Jonathan Parker Octet rehearsals are a good time. It’s a given that the music is great, but there is also a lot of laughter and good beer to go along. I distinctly remember one that we had last year, because it was in this old Columbia Heights townhouse he was sharing with roommates. The house has some unique architectural elements, so when I was thinking about locations for Jonathan’s photoshoot it was really a no-brainer to use the house. In fact, all four photos were taken on the first floor of the home, within about 15 feet of one another.
Let’s work backwards, shall we? This is the last photo of the session, taken because I wanted to do a simple headshot type portrait in case Jonathan needed anything like that for his website, press kit, etc. I also have some sort of sick obsession with attempting to make cluttered backgrounds go to black. That’s exactly what we did here. There was a living room behind him as well as a hallway. It’s pretty easy to make your background go black as long as you can create some space between your subject and the background. Then just bring the light in close— in this case, a speedlight in a shoot-thru umbrella.
The opening to the aforementioned living room can be separated from the adjacent room with a slick retractable wooden door. It was this door that I decided to use as a backdrop for the next photo. I love the texture and color of the wood and it went well with Jonathan’s lumberja— er, red flannel shirt. The large photo above was my favorite expression—definitely in the eyes—but I went with the one at right for the article.
Once again, the light was simple. It’s actually exactly the same as the headshot above. In retrospect, I should have changed the direction of the light, if only to see if it would have worked as well. It also would have helped with the bit of glare coming off of his glasses.
The above photo was made in the staircase that goes from the main floor to the second floor. As soon as I saw it I knew we had to try a photo there, especially due to that wacky stained glass lightbulb. Because of the lightbulb, I had to make sure that my exposure was set to let the ambient light burn in after the flash fired. And because I had no tripod, that meant boosting the ISO and opening up my aperture as much as possible to keep the shutter speed from dropping into the blur zone.
A nice side effect of having the ISO high and the aperture open was that I needed very little flash power, and so my recycle times were fast. I could shoot pretty much as fast as I wanted to with no issues. The flash was a gridded speedlight on a lightstand on the main floor to camera right. Jonathan is actually standing on the first landing of the stairwell which is open to the main floor.
The first photo we did ended up being my favorite of the set. I really wanted to do an environmental portrait of Jonathan composing. Even though we were staging it, I wanted it to seem realistic, so I asked him how he wrote—laptop, staff paper? Staff paper it was.
One of the main downstairs rooms (I think it’s the dining room) is pretty sparsely furnished for its size, so it was easy enough to move some furniture around. Why? Well, I wanted to include some of the wall hangings as a graphic element to frame Jonathan’s head. Those are actually lights back there. I fooled around with turning them on and trying to get a good color balance on them but I wasn’t having too much success matching the color on my flash. Letting the ambient color fall where it may is always an option but it was kind of distracting so I just turned those lights off.
So the only light in this photo is coming from a shoot-thru umbrella camera left and slightly past 270º to where Jonathan is sitting. I like the simplicity to the light, but (now that I know better) I would have flagged off the bottom of the umbrella so as to keep more of the light from spilling onto the papers. Those end up being brighter than Jonathan and I wish they had been a little less so. I could bring them down in Lightroom as well. Perhaps I will…
It’s always amazing to me how much I end up learning by writing these posts. As always, let me know if you have any questions or comments. Looking forward to the next time!