A couple of months ago I did some promo photography for singer/songwriter Linda Draper, who records for Planting Seeds Records. Linda was out here to do some shows and promote her new album, Bridge and Tunnel. We didn’t have a lot of time: I had another shoot that evening, and Linda had a radio promo to do later on that day. Since she was staying close to the beach, we decided to head there. Nothing like the glorious midday sun at the beach, right?
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Linda is based in NYC, and could be considered a folk singer (or “quiet-core” as she prefers). She’s an excellent guitar player as well as a distinctive vocalist, with some really insightful lyric writing. Mostly “love and loss” subject matter, but with a poignancy that lets you dive in. Really nice stuff!
And if you look at Linda’s albums and website, there’s a very east coast, gritty and thoughtful feel to the artwork and photography. Since she was out here in LA, we wanted to do something a little different and give her image portfolio some extra variety. I like the first image because it really seems like Linda is a ‘stranger in a strange land’, like she just landed on an alien planet and is determined to make her way through it. The desaturation on the image also gives it a less ‘sunny’ feel.
Gear-wise I don’t think I did much here: if I used a fill light, it’s not evidenced in the catchlights of her eyes. What I did do however was pose her correctly. I used the sun to ‘short light’ her (i.e. the sun lights the side of her face that is away from the camera) to add some drama, and had her tilt her head up so that the sun would fill in some of her eye sockets. The light fill coming off the sand is pretty dramatic, and so the shadows are not nearly as deep as they might be otherwise. Yes, I sometimes shoot with no strobes whatsoever!
The next two images of Linda were shot up against a wall (belonging to an expensive-looking beach house). For the first one, I moved back and shot with a relatively long telephoto, to compress the perspective. Reversing that, I got in close for the second and shot wide and low. I did use strobe this time: SB-28 through a Lumiquest Softbox III. As you can see, it was used only for fill. The sun is still the main light. On the first image, the strobe is camera left, and it’s camera right for the second one.
Did I mention how freakin’ windy it was that day? That’s why I was using the Lumiquest instead of an umbrella, because the winds were probably 20-30 mph. I got out of the car and immediately threw the umbrella back in. Wasn’t even going to try it. The Lumiquest does a nice job of softening the light if you’re in really close, and this is what I did for the image below. The light is just out of frame, camera left, and it is the main light in this case. I’ve knocked the ambient down as much as was practical here, but was still shooting f/11 at 1/250th. I’ve got her back to the sun—see the highlight on her shoulder?—and the volleyball net pole is blocking most of the sun and some of the wind too.
Linda still had to hold back her hair to keep it from flying her face, since the wind is always, ALWAYS blowing the wrong direction. Is that just in California, or is that true everywhere? At one point, I helped her tuck her hair behind her and she pressed it up against the pole to keep it in place. Which was more amusing than practical, because the wind would still grab great hunks of hair and fling them at her face with no mercy. But by then we’d gotten the images we needed, and called it a day.
I like working with musicians, because i can relate! I’ve been through all of this to some small extent, back when I had my recording-artist days. Having to tell the same story over and over, the travel nightmares, the friends you make for a day and then never see again…I don’t miss it, but I can definitely relate! And hopefully that comes across in the photographic experience. And if it doesn’t, well then I’m just some guy blathering on about his former music career!
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