At the end of June The Thin Air gave me a great assignment to photograph Joseph Mount of Metronomy. I'm a big fan of theirs and photographed them live on the main stage at Longitude last year. They do that thing for me that LCD Soundsystem used to do every time I'd see them live, they'd make me giddy with happiness. I don't know what it is but it's a rare thing for me to get at every show by one band, even with those who are my absolute favourites.
Joe was in Dublin for the bones of a day to promote the release of their new album, Summer 08, jetting in early that morning for a day of interviews before taking off again that night for more promo in Paris. We had a half hour slot with him, meeting up in the Dean Hotel in Dublin city centre. Myself and my Thin Air colleague, Eoghain, agreed to split it as 20 minutes interview, 10 minutes photoshoot. This gave me quite a tight slot, especially when I did not know what I had to work with, where would be best to do the shoot in the location or how busy it would be with people, given the time of day it was happening.
At the venue I decided upon using the smoking area on the ground floor as it had fairy lights on one wall, a tiny bit of natural light and a fireplace with multi-coloured glass and fire logs behind it. The door to the smoking area is so close to the bar that you'd be forgiven for mistaking it for a staff door, which was to my advantage as it was empty inside, save for a guy on a video conference call on his laptop that left minutes before the shoot.
I tested the natural light with my camera and tried my pocket wizards with the flash, using Warner's very helpful rep as a stand in model, to see how it looked in the room. Ideally I would have brought a bigger set up (tripod & a soft-box for better portrait lighting) but I sacrificed bringing too much for fear of over complicating things within the time constraints. To get the natural light in the room I had to use a higher ISO than I would have preferred, combined with a slower shutter speed.
Joe was taller than I expected. The fairy lights would have made a nice backdrop for a straight on portrait but they were not high up enough on the wall to accommodate the look I wanted, so I asked Joe to sit on a chair so I could feature them in the background. The first thing I noticed at this point was that he looked very tired. This was emphasised more as I looked at the previews on the camera display. This was completely understandable given all the press he had been doing. To combat this I asked him to look slightly off camera, over my shoulder, up at lights on the ceiling or through a window depending on where I stood him for the shot. I used photoshop afterwards to help ease things around the eyes. I did three quick set ups with him.
- As described above.
- I stood him in a position where the one little gap in the wall that let in natural light, and cigarette smoke out, so I could use it to light him while again keeping the fairy lights behind him. This is the main shot used for the feature.
- In front of the fireplace, making use of the lights overhead and the colours behind him. This proved tricky in not trying to catch myself in the mirror's reflection, particularly in shots where I tried using off camera flash.
I was told that if I needed the extra few minutes that I could continue but I chose not to keep him any longer as he still had more interviews straight away, and a radio show to go present on TXFM before hitting the airport, so I decided to stick with my allotted time. He was great to deal with, I chatted briefly with him in between shots about his visits to Ireland and such. As we were saying our goodbyes I quickly remembered that I meant to ask for a quick photo with him. I asked this of him & frustratingly said "Can I get a selfie?" Nooooo!!! Why?? I hate that word. He graciously obliged and I took a quick snap on my phone and thanked him for his time.