TOMMY SMITH AND THE BBC SCOTTISH SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA:
THE PROMO SHOOT & Jazzwise Cover
PHOTOGRAPHY AND TEXT BY DEREK CLARK
This final part of Tommy Smith's Modern Jacobite CD shoot was a straight ahead portrait gig to produce pictures for promotional use. I used a Westcott Apollo Octa with a Yongnou 560 IV for the main light and a smaller inexpensive Octa (from Amazon) with another 560 IV for the fill. A 12' roll of white seamless was used for the background and a large piece of tuffened glass for a reflection on the floor.
This shoot was mainly for promotional pictures, but at that point it could have yielded something for the CD cover if the castle shoot hadn't worked out. I was using two X-T1’s, but ended up shooting mostly with one body and the 16-55mm f2.8. I have two 560TX wireless transmitters for the Yongnuo flashes (one for each body), but I have to make sure I adjust power settings on both units simultaneously, so it makes sense using the zoom and shooting mostly with one camera.
Peter Johnston (tailor) of Edinburgh had made a suit for Tommy, the same one used for the castle shoot, so it made sense to use it for the promo stuff too. The suit is grey, very James Bond (Daniel Craig era) and unbelievably well made.
Tommy has been the subject of countless photo shots over the years, which can be both good and bad. He knows how to pose for sure, but how do you get something different? I shot with two lights for a while, letting the background fall to a mid grey and looking a little more interesting than white seamless. We ran through a series of poses and then Tommy lifted the sax over his shoulder and pretended to throw it. Maybe the shoot was taking longer than expected, or he was fed up being blinded with flash guns, but I'm glad he didn't actually through it at me...Selmer mkVI saxophones are expensive and getting rare :o)
Shooting with one light on Tommy and another one facing my lens at 45° gave me some interesting bubbles in the pictures. I'd love to say this was intentional and pre-planned, but I had moved one of the light stands to the side and forgot to switch the flash off on the commander. But I like the effect and I will definitely use it again on a future shoot.
I added a couple of lights facing the background to blow it to pure white and shot a few pictures of Tommy in various poses. Then we carried in a leather Chesterfield chair to use as a prop. I moved the chair into position and asked tommy to sit down, but when he did, he had brought a tiny cup. He actually had a few of these, one of which his teacher had given him many years before. Again, it seemed to work as a prop, so why not.
Jazzwise magazine wanted to do an article on Modern Jacobite and seemed to take a liking to this picture (above) straight off. I wasn't sure if they would use one of my pictures on the cover or send one of their own photographers to shoot it, but I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the final cover on the Jazzwise website just before it went on sale. A good selection of the pictures were also used inside the magazine and for a full page add for the CD too.
Modern Jacobite has been a great project that has spanned three styles of photography. From the first session at rehearsals with Tommy and The BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, shooting old school documentary pictures and listening to this amazing music as though it was my own personal soundtrack.
Then an outdoor location shoot with a mixture of flash and ambient light. A freezing cold day, but one that thankfully produced the goods.
And finally a studio shoot using 100% controlled lighting. It's good to specialise, but it definitely pays to be proficient in various styles of photography.
When I look back on this project, I have a thought that keeps running through my mind. I wish I had allowed myself to take in more of the performance on that first day, and I wish I could go back and shoot for one more day with the orchestra, knowing that I had enough shots already in the bag.
As Bill Murray said in an interview with Charlie Rose " I'd like to be more consistently here.....I‘d just like to really see how long I could last at being really here...really in it...really alive, in the moment!"