Music Photography Blog

by Adam Elmakias

Thursday on a Tuesday

There are a few bands that I grew listening to and it’s always a blast when I get the opportunity to work for them. One of the bands on towards the top of the list goes by the name of Thursday.

Once I am able to post the final shots I will, here is what I’ve got for now….

Anyway I caught up with them on February 24th in Milwaukee, Wisconsin while they were on the Rockstar™ Taste of Chaos tour. This shoot took place on a show day for the guys. Pretty straight forward, but just to clear up possible confusion, this means that their tour manager somehow found time to squeeze a photo shoot in between breakfast and sound check for the concert. However in this case, there was no breakfast, just wake up and go to the photo shoot.

The preparation was pretty simple. Here’s what was on my to do list:

  1. location
  2. transportation to location
  3. concepts
  4. props?
  5. lighting diagrams

1. Location: For location I ended up renting a studio space two miles from the venue.

2. Transportation: For transportation I rented one of those big ass 15 passenger vans. This proved to be all kinds of fun.

3. Concepts: I ended up basing my concept off the studio space. I rarely use the studio space as a “studio” (backdrops etc), and more as a location. Basically the shot revolved around the architecture of the studio. So concepts really meant positioning for this shoot.

4. Props: concept involved none this time around.

5. Light Diagrams: I requested images of the studio and drew up some diagrams based on its design.

Now because a band’s schedule is so tight something always switches up with these show-day-shoots last minute. All I can do is sit, wait, and cross my fingers that it doesn’t result in a cancelled shoot. In this case both the switch ups were pretty easy to handle and didn’t do any serious damage. First one came the day before, received a call from my manager informing me that the shoot had been moved from 2:00pm to 12 noon. This meant leaving my place at 6:00am instead of 8:00am, nothing a few phone calls to my assistants couldn’t solve.

So my assistants Luke and Adam met me at my place around 6:00am and we packed the van full of equipment and drove to Milwaukee, a quick 90 minutes from my place. We got there around 8:15 and loaded our genuine Paul C. Buff created gear in. Now from 8:30 to 11:45 we had time to set everything up. Here’s how it all went down…

First we set up all the lights, modifiers, stands, and accessories on the side, so that we could grab everything on the fly and set it up as quick as possible. Well my assistants got that done, I grabbed my camera and lenses and framed the shots. I’ll grab some tape and mark the position that I am shooting from for each set up, and take a few test shots. This way I can show my team the images and coordinate the light set ups with them so that they stay out of the frame.

There are a total of three different lighting set ups I had to prepare for. The first set up is the most complicated, it involved a spread out formation and was shot with a wide angle lens (Canon 17-40L). The wide angle lens brings a lot of the location/surrounding area into the shot, which limits the areas in which the lights can be hidden. Of course I could composite a few images and not worry about the lights, but personally, I never really like composite. I try to keep all my images limited to one shot.

The second set up was more tight, and shot with a telephoto lens (Canon 70-200L), making it a lot easier to hide the lights, thus easier to set up. The last of three was a less informal, feel good image. This shot involved a lot of movement and changing around, so I lit it with just one octabox to ensure that everyone could move about while being lit properly.

The first shot we set up for was the second on the list, the telephoto shot. We threw up the lights, figured out their power settings, and placed each member’s position one by one. It easiest to do this when you have at least two assistants, so that you can see where the models would overlap and how they effect the other models. Here are the images from my camera, you can see the slow progression of each guy moving to their next position.

After each position was finalized, we placed a piece of tape that told the model where to put their left and right foot, as well as which way to face. Next we figured out the power for each light, and did some fine tuning on their positions. You can see from the below images that one guy from my team would move to each location and pose, well the other would adjust lights accordingly.

After we were done, we removed the lights and placed a different color light where each light went. I also drew up a final lighting diagram and wrote down the power settings, and height of each light so that I could remember where everything went. Instead of measuring each light’s height with a ruler I just had Adam stand next to each and wrote down the lights height relative. to his (eyes, two hands above forehead, etc). Here’s the diagram, I never fancied my writing, neither did my high school teachers.

Next we set up the first shot (wide angle), this way the band would arrive and the majority of the time consuming setting up would be done. The only tape we had to place for this shot was where each member was going to stand, as the lights were already in position.

After everything was set up, we took our van and got some waters and local beer (for the band), and then picked up the guys in Thursday. The only other difficulty we ran into was that the guys were a little late getting up, so we ended up having 10 minutes less to shoot, which isn’t too big of a deal, but it makes a difference. Everything else went really smooth, drove them to the shoot, photographed them for 40 minutes, drove them back to the venue and then cleaned up the studio.

Overall the shoot went great, the guys in Thursday were very mellow and mature about everything, and very easy to work with. Easily one of the most smooth shoots to date. Some images from the shoot…

More behind the scenes images here.

The man who rented me the studio space was a great guy, he had been into the painting/photography/building sets for years. He is originally from London, and now lives in Milwaukee. I guess he used to live in Florida as well, and when I asked him why he moved here he responded – “What else can make you give up half naked women and warm weather? A pretty lady.” I definitely learned a lot from him, as he had more stories than Doctor Seuss, and explained to me how timing is everything. He had worked making sets for a variety of clients, such as Will Smith and JC Penny, and had the images to prove it. Stoked to work with him again.

After the shoot we went to the mall and got some food, Panera Bread is the best.

The show was awesome, it was great to see the guys in Pierce the Veil and Bring Me The Horizon again. Bring Me the Horizon had a signing that day, with a ridiculously long line. If you are not familiar with Bring Me the Horizon, basically their front man, Oliver, is to young scene girls and interesting boys, as Elvis was/still is to all women. I remember back on warped tour every day they would have the longest line for signings, even longer then Katy Perry.

After they were done with their signing, on their way out they saw me, grabbed me, and dragged me out to the bus. Luckily I picked up a V.I.P. pass from their Tour Manager and was able to shoot Bring Me The Horizons set from backstage, which is always perfect for crowd shots.

I love hanging out with these guys, anyone with an English accent is funny. It was a fun night of kickin’, catching up, and having a good time.

Vegan and Lee playing Fifa on the bus
Curtis and Sheep
Oliver’s tattoo

By the end of the night, we ended driving the Bring Me The Horizon crew , 11 strong, to “Fuck City” (all the guys in Misery Signals live at Andy Hurley’s House, and it’s called Fuck City) later that night. It was a tight squeeze and I am really regretting not grabbing a photo of it. Anyway, we played pool, Scrabble, and partied.

Playin’ Scrabble

The Misery Signals guys were really nice. A few of them grew up in Madison, and now live in Milwaukee, I have never really gotten a chance to meet them, definitely genuine people.

We ended up getting home around 2:00am. I think. I love people.