My friend Steve had said that his friend Sarah was shooting a band, and asked if I’d like to come along. Of course I’d love to – what better way to spend a Saturday afternoon than with a group of four photogenic models, eager to pose – errr, I mean, with the four charming members of Amoriste. And a red kite, but more about that later!
Amoriste describes themselves as an up-and-coming band from the English countryside, delivering a unique brand of indie pop drawn from an eclectic mix of influences including Athlete, Elbow, Morrissey and The Editors. I’m sure that’s spot on. To my untrained ears, they’re simply a brilliant band, playing some very pleasant music. Check out their website to hear a tune, or download their tracks from iTunes.
In typical English fashion, as soon as the band confirmed, the weather changed from the clear blue skies we’ve had for weeks. In the week leading up to the shoot, the forecast changed between “occassional showers” and “rain”, and on the day it was chucking down for hours. I was on the phone with Steve, who was on the phone with Sarah, who was on the phone with the band. Musicians and modern camera equipment aren’t made of sugar, so they won’t melt. But on the other hand, it didn’t rain, it poured! We ended up postponing the shoot an hour, and sure enough, when we all arrived at Hylands Park, the skies were still heavy and dark, but at least it was dry.
Hylands House is a Grade II protected neo-classical villa. It dates back to 1726, and has been privately owned until Chelmsford Council purchased it in 1966 to turn the beautiful grounds into a public park. With all it’s splendor, and perfect aestetics, we didn’t want it in the shots, competing for attention with the band. So here’s a picture of Amoriste in front of the House.
The dull weather soon proved to be great for us. The clouds still had shapes, and the light levels were low enough to allow us to balance skies against musicians while retaining definition in both. Having said that, Mother Natur’s light was somewhat flat. And as we had lugged stands, flashes, reflectors and brollies into the well manicured wilderness, we also felt we had to put them to use.
The first idea was both wind and weatherproof. Band manager Megan held a reflector pointing towards the band, while Steve aimed a flash into the reflector. Our very own little silver-surfaced sun, in the middle of the park. This gave shape and more a 3 dimensional look to the guys. The only problem (minor detail, really!) was the light was coming from below. I’m led to believe that sunshine normally has light coming from above (although, given how rare sunshine is here in England, how can anyone be expected to know what it looks like?), and sadly, the shadows give the game away.
Plan B then was to deploy Steve’s amazing homemade wireless flash triggering system, coupled to his eBay-sourced Vivitar flashes. Based on inexpensive components, ingeniousness and determination, Steve’s creation matches, and in some ways surpasses, the systems built into Nikon’s or Canon’s high-end flashguns costing 50 times as much. And while the heavy batteries (think “luggable” rather than “pocketable”) required to power the system could be considered a slight downside in many situations, they did perfect double duty as stabilisers. Hang one of them from a lightstand, and it will stay where you put it, come rain, shine or even heavy wind gusts. We didn’t dare put brollies on the stands, though, for why tempt fate?
It was okay for us photograpers in our nice warm jackets, but the band, wanting to look cool in shirt sleaves on the pictures, were beginning to suffer the effects of the English summer weather. Before hypotermia could start to set in, we let the guys lose to play with their kite while we packed up.
Sarah had spotted a nice rapeseed field nearby, so before calling it a day, we relocated there for a couple of different shots, including the one at the top of this page. I think it’s the relaxation and laid back faces that makes this my favourite picture of the day. The steam had run out a little, and the cold had taken its toll on the band, so they acted natural and relaxed without any hint of deliberate posing. Lighting-wise, we reverted to a simple setup with a single flash and a shoot-through brolly. Steve offered to keep the stand from flying into the farmer’s rapeseed, while at the same time adjusting the flash output according to Sarah’s instructions. Maybe we should patent and sell the system as a Nikon and Canon compatible Advanced Voice-controlled Lighting (NC-AVL, catchy, innit?)
Oh, and the red kite? I haven’t got a clue, but it seems to be somewhat a trademark for Amoriste. Having spent an afternoon with the kite, I’ve come to like it. It makes a nice, bold focal point and adds a splash of colour against dull Essex skies.
The full set of pictures from the day can be found here.