Music

Annie Are You Okay?

Michael Jackson S.H. Figuarts

As y'all probably know by now, I love action figures and toys.  I've always had an action figure in my hand since I was a little kid.  I'm a bit of a pop-culture junkie, and when I was in college, I started photographing some of my toys as portraits, and over the years I've done a few series' and lots of individual images.

toys hanging on studio wall and displayed on shelf

toys hanging on studio wall and displayed on shelf

For Christmas, Sara got me a few figures that had me really excited.  One was a Michael Jackson figure dressed in his "Smooth Criminal" video outfit, and the second was a Freddie Mercury figure, both by Japanese toy makers BanDai & Tamashii Nations, who also made the totally awesome Daft Punk figures I got years ago.

I spent a little time with Michael Jackson at the studio one afternoon.  It also gave me a chance to try out a can of Atmosphere Aerosol.  I've been using and having terrible luck with Fog Machines for years.  I've bought three different brands of fog machine and every time I've tried to follow the directions exactly as listed in the manuals and these machines would always bind or gunk up after my very first use.  It got so frustrating when these stupid things wouldn't work any longer.

I was poking around the Interwebz and saw a wedding photographer using this Atmosphere Aerosol for a portrait in a barn.  It was small and portable, unlike those big fog machines, and you could use it over and over without it gunking up.  Cool.

So I ordered a can from B&H and it arrived and I sat down with Micheal and we started taking some images.  For the record, I also had MJ playing on the stereo at the studio.  Just 'cuz.

Michael comes with a bunch of extra hands in different poses, a 2nd face with a different expression, and he also comes with a second torso (seen in the photo above) in his "Michael-Jackson-arms-stretched-straight-up" pose. Totally awesome.

Eventually I got him posed in the image above and the lighting looked good and I set the timer on my camera, locked in focus and then sprayed a few sprays of the aerosol as the shutter clicked - and I was totally in love with the result.  The aerosol is so awesome and works amazing with small-scale figures; you hardly need any of the spray at all, and it is so much easier to use and store and have on hand.  It's a tad expensive for a can, but I think it's worth it in the end for simplicity and it should last me a good amount of time since I've only been using it for toy photography.

Here is a behind-the-scenes shot of the image up above:

S.H. Figuarts setup shot

I had three lights set up: one directly above him, like a stage-light, with a grid on it to control the beam and to create a circle of light at his feet.  I had two gridded strobes off to his left and right; gridded yellow and blue, to give some accent colors.  I had him standing on a clear piece of plastic with a piece of black backdrop paper underneath that, to make it look like a glossy stage floor. Not shown is the Atmosphere Aerosol, but I just sprayed it directly down from over his head at the right moment.

I like photographing toys because they don't really take up a ton of space and you can mostly shoot them anywhere. If I ever had to just work out of my house and not have a studio, I could continue to shoot toys with no issues, as long as I had enough space for lighting and grip.

I've spent my whole life appreciating figures and little tiny human-being models.  It allows me to still connect to my childhood joys while being able to create and totally art-direct the action and situations of the toys - exactly the same way I work with real-life clients; in controlled settings where I'm setting up lights and directing them for the sessions.

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask!  I love sharing the stuff that I'm passionate about.

Toys rule! :D

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

Don't be Afraid to Ask: Jonatha Brooke

Don't be Afraid to Ask: Jonatha Brooke

I can't even explain to you how amazing it is that I made this photograph.  This is Jonatha Brooke.  She is one of my all time favorite musicians.  She, along with musician Jennifer Kimball, formed the band THE STORY in the 1990's.  I've been a fan of Jonatha's since then.  A little while back, I got to make a portrait of her.

How?  Simply because I asked.

Read More

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.

Hannah Sanders: fROOTS album review

fRoots Magazine UK • Hannah Sanders

Hannah Sanders continues garnering acclaim for her debut solo album "Charms Against Sorrow" which I photographed and designed late last year. Leading UK folk magazine fROOTS just featured a review of Hannah's album, and generously giving the photography a paragraph of mention:

"The visuals, I comment are very striking."

"I'm very moved by how photography describes time - it shares a place with traditional song in many ways. I had the pleasure of working with great photographic artist Sid Ceaser. Sid and I decided on something really direct and honest for the album, and I think he captured it."

"Direct, empowered, Hannah stares out from the cover of Charms with an almost tangible mixture of determination and steel, it's the sort of cover you can't ignore."

Thanks to Simon Jones of fROOTS for mentioning the artwork. I love that this album is being listened to and seen all over the world.