So while all around me is a gorgeous pool and backyard I laid down on the ground and had them huddle up. There was no request for smiles or to say cheese. They (we) were just having fun.
Most recently I was contacted by The Rossetti quartet. They are a string quartet that has played around the world. They hired me to take shots that wouldn’t look like they were a “string quartet”. I treated them as I would any other band. I wanted them to look cohesive and cool.
A few weeks ago the idea popped into my head to buy a battery powered strobe. This wasn’t the first time I thought about buying one. I’d looked into portable strobes on several previous occasions but could never justify the expense. I’d rented some Profoto 600Rs for a couple shoots that left me cursing mid-way through a shoot when I ran out of power. In this case I knew I had a job coming up that would require a battery powered set-up. I’d need enough power to at least keep up with bright sunlight. I could spend $400 renting a package for the one shoot or I could invest in my own. I opted for the 1100 watt/second Elinchrom Ranger RX with the S head and the PocketWizard ST4 transceiver to pair with my TT5s.
With the PocketWizard ST4 I’d be able to sych my camera faster than 1/250th of a second which would help in bright sun. I spent a couple days making sure I was buying the right Ranger and flash head. I came across a lot of articles that referenced this set-up using Nikon bodies and I also came across a couple mentions that photographers hadn’t been able to match the fast synch speeds with Canon bodies. I figured that with a couple stops plus 1100W/s I’d be fine.
As soon as I got the system I fired it up and tested it out. I was looking for synch speeds over 1/1000 sec. I was a bit disappointed when it was clipping at 1/640. Instead of messing with the TT5s settings I upgraded the firmware on my TT5s and the new ST4. Immediately after my upgrade I was synching at 1/8000. This past monday I finally had a chance to test the system during a real shoot. I am pleased to report that it was everything I had expected and more.
When I get new equipment I go out and test. I need to use it, learn about it and know what it’s capable of. When I show up on set for a job I better damn well know how to use my gear and learning on someone else’s dime is a recipe for disaster.
A few years ago during a swimsuit shoot with Kelley we started talking about her dance skills and I mentioned not being able to capture a graceful jump shot with a dancer up to that point. After a few warmups she was pulling this type of jump off with little effort. I managed to capture this shot at 9 in the morning with the help of a big reflector and a couple small Canon speedlights. After the shoot we vowed to shoot again. When I got the Elinchrom she was my first call.
Unlike our fist shoot, this wasn’t about great morning light and beautiful swimsuit shots. This was about her dance ability and grace. We scheduled the shoot for 3:30 PM. I figured it would be bright but the sun would be over her shoulder and bearable. My goal with the Elinchrom was to fill in the light from the front while maintaining the blue sky.
I opted to use the lower powered flash socket which only puts out 366 watts/second. I was able to shoot as much as she could jump without having to worry about recycle times. Since this was my first test with the pack I didn’t know how much I could push it. I didn’t want to be caught holding the bag after running out of power half way through the shoot. The following shot is unedited and shown as-shot in camera.
We ran though a couple outfit changes and once we got to the last set I figured I could up the power and not worry about running out of steam. The Ranger has a power indicator, but out in the bright sun it was hard to read and I didn’t know if I could trust it. I switched to the full-powered socket and upped the power. I knew I wanted to try to overpower the sun but wasn’t sure how successful it would be. The image speaks for itself.
Turns out I had power to spare.
I had a second shoot scheduled the following day with Ryan Marks. We would be trying to capture the same type of image; although his shoot was scheduled for 11AM. I wanted to see how much power was left in the pack so I didn’t charge the battery before Ryan’s shoot. I figured I could swap out the battery if I needed, but once again I wanted to see what the pack would do.
Since the sun was mostly overhead for Ryan’s shoot it was a different look. I needed the light mostly for fill. Once we had some great shots I pushed the pack and overpowered the sun. I made it through the shoot and still had some power left.
I’ve come home from both shoots overjoyed at the results of the photos and the Ranger. More test shoots are scheduled.
A couple footnotes. I ordered an Elinchrom EL 19374 Ranger Adapter to connect the ST4 and Ranger. Turns out one is included in the package. I couldn’t get my Sekonic Light Meter to trigger the ST4. In fact I couldn’t trigger the St4 with my Plus IIs either. I was able to trigger it with another TT5. I would have LOVED to use my new 5D, but the TT5s would not synch higher than 1/200 with my 5D Mark III. Pocket Wizard hasn’t updated the firmware yet since the Mark III is so new and in high demand.
** David from PocketWizard cleared something up for me. The ST4s default is to receive info via their “Control TL” signal and not the standard pocket wizard channel. This can be changed using the utility which would enable triggering the ST4 via my Sekonic and/or the Plus II. They also expect to have their hands on a 5D Mark III this week and start working on a firmware upgrade.
Music is hugely important in my life. For as long as I can remember I’ve loved music. I can remember being a kid and my dad buying records and listening with his headphones. Music gives me history. Certain bands or song evoke emotions and memories that, without the music to remind me, they would be long forgotten.
I remember living in Puerto Rico as a kid and being at a BBQ at one of my dad’s coworkers. I remember hearing and loving Planet Rock by Afrika Bambatta, that was around 1982 and I would have been nine years old. I remember fighting and trying to steal my sisters copy of Rock the Casbah. Trying to memorize the lyrics to Jam on It in the 5th grade. How old were you when you first heard and read the lyrics to Darling Nikki?
These memories are forever cemented into my psyche because of the music I associate with them. I hope my kids have the same experience. They may not get to hold and admire the cover art of a 12″ vinyl record or even read the liner notes of a CD, but if you grow up in my house, you’ll grow up listening to music. Grace is only three and a half and she can already sing the chorus to Pumped up Kicks. “Faster than my Bully….” Well, kinda.
I’m writing about music on my photography blog because this year the way I discovered and listened to music changed drastically. The iPod was one thing but this year Pandora and Spotify changed music for me. I’ve known about Pandora for a long time, but it wasn’t until I started streaming it through my phone that I found and fell in love with it’s power. Couple that with the keys to the record store that Spotify provides and I’m exposed to new artists and genres that I would have never found otherwise. Over the past six weeks I have been trying to find the perfect song to use in my son’s one-year birthday slideshow. I’m also thinking ahead towards my end of the year slideshow and I’m trying to find the song that I found 2011 that complements my photography. I’m still up in the air about the end of the year song, but in the mean time here are some artists I’ve found and come to love this year.
Ryan Adams. Back from retirement with an amazing new album. I was so motivated enough that I bought a physical CD.
Amos Lee – I found him probably through the Ryan Adams station on Pandora.
James Vincent McMorrow – thank’s Jason Bentley and Morning Becomes Eclectic
The Civil Wars – Another KCRW find
Lydia Loveless - an XM radio find – straight rocker-girl country
Citizen Cope – another Pandora find and then further explored with the help of Spotify.
A few month’s ago Seth showed me the latest art he had been making. Seth, who goes by the name MeexOne in the art and graffiti world, incorporated using the damask patterns he used in his art with a model in the photo below. I loved the image and immediately wanted to take it a step further and paint it on a larger scale.
I began looking for a model and got lucky with Kyara Tyler. I say lucky because she’s had a lot of experience modeling body paint and that ended up helping quite a bit in during the shoot. Although I’ve seen a lot of body paint images I’d never seen the process or knew how well the idea would translate. Seth painted the backdrop a few weeks ago and used a graffiti marker called Krink which took about ten days to full dry.
Early this week we finally were all available on the same day. Once Kyara was in the studio, we experimented with lighting before Seth began the process of painting her. Unlike the wall he used a latex based paint that was safe for her skin. After I found a lighting setup I liked it took Seth about 90 minutes to paint her. The actual shoot took about 15.
I wanted to document the process. The following was filmed using a 7D and an old Canon G9 point and shoot which I used to film a time-lapse of painting the backdrop and then again on the day of the shoot. The following video shows the process and what was involved in making it work.