On the Road: Kevin McDonald for Vic Firth

Nikon D200, 18-70mm 3.5-4.5 AF-S DX @25mm, ISO 400, f/4, 1/25 sec.
Nikon D200, 18-70mm 3.5-4.5 AF-S DX @25mm, ISO 400, f/4, 1/25 sec.

My good friend and great jazz drummer, Kevin McDonald, recently picked up an endorsement for Vic Firth drumsticks. Vic Firth wanted a photo of him with their products, so I had the idea to use one of the beautiful auditoriums we were playing in as a backdrop.

I used a decently wide focal length to show the scale of the hall, but didn’t go as wide as I could have in order to keep the distortion on Kevin at a minimum. Placing Kevin in the center of the frame helps to minimize the distortion as well.

When doing a shoot like this, speed is the ultimate concern, and so it’s important to get everything set as much as possible before making the actual photos. We had about 2 minutes to shoot between the end of soundcheck and the opening of the house doors. Keep in mind there are also band members heckling us the entire time. It’s great. Really.

DSC_4539 DSC_4540Above are two test shots at different exposures that I took before the soundcheck so that I could lock down my ambient exposure. It was a really dim space, so I cranked the ISO a bit, opened the aperture as much as possible and shot at a pretty slow shutter speed. I didn’t want a correct exposure here—the idea was something 2-3 stops below “correct”—then add a pop of flash to Kevin once he steps in.

A higher ISO and low aperture meant very little flash power, which is always a plus when trying to work quickly. The light was an SB-26 with the LumiQuest SB III in more or less classic Rembrandt position. The hair light is coming from the stage spotlights. It’s convenient when things work out that way! Stage and auditorium lights were tungsten, so I shot in tungsten white balance and placed a full CTO gel on my flash to compensate.

Are there things I’d like to change/tweak about this photo? Certainly, but for a 2 minute photo session, I’ll take it. Sometimes you just have to get the shot you can get.

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