So, my wife Kalebra comes to me one day recently and says "How would you like to collaborate on a photo project?" I didn't even know what it was, but I said, "I'm in!" She is such a creative force, and that's an area I've struggled with for a while, which is why I've been asking Kalebra to art direct so many of my recent projects. Well, I was already "in" (she had me at "How…"), but once I heard her concept, it's just so "us" that I couldn't wait to shoot it.
Here's how she describes the series, which she calls "Title Tracks:"
“It's a photo series based on song titles, but instead of simply interpreting the song as written, we reinterpret it with our own meaning, and that becomes the image.”
She tells me, "It's a collaboration: I'll come up with the concept, I'll art direct it, and I'll even style it. You do all the lighting, shooting, and retouching parts. It's something we can create together." I was all over it!
She added, "Let's get our video team to document it — I'd like for the kids to have it — a video of us collaborating on a creative project together. You know that will mean a lot to them."
It will mean a lot to us, too.
So, our personal photo project has begun, and the first song Kalebra chose to reinterpret in this multi-photo series was "Say Something" by the duo "A Great Big World." (link to preview the song on iTunes).
Here's how she describes the story:
“Our story is of a composer obsessed with the piece of music he cannot finish. He believes it is the one he was born to create and he has followed its path anywhere and everywhere so long as he could continue to work on finishing it but tonight he is driven to despair — out of money, time and talent he’s ready to give up on his “love.” If only it would speak itself to him, and just “say something.”
Below: Here's some shots from behind-the scenes at the Capitol Theater in Clearwater, Florida (photos by Juan Alfonso).
Top: Kalebra and I reviewing some of the shots (I'm tethered into Lightroom so when I shoot the images appear large on my screen — shout out to the awesome folks at tethertools.com - don't know how I'd do shoots like this without them). Kalebra wanted a smokey backstage type of feel to the shot, so we brought a "hazer" which worked great for bringing that smokey backstage feel to the shoot, and giving the lighting some added dimension.
2nd Row Left and Right: Kalebra arranging the props and talking with our tormented composer, Mitesh, giving him direction on posing and the emotion she wants to bring out in the shot. Mitesh was awesome, especially since he's an architect; not an actor or composer.
Bottom Row: You can see my shooting position, and how I'm having to shoot my Canon 5D Mark III with the 70-200mm mounted on a tripod (more on this in a moment). You also see Leighton from our video crew manning the hazer (it's like a smoke machine, but instead of clouds of smoke it just spits a water-based mist into the air every few seconds).
Top Row Below: My main light is a Phottix Mitros Flash with a Westcott 26" Rapid Box Octa, and a fabric grid gaffer's taped to the front of it (here you see the diffusion panel over it, but we eventually took it off for a punchier light. The fabric grid makes the light much more narrow and focused).
2nd Row: You can see the two Phottix Mitros flashes I placed behind our subject. The lower one is for lighting the side of his face, kind of a rim light or kicker light. The higher one is a bare flash (no modifier of any kind) aimed back at the camera — I placed it there so it would look like a stage light behind him. BTW: if you look behind Kalebra in this shot, you can see the egg crate fabric grid on the front of the Rapid Box Octa.
3rd Row: Here's a better look at the front of the two flashes. The one on the right has a Rogue Flash Bender on it with a metal grid, which I used to focus the beam on the back side of his face. The other flash is that bare bulb to look like a stage light.
Bottom Row left: That's me looking up wondering why there is a stage light aiming down at my subject. The awesome crew at the Capital Theater quickly aimed it away from our subject, so only my flashheads were lighting him.
Bottom Row Right: At the beginning, I shot with a 70-200mm in pretty tight (you can see this on my laptop screen), but it wasn't where we wanted it to be, so we kept working the scene. I was at such a slow shutter speed (1/4 of a second) that I had to shoot on a tripod, and I had to have Mitesh freeze any motion while I took each shot. The reason I had the shutter speed so low (I'm normally at 1/125 of a second) is because I wanted to add in the ambient backstage light, which was very low lighting, but I also wanted to keep my ISO at 100, so by lowering the Shutter speed way down, I was able to add the ambient light in (even though there's much less of it than appears in the BTS shots which were shot in Aperture Priority mode, so it automatically balances the exposure). My f/stop was f/5.6 the whole time, so put the background just a tiny bit soft.
I'm firing my Phottix Mitros flashes with a Phottix Odin II Flash Trigger Transmitter for Canon (that's what you see sitting on my camera's hot shoe mount). I can turn on/off any of the three flashes, and/or change their power setting. Best transmitter ever (BTW: I shoot in manual mode on the flashes).
Here's our awesome crew for the shoot (below from L to R): Juan Alfonso (behind the scenes videos and stills); Art Director Kalebra, our composer and subject Mitesh Dixit, Yours Truly, 1st Assistant Kathy Porupski, Producer Jen Coffin, My Exec Assistant Lynn Miller, Hair & Makeup by Toni Jo Peruzzi, Video and 360° video by Leighton Silvestro. Photo by Jeff Kelby on an iPhone 7 Plus.