Lighting a Band in the Mountains

Guest writer Brandon Cawood is the owner and head photographer at Flash Light Productions. He primarily shoot weddings as well as commercial and product photography. He spent most of his teens and early 20's playing in bands and touring the country. After he became a photographer, naturally one of his favorite type of shoots is band promos.

Back in December the band Last Act Standing from Ellijay, GA booked me for a shoot. After talking to the band for a couple of weeks and discussing our options, they decided they wanted a bright sunny natural looking promo shots. I love shooting natural light. I also love using strobes and shaping the light the way I want. When I packed up my gear to make the two hour drive I decided to just throw my strobes in my truck "just incase". As I was drive through the mountains of North Georgia the weather started looking more and more gloomy. The higher I went up the mountain the thicker and thicker the fog was getting. At one point I could barely see ten feet ahead of me. It started to become very apparent that the nice sunny and warm shoot they had in mind was not going to happen on this particular day. I finally met up with the band and followed them even farther up the mountain until we reached our destination for the shoot. I discussed with them my thoughts on how we should go about the shoot since the weather wasn't cooperating, and they agreed to allow me creative control. I didn't have my partner Whitney with me, but the band was cool enough to help me lug my gear up an enormous hill to where we take the photos.

After looking around I decided to set the band up in front of these spooky looking trees. All the leaves had already fallen off so it made for an especially dark and creepy looking atmosphere. I positioned my strobes the way i wanted them. Next I under exposed the background a little to give it a dark eerie look, positioned the band where I wanted them, and shot away! The fog actually turned out to be very beneficial in giving the final images more of that eerie look I was going for. Thank you mother nature!

As far as equipment goes, I was shooting with a Canon 5D Mark II and using Paul C. Buff Einstein strobes. Often times I will shoot one band member at a time and composite them together, but for this shoot I decided just to bump up the f-stop and shoot everyone together. The final product turned out pretty sharp so I was pleased that I went this route. It allow me to play with angles and not worry about shooting with a tripod. I put together two light diagrams showing my two different lighting set ups. Feel free to visit my site and check out some more of my work! Any comments or questions are welcome.

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Website |Facebook |Last Act Standing

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13 Comments

It would be funny to see the same guys when they're grandpas, earlobe holes and all..

the link to my website isn't working. It should be www.flash-light-productions.com

and neither is last act standings link

both are working now! thanks!

Curious, since the shot is close-up, wouldn't it be easier, quicker (and cheaper) to shoot the band in a studio and just add the trees in post?

I guess that's possible. I'd much rather go on location if time permits. It makes for a better experience. To me setting up the shoot, driving to it, hanging out, and having a good time are just as important as getting great images. If shooting on a white sweep and compositing the image is the only option, or the better option, I have not problem doing that. I just like spending time with people and creating a fun experience for all involved.

i agree, being in the actual environment gets your subjects more in role...

 I completely agree. If a shot is supposed to be set in a location, go to that location. Easier is a cop-out to me. You should only substitute "reality" when it either is not possible or better serves the vision.

This man speaks the truth!

Richard Cave's picture

band photo? there is nothing that says there is a band, its just four blokes stood about (nicely lit btw) they could be waiting for a bus!  lighting is awesome, just there is no narrative or context.  

cool video -- thanks for sharing :) 

 thanks man that means alot!

Great tips. What types of power packs did you use?