Recently I had the opportunity to go to Nashville and shoot an up and coming country singer named Hannah Bethel. I got the call and was thrilled ! I LOVE Nashville ! The people are friendly and the state is just beautiful. I also love country music. Now I have been to Nashville several times but never in the middle of the summer. Well living in Southern California my whole life I’m used to heat , but dry heat. It was sooooo hot and humid in Nashville that I couldn’t keep the sweat out of my eyes while I was shooting lol.
So the next step to this project was talking to Hannah herself and throwing around ideas for her EP cover, back of the EP as well as press kit shots. Even though I had been to Nashville before, I still don’t know the surrounding areas and locations like I know the locations here. So that meant obtaining some location shots and having them emailed to me. Once we decided on the concepts Hannah had someone go out and just take some shots with a point and shoot. So I get the shots and the locations are beautiful. We got some nice green field locations, a really cool flowing stream, a straight long road lined with wild flowers etc. My imagination started over flowing with ideas. The only problem was that even though I knew what time of day the shots were taken, the shoot was still about a month away which means the location of the sun in relation to those photos was going to be different. But that’s ok, that is something you work out when it’s time for the shoot.
I also had to use my imagination to visualize where Hannah would be placed in the shot. This is where I want to stress how important it is that what makes a good photographer is not just his or her lighting skills but that they have that sixth sense of being able to “SEE” the shot before you shoot it. That cannot be taught. Having an inner eye is a God given talent and you better be able to tap into it if you are going to be successful. But I had no idea what time each different shot would be taken and where the sun would be at that specific time. It’s not like I could just call Hannah on the phone and say I’ll be right over to do some test shots so we can figure out how we want each shot to look. So that made this whole process a bit more difficult. But again, that’s ok because I knew I was flying into Nashville a few days early so I would use those days to go with Hannah and check out each location and note where the sun is, how the sun affected her, where the shadows would fall etc.
But before going out to Music City there was much to be done. Hannah sent me photos of the clothes her stylist got for her. I needed those photos so I could put the whole scene together in my mind and also make sure that the shots were designed around her music and her personality. How did I get to her personality ? I talked to her on the phone alot of course, looked at her Facebook page that had just regular photos of her in her daily life and I spoke with her manager. I also listened to some rough cuts of the songs.
So now I arrive in Nashville and am slapped in the face with hot, sticky air lol. We started our location scouting and to my shock the locations in the photos that WERE nice and plush with green were now brown and dried out. The beautiful flowing stream was pretty much dried up and the wildflowers were pretty much non existent. Alllll the planning of the shots, all my ideas and excitement went right out the window. Well as you can imagine I was just lovin the situation at this point lol. So I did what a photographer can only do in that situation. I changed gears and scouted more. I planned my ideas based on other locations that I liked better that even though were dried out, they had other characteristics that I could use. For instance, an old abandoned barn, a long dirt road, etc. I just changed the whole theme of the shoot and adapted as best I could.
Let’s move on….. I went to each location at different times of the day over the course of a couple days. Now we get to the shoot day. Living in Los Angeles the weather never changes in the summer. It’s just hot with no clouds. Well as I was about to experience, Tennessee is not at all like that.
Big puffy white clouds roll by covering the sun every 5, 10, 15 min etc. So I set up my first shot while Hannah was in make up and hair, the one with Hannah standing in the middle of the dirt road and everything looks great. Hannah comes out of make up, I inspect every detail on her face making sure all the lines are clean and eyelashes don’t have any dried clumps of mascara ( my BIGGEST pet peeve) and tell everyone it’s time to shoot !
As I am shooting sweat is pouring down my face as I wipe it away every couple of minutes. I’m drinking water like crazy. Now the clouds begin to do their thing and cover the sun almost as if they are playing a trick on me. Covering the sun, I wait for them to roll by. They roll by I get off one frame and here they come again. This went back and forth and I just had to succumb to the fact that the clouds ruled in this part of the country lol. So eventually I made it through that shot. I got some great images.
One thing to remember is not only do I have to be aware of the clouds, the sun etc., but also I have to consider and not forget that I have a subject / Hannah in front of me that is wearing make up and is hot and needs direction. Remember, she is not a model or an actress so I am also directing her through all of this. Not easy but….. fun !
We move on to the next shots and finish the day in the studio. So this was a different kind of shoot in many ways.
1. I was shooting in another state. I had to plan everything without actually being there.
2. I was shooting a singer, not a model or actress as I am so used to shooting.
3. I was working out in the elements of a totally different kind of weather pattern.
4. The locations I had chosen and planned to use totally changed and I had to choose different locations and re plan everything.
The major point is that as professional photographers we must be able to adapt to ANYTHING. And in order to be able to adapt we must know our craft like the way we breathe. This only comes from years of practice and patience.
Below are some behind the scenes shots and finals. In all we shot five different looks.