The blog of photographer Kim Ayres

Photographing The Wave Blues Band

In my experience, bands are nearly always the best kind of people to do narrative photography shoots with. Musicians are creatives, and also performers.

With any live gig, there's an element of theatricality – thought is given not just to the music, but how the band will look on stage – no matter how tiny the gig. And even if your base player is just wearing a Metallica t-shirt – you can be certain s/he made a conscious decision to do so – it will not have been an accident.

Although you might only be playing to 2 people and a dog, in your head you're at Wembley Stadium in front of 40,000 screaming fans.

For most bands playing at a local level, just a half-decent live shot, where you can at least see most of the members (drummers usually have to put up with being obscured by the others), will be desperately yearned for. Of perhaps they can find a mate who can photograph them looking moody standing in front of a garage door.

So narrative photography is always a good excuse to think bigger, or go off on interesting tangents. Let's create something a bit more cinematic; something that looks like it could be part of a larger story.

The Wave Blues Band had managed to get hold of The Coach and Horses pub in Dumfries for the day. A consequence of the ongoing pandemic is it is no longer open every day, but landlady, Heather, was more than happy for us to use it as a set to create our photos.

I met up with the band during their rehearsals on two occasions before we did the shoot, to discuss the mood and feel they were after and bounce some ideas around.

We could have gone for a playing live look, but instead settled on an idea where in a smoke filled room, 2 people could be playing cards while the rest of the band were setting up around them.

Smoking is of course banned in pubs these days, however, I have a small smoke machine which is ideal for times like this.

I set up the lighting, and got everyone in place to do a test shot, and was quite surprised to find it didn't look too bad.

There are never any guarantees.

Every shoot I go in to I have my starting point, and from there we set about adjusting and honing until we have the best version of that shot we can manage. However, sometimes that first shot is so wildly out from what I was expecting, we have to abandon the idea all together and come up with something new on the spot.

Although that happens less and less as I become more experienced, part of me is always expecting it and is always pleasantly surprised, if not outright relieved, when those first test shots show I'm in the right ballpark.

I swapped the coloured gels over, we put a bottle of whisky on the table, then I activated the smoke machine. After that it was little more than tweaking – getting people to angle their body this way or that so the flow of line and form would draw the viewer seamlessly through the image.

After a break for lunch it was down to doing individual band member shots. Unfortunately the smoke machine gave up on me, so I was unable to create that extra layer I wanted, but in the end I don't think it really mattered.


Eric


Brian


Susi


Ken


Dave

In a sign of the times we live in, everyone did a lateral flow test earlier that morning, and even though all were negative, I kept my mask on the entire time.

This wasn't paranoia on my part, but the fact I had a stinking cold where it hurt every time I swallowed and if I coughed it was like gargling broken glass. The simple fact was, I kept my mask on so no one else would get it.

And here's a bonus shot from the day - Brian was playing while we were on a lunch break. I couldn't resist quickly moving a light into place and getting a shot of him.

If you're interested in listening to me talk about this shoot in my weekly live video podcast, Understanding Photography with Kim Ayres, then click on the video below. The general welcome, greetings and comments conclude at around 6 minutes in, and then I start talking about the photography.


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