Jazzy Portraits At APC
It’s always amazing the opportunities that can present themselves if you’re just open to them.
Though I live in a small town here in Upper Freehold, New Jersey, we’ve got a creative thread that runs though it.
Musicians and artists and artisans and, yes, photographers are very common around these parts. And that helps to open up other doors.
The gent in the lower row, middle, Enoch Smith Jr., is the music director at our church, Allentown Presbyterian. I’ve know him a bit for the past few years, and have been impressed with the music he not only brings to our services but also how he teaches the children of the church.
The past few Springs, he does jazz vespers on Saturday evenings at APC. They are only once a month so if you miss it, you have to way a while for it to come around again. And while my intentions have been good, I’ve missed quite a few of them.
Kicking things off this spring, he wanted to to put together a band to do some selections from Duke Ellington’s Sacred Concerts. And he put together quite the band indeed: Sixteen on instruments and one guest vocalist. All from the NJ/NY area, all top-notch.
I approached Enoch (Mr. E as the kids call him, and we adults do too) about not just photographing the concert, but doing portraits of the musicians as well. I sent him some recent portraits I had done and he was up for it.
There were a lot of variables. I’d be shooting them in a small window of time between dinner and their performance. Luckily, dinner was in the hall right next to the church. I had thought about doing the portraits on a brown muslin background I ordered, but in the end, decided to us my Thunder Gray Savage Universal seamless instead. Something just told me to go with it.
The other key was a new light stand I recently got. I’ve been want to be able to put my strobe on a boom arm and bring it out over my subject more. But the light stands I have just weren’t sturdy enough. So, last week, I splurged abit and bought a sturdy 10 foot C-stand from Neewer.
I got it on Thursday, tested it on Friday and put it to work on Saturday.
At APC, I decided to set up in the vestibule of the hall where the musicians would be having dinner. This way, they could finish up and come over. It was all the space I needed to do single portraits.
With this set up, I was able to raise the light up high and camera right. The Neewer Vision4 strobe was set to F4 and the 47″ Neewer octa helps the light disperse. This gave me the look I wanted.
Doing these portraits were a fun exercise. They only had a few minutes before their performance (in fact, as I was shooting, I heard “Ok, show time…” and they started to file out) so I had to break the ice quickly, get them comfortable and try to snap some nice, engaging portraits…while keeping an eye on my lighting and keeping them engaged.
Now, they are performers, comfortable on stage or in front of a camera, so that made this shoot a little easier. For me, it was about slowing down, and assessing the person in front of me – switching body positions, lowering/raising chins (a couple wore glasses so I was trying to keep the softbox out of their glasses, trying a few things to be engaging.
I like this one
But missed this one a little – I should have popped a flash from down low under Reggie. I like the concept and idea I had, but in my “work quick mode” didn’t really notice I needed to light from below as well. I’ll know next time.
Mr. E was on his way out, getting ready to walk over to the church to lead this band of musical all-stars when I stopped him and said “I have to do you! You brought this all together!”
He stepped in front of the canvas, and I made a few snaps that I like.
And like that, they were off…this big band in our small church making some beautiful music to honor God…and Duke.
Overall, I’m happy with how these came out. I’m getting closer to where I want to be with my portraits. See a full slideshow of the portraits here.
© Mark V. Krajnak | JerseyStyle Photography | All Rights Reserved 2020