musician photography

Low Lily

Low Lily

I’ve known Liz Simmons for close to a decade. When it was time to create images for her newest album release with her band Low Lily, she got in touch.

More after the cut.

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Lacy Kay • Musician Session for Hot Mess

Lacy Kay • Musician Session for Hot Mess

I've been developing a relationship with the band HOT MESS over the months, and they were so happy with the work we've done so far that when a new member of the band came into the mix, Jason, the head of Hot Mess, contacted me asking if we could create some new head shots for Lacy, but he also needed one other thing: he wanted a photograph of Lacy in the style of the group shot we did months ago so that she could be inserted into the group photo we had taken months before.

Let's give it a shot.

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Tim Paul Weiner

Tim Paul Weiner

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Tim Paul Weiner.

Tim is a bass player, employee of Berklee College of Music, and member of HOT MESS.  Remember them?  We also have a mutual friend, Elise MacDonald, former owner of Studio 99, who introduced us.  Tim liked working with me when we created some images for Hot Mess, so he booked a solo session with me.  He needed images for a revamped website.  I love working with musicians, and with Tim, it was so easy since we had already worked on the Hot Mess session together.

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Hot Mess

Hot Mess

Let me introduce you to the gang that makes up Hot Mess, and give you a little behind-the-scenes of our session earlier this year.

Hot Mess came to me via musician Tim Paul Weiner, who came to me by way of Elise McDonald.  Elise used to run Studio 99, a local music venue that I miss terribly and I cherish all the friendships I made when it was open - both professionally as well as personally.  Tim and I met and talked about creating some images to be used for a new website and other promotional needs for his music.  During our conversation he told me he was part of a larger band that was going to be re-doing their website and branding and he'd share my work with them.

Jason Silverman is the man in charge of Hot Mess. He looks a little like actor Tom Hardy.  I'm a big Mad Max fan, so any chance to photograph someone that looks like Tom Hardy is kinda cool to me.  Hot Mess is a cover band out of Boston and were recently voted 2016 Wedding Wire Couple's Choice Award.

Jason was looking for something they could use as a splash page image on their soon-to-be-new website.  Something simple with everyone in a row.  I love keeping things simple, and we set up a time here at the studio.

I had never photographed a group of seven before (though recently worked with Fever Pitch made up of 7 smaller people).  Up until now, I think the most I've ever photographed in my studio was the Mwano brothers or the Brooks Young Band.  I knew that fitting 7 people on a nine-foot roll of seamless paper wasn't going to cut it, so the day before the session I went into the empty studio space next door to me and I took a roll of seamless and I ran it along one of the walls in there.  It let me go past the 9 foot restriction I would have faced here in the studio so that I could get everyone lined up along side each other.  I forget what the exact dimensions were, but it was pretty long.  So I gaff tapped the paper to the wall and we were good to go.

I wanted to keep the lighting simple, so I set up three lights.  I lined them up so that I created a single bank of light all flashing straight ahead towards where the subjects would be located.

Lights arranged in a line to create a bank of light, aimed at the wall with the backdrop paper.

Lights arranged in a line to create a bank of light, aimed at the wall with the backdrop paper.

Once they arrived it was just a matter of lining them up and visually making sure I had them in a good arrangement and getting to work.  When dealing with a group of 7 people, your rate-of-return when it comes to usable shots is going to be low, because you have seven sets of eyes that you need to make sure aren't blinking, seven faces that need to be looking at me and looking good, seven facets of seven people that need to be in check, etc.  After each shot I tried to take a peek at the back of the camera, but sometimes you get into rhythm of the shoot and don't check as often.  I had them pushed right against the wall at the start.

Hot Mess
A shot taken during the start of the session with some text added as a mockup for them

After getting some shots with them against the wall, I pulled them away from the wall a few feet and then took my two side lights and moved them around a bit:

Hot Mess
the view from my perspective
Hot Mess
Hot Mess

Once we got some good shots, I then started to play around a little bit, and bought out my prism and started moving it around the front of my lens:

Hot Mess

I was really liking the reflections that the prism was picking up and took a few different shots moving the prism around and picking up reflections and little light blooms (like the one in the above image in the left corner).

eyeballing the shots to make sure everybody is in focus and not blinking

eyeballing the shots to make sure everybody is in focus and not blinking

By now we were starting to fall into the groove.  I knew that we had the shot they wanted for their website, but I was just feeling like I was getting to what I wanted from the session, so I started to pull them a little further away from the background and stagger their arrangements.  Jason was the head of the band, so I knew I wanted him in focus, and if the focus fell off a bit, I was okay with that.  Not everyone had to be crystal-sharp for me.  I wanted to add a little dimension to the group shot.

Hot Mess

And that was the shot I was looking for.  Visually I was interested in the composition and layout of all the members.  Jason was tight and in focus, and everyone else starts to go out of focus.  Visually I liked how my eye started on Andria in the left of the image and you can feel your eyeballs move up and down as you move across the image to the right.  This was the shot for me and after I got this, I knew we were good.

I also played around with the prism a little more:

Hot Mess
“look that way”

“look that way”

Once the group images were good to go, I wanted to get individual shots of each band member that would go on the website's "About Us" page.

Hot Mess
Hot Mess
Tom Hardy. Totally.

It was a really great session and I think they were very happy with the images we created.

Their website went live and it looks pretty darn good:

Thanks gang, you guys were great to photograph, and I'm looking forward to working with y'all again in the future.

To see a few more shots, take a spin over to my Flickr feed.

Michael Bellar

One of the things I cherish most about photography are the friends I make over time.  One friendship that has grown over the years is the love and admiration I have for Michael Bellar.  I met him years ago when his AS/IS Ensemble played at Studio 99 for the first time.  Even through Studio 99 is no more, and Michael lives in New York City, we still keep in touch through phone calls and emails, and, occasionally, for work.

Over the summer, Michael contacted me about doing some video for some new solo songs he was working on.  Mike packed up a rental car full of his old synths and amps and all the other vintage stuff he's passionate about, trekked up to Nashua and we spent two days getting footage for two songs.  The video above is the final cut of one of the songs.

Watching him work over the course of two days was really eye opening.  For those of  you who haven't seen him perform, he's very laid back and relaxed but when he plays he's very intense.  There is an element of improvisation, but in that improv there is extreme control.  To be that loose when playing, you have to be very very tight.  It's also very much about "feeling" when he plays.  Watching him almost scat out the notes with his voice as he plays, you can see the creative brain speak to his fingers as he's playing.  It sucks you in and you become part of the process of creating music.  Again, it's very intense.

My good friend Dave helped with recording, and we did three setups per "take".  One medium static shot, which Dave worked camera on, and then we had a camera up over Michael aimed downwards to capture him playing on two keyboards at the same time.  I drifted around shooting handheld with gave me the chance to focus on close-up things; his fingers, his face, his feet, etc.  Michael too the footage back to NYC and his friend Marie Le Claire edited the video.

One really fantastic thing to watch was him working with what I started calling his "Porch Box".  It is a foot rhythm box he created to give the sound of playing live on someones front porch.  Michael is a southern boy, so this "home-style" element fits him perfectly, and adds a very personal feel to his work.  His other foot stomps on a cigar box that acts as a deep bass drum sound.  It's very impressive; watching both is legs work to different rhythm elements while his hands operate two keyboards.  Again, it's intense.  I'm in constant admiration of musicians.

So, check out the video above.  Dig it.  Head over to his website, and if you are in NYC or close by, hit up one of his shows.  Tell him I sent you.

He's an incredible, passionate, caring human being and damn incredible musician.  And he's become a friend who I trust completely.

Michael Bellar & AS/IS Ensemble

Michael Bellar & AS/IS Ensemble

Over the years I've developed a friendship with Michael Bellar and the boys of the AS/IS Ensemble.  I've shot them a few times now.  I took some images for Michael the last time they played in Nashua for their upcoming album.  The album is still being prepared, but I wanted to share some of these with you all.

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