I'm currently in the final throws of building a brand new photographic library / image resource for the newly independent Musical Futures. I've visited a diverse variety of schools that champion the initiative during the past few weeks and a number of sneaky 'me in action' shots have emerged. I thought it fun to show you my exact camera view (seen below) at the time @peterromhany took this shot of me above > and no, I'm not trying to support that wall.
The new photographs will serve many visual needs from populating a brand new Musical Futures website (currently being built by the lovely Cog Design posse) to usage within its various social media commitments and a wide variety of printed reproduction.
For this type of brief I like to 'formalise' the fly-on-the-wall shots a little, so I allow the pupils to settle into their lesson and then seek out vignettes to shoot, as staging them nearly always look disingenuous or 'advertorial' looking - looks not appropriate for such progressive pedagogical methodology that Musical Futures excels in.
Once pupils get going, I'll look around each scene for visual distractions (such as the yellow chair pictured above) and move them out the way to further focus the viewer to the pupil(s) activity and engagement. Once my frame is set, I'll wait for the appropriate facial expression, action or change in body language before firing the shutter. Taking this compositional approach also allows me time to asses the frame's components too, so their interplay with subject focus allows for more flexible layouts for designers. For example, including the negative space / grey wall panel in the top left of the image below allows for text or logo overlays.
Morpeth School in Bethnal Green, London, boasts a truly state of the art music department with multiple, large practice rooms, recording studios, stages and a huge range of instruments but these spaces still suffer from poor light quality. Schools nearly always employ an odd mix of localised (read hotspots) tungsten and fluorescent lighting which not only presents muddy colour temperature but also low lux levels which restricts the optimum use of aperture, shutter speed and sober ISO.
To help me cut through the light pollution, I put up a couple of Profoto B1s, one with Profoto's trusty Zoom Reflector and the other with a Zoom Reflector + 10º grid. Highly portable, I position the non-gridded Zoom B1 high up and facing one of the room's corners, with the resulting reflected light being super soft with the whole room acting as a giant soft box. I'll then move the gridded Zoom light around to highlight a pupil's face or torso and add a little more shape, contrast and 'punch' to the frame.
Below is my exact camera view. I look forward to sharing more images from this latest round of photoshoots for Musical Futures in the very near future.
Keen eye'd viewers will spot me shooting with my Phase One IQ250 and may cry that the camera system is not as good at rendering high ISO as a modern Canon, Nikon or Fuji alternatives. On paper this may hold some truth but shooting in the real world, I rarely ever shoot above 1600 ISO anyway as the blacks and micro contrast shift too much for me. I also use a Canon 5D3 and even with that great sensor, I generally keep the ISOs low and rather augment the light properly with considered lighting instead of just pumping up silly ISOs, adding a tonne of grain and throwing other digital glitter at the file (or convert to black & white to hide a multitude of artefact sin).
Furthermore, when shooting up at 1600 ISO I find that the Phase One simply offers far superior skin tone straight out of the camera. Any visible noise is 'nice' or more natural looking than the 35mms and with true 16 bit colour + 14 stop latitude, those blacks are tight and silky smooth (assuming one is exposing well at point of capture). Throw in a range of insanely sharp Schneider Kreuznach leaf shutter lenses and the sweetest relationship of sensor size (read huge and pixels that can breathe) and depth of field and I'll happily shoot with the Phase One on documentary assignments like this any day of the week. I've left the metadata on the file above if you would like to peek.
To sample a little more of my work with Phase One IQ250, take a look at Welcome To The Quiet Zone shot with natural, available light only / this series for ISM and this series called Bunad > both of which were shot with a mix of natural light and multiple studio lights & modifiers.
Owing a Phase One is not as daunting as photographers think. If you would like to discuss the Phase One IQ range in more detail, don't bother with email, just pick up the phone and speak to Steve Martin at Teamwork Photo & Digital in central London. Steve is super knowledgeable, resourceful and offers levels of after sales & support above and well beyond what's required from retail. The rest of the mob at Teamwork aren't too shoddy either...😎 No sponsorship or arrangements with Teamwork, just feeling compelled to mention.