Songs of the Day Revisited

Damn Ugly Photography has been around for just over two years now, but the main reason it exists at all…the Song of the Day List…started way back in 2004 as a way for me to waste some time by emailing out whatever new music I happened to find to a small list of my friends. That small list grew over time until I hit over 1,000 people and my ISP’s spam filter kicked in, making it no longer possible for me to send the mass email out to the blind list. So in February of 2009 I got this place going and decided to include more and more photo-related posts. I mean, I did call it Damn Ugly Photography, right?!!

Anyway…I was reminded of the early days of The List when I drove into the city yesterday while listening to a playlist of some of my favorite pre-blog stuff from obscure Indie bands that I was typically hearing for the first time. These are songs that I still count among the favorite music I have sitting in my iTunes folder. And as some of you probably know, over the years I’ve actually gotten pretty close with a number of the artists and record labels and we’re lucky enough to have new music fall off the back of the truck well in advance of the actual release dates. Jets Overhead, Say Hi, Kate Tucker, Audrye Sessions, Johanna & the Dusty Floor, School of Seven Bells, Nadia Ackerman and many, many more have all sent leaks from the studio for us to enjoy, and just today, Ryan Karazija sent me some new cuts from his latest project, Tabula Rasa, that I’ll be getting some of it up very soon.

So today I’m gonna give y’all a nostalgic look back of some of that music…without my usual flowery comments…as a little history lesson on how far The List has come. Trust me, this will make one Hell of a great Indie playlist!

Pop Rocks

Love In A Trashcan

DOWNLOAD: Love In A Trashcan
Lazy Eye


DOWNLOAD: Reconnect
Spring And By Summer Fall

DOWNLOAD: Spring And By Summer Fall
44 Down

By Tomorrow

DOWNLOAD: By Tomorrow
Big Star


Happy Alone

DOWNLOAD: Happy Alone

Weapon Of Choice

DOWNLOAD: Weapon Of Choice
Black Fingernails, Red Wine

DOWNLOAD: Black Fingernails, Red Wine

I’ll Stay Next To You

DOWNLOAD: I’ll Stay Next To You
Shadow Knows

DOWNLOAD: Shadow Knows

Behind The Scenes At The 2011 Barron’s Roundtable PART ONE

Click on any image for Full-Size

For the fifth year in a row, I got to photograph the ten investment professionals who make up the Barron’s Roundtable to illustrate the two cover stories the magazine runs on their predictions for the World financial markets. And just as we do every year, photo editor Adrian DeLucca and I brainstormed over fine wines and French food to come up with the best way to use the extremely limited time we are given to shoot everybody for the minimum of four separate uses the magazine has. In the roughly two hours we’re alloted (we have to shoot everybody before their day-long meeting begins) we have to come up with two covers…one for January and one for the mid-year June issue…as well as double-page opening shots for both issues, and still try to get individual photos of each person that can be used in stand-alone stories. That’s ten people…two hours……four different shots!

Since I can’t talk about anything we shot for the June Mid-Year cover until it is published, you’ll all just hafta make due with half of the story until then, but here’s the story on how the January cover went down…..

Since the Roundtable members generally talk about Global financial markets, Adrian and I thought to shoot a cover image where the Roundtable members would be sitting…somewhat God-like…at a round table that was actually the Earth, but because the focus of their discussions typically center on how things will effect the North American markets, we decided it was best to concentrate on the North American continent. The first thing I had to do was come up with a globe map that was both graphic and a quick read and something I could easily morph into a table top. A bit of Googling came up with this…

…and with a bit of Photoshoppery I was able to turn it into this…

That gave me the basic shape I needed to determine the camera height & angle so that I could make a cover mockup…

Because each person was to be shot separately and combined in post into the final group shot around the table, I needed a posing table that would give me the proper curve for them to lean into so that when I positioned each person, they would be sitting or standing at the correct angle and my Photoshop blending at our gigantic Earth Table wouldn’t look fake. For the posing stand, I simply cut a curved piece of plywood, painted it blue to match the color of the globe image and screwed it into some apple boxes. Once the basic physics of what angle and height to shoot the cover was planned out, we were ready to get down to business. Since we were scheduled to begin at 8:00AM Monday morning, we spent a leisurely Sunday afternoon setting up…

Just as last year, The Roundtable meeting was taking place at The Harvard Club, so our ‘studio’ was a room with walls covered in portraits of dead, rich white guys staring down at us. They were apparently ex-Presidents of Harvard, which is probably why they called it the Presidents Room. We quickly set up out cover set…a black velvet backdrop, the blue plywood posing table, and a pretty simple lighting setup of a 20″ Profoto White Beauty Dish main light, a second Profoto Beauty Dish as a blue moon-glowy hairlight (but this one is a Silver dish with a 20 degree grid and 2 Full Blue (CTB) filters attached) and a 4′ x 6′ Chimera for an overall fill behind the camera position…

Here’s the subject’s-eye view…

…and you can see we added a fourth light…that head to the right of the camera with a 7″ reflector and a 10 degree grid…it threw a bit more light onto the subjects face, ‘cuz that beauty dish aimed from the ground-up was just a wee bit too monster-lighty. Here are the first tests…

With our basic lighting nailed down and our mockup cover taped to the tripod…

…we were ready for the parade of people that would show up the next morning. Well…as ready as you can possibly be when you have to keep four separate shots in your head where you have to composite ten people into believable groups for the final image! In that two hour shoot window! Anyway…it all came together rather nicely…..

…I’m not kidding…Oscar’s watch is worth $1 million bucks!

Making sure to cover all manner of goofy expressions ‘cuz You never know what you’re gonna hafta do when putting the group shots together…

And in no time…we were done! Now came the assembly. This was the first simple comp I did with people added around our Global Table…

After moving a few people around and swapping in a different pose for Archie MacAllaster on the far left, I erased the plywood posing tables from under their hands and this was the result…

Next came a bit of color and contrast retouching, some tweeking of the levels and curves and dodging the highlights on everyones shoulders so they separated from the background a bit better…

And finally, we added a field of stars…..

…and here is the final cover, complete with the moon that replaced the usual ‘O’ in Barron’s (I can’t remember if that was Adrian’s idea or mine, but it was a nice touch)…..

Next up in Part Two…I’ll break down the assembly and retouching of the Behind-The-Scenes two-page opener for the Roundtable story, including how I managed to convince Adrian that this was a perfect situation to pull out my Artificial Portrait technique, as well and two additional shots we put together for the subsequent two editions of Barron’s.