Archive for December, 2010

Country Throwdown 2010

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

Eric Church @ WMZQfest Country Throwdown

Somehow in spring and summer 2010 I became the Washington Post‘s go-to shooter for big country music events. I ended up shooting Brad Paisley and several other country megastars, but the craziest event I covered was something called Country Throwdown 2010. By the end of it all I became convinced that big country shows are some of the most fun concerts to cover – the production values are amazing, the stars are practiced and professional entertainers, the fans are enthusiastic, etc etc.

The festival, headlined by Montgomery Gentry, had two stages – the Jiffy Lube Live main stage and a little secondary stage off to one side – and all kinds of booths and merch tables. I had a blast shooting all the acts; the headline shot above is Eric Church on the main stage. I also spent some time in the parking lot shooting tailgating fans (although, as it turned out, the venue management didn’t really want me out there and eventually shooed me back into the venue proper). Some samples of both musicians and fans are after the jump.

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April

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

April

I never got around to posting about my last portrait shoot of the summer (and, as it would turn out, the year), since shortly after it happened I moved, got married, went to Iceland for two weeks, and then moved again. So here’s the belated report. I worked with April Christina, a fantastic model in Maryland, at a great location she found at Savage Mill, MD – an old textile mill that’s been converted into an upscale shopping mall. Next to the shopping mall, though, there is a stream with some old mill ruins that haven’t been taken down or turned into a tourist attraction or anything. They’re just sitting there – a perfect spot for photography.

April

For our first look we used the interior of the ruins and mostly natural light. The headline shot is all soft, diffuse natural light – it was a nice, cloudy day that was perfect for this sort of thing. The shot immediately above is taken within the ruins, so I needed a single speedlight at camera left to get the exposure right (ambient underexposed by a little less than a stop or so, if I’m remembering correctly). My light was completely unmodified and set to a moderate zoom. A similar shot that shows a bit more of the environment┬ácan be seen here.

April

We did a few looks in the ruins, but it wasn’t too long before a police officer noticed my flashes going off, came to investigate, and kicked us out. He was perfectly nice about it but noted that we were trespassing on private mall property. We would be allowed, he said, to shoot anywhere else on the mall, but the ruins were off limits. So we moved to this weird little courtyard outside the mall, April changed, and we used the semi-industrial windows as a new background. We did a bunch of variations of the above shot, lit simply with a single speedlight at camera left and a shoot-through umbrella.

April

Nearby were some neat rock formations, which we put to use as in the above shot. By this time it was pretty much totally dark outside; for the main light in this photo I had a speedlight at camera right zoomed to 85mm. A bit of an accent light comes from a speedlight at camera left gelled with a CTO, snooted, and aimed at April’s face.

April

Finally, for one last set of shots, April changed again, ruined her makeup, and went for a bit of a burned-out look. Some strange metallic structures supporting a deck made an appropriate background for this look. Again, this was a super simple lighting setup, just a single speedlight camera left with a shoot-through umbrella.

For the most part, at this shoot I let April do the hard work, and she really came through. My lighting schemes were simple and straightforward; I didn’t do anything fancy or particularly artsy. While I wish I’d come up with something a bit more creative, we still got some shots I’m happy with. I’d love another chance to shoot within those ruins; unfortunately, I’ve moved out of the area and apparently the ruins are supposed to be off-limits anyway. But if I do get another chance, I’d take it – there are some great elements to work with in there.

Cajas National Park, Ecuador

Sunday, December 26th, 2010

Laguna Toreadora

Going to do a few long-overdue posts – in this case, from over a year ago. (This one’s kind of a long one.) In December 2009, I did a great one-night backpacking trip with two friends, Vicki and Amy, through El Cajas National Park in the southern part of the country (yes, El Cajas – the name is actually derived from Quichua, not the Spanish word “caja”). Cajas sits at 12,000 to 14,000 feet above sea level, home to hundreds of alpine lakes, imposing mountains, and unpredictable weather. As we found, days in Cajas often start off beautifully, but in the mid-afternoon, dense fog sets in – we were warned several times before our trip to be careful, because unprepared hikers often get lost in the fog – and heavy rains may follow shortly after.

Details of the trip and tons of photos after the jump.

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Back at the Cabooze: Power metal Tuesday

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

Blind Guardian

Last night at the Cabooze was a night for all the epic fantasy lovers out there: in other words, a bunch of power metal bands were in the house. Blind Guardian were the headliners, and within their first four songs there were two songs from Nightfall in Middle-earth, their decade-old concept album based on Tolkien’s novels. They played their material faithfully, but without as much energy onstage as I would have expected; my photos from their set are a bit lacking in oomph. For someone with such an impressive voice, Hansi K├╝rsch is an incredibly unassuming looking dude – probably the only metal frontman I’ve ever seen perform in a polo shirt, looking for all the world like he could be a professor at your local university. Gotta love the lack of pretense, but this is not the band (or the genre) I would have expected that from.

Blind Guardian

Holy Grail, one of the openers, really stole the show in terms of stage presence. In particular, one of their guitarists kept giving me ridiculously awesome portfolio-worthy shots. Let’s just run through a few of them…

Holy Grail

Holy Grail

Holy Grail

Holy Grail

And finally, Seven Kingdoms (named after, of course, George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy novels) opened up the night with a set that was shockingly gorgeously lit – maybe the best lighting of the night and the best lighting I’ve ever seen at this venue. Lots of colorful backlight, which the Cabooze always seems to have, but copious amounts of nice white frontlight as well. It was a great way to kick off the evening.

Seven Kingdoms

Seven Kingdoms

Full photoset here.