Yesterday, I posted about my photo shoot with Kevin Burdick for his new album cover, The Ivory Coast. While we were there, we shot a few images for Dixon Golf, for whom kevin is a celebrity spokesperson. Dixon Golf makes not only the best ball in golf, but the only ecologically friendly golf ball. It really is a long ball! And Kevin needed it, to get out of this sand trap.
It really is nothing but sand out there…
Making an album cover photograph for piano rockstar, Kevin Burdick, gets increasingly difficult, as we continue to push to limits of where we can take his pianos. His most recent album, The Ivory Coast, took us and his piano to the sand dunes in Yuma, Arizona, where we suffered through extreme heat as we tried to hoist this heavy piano through the sand. It was fun, but challenging to put the album cover together.
This video includes interviews with Kevin Burdick about the making of the album cover, video footage of Kevin’s exclusive sand dune performance of Freight Train and many of the photos from the album photo shoot.
The video was edited exclusively in Adobe Premier CS5, which uses the 5D Mark II video file natively without requiring a conversion like Final Cut Pro. One more reason that Adobe is the best choice for image making professionals.
The final album cover contains four different photographs: the piano, Kevin on the sand dunes, the ocean and boat and then the texture. Follow the post below to see the various elements of the album cover and the progression of the album cover.
Moving the piano was very difficult. We obviously could not get it to the top of a 30 foot sand dune, so we found some small “mini dunes” that were accessible by truck and off loaded the piano there. But even then, it took three of us to move the piano and I think all of us almost popped a disk in our backs. This was one of those old pianos and it was HEAVY!
Our first photograph was the piano. Since it was the hardest thing to move, we figured we would start with that and match all of our angles for future photographs to that. We shot the piano early in the morning as the sun rose so we could get the same lighting we would get at the top of the sand dunes down the road. We had to shoot pretty quickly so we could get out the the large sand dunes before the sun got too high in the sky, so we got our shot done and sped off for location 2. The Sand Dunes.
This is our second shot, which is not too complicated a shot to create, it is just getting to the spot that is difficult. In order to get out to a spot that has the same angle as our piano shot we had to hike in a mile or more into the Sand Dunes. This is not like walking on the beach. First, it is hot as hell. Second, the sand is very deep. Third, walking up hill while the sand falls downhill makes for some very intense stair step workouts that create the sense that you are not going anywhere. Fourth, did I mention it was HOT! And of course, Kevin is not wearing shoes!
Once we climbed high enough to get a shot from above looking down on Kevin and a series of dunes behind him, we got many many variations, as well as some video footage for music videos, etc. We also got some cool shots for Dixon Golf in the United States’ biggest sand trap (watch for tomorrow’s post). And then it was up to me to get the rest of the shots.
This photograph, which I had taken earlier at a wedding in San Diego worked perfectly for the background. We wanted our Sand Dunes to overlook the ocean with some kind of a boat back there, so I searched my image catalog for the terms ocean and boat and come up with this image. I worked perfectly. I suppose, had we been going for realistic, the clouds would have been completely wrong for the photo montage, but we were looking for a dreamlike album cover of a place that exists only in the mind, so this fit the bill.
Then it was off to the image catalogs again to find the right texture to distress the image a bit. The texture also helps to mold things together that otherwise wouldn’t fit all that well. I keep a collection of textures for this very purpose in my image catalogs. When I am shooting weddings or travel photography, I keep my eye out for interesting textures and collect them for uses just like this. Being organized enough to find them is the real key. So, I typed in the word texture into my Lightroom Image Catalog and choose the texture I wanted. If you are having trouble finding your images, you need to do more key-wording!
This is what the photo composite looks like without the texture, before it is cropped and placed into the album cover design.
And again, once we have added the texture and the text to the photograph. You can see how much the texture helps to soften the look of the image and make it a bit more dreamlike. I actually prefer the tall skinny version of the image more than the square album cover. I miss the days when you purchased a CD in one of those long skinny cardboard boxes that you could further design. This would have been a perfect photograph for one of those. But alas, now you will simply go to iTunes and purchase Kevin Burdick’s new album, The Ivory Coast, on iTunes and see only the square front cover.
But of course, if you do that, you can see the back cover here.
We actually set up the piano the night before the shot so that we wouldn’t have to cary that thing in the dark. So as we left it for the night, the sun set in the desert and the lonely piano stood quiet and alone among the shrubs. I love this shot.
Photo Shoot Details:
“God Made You Just for Me,” is one of Kevin Burdick’s latest songs on his new album, The Ivory Coast, which is now available at www.kevinburdick.com and on iTunes. Kevin has really outdone himself on this latest album, every song will be your favorite new song.
Enjoy a taste of The Ivory Coast with Jared Platt’s wedding and engagement photography from Platt Photography.
I have always loved the stage. Looking out into an audience you know is there, when you can not see them is an exhilarating feeling. And even though you can not see them, you can feel their energy as they get wrapped up in the performance. As I posted earlier, I attended Kevin Burdick‘s concert in Arizona and took a few photos there. I didn’t take a lot of them because I was attending the concert with my kids, so I only took a few at the beginning and a few at the end. It was a great show with great music and a worthwhile message about following our dreams.
Good work Kevin.
Kevin talks about his little girl, Dempsey during the show and shows a slideshow of images from her life when he sings his song “Too Good for this World,” a tribute to his daughter. It is a powerful thing to watch. Especially for me, because I was there for those 30 days while she ws in the hospital fighting for her life. I photographed her and her Father and Mother as they held on to each precious moment. Every time I hear that song, or see her photos, I am reminded to thank God that I was allowed to keep mine with me. But in the end, I truly believe (as Kevin sings) that the “fathers welcomed her home” and that she looks down on us all now. Someday I will share that set of images, but for now, here is one of them as a backdrop to the performance.
Kevin’s drummer, Aaron “Chives” Chavez, who plays the strangest concoctions of drums and boxes, etc. He is finishing up his masters in World Percussion and quite a talented man.
And finally, my favorite shot of the evening. Like I said, I am fascinated with the darkness of the theater. Enough said.
I have had a few questions about how I accomplished some of these photographs, so I will add a few technical notes to the end here.
Photo Settings (for the above photo): 1/60 – f 3.5 – ISO 640 – 16mm – No Flash – Canon 5D Mark II – White Balance Full Sun
Color balance: If you are shooting in a theater you have to turn your camera off of Auto White Balance. The color jells and temperature of the theatrical lighting will fool your camera every time. Theatrical lighting is closer to the temperature of the daylight. First, try to figure out the actual temperature in kelvins of the lights, but if you can’t get it or don’t want to test or get a custom white balance from one of the spotlights with no gels on it, you can always just turn your white balance to the full sunlight setting. Shooting in the wrong white balance will result in all sorts of bad color shifts, and even in RAW, you will have a hard time getting the color balance back into line.
Exposure: Your camera will always meter and expose to make everything middle gray. Which means that if you are in a dark theater, your camera will see all of that darkness and try to over expose the shot. So instead of having black blacks, you will have grey blacks and as a result of the over exposure, you will also gain additional noise in what would have been the shadows. So simply turn your camera to manual exposure and make the decisions yourself. Fortunately, once you have the setting, it won’t change all that much because the lighting is going to remain fairly constant for each given scene, assuming you have professionals managing the lights.
Focus: Focusing in the dark is difficult for auto focus. Don’t even try it. Instead, look to the rim lights on the body to grab a manual focus. Remember that auto focus is always looking for contrast to register focus, so if it is dark, you will have a hard time grabbing focus on the subject.
Kevin Burdick is one of my favorite musicians, and it is not just because I know him very well. He has a very unique story telling ability and is an incredibly talented musician. Well, he will be in Arizona at the Higley Center for the Performing Arts on March 31st at 7 PM. If you are anywhere in the area, you should come. Not only will you hear some great music, but you will be supporting a great cause. All of the proceeds from the concert go to The Dempsey Burdick Memorial Foundation and to the Coronado 8th Grade. The Dempsey Burdick Memorial Foundation helps struggling and grieving families pay for headstones as they bury their young children who have died. The concert is only $5 per person and $20 per family. It really is for a great cause. Please take the time to come and have a great time with your family and help other families in their deepest hour of need.
I will be there. You should be there too…
DATE AND TIME: Wednesday, March 31, 2010 – 7:00PM – 8:00PM
LOCATION: Higley Center for the Performing Arts – 4132 East Pecos Road, Gilbert, AZ 85295 MAP
Kevin is a talented and entertaining performer. You can listen to his music on iTunes or at KevingBurdick.com. And if you can not make it, please go toDempseyBurdick.com and consider donating the price of admission to help a family in need. It really does make a big difference in a family’s life. I hear stories from Kevin all the time about people they have helped. Anything you can give will make a difference.
It was a rainy day with strong winds all day and a bit cold for Phoenix, AZ in January, but we altered our planned photo shoot a little in the concept and went out shooting. Piano rock star, Kevin Burdick, was the subject. We decided to take the umbrellas, but when we got to our location, we had a break in the clouds, but not the wind. So we went with the umbrellas anyway. Kevin get very tired trying to hold the umbrellas up against the wind, it really was quite strong.
The photos were shot with the Canon 1D Mark IV.
Now on to some tips and tricks:
First, the sun is off to the right of the photo and slightly behind Kevin. Which means that if we took the photo without additional lights, he would be too dark. Remember, we are competing with some bright clouds in the background, so we have to control the ambient exposure to match. We could use a big reflector, or we could use a flash. It was just Kevin and myself, no assistant, so we chose a flash unit. A Canon 580EX II is mounted on a pole about 12 feet off to my right to avoid the on camera flash flattening effect. Because it is off camera, I had to connect it via wireless slave. I am using the pocket wizard TT1 and TT5 system. This allows the camera to communicate with the flash via radio signal, but unlike typical radio slave systems, that only transmit the fire signal, the TT1 / TT5 system allows the camera to communicate metering solutions etc to the flash for TTL auto exposures. The TT1/TT5 system also allows me to sync my flash at incredibly high shutter speeds via radio slave, and in order to get the ambient exposure right with the correct depth of field, I need to expose the image at f 5.0 at between 1/1600 and 1/2000 of a second. A typical flash slave system will only allow syncing with a flash at 1/250 of a second. So the Pocket Wizard TT1 / TT5 system is critical to the success of this photograph. When I need the light, but also need the shutter speed, I don’t have to compromise.
The flash is set to provide a bust of light which is about one and a half stops lower than the brightness of the sun. This allows the sun to remain the dominant light source. You can see that the sun is still creating its signature crest of light on the far right side of Kevin’s face, but it is not blown out. The near side of his face, though lit well, is still the shadow side. This combination of lights provides a good contour to his face. I am getting a studio lit look out on location with three lights.
“Three lights,” you ask, “but you have just mentioned the two?”
Light One: The sun. This is the strongest light on the set. It is the light coming from the side and slightly behind, giving me that crest of light on his face and hands, and acting as a hair light. It is also providing the nice bright crests on the clouds and the mountains.
Light Two: The Canon Flash. This is a direct light on Kevin’s face which is filling in the shadow not to match, but fall short of the power of the sun (light one). This gives us a great vivid exposure on Kevin’s face, without flattening the contours of the face because it is not on camera, but off camera and coming at the subject from the same side of the frame as the sun, so direction of the shadows still make sense.
Light Three: God’s Soft Box, the Northern Sky. The northern sky (because in North America, the sun is always in the southern sky) is a giant soft reflector of the sun’s light. That bounced light from the northern sky is filling in all the deep shadows on my subject and on the mountains and the clouds. Without the reflection of the norther sky, the shadows in the photo would be very dark. Now, I cannot position God’s soft box on a moment by moment basis, it is in a fixed position, but there are some things I can do. I can choose the time of day to shoot, so that either the northwest or the northeast sky is my active soft box and I can position my subject such that he faces the northern sky, and I can choose the proper location for shooting the photograph so that my subject can face away from the sun, toward the northern sky.
I always know where the sun is and is going to be. My iPhone, though not a good phone, has a great sun position app which tells me the exact position of the sun at any hour of any day well into the future. So, when I scout a location, I know where the sun will be a 3 PM on Jan 12, 2030 and can plan my photo shoot accordingly. I need to know this, because I want to get the best shot with the least amount of equipment possible.
The green toned photo above is what happens when the sun changes brightness on you in the middle of the shoot. The original shot is a bit off in exposure, but with some fancy photoshop work using two different develops of the same RAW file, I was able to pull of a very cool shot and and control exactly how dark I wanted the background and the subject. I love the drama of the image.
Note: Although the rest of these photographs have undergone a major amount of burning and dodging they have not been “retouched much at all. I am not all that interested in major retouching, but burning and dodging, which I did very skillfully in the darkroom, is still a very key part of the beauty of my images. Although now, I have such precise control offer my burns that almost anything is possible. I often will slim down a subject or remove a belly with only burning and dodging. I will post my article on Burning and Dodging here on the blog in the near future. It ran in Professional Photographer Magazine in January 2010. If you have a copy, take a look.
This next set of photos, we moved the position of the light from my right side to my left. Some people on my facebook posts have said it looks almost like he is being photographed against a backdrop, because he is popping out of the photo so much. This is what happens when you move your second light to a less natural position. Instead of the light coming from the same side as the sun’s light, it is coming from the other side, which subtly sets Kevin at odds with the shadows in the background. Ergo, he jumps out of the photo because he is no longer blending in to the light. Your mind sees him as different than the photo, even if your consciousness can not figure out why. Study the photo carefully and see the shadows on Kevin, then the shadows on the mountains and clouds.
Anytime you want something to pop out of your photo, you have to make it different than everything else in the photo. Most of the time, people use a bight color to do this. More subtle is using a different texture of perhaps a different pattern, etc. Notice, he is also wearing a tomato shirt. That helps him stand out in every photo. But the lighting is the real key to creating that extreme difference that is still subtle enough to make one question their perception.
Now for the rest of the photo shoot. When he is far away from the camera we obviously can’t light him with a flash, so a little dodging in the post production fixes the shadow of the face. Fortunately, distant shots like these don’t require as much lighting, because they are more about composition. Besides, we still have our two lights working for us: light one and three.
Before we went out for our location shoot, we also did a few shots in the studio. Kevin is great for expression. I posted a set of these expressions in a previous post, but here are a few larger shots I loved from the session.
You may be wondering what I did to the photos here. What photoshop action did I use? The coloring effect is done completely in Adobe Lightroom with the click of a button. It is one of many presets I have created for toning my images. This one reminds me of an old 1970s photograph of my mom and dad in horn rimed glasses and a few of the kids up in the mountains. The color is faded and the paper is yellowed and some of the silvers are oxidizing. It is a nice effect, but who wants to wait 30 years for that. Anyway, most people make these color presets with the color balance changes, but that sometimes messes up the photo itself. Making presets correctly is important. I am finishing up a second set of presets, which will be available for purchase by WPPI 2010 in Las Vegas (where I will be teaching a master class on Lightroom and if you are coming, I will teach you how to make this preset). The first set of presets is called the Essential Lightroom Preset Collection, which is a set of work-flow centered presets to get you through the editing process quickly. This new set is called the Top Secret Collection, which is a set of effect presets to compliment the Essential Collection. This effect in particular is mostly based in the split toning panel of the develop section in Lightroom. There are some other settings in Saturation, Vibrance and Clarity etc that help to make it look just right, but the bulk of the effect is there in the split toning.
By the way, if you are going to be at WPPI and want to take my master class, but can’t get in because it is full, email [email protected] and ask to be placed on the waiting list. If there are enough people on the waiting list, they will open another class. And more importantly, they will book me in a platform class next year, which they should have done this year. So if you are going to WPPI, email and ask to be placed on the waiting list.
And finally, a nice black and white at 1600 ISO. This Canon 1D Mark IV is incredible in the higher ISOs. I can’t say enough good things about that ISO. I turned off the flash slaves and simply used the modeling lights, raised the ISO with impunity and shot. With this camera, I will never fear the ISO. Never.
It is always a blast shooting Kevin Burdick (www.pianorockstar.com). He’s wildly expressive, has no inhibitions and is just an all around great guy. And I’m not just saying that. We’ve been friends since high school, made music together then and even some very screwy home movies and music videos. One of them included a scene that almost resulted in Kevin’s death, but instead, thanks to Kevin’s strong neck muscles, and our quick response, we ended up only with a massive rope burn around his neck. Come to think of it, I think we continued filming for a while before we realized he was in trouble. Flailing legs and a red face can either mean great acting, or eminent death…
I’m glad he’s still with us. He has made some great music since then and he’s always been a great friend.
So, this is a fun little set of images to wet your whistle. We first shot a few studio shots and Kevin went to town with the facial expressions. The best way to see them is in connection with each other. Tomorrow I am posting the fantastic images we got from the on-location portrait session, which include Kevin, various umbrellas, lots of wind and a vast empty landscape. Until then, enjoy this funny little set of photos and go listen to some of Kevin’s music at www.pianorockstar.com.
It is an interesting thing to have talented friends. I grew up around very talented people, but Kevin Burdick was one of the most talented and has always amazed me with his story telling and musical depth. It is such a pleasure to work with him as his photographer. Next project: a music video!