Assignment: Philadelphia Funk Authority

The Gig

Earlier this Summer I received an email from Gary at Authority Entertainment which handles Philadelphia Funk Authority (phillyfunk.com) asking if I would be interested in shooting group shots and concert stills of the band at Musikfest in Bethlehem, PA. (Is it inappropriate to respond “duh” to a potential client?) PFA is a super fun party/event/concert band and a great bunch of musicians. Of course I’m jumping at the chance to work with them.

I have had a relationship with PFA through my friend George Hrab, the band’s drummer,
for quite a few years. Over those years I’ve photographed the band at Musikfest,

had the privilege to hang out with members of the band (we even watched humans put a lander on Mars together)

and hired them to play my 50th birthday party. You can see the results

People danced!

Scheduling

The band has gone through some changes in the last year necessitating the new pictures. Not the least of which is the loss of singer Alisa B Anderson to cancer. The new line up should be featured in their promotional materials and website. The job called for a new group shot of the whole band as well as images of them in action. I had originally planned to shoot all this on the first Sunday of Musikfest, when the band plays in the big Festplatz Tent to more than a thousand people. This worked well for me, since I planned on being there anyway and I had a wedding to attend on Saturday in Maryland. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the best option for the band, so we negotiated to shoot at the Musikfest Cafe Friday night for their 10pm concert.

So, the weekend would be:

  • Drive up to Bethlehem on Friday
  • Drive back to Maryland sometime on Saturday morning (1am or after a nap)
  • Drive up to the wedding about an hour from home on Saturday
  • Drive back to Bethlehem on Sunday as planned
  • Drive home again on Monday

The Weekend

Friday arrived and I arrived up in Bethlehem around 4:30 in the afternoon. I caught up with George at his place to discuss the plan. While Gary is technically the “owner” of the band and handles the bookings, George handles much of the day-to-day leadership activities. The plan is to shoot a group photo in the “green room” and then out on the floor at their show Friday night I would grab some shots of the band in front of an audience.

I leave George to his pre-show ritual (whatever that is) and head out into Musikfest to grab some food and meet up with my friend Todd. A gyro, roasted corn and baked beans later, I’m heading off to meet George and over to the venue.

Group Shots

The green room at the venue was broken up into a couple of rooms. Two of them were bathrooms. No good. One has a TV, fridge, tables, doors and one wall. No good. Another is a tiny dressing room. No good. So, we were left with a lounge that’s pretty small. Just enough room for me to get the group shot with a 24-70 on a tripod jammed into the corner.

I’m not done with the group shots at this time, but I’ll share a setup shot with George and an Easter egg or two

I was pretty happy with the lighting on this test. Good fill and pretty soft using the Godox AD360IIN and Phottix Mitros bounced high off the wall to camera left to counter the recessed cans in the ceiling. You’ll just have to wait to see what image we choose and how it gets processed.

Concert Photography

I was pretty daunted by the lighting in the concert hall. To say it was a little backlit is something of an understatement.

Definitely cool for the audience, but a bit challenging for the photographer in the crowd. My goal was to get a few decent shots of the new(er) members of the band and get more shots at the well-lit stage at their show on Sunday.

Here’s the wonderful Raysa Michelle who worked really well with the veteran Jillian Rhys

, Matt Asti who has a deceptively chill demeanor onstage, but he’s a monster on the keyboard

and Neil Wetzel who holds up the sax end of the Authority Horns with… um… authority.

I’m still editing shots, so that’s it for now. It was a great weekend and beyond fulfilling my contractual obligations I really enjoyed spending time with the band and making some new friends.

Thanks, again, to PFA for the opportunity to work with them. Like the rest of their fans I can’t wait until the next time.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

My First Print Competition

MDPPA April “monthly” Print Competition

Last night was Maryland Professional Photographers Association‘s print competition and I entered images for the first time since joining Professional Photographers of America last year. I have really been inspired by the artistry and technical talent I’ve been exposed to since joining. There is no doubt in my mind it has upped my game being around these people and seeing how experienced, successful professionals work. So, how did I do? Pretty well. Of the 9 images submitted, 5 of them were merit (80 out of 100 or above) and one of those was in excellent (85-89). So much better than I could have hoped for and I’m really excited.

My most successful images were all shot with my Olympus E-M1 in RAW and then spent some time in Lightroom, Photoshop and ON1 Effects 10.

Does your camera see what you do?

Once in a while I will go back through older images that I didn’t have time to really dig into when they were shot. That’s the case with “Locust Point”, which was the image that did the best in competition. The image was shot in August of 2015, but it wasn’t until February 2016 after being inspired by Larry Hersberger at the MDPPA Annual Convention that I went back to work on it. I spent a fair amount of time on the image, once I got started, to make it what I wanted it to be. This was an iterative process with a couple helpful critique’s along the way and a desire to not leave it at “good enough”.

I’m going to show the before and after of this image. Not so much to share with you the amount of work I put in or the skills I’m developing. It is so that you can start to understand the difference between what a camera seesprint-P8130288

 

and what the photographer sees
Locust Point

As you can see, everything that I saw was not “seen” by the camera and it took a pretty fair amount of work to get it to where I could share what I saw with you. Does that ever happen to you when you take a picture?

Selected Other Images

Here are some of the other images and a little bit of their story.

Fire On The Bayou

“Fire on the Bayou” – Olympus E-M1 M.Zuiko 12-40 f2.8 PRO

“Fire on the Bayou”

This was shot while on an evening tour of Chicot Lake in Ville Platte Louisiana with my brother in-law. There was very much a “Walking Dead” feel to the Cypress Trees being lit from behind by the sunset.

 

Purple Dawn

“Purple Dawn” – Olympus E-M1 M.Zuiko 12-40 f2.8 Pro

“Purple Dawn”

This is another image shot while we were down in Louisiana at Chicot State Park with family. There’s a long boardwalk out onto the lake which puts you in the middle of things that was quite close to our cabin.

 

Those are my images that did the best in the competition. Unfortunately, none of my portrait work made it to merit. Even my favorite image of James “The Amazing” Randi which I captured backstage at the last TAM I attended.

The Amazing Randi

James Randi – Nikon D3s Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8 vrii

But that just gives me new goals and opportunity for improvement. So, I’m excited for the next competition in the Fall!

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Sweeney Todd Promotional Shots – Red Branch Theatre Co

Red Branch doesn’t usually do a photo session early in the production schedule to create styled images for promotional use. When they contacted me to do these I was more than happy to jump in. Sweeney Todd is a show I really like and have good familiarity with.

I  spoke to the production staff to get a scope on the job. It would be shots of the two main characters Sweeney Todd (Russell Sunday) and Mrs. Lovett (Janine Sunday).

I  knew I  needed to play up the theme of their season, “Paint it Red”, and keep with the dark malevolence of the show. So, I expected to shoot in the big orange room rehearsal space that is my onsite studio and photoshop a context. With this in mind I stopped by the theatre the afternoon of the shoot to make sure I was on the same page as them.

It’s a good thing I did. While there I spoke to Chester, one of their set designers, who offered me some reclaimed building materials from his father’s yard. It couldn’t hurt to look. Right? Oh man. This stuff was perfect! It consisted of some really old, dirty corrugated steel siding and wooden shutters that looked like they had to be literally dug up. We set them against a wall in the big orange room and Chester produced bailing wire to “secure” the shutter to a nail hole in the siding. Instant set!

I think that looks fantastic, but it doesn’t quite have any mood to it yet. I only had 3 location speedlights with me for this shoot. I felt I could definitely dedicate one to the background. The look I wanted was a wash on the wall from a streetlight over head. So, I put one of my speedlights (the Nikon SB-800) with a RogueGrid and an Orange-y RogueGel on a boom arm to get it over the middle-ish of the background. By under-exposing the background and setting the white balance to daylight, I started to get the effect I wanted.

I almost had the look I wanted, but I thought Sweeney wasn’t menacing enough. I decided a light blue gel on the MagGrid lighting him, would give me more of the effect I wanted.

 

With a little post-processing, this gave me the look I wanted. That post-processing involved adding in a razor, since we were running ahead of the props department.

This gave me my Sweeney set up, but the client also wanted shots of Mrs. Lovett. Lovett is no less scary than Sweeney, but she’s somewhat more light-hearted. I didn’t want her to be as cool as Sweeney. So, she was shot with a warmer gel (1/4 CTO)  on the Rogue Flashbender 2 XL Pro to soften the shadows a little and control the spill onto Sweeney and the background.

Again, there was a bit of photoshop to add the rolling pin and razor (a different razor this time) and toning to get the look I wanted.

So, it was a great shoot. I was able to execute my vision in very short order (about an hour, really) which can be important to some clients. Especially, when you are working into a production schedule.

I’m looking forward to meeting the rest of the cast and working with them for headshots and production stills.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Noises Off at Silhouette Stages

 Noises off is a wonderful farce of tax evasion, mistaken identity, theft, trysts and SARDINES!

This latest incarnation staged by Silhouette Stages at Slayton House in Columbia, MD is an amazing undertaking for a community theatre. The set is large and stately. The cast is tight and energetic. (Full Disclosure: My lovely wife, Julie, plays Belinda)

So, what was my involvement?

First of all, I shot all the separate headshots and created the poster you see to the left here. The challenges there probably deserve a blog post on their own.

 


There were also a couple of cast photos like the one here on the right.

 

 

 

 

I also spent a number of days helping out on the shop-filling monster of a set.


Then, I went in and got a great preview of the show by shooting production stills. Yes, you’ll see the set isn’t done and only two days before opening. Theatre people will understand, of course, this is not as rare as one would hope. The situation for this show was even worse as access to both stage and shop was limited by Slayton House as they had other commitments. So, the set did not see the stage until the Sunday before opening Friday.

The show is in three acts. The first act takes place on the front of the set, where our actors are in dress rehearsal the night before/morning of opening for their play.

Act two takes place back stage, weeks later. While the show goes on in front, our audience is treated to backstage shenanigans that are mostly silent but not at all quiet.

The final act is played in front on the final stop of the tour. Things have not exactly gone well and one might think the cast is a bit over the show at this point.

It really is a fun show. I’m hardly objective, but you needn’t take my word for it. The reviews have been stellar. 5 Stars from DC Metro Theater Arts! and from the Baltimore Sun. So, go out and support local theatre!

More production stills from the show: Noises Off Production Stills
More information and tickets: Silhouette Stages

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

First Date at TYA Teen Professionals

Heading in for the headshot shoot, there was quite the captivating sunset.

I really enjoy my relationship with Red Branch Theatre Company/Drama Learning Center. A little theater buried in a non-descript industrial park on Red Branch Rd. in Columbia, Maryland.

They have a well-deserved reputation for both developing young talent and producing theatre that is out-sized for what would be expected by the size of their theater and budget. Beyond that, they are a now 501(c) non-profit with a socially conscious mission to tie their productions to important messages for their community.

My latest work with them was for the area premiere of the musical First Date. When I was asked to schedule headshots, the date conflicted with a planned trip to Atlanta for Imaging USA. So, we had to push that back to the same night as production stills. So, now, I’m shooting headshots and production stills less than two days before the show opens all on the same night. In an attempt to simplify things, I had their awesome stage manager, Dana, send me a couple of set pictures while I was away. It was enough to convince me that I wanted to try to shoot the headshots in the set, a bar/restaurant which is the setting for almost the entire show. This would, at least, alleviate the setup and lighting for a backdrop.

Since we were planning on shooting character headshots, I could shoot with a bit more edge than I usually do for teenage actors. I originally planned on a 3 light setup. But that ended up too cumbersome for moving around the set to get a different setting for each actor. Also, I had a bit less than 30 minutes to set up and test before shooting more than a dozen actors. So, my key light was one of my Phottix Mitros TTL Flash For Nikon with a 1/2 CTO Gel and the Rogue Photographic Design ROGUEXLPRO2 Flash Bender 2 XL Pro Lighting System (Black/White). For the fill I used a second Phottix Mitros TTL Flash For Nikon with a MagGrid and a blue gel to give some separation and tie it into the set motif.

Kendall Grove as Remedy Rose

Patrick Campbell as Aaron Goldfarb

Daniel A Joya as Reggie Knowles

Naomi Muwowo as Renee Lee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MORE HEADSHOTS

This lighting setup worked pretty much how I hoped it would. A nice separation from the background, some shape to their faces and yet they seem perfectly in place in the restaurant.  16 headshots, under an hour. *Phew*!

Now, I just have to shoot the production stills. I’ve talked about the challenges of shooting without knowing the show, the blocking or the lighting before. This was no different. I won some,







and I lost some… but, hopefully, you’ll never see those.
MORE PRODUCTION STILLS

I can’t think of a bad photographic experience I’ve had. Every one is an opportunity to learn, improve, meet people and make images.

I recommend making a trip out to Drama Learning Center and seeing what goes on in Columbia’s latest restaurant A New Leaf.

TYA Professional Training Program presents the AREA PREMIERE of FIRST DATE the Musical

Book by Austin Winsberg
Music & Lyrics by Alan Zachary & Michael Weiner

January 15, 16, 21, 22, 23 at 7:30 PM
January 17 at 2:00 PM

Tickets: $18 in advance, $20 at the door

FEATURING
Lauren Alberg, Flora Aubin, Patrick Campbell, Lila Cooper, Brittany George, Kendall Grove, Daniel Joya-Iglesias, Brandon Love, Aly Murphy, Naomi Muwowo, Ellie Parks, AJ Patel, Ava Pirie, Jason Quackenbush, Mark Quackenbush, Shannon Taylor

Directed by Stephanie Williams
Music Direction by Tiffany Underwood Holmes
Stage Managed by Lindsay Hopkins
Production Managed by Dana Fleischer
Lighting Design by Lynn Joslin
Props Design by Seth Julius Fallon
Costume Design by Shimra Fine
Set Design by Bush Greenbeck

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Eagles Over Wilde Lake

One day after Winters First Kiss the temps were back over 40 and the sun was re-asserting its control over the Maryland Suburbs. I took the long way home through Columbia town center from my workout and decided to swing by Wilde Lake Park. Maybe a little mid-afternoon landscape or some ducks would be revealed. There were ducks-a-plenty,

but I got distracted.

Was that a bald eagle? I’m pretty sure it was. So, I switched from my 12-40mm that usually sits on my Olympus E-M1 to the 40-150mm. This isn’t exactly a birders dream, but you shoot with what you have and it did give me an effective reach of 300mm. The beauty of the expensive lenses is that they can be shot at full aperture at full zoom. So, at f2.8 ISO200 I was still able to get an action-freezing shutter speed of over 1/2500s.

The real difficulty was shooting against the light. However, I didn’t know if the eagle (I found out later it was a bunch of eagles) was going to hang around the lake long enough for me to get to the other side. So, I tried to keep the sun off my left shoulder and did the best I could.

The eagle(s!) seemed to be in an accommodating mood and stayed around. I learned from some passing bird fanciers (whatever they call themselves) that there had been up to 12 bald eagles seen around the lake in recent days. I could see at least two more hanging in the back part of the lake. I also found out that the eagle without the traditional aspect of white head and tail is a juvenile.

It might have been younger, but it is the one that scored while I was there.

I’m not primarily a bird or even a nature and wildlife photographer, but I couldn’t help getting excited about photographing these amazing animals. Once again, I was struck by how much better my day goes when I step out of my routine, camera in hand, and look around.

These shots and more available for purchase:
http://www.brucefpressphotography.com/Nature/Birds/Eagles-Over-Wilde-Lake/

Images shot with Olympus OM-D E-M1, Olympus M. Zuiko 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO. Processing in Adobe Lightroom, ON1 Effects 10

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Winter’s First Kiss

We had our first real taste of winter today. January 5, 2016. Yes, it was 70 degrees just a day ago and today dawned around 12. Strange times.

There’s a little pond in our neighborhood. Not much more than a drainage ditch, really. You know the kind they create when turning farm land into subdivisions. The ones that keep people’s basements from flooding.


Well, the beauty of these necessities to human expansion is that nature finds them. They make it home.

Birds, fish, deer and wild plants take root. This provides a little oasis of forest beauty in the suburbs.

So, this is where my wandering took me this morning. With a change in season, or in weather, for some reason I’m drawn to places where land and water meet. Even if it is not the grandest spot, there’s something to be found.

Images shot with Olympus OM-D E-M1, Olympus M. Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8. Processing in Adobe Lightroom, ON1 Effects 10

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

“It’s a Wonderful W.I.G.” Friday, Dec 11 at HCC’s Horowitz Center

This coming Friday, December 11th, the Horowitz Center at Howard Community College will host the What Improv Group? for their holiday-themed show, “It’s a Wonderful W.I.G.”

I’m treated very well by the various groups I’ve worked with in the HCC theatre community. Their is a little less “we’re doing our thing, please keep up” and a bit more “do you have all the shots you need” than other groups I work with. Which is both a gift and a burden. As someone who is more used to being a fly on the wall, it is a little disconcerting to have attention paid to my shutter, but I have a little more control to be sure to get the shots I need.


I was first introduced to W.I.G. just a few months ago, when I decided to see one of their shows. Their director asked if I would be willing to take some shots of the new cast since I was going to be in attendance. I was fine with this, although it did leave my wife alone for a chunk of the show.

We thoroughly enjoyed their hi-jinks and looked forward to the next show. Which will, unfortunately, occur while we are on vacation. However, I did get a preview last night while taking these shots.
I’ve never done improv, but I’ve watched both the good and the not so good. I’ve also talked to many performers about it. So, I feel I can safely say that improv is hard. Those that can both put themselves out there

and creatively be in the moment

Are rare. There is some really great talent in this group and I can comfortably recommend a fun evening out. So, why don’t you try a W.I.G. on for size? It just might be wonderful.

Friday, December 11, 2015
7:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.
(includes one intermission)
Studio Theatre
Directed by S.G. Kramer and Daniel Johnston

Donate a Children’s Picture Book & Receive a Treat in Return! Details below!

W.I.G. takes on the holiday season with jingley-jangley improv surprises for all! Take a break from the hustle-bustle, bring the whole family (ages 8 and up only please!) and join W.I.G. for improv holiday fun!

W.I.G.’s holiday improv show promises joyful, beyond hilarious and sentimental on-the-spot, interactive holiday storytelling, including audience participation for the kids! Ring in the holidays with W.I.G.!

Donate a Children’s Picture Book in Exchange for a Free Intermission Treat:  Get into the wonderful spirit of the season by bringing to the show a new or gently used hard-cover children’s picture book (books suitable for infants to five years old), which will be donated to Howard Community College’s Children’s Learning Center “Library for Little Readers,” and receive a free treat at intermission, courtesy of Arts Collective!

This performance is recommended for ages 8 and up!

WIG’s Cast: Douglas Beatty, Noah Bird, Diego Esmolo, Doug Goodin, Daniel Johnston, Autumn Kramer, Scott Lichtor, Thomas Matera, Apryl Motley, Shannon Willing, Sierra Young… and very special guests!

More Information and Tickets for “It’s a Wonderful W.I.G.”

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Peter Rabbit Headshots at Red Branch Theatre Company

I like opportunities to stretch my skills and make some creative decisions in studio sessions. This doesn’t always happen when I am taking cast headshots for theatrical productions. They are often fit into a very small window of time before a rehearsal and at times the casts are quite large. Like 28 people large. In a window of about 90 minutes. That’s OK, it’s the job and I’ve gotten more adept at it over the years.

For RBTC’s “Peter Rabbit” they asked for character shots. So, I knew this could be a little different than the usual white background setup. I arrived early enough to talk to the costumer prior to setup. I found out the color scheme leaned toward earth tones and oranges. So, I quickly ditched the white or grey backdrops and went with a very pale brown.

Peter Rabbit Headshot SetupThis didn’t seem interesting enough, so I gelled a flash rust color to punch that up. (Turned out, after white balancing, it ended up pretty close to the wall color. Ha!)

I went with a shoot-through umbrella for a soft and forgiving key light, since I didn’t really know what the costumes would be like and a 1/4 CTO gel to keep the subject from ending up too pasty.

A reflector to balance out the shadows and I was ready to go after setting a custom white balance. I also took a selfie with the X-Rite Colorchecker Passport to double down on the color correction just in case the walls caused a weird cast.BFPPHOTO-_BFP4356

 

Here’s a preview of images straight out of the camera (with only a little tonal correction).

Cory Jones

Katie Ganem

Stephanie Williams

Jennie Phelps

Gavin Shown

 

Tierra Strickland

I think the choices worked out well for these images and I’m really looking forward to shooting production stills next week and getting a preview of this world premiere show.

Peter Rabbit at Red Branch Theatre Company | December 11-19, 2015

Music and Lyrics by Dustin Merrell | Based on the classic tale by Beatrix Potter

What happens when an impish bunny disobeys his mother’s command to hop through a big, scary vegetable garden? Find out as the rabbit we all know from our childhood collides head on with a rag tag group of new friends that set off on unforgettable adventures. This exciting new musical adaptation by local composer and Red Branch Company Member Dustin Merrell marks Red Branch’s first ever world premiere.

Tickets Available Here

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Life Events

This past weekend I traveled up to Connecticut for my niece’s Bat-Mitzvah.

While I didn’t officially photograph the event (for various reasons I’ll probably write about later),

 

However, I couldn’t help taking a couple pictures of my crazy nephew

 

 

 

 

and niece.
 Uh, nieces.

While we traveled up there for one nieces’ life event, we couldn’t ignore that another niece recently had a very different kind of event in her life. So, I grabbed a few shots here too.

Mom

Dad

Grandma

A baby.

It’s what I do.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail