Archive for March, 2011
Monday, March 28th, 2011
It was 16 degrees on Saturday morning, so the logical thing to do (before my afternoon shoot with Beautiful Trigger) was clearly a photo shoot in an abandoned building whose heating system was long, long out of commission. The day eventually warmed up to a balmy 20+ degrees, but inside a two-story building that gets little sun, the temperatures were probably in the teens all day. Chels was a trooper: we did three different looks, although the day’s shoot was as much a scouting trip as anything else; we bounced around a ton of ideas for a possible future shoot when the weather was a bit more tolerable.
The headline shot was one of the last photos I took; the building featured some of these wall frames, this one covered in thick plastic sheeting. I had Chels press herself up against the plastic and just generally look a bit creepy; I lit her with an SB-900 to her left through a shoot-thru umbrella (it’s a fair bit out of frame and shooting nearly parallel to the plastic so as to avoid glaring reflections), and then added an SB-600 on the floor behind her, with a 1/2 CTO gel. I call this one “She is Watching” - I might do another round of processing to crush the blacks a bit and make it darker.
The first look we did was this super-colorful outfit against one of the more awesome pieces of graffiti in the building. I lit this shot with a single light, a zoomed SB-900 with a CTO gel, otherwise unmodified to give that hard shadow on the wall (this is what the scene looked like with all natural light). We worked with this look for about 15 minutes, which was all that Chels could handle given the total inappropriateness of that outfit for temperatures in the teens. After she spent twenty minutes in a car with the heat on high, we were good to go for the next look.
The next look was one that really took advantage of the frigid temperatures, as the background was a desk covered in ice and icicles. This was a three-light setup: the key light was an SB-900 camera left through a shoot-thru umbrella; the rimlight was an SB-600 behind the desk and outside the frame to the right, shooting into the frame through a 1/2 CTO gel; and the background light was an SB-800 behind Chels with, obviously, a blue gel. We worked quickly again, and I did some wide shots and some more closeup shots like the one below; the only challenge was that at my settings, the SB-800 was on full power and its batteries weren’t doing so well in the cold. So I got a lot of shots where the blue background light is much weaker than I would have liked, despite my shooting somewhat slower than normal to try to allow the SB-800 to recharge between shots.
And then we went to the final look, in which Chels kept her warm coat on. Some of these shots are really my favorites from the shoot; I really like both the headline shot and the shot just above, yet they have completely different feels. The headline shot feels very creepy to me, while the above shot feels almost warm and cozy, despite the stark wood, wire and duct tape setting.
In any case, there were at least 5-6 other ideas we had for good shots in that location that we just didn’t get to do because it was too cold. I’ll look forward to working with Chels and with that building again sometime.
Sunday, March 27th, 2011
Back in November, I did a live shoot with Minneapolis rockers Beautiful Trigger, the products of which are now prominently featured on their website. Yesterday, I spent another few hours with them doing some promo shots. We started off in a big empty lobby to do some classic brick-wall shots, although I did my best to make the brick wall look at least a tiny bit interesting. We then moved to nearby Club Jäger, who with basically no notice beforehand, graciously allowed us free reign of the entire bar for more than two hours. (Admittedly, given that it was mid-afternoon on Saturday, they had very little business other than the band, who kept the drinks and food flowing through most of the shoot.)
In the lobby, I attempted to give a tiny bit of visual interest to the brick wall by shooting a gelled Speedlight onto it through a stack of chairs. This give a hint of color and pattern to the wall and was a nice complement to a warm rimlight - another Speedlight set up with a 1/2 CTO gel on the opposite side of the band as the background light. The key light was my White Lightning X1600 with a 30-degree grid, up high and slightly camera left.
After these “boring” standard shots, our first shooting spot in Club Jäger was a simple booth, made a bit more interesting through the use of Carly’s prop, the dirty martini. (Which was actually just water with some olives in it, don’t tell anyone.) That’s the headline shot above. We then crammed into the tiny men’s bathroom, where I broke out the 14mm action and took some truly ridiculous shots. The idea was to get chaotic, with heads and limbs everywhere, and I think we succeeded. Lighting such a tiny space well was a real challenge. I ended up firing my SB-900 into a shoot-through umbrella pointed straight up at the ceiling, which was a nice reflective silver. I added an SB-600 clamped to the wall on the left, pointed down at the band, and put an SB-600 inside the stall on the right with a blue gel just to add a touch of color to the background. While I’m not convinced this was the best possible solution, for something I came up with in 5 minutes or so I think it ended up working pretty well.
The final set of shots was done at the bar; the bar staff unhesitatingly let me set up two Speedlights with big umbrellas behind the bar, which was very, very nice of them. For these I set up the umbrellas as bounce umbrellas instead of shoot-throughs, which I almost never think to do; but in this case, needing to light a fairly wide area, the choice was sound. Both Speedlights had full CTO gels on them in an attempt to turn the window light a bit blue. The band’s promo girls joined us for this shot:
A few more of these are over at Flickr.
Monday, March 21st, 2011
Last night in St. Paul, black metal bands from Israel, Greece and Poland shredded their way through a pretty fantastic evening at Station 4. I was there for Melechesh, the Israeli group who spice up their punishing brand of extreme metal with a subtle Middle-eastern flavor. Melechesh have never toured the United States before, aside from a one-shot performance at last year’s Maryland Deathfest (which I missed since I was only at MDF VIII for one day - my loss). They got a raucous reception in St. Paul, easily the best of the night even though Greece’s sensitively named Rotting Christ were the ostensible headliners. It was well-deserved; Melechesh’s set was easily the best show I’ve seen so far in 2011, though admittedly my concert attendance has been pretty minimal this year.
I don’t particularly love working at Station 4. There’s a nice pit, but there’s also a pillar right smack in the middle of the front of the stage, which is pretty annoying. The only frontlights are six dim incandescent cans, which sounds great except they’re all fixed and pointed at the middle of the stage. So whoever’s in the middle of the stage is usually lit with a bit of white light, but everyone else is basically in darkness or at the mercies of the backlights, which are usually either monochrome red or blue. It’s the kind of light that’s fine for everyone except the photographers - oh well.
So I broke out the flash and the ultra-high ISOs (6400 and up), and got some decent shots. These first three are all of Melechesh.
One of Rotting Christ:
And Hate from Poland, whose set was really good - enough that I’ll be exploring their discography in the near future.
A few more photos here at Flickr.
Thursday, March 17th, 2011
The lighting tech for last night’s Conjure One show at Ground Zero here in Minneapolis deserves serious plaudits for one of the most beautiful, simple lighting schemes I’ve ever photographed, and one that was entirely appropriate for Conjure One’s smoky, atmospheric music. There was really nothing to it, but it worked brilliantly: deeply colored (usually, but not always, blue) background lights with a touch of fog to bring the colors out, and a single incandescent frontlight.
Of course, in the headline shot of Rhys Fulber you can’t see any of that, since the frontlight was tightly focused on vocalist Leah Randi and the fog was also limited to just a small space directly behind her. That did make for a challenge in that capturing the background color meant basically shooting from dead-on in front of Randi, which meant her mic stand was always in the way. Still, I got a ton of shots like the below, juxtaposing the warm tones of her skin against the deep blue fog in the background:
The lighting was great for the openers as well; the best shot I got from the night is this one, of local duo Little Tin Box:
Full set here.
Monday, March 14th, 2011
On Saturday I shot a Lords of Acid show and had the chance to do a portrait with them before their set. The only problem was, the club (Ground Zero in Minneapolis) has no backstage, no green room, nothing. I ran into a similar problem when I did a portrait of Epica in the parking lot of Jaxx, which also has no backstage. But that was in Virginia, and even though it was January, it wasn’t 5 degrees outside like it was here on Saturday. There was no chance of an outdoor portrait this time!
So, with the help of the Lords’ awesome tour manager, Dink, we cooked up a scheme to do a super-quick shoot in the entryway of the club as the band was coming inside to start their set. That involved getting some help from security to make sure no one was coming in or out of the club during the shoot - which meant I would have 5 minutes at the most. As the last opening band, Angelspit (who, incidentally, were absolutely awesome to shoot), got into the latter part of their set, I escaped to the entryway to concoct the three-light setup that resulted in the headline shot above.
That setup consisted of an SB-600 main light at immediate camera left, with a full CTO and a shoot-through umbrella, an SB-800 fill light at camera right with a half CTO, and an SB-600 background light far camera left (i.e., down the hall) unmodified, with the diffusion panel on. The main light was a 1/2 power; the other two were at 1/16 power.
The band’s setlist involved a one-song instrumental intro before their vocalist and frontwoman, DJ Mea, took the stage, so I got in a few extra shots with her while the rest of the band played the first song, with the exact same lighting setup, although the background light doesn’t come into play here, obviously:
And then I shot most of the show. My favorite subject was the bassist, Murv3, who was all over the place and jumped around like a pogo stick. Here are a few of my favorites, plus a couple from the aforementioned openers Angelspit.
Full set at Flickr, including shots of the two other openers, Thought Thieves and the very bizarre-looking Radical G.
Thursday, March 10th, 2011
Incredibly, it’s been over a month since I last shot a concert, so it was nice to get back into the action. Shooting Girl Talk is no ordinary concert shoot, however; Gregg Gillis stands behind a very tall table set smack in the center of the stage, with banks of lights stacked high on each side of the stage as well. In other words: standing in the pit, a photographer is faced with obstructions at every turn. The PR folks recommend bringing a monopod… so do I. Having tried shooting a Girl Talk show sans monopod (a couple years ago at the first Virgin Mobile FreeFest), I was pretty stoked to get another chance, properly equipped.
I am currently lacking a remote shutter release, which I’ll be remedying soon with a simple cable from FlashZebra that will allow me to remotely fire my cameras using CyberSync radio triggers (which have recently replaced RadioPoppers for my radio triggering needs… more on that later). Without a remote release, I had to set my D700 to interval shooting, then hoist it up on my monopod, shooting blind, hoping I’d set the manual focus correctly. Using my 14-24/2.8 wide open, my margin of error for focus was pretty small. I set the camera to shoot four frames a second for eight seconds, and in each 32-frame burst I’d generally get one, maybe two good frames. A crapshoot to say the least - but a unique and kind of fun challenge.
After shooting my 15 minutes in the pit, I head up to the upper level of the club, where I got some fun wide shots of the action, including a lone crowdsurfer halfway through the set:
More photos here at Flickr.