In 2016 I approached the folks at Girls+ Rock Ottawa about a personal series I wanted to do in partnership with them. That first series of their rock camp for girls has turned into an ongoing collaboration, where I've also photographed their women's rock camp and now have come full circle back to their 2017 girl's camp!
Each time I try and push myself to do something new. Instead of shooting portraits of the campers with their instruments this time, I decided to focus on why they came to the camp in the first place - their passion for music. Read on for the portraits, BTS, and more info on the series.
Remembering how open these kids were to diving in head first to anything fun and creative, I thought the best way to express their emotional connection to music would be to have them listen to a song of their choice using wireless headphones and photograph whatever comes out of that.
I chose to shoot them on black to completely focus on what they alone are feeling in that mental space, stripped of the outside world. I also used a longer exposure to capture their energy through movement.
Just like last year, these campers never disappoint. Whatever song they chose, whether it be by Panic! At the Disco, Alanis Morissette, from a broadway production, or even Love Shack by the B-52's, these kids left it all on the floor.
While they listened to it blaring through the Beats Solo3 Wireless headphones, we also had the song simultaneously playing in the room so my assistants and I could get into it as well while the shutter was open.
You know that saying, dance like nobody's watching? I challenge you to dance like these kids did. Not only did they not care that they were being watched, but photographed too! Their confidence and sense of self blew me away, yet again.
I used a Profoto D2 with a Softlight Reflector as the main, boomed butterfly style right above. The D2's extremely fast duration (especially for a monohead) captured each moment extremely sharp despite my long shutter speed. The wispy movement in the images intentionally came from the use of continuous light directed from the back two corners, which was powered by a Profoto Acute2 1200 pack and two heads with Zoom Reflectors using only the modelling lights.
Halfway through, I decided I wanted a pop of flash coming from the same place as the continuous light, but I wanted to leave the modelling lights on at the same time without dimming for the flash. We set up another D2 and a B1X right beside those Acute heads, pointed in the same direction to achieve this. I controlled and triggered all the flash via Air Remotes and Air USB. I have used Profoto for over 5 years now and choose them not only for their exceptional quality of light, but for their intuitive design, durability, and reliability.
I shot on a Nikon D800 with a Sigma 85mm 1.4 Art lens, tethered to CaptureOne Pro via Tether Tools. Tethering was important since I can only shoot so many frames in a 3 minute-ish song window when making exposures at about 4 seconds. I could see each image come through as I shot it, and could continue shooting accordingly by what I was seeing (ie. capture the freeze moment with more arm movement, looking in a good direction, etc.). I was not directing the kids since I wanted it to be a genuine expression of themselves, so looking for that exact moment to click the shutter and wait 4 seconds was an interesting challenge that was made more manageable by tethering. It was also fun to review the shots with the campers after each session!
A HUGE thank you again to the folks at Girls+ Rock Ottawa, the campers, and especially to my wonderful assistants Nyamulola Kambanji (who also shot all the BTS here), and Claire Guy (my awesome cousin who killed it on her first ever assisting gig, and doubled as our DJ and whiteboard handler!) Check out the whole project on my website, which also includes my series of documentary style images during the camp!
Behind the scenes