I think social media often does more harm than good, but it isn’t all bad. Tony and I recently saw a post from singer songwriter Lizzie Weber explaining that she wanted to update her promotional photos. We know her work and are fans, so we jumped at the chance, firing off a note saying that we’d love to take a shot at it. Lizzie accepted, and we started planning for the shoot. More on that in a bit.
This opportunity came at an interesting time for us. Tony and I run Rain City Collective, a little project that focuses on the arts scene in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest. We say arts, but we’ve never felt the need to define exactly what that means. There are musicians, artists, chefs, dancers, writers, etc. doing cool things around here, and we like capturing that with photography and sometimes video.
It’s also a great way for us to network and gain visibility for paid work and editorial collaborations. Everything about cameras is expensive; they need to earn their keep. After a year of shooting concerts and events, people started approaching us for specific projects and commissioned work. That’s where things get a little confusing.
Rain City Collective is a passion project for us that focuses on telling stories about the arts community. Adding money into the mix always has the potential for muddying the waters. A lot of people learn about us through Rain City Collective and approach us through that platform. We wrestled with the idea of whether we could house the passion project and commercial services under one Rain City Collective banner.
In the end we decided there was too much potential for confusion (thanks to all the artists who helped us sort through that). We just couldn’t run the risk that someone might claim that we’re a “pay for play” entity, and that we’ll happily highlight your work if you send some cash our way. That model doesn’t interest us. We’ll keep our commercial services separate, and we’ll stay vigilant about making sure we don’t inadvertently cause confusion about the dividing line between the paid work and our Rain City Collective work.
Enough of that. Onto the fun stuff, the photoshoot with Lizzie Weber. This is a little Behind the Scenes (BTS) look at how it played out. I think with BTS features less is more, but this one will be on the more side. It’s our first one, and it allows us to show everything that went into the shoot.
Lizzie and Tony started the planning process by brainstorming ideas for the shoot. Ready for some trendy jargon? They set up a basic mood board, which is just a fancy term for looking for examples of other images that get at particular themes or ideas. Lizzie suggested shooting up in Anacortes, where she records some of her material. We loved the idea. It offered us the chance to plan and execute a day long effort on location.
Photography can be a solitary experience. It was nice throwing all the gear into the car and driving north with Tony. It’s a beautiful drive, and Tony mentioned that it was the furthest north he’s been in Washington. That’s when I realized I’d driven past the Anacortes exit. I told him that in another 30 minutes he might have been visiting southern Canada.
We got to the photoshoot location and met Lizzie. We sort of already knew her. I’ve shot a couple of her shows, and we have mutual friends. That combined with Lizzie’s friendly, easy-going personality made it easy to get right to work. Lizzie threw on some music (Laura Marling), Tony set up the gear, and the photo assistant (me) conferred with Lizzie’s assistant Luna, a four-legged sweetheart of a dog.
I’m still figuring out the role of the photo assistant. I’m sure it varies widely. Tony is a self-sufficient shooter who aims for simplicity and minimalism. I’ve mentioned before that I think I saw the moments in the past few months where he went from being a guy who was very good with a camera to a photographer and image maker. He’s working on refining the key basics of his craft – photography, lighting, posing, and concepts – before adding in additional layers of complexity and scope. That means I get to take a lot of Behind the Scenes shots, reposition some lighting, hold some modifiers, and learn.
I can’t remember how much time we spent on the interior shots. Time flew by. I think there were two or three outfit changes and three interior locations – a backdrop and two windows. We took a short break for coffee and snacks before moving to the first exterior location at Causland Memorial Park. We’re fans of the idea that you can find interesting shooting locations just about anywhere. Causland did not disappoint. Lizzie’s outdoorsy and knew the names of all the trees and flowers. I’m terrible remembering those details. Let’s just say the park had some beautiful, natural backdrops.
Lizzie saved the best for last. We drove to Washington Park, Bowman Bay, and Deception Pass. Lizzie and Tony didn’t let up. They kept chasing the shots in each location. The grand plan was to finish up at Bowman Bay for Golden Hour. Unfortunately, the clouds rolled in at the last moment and turned it into a hazy Blue Hour. We weren’t complaining, though. Mother Nature offered up an absolutely gorgeous day in the Pacific Northwest for shooting photos.
After Bowman Bay we wrapped things up. On the drive back to my car Lizzie played us her song You. Awesome. That is an added benefit of working with artists whose work you like. You can see a live version here on Youtube. She also highly recommended we stop at A’Town Bistro for a Boar Burger before getting on I5 back to Seattle. We followed her advice. A burger and truffle fries to cap a long day of shooting.