On Location Portrait: Epica


(Left to right: guest keyboardist Oliver Palotai, guitarist Isaac Delahaye, guitarist/vocalist Mark Jansen, bassist Yves Huts, drummer Ariën van Weesenbeek, vocalist Simone Simons.)

On Tuesday, Dutch symphonic metal band Epica kicked off their U.S. tour at Jaxx. They were nice enough to do a quick portrait shoot with me despite the hectic schedule of the first day of the tour. Unfortunately, Jaxx has no backstage and literally no place inside where we could do a shoot, and so we had to do it outside, where it was really way too cold for this kind of nonsense.

I had scouted the venue a bit and only found one really interesting spot for a shoot: an awesomely beat-up back door covered in band stickers and such. Unfortunately, when the time came to do this portrait, one of the opening bands was in the middle of loading out through that door. So, lacking other options, I set up my lights in the middle of the parking lot: boring, but at least not a totally obvious cliche, like if I’d used the brick wall of the club.

When the time came to do the shoot it was so cold that I felt bad and just grabbed a couple frames and then let the band go do their thing. With limited time, six band members and no interesting environment to work with, inspiration was running low. All I managed was the above; the only interesting thing here is that Simone Simons, the lead singer of the group, is highlighted a bit with warmer light than the rest of the band.  It works well, I think: the color of her jacket and hair really stand out compared to the other five, who are rendered almost monochrome.

Key lighting was an SB-600 through an umbrella, camera left, at 1/16th power. The rim light is coming from camera left behind the band, a bare SB-600 also at 1/16th. This light serves not only to provide some definition to the band members, especially those on the left, but also gives that splash of light on the ground to give some context to the shot. Finally, I set up an SB-800, gelled with a full and quarter CTO, at camera right, with a 1/4″ grid, aimed at Simons on the end and fired at 1/32nd power. This is what gives her that splash of color that’s lacking from the rest of the shot.

There are all kinds of things I would have liked to have done better with this shot, but the simplest would have been an additional rim light on the right side. Also, a bit of wide-angle distortion is evident here as Simons is rendered a bit, er, wider than she is in real life. Taking a step back would have mitigated that issue.

I’ve hopefully got a few more on-location portrait shoots lined up with musicians coming to town soon. I think I’ll do better with them: the combination of the cold and a lack of a good background to work with really hamstrung me on this one.

Many thanks to the band for being willing to do this, and to their tour manager Vikki for coordinating. Also to one of Jaxx’s managers, Marie, who held my key light to keep it from blowing over in the wind. That’s an important job!

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2 Responses to “On Location Portrait: Epica”

  1. […] 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 […]

  2. […] despite the damage that does to my metal cred, and haven’t seen them since 2010, when I did a fairly pedestrian band portrait with them in the parking lot of what was then […]

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