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.

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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.

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