When Indie Rock band JORDI needed a promo image to coinside with their debut album, photographer Andrew McGibbon was their first and only choice. With total creative control Andrew put them on boat and started to make magic.
“For some reason, I entered the conversation with the idea of a row boat in rough seas and they were all like “no way, we have a song about that!”. So it was pretty obvious that the idea fit from the get go and then it was just up to me to figure out how we would pull it off.” says Andrew McGibbon.
The lead singer of Jordi, Jordi van Dyk, had been a fan of Andrew’s work for some time so when it came to shooting their promo, he insisted it had to be Andrew. With a limited budget, Andrew’s condition was to have total creative control of the image.
“The great thing about focusing on a niche style in photography is that your client will end up giving you much more freedom in a job because they trust you – after all, they came to you for your style. Why would they want to stifle that?” says Andrew.
Andrew’s idea was clear right from the start. The image had to be dramatic, almost like a Turner painting. But he knew that the scene itself would be impossible to achieve on location and in only one shot. “You don’t need to be restricted by the natural or real and can create based on your imagination. There is much more room for magic.” says Andrew.
Andrew ended up playing the role as producer, art director and photographer and Jordi was happy to take his lead.
Lighting-wise, how did you reason? What kind of light did you want? What mood?
The image has three kinds of lights – the moon, the lightning and the lanterns. So the lightning I used needed to line up with those. The band members were all shot separately, on four plates. The two guys at the back were on one plate and the other three were all separate. So for each plate I had four lights acting out each light source as follows: For the lightning I wanted a hard clip (rim light) and for that I used the Magnum Reflector on a D1 monolight. The Magnum was perfect for the job, delivering hard, focused and deep light. The depth of it was useful in clipping the edge of the boat as well as the subjects without losing intensity – adding to the believability of the image.
For the moon, I used a Softbox RFi 5′ Octabox on a Pro-B Head plugged into a Pro-B3 battery pack. A little more side on to the subject than the Magnum but still clipping the subject, it helped to create a soft transition from the strong lighting clip. The octa was the perfect tool for this as its soft and shallow – very similar to the light cast by the full moon. For the lantern light I used a Beauty Dish on a Pro-B Head plugged into a Pro-B3 battery pack. Again, this was the right light to use. The light of the lantern was close to their faces and directly in front of them. The Beauty Dish is designed to be placed just like that and when used correctly, delivers a perfect combination of soft light with strength and precision.
Finally, I used a standard Zoom Reflector on a D1 monolight in the foreground to act as fill (ambient light coming from the second lantern and reflected light from the moon etc). With composites, the goal is to get your light right in camera, enabling you to create the right mood while not sacrificing the viewers willing suspension of disbelief. I knew in my mind where I needed light to fall on each of the subjects and where I would need shadows cast, so I set about shaping accordingly.
Besides Profoto lighting, Andrew used his Canon 5D II, Photoshop CS5 for the compositing and then finished off with NIK Color Efex Pro for the colour grading.
“Photoshop and NIK leave very little room for competition, as does Profoto.” says Andrew.
What was the greatest challenge with the shoot? How did you overcome it?
“There were a few notable challenges. Finding a nice big row boat was by no means easy! Jordi, the lead singer actually found it. He walked straight up to a big burly fisherman with an equally burly sounding name (I forget it but it was something like Bruno or Boris) and proclaimed that we were in need of his boat. He obviously was a kind man as we got to use it free of charged and he got his guys to take it out onto the water for us, which leads me to the second issue. I didn’t want to photoshop the water onto the edge of the boat, I wanted images of the boat actually in water, which ended up happening with little hassle but that is pretty unusual. The comp itself was a challenge – I think they always are. You never actually know if you are going to succeed until it finally starts coming together – many many many hours later.
“So all in all it was a super challenging but extremely satisfying endeavour! The band were so stoked with the results and although I didn’t get a big pay cheque, I got a sweet image for my book, a cool BTS video and the chance to write about it, which is very valuable.
“If I can leave any photographer out there reading this with some slivers of wisdom, it would be to focus on a niche as I mentioned before, and to not shy away from personal projects or low paying jobs. As long as you have creative control, they will always lead to other things!”
See more of Andrew’s work at his website