A New Canvas and a Canvas Changed

Dance season has held my focus for the past four months, so I have not had much time to catch up on a few sessions from over the winter. We are winding down now, one more to go and then a little break until nationals. When I can get a few dance sessions in the studio up to date, I will tell you all about it, but right now we are going to take a little peek into a hard rocking blues man gone solo.

I first met Brian while he was the front man for a four piece hard rocking blues act. These guys were a throwback and I very quickly became a fan of what they were putting out. But as it is with many young bands, things change and people go different ways. Brian and I got together to create a body of work that he could use for promotional material as he ventured out into the world of a being solo musician.

I had ordered a canvas backdrop from Savage just for this session. Savage is known for its amazing selection of paper and muslin drops and I had never even considered them for canvas. When I saw the color was exactly what I wanted and the fact that it was much, much less expensive than the well known canvas companies I figured I would take the plunge and pick one up. Oh my goodness, the thing is an incredibly gorgeous backdrop. I am now hooked on canvas.

Brian’s music has taken a little turn into a mostly acoustic avenue these days, still incredibly soulful, only in a more relaxing atmosphere. He has not put down the electric by any means, and it is going to be great watching and listening where he goes from here.

Since we had the time, of course had to get this look in. It goes perfect with the new backdrop and meshes well with his current direction.

You can check out Brian’s latest release, Learning Curves, and his social channels over at his site. Hope you dig it as much as I do.

Thanks for stopping by, talk to you soon

Phil

All About the Folk

Music that is. I am always amazed how different genres of song influence the soul. By nature I am a progressive hard rocker, raised on Zeppelin, Aerosmith, Yes and Genesis with a ton of Rush thrown in. These days it Sevendust, Shinedown and Godsmack laying a base for me along with a bunch of other rockers getting playtime. Need to put a quick shoutout in for Badflower, who have been on the top of my playlist for the past two months.

And then, there is the other side. It is like a split personality carving out a large part of my musical wanderings. The mellower but just as energetic persona influenced by Folk music. My favorite songs over the past few years have been from The Lone Bellow and John Mayer. Perhaps it is because I have the blood of a southerner but was raised in the Northeast. Does it matter? Nope.

Many of my local favorites are based on the softer, more passionate side of my interests. I was very excited when Joseph Miller answered the call and expressed interest for a sitting. It was just over three years ago when I first saw Joe strum his acoustic at a show. And at the time I could not resist sniping this candid of him next to the bill, checking out the history of the Wonder Bar while he was waiting to go on stage.

We hooked up over the holidays to create some material for him to use in for some upcoming promos. After a little catching up we got right to work. I did not even let him take his coat off, it fit the color scheme nicely.

Running the patterns, I am always one for a more dramatic look

The guitar came out of course and we had a little fun with that, coming away with a few different looks. I will always leave space on one side or the other for typeset with images. Need to provide content that is easy and suitable for use.

One of my favorites, and I think one of Joe’s as well. This one is for the walls!

You can check out Joe along with his work and whereabouts right here!

Thanks for stopping by!

Phil

Kicking off a new body of work

I started a personal project back in December with a goal of developing a body of work geared towards promotional material for the musicians I cover. And, while I am not out there as much as I want to be I still pay attention to what goes on and who is where, hoping that this little thing called life slows down for me again soon so I can get back to the scene I love so much.

I had a few bites from the posting I put out, fell a couple short of the goal, but spring weather approaches and with it the attempts to finish out my initial shot list. Most of the musicians I have shot so far I have followed or covered for a few years so it was really cool getting them into a controlled environment for a change. The first one up was soft spoken, dreamy, singer songwriter Mackenzie Brown.

I have wanted to get Mackenzie into the studio for a while now for more than just promo material, she has a great look and was a perfect subject for my foray into colored gels. And while our time was short, towards the end of our session I did find a good combination of lights and gels that work great together. Of course I had to start out without the gels just so we could have some “normal” material to work with. I also messed around with some color grading, making use of some new Lightroom presets and LUTS in Photoshop.


This next image I honestly have no recollection on the base configuration and what treatment was done to it in post. But it is totally different from the rest of our series and is one I am still tweaking away at to this day. I might have just jacked up the power on the background light and perhaps a blue gel was added as well.

As we got in the groove (…I stopped screwing around…) we began to create some stunning material and things really began to click. I love this classic look and the hint of a blue gel adds nice contrast to her hair and shoulder.

One of my favorite looks from our session. There is so much to be said about someone who can pull off an expression like this. Mackenzie has perfected the no smile, retain a personality look which is incredibly hard to do. Of course one of the reasons I wanted to get her in to begin with .

I could not resist making a crop of it. I also left the background alone.

More gel play as the weather turns. I have a good combination that I can work with and now it is all about experimenting with the set up and getting comfortable with the boundries. You can check out Mackenzie’s music here, and more to come from the artists and groups that have visited.

Thanks for stopping by!

Phil

Thoughts Going Crazy During Image Review

The review of an image can be a very trying undertaking at times with many signals traveling through the synapses at mach speed. Good, bad, indifferent, should I shouldn’t I. Well, if i shot it this way yes I could, but I did not so no, I can not. Will they like it, will the person it is of like it, OMG what if no one likes it. This is in the way. This looks distracting. The color is off here, that is not in focus,  eyes wrong, mouth wrong, mouth good bad eyes, expression is no good, good expression bad angle… I did like it at first but now I am not sure……

STOP.

A thousand thoughts in a matter of seconds. Actually, I have become incredibly adept at qualifying an image for release. But there are those that I remain on the fence with. I may like it, but I am still aware of the impact it will have upon the subject and will not release it if there is a question in regards to their approval. Usually happens when I know them. Yes, there are times when I feel strongly about an image and it goes out regardless. We are talking mainly about images shot during musical performances here, though all may apply to a static session just as easily.

The following image is one of those on the fence images that would not have seen the light of day if it was not for this blog entry. I think it is an awesome look from the main subject in the image, Renee, from the band Lowlight. It contains emotion, there is movement in her hair, there is a highlight on her hat, and you can see the strings vibrating from the E chord. Good shadows, good highlights.  Awesome image, she is feeling it. But, there are too many distractions for me. A guitar neck, a hand,  half a body and a bit of the keyboard destroys it for me. Poor framing on my part. Or just me having a bad case of OCD.

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Sometimes in these situation you can not avoid the extra items in the frame. That is why we press the button so many times. Always looking for the correct image. Not the perfect image, the correct image. So we remain conflicted.

And while there are fixes available, it is a no-no in my book for these events. Mine is a journalistic approach in this arena. What we see is what we get. We will let the studio sessions be the muse for the creative outlet kind of stuff. Do kinda like it though.

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I did talk to Renee about the image and what I wanted to do. Always communicate. It makes things so much easier. I get the image frustrations off my chest and in this case, we even got it out in the world.

So if someone tells you it could take up to three weeks for your photos, it is ok. Let it. And remember they are probably going nuts trying to get them ready for you. Literally.  Of course when you have a deadline there will be no fussing about.

Thanks for stopping by! Till the next time…..

Phil

 

Hanging Out with Lowlight

I have been shooting a lot of music over the past 18 months and have witnessed some incredible musicians in the process. I have been wanting to shoot promos for bands for a bit now, however I had never marketed that side of me to the groups. To most of them I am just a photographer who takes bad ass photos at their shows and posts them on the music blog I shoot for. The portrait side of things have been getting busier for me and this has coincided with landing my first musical client.

Lowlight is self-described as Roadhouse Chic, which in my words means a mixture of folk, NJ country and good old rock n roll. I see vocalist Renee Maskin quite frequently at The Wonder Bar for a weekly series called Happy Mondays. I have also seen them perform numerous times at a few different venues in the area. We got to talking one night and the next thing you know we were looking for dates for all of us to get together.

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The hardest part of course was finding a date that worked for all of us and the selection of a location. We both preferred a woodsy setting but weather and time of day were not going to allow that to happen. We will be hitting up the woods in the spring though to fulfill both of our visions. They are also looking for that elusive and steady fifth member so it will be perfect timing. We settled on a small ranch house that was teaming with antiques, paintings, pictures and some very interesting artifacts.

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This gang is a very chill bunch, laid back and easy-going so the house setting worked perfect. Managing to utilize a few different areas, we achieved our objective of material for them to utilize in their upcoming projects. And even had a few extras to boot. I was working with one light and an umbrella for all the shots for those interested.

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Be sure and have a listen and if you are in NJ go check them out. Make sure you buy them some whiskey too. Really fun times.

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Bands interested in a session give me a shout at – info@pshepherdphoto.com. Love to hook up and get you going.

Thanks for stopping by! till next time…

Phil

Anatomy of a New Smoke Machine

Life does have its weird way of coming back around. Back in the early nineties, the band I was playing in had no interest in playing at the Wonder Bar in Asbury Park, NJ. For whatever the reason back then, it had no appeal to us. And now I am there on a regular basis.

About 18 months ago I picked up a gig with the music review site, Speak into My GoodEye, and this started a regular weekly adventure for me shooting bands every Monday night at the Wonder Bar. The Wonder Bar is one of the premiere music venues in Asbury Park, offering some great local music as well as national touring acts coming through.  Recently, sound man extraordinaire Billy Colledge from Asbury Audio installed a new smoke machine and I came across a set a shots that perfectly emulate its nature.

I love smoke. It makes everything look so much better, giving depth and personality to the photos.  Tough when it hides the drummers, but so cool under the stage lights. And for those on stage right, we are almost guaranteed of a good photo. Red lights still kill, but black and white is beautiful.

The following shots depict the beginning of the waft of smoke and finally overtaking the stage and creating some striking images as a result:

Just Before:

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and here it comes

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My two favorite images from the whole sequence

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I often find it is the simple things that excite me, but there is nothing simple about capturing images conditions.  The musician in the photo is Andrew Milea, front man for Wild Americans. He has a great look and a super groove. If you are local, stop by on a Monday night and check out the tunes. And keep your eyes peeled for some other great shows that go down at the venue.

Thanks for stopping by!

Phil

A little Point and Shoot at the Summer Stage

Legendary Asbury Park, NJ venue The Stony Pony kicked off their Summer Stage Outdoor series in grand fashion with a sold out show courtesy of Halestorm. Along for the ride were supporting acts The Pretty Reckless and Starset. This show had been on my radar since it was announced back in late winter and my wife had been expressing her interest in it rather enthusiastically as well. Of course I had ulterior motives with my desires.

Waiting till two days before the show to secure our tickets, the event promoter was doing the stingy with the press pass so I hit up the box office for three and made sure the Canon G12 was charged and loaded. If you live in NJ and are planning to go to a show, do yourself a favor and make the trip to the box office instead of purchasing online and paying service fees. Well, your choice, but I thought the $40 savings was pretty nice. Yes, I was bummed that my trusty steed would remain stagnant for the evening, thinking it would be a great way to start the summer, but it is what it is, move on.

We arrived to find the line wrapped around 75% of the building, holy crap. It moved fairly quick though and after a bite and a brew went to secure the spot.

Close

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but not that close as witnessed by this shot of The Pretty Reckless.

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Starset was the first to hit the stage and I was not all that familiar with them but did actually know two of their songs. Very Breaking Benjamin with more Moog. I like their sound, they are brilliant minds and stand for a great cause, but I could do without the outfits.

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In between all the heads, arms and cell phones in the air I managed to get a few shots off. The G12 is a great little compact camera under normal conditions. Music photography is not by any means normal. Most of the photos from the night have a rather healthy crop to them and I was pleased they did not lose that much detail when cropped.

The Pretty Reckless was next and the push forward had begun. Let the bracing begin. And the photos of people taking pictures and videos on their phones. At least no one pulled out an iPAD.

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My wife and daughter got to meet and hang out a little with Lizzy Hale a couple of years ago and have been fans ever since. And of course they turned me onto them as well.

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The lighting on the wings was terrible for my little shooter and they all went to the trash bin. I have become very critical of stuff and have no reservations about getting rid of files if I do not like them. Plus they take up way too much space.

This next photo I have some uneasy feelings about. I do not use the “P” word much, or maybe, and thankfully, I have not had to use it or even think it that much. BUT, look closely. Double neck, looks cool, yada, yada… However, there are six pegs on each neck…What’s up with that?

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At the end there was much rejoicing and everyone was happy. Watching Lizzy’s brother Arejay on drums was awesome.  One thing I did not know and thought was very cool – Their dad played bass for them when they were just starting out.

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Getting to shoot and hear many of the bands coming through Asbury Park has indeed allowed me to become a bit spoiled. You can check out my musical adventures and the guys I shoot for here.  I do have a few things on deck for Twilight and Dusk so I will be back soon.

Thanks for stopping by, Till next time…

Phil

Asbury Music Awards: Photos

This one is all about the photographs.

The Asbury Music Awards were held at the Legendary The Stone Pony recently. Had an excellent time.  Had an even better time capturing some amazing local bands on the Stone Pony Stage. Been wanting to shoot there for a while and finally got the chance. Almost like I was in heaven. You can find a complete list of winners here. Some of the choice shots from my night.

 

Deal Casino, A Coffee House and 3200 iso

I was at a loss on how to begin this story. I wanted to talk about a couple of things specifically photography related like how my 7D was cranked to 3200 iso and I was literally terrified by that number, as necessary as it was. My camera is not a big fan of such high numbers. Word has it the new model fairs much, much better with that setting. We shall see, but until then lets just talk about the band I went to see and an early gift.

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When queuing up HECK, the brand new EP from Deal Casino, the first thing I noticed was the big smile gracing my face from the opening track, Bang Bang Bang. Pumping bass lines, a driving drum track, spirited guitars and killer melodies. Filled with energy and movement. This is their third EP, finally had a chance a couple of weeks ago to see them live and I took it, where have I been?

I am by no means a music reviewer, my stories are told through photographs, so I will leave an official review to the pros, but as a fan, my thoughts are that this quartets latest release cements them even deeper as a member of the hierarchy in the New Jersey Music scene.

Personally, I am more about the feeling of a song rather than a meaning, I do not key in on what is being said, too much room for interpretation. I do however pay very close attention to how it is being said, the progressions, the cadence and the rhythms a song contains.

The second song, Fortyfive, has a most distinct and grungy edge to it,epitomizes the sounds of alternative punk. Downtown is anthemic, (yes it really is!) and Flying Cars takes you on an emotional journey and when it is over you are left, missing, wanting more. So you play the whole thing again. A cycle that just keeps repeating itself.

The official EP Release party will be at the Asbury Lanes on Dec 11th. If you get the chance be sure and take in the show. You will get the EP!

Back to the beginning and this camera thing. I had the chance to check the guys out during a stripped down, acoustic style, electric set at the Revolutionary Lounge in Toms River. Coffee house atmosphere, very intimate setting. My wife told me I should stop serenading the people next to us during the set, so I started capturing some images and doing what I do.

I will be resuming regular programming here for a bit as I have a couple of shoots I want to get done. But I do have a feeling Deal Casino will be a regular topic in these parts, at least until someone gets a hold of them and takes them on the adventure of their lives…

Thanks for stopping by, till next time…

Phil