When I got the call from Alon Nechushtan I knew it was gonna be another "gorilla style" photography challenge. Alon is a jazz pianist and this particular shoot he needed himself photographed with his quartet. However here's the parameters of the shoot.
1. Has to be done close to the Harmonie Club
See Alon wanted the photo to done outside. Why? Because the Harmonie Club was not going to allow him to take the photograph in the event space. Google Maps street view is great for location scouting. Alon suggested we could go to Central Park but we quickly ruled that out because of the time constraint. In Google Maps I look directly across the street from the Harmonie Club to notice this beautiful iron gate for the Metropolitan Club. Perfect it's not just some plain wall. The gate is ornate. Behind the gate is a large courtyard and the classic building architecture that will assist with the depth of the shot.
2. We only have 15 mins to take the picture.
The time was 5:15pm of course at the height of rush hour. The sidewalk is a river of pedestrians and the street is congested with cars and buses. All of which are honking their horn at some point, typical in New York. Most of the band had arrived early and were ready. We had congregated off to the side and not on the property of the Metropolitan Club. That still raised the suspicions of the guard / doorman who kept poking his head out of the other gated entrance to see what this collective of guys dressed in black were up to. Still waiting on the drummer who apparently was stuck in traffic just a couple of blocks away. He can't just get out of the cab and walk either he has his entire drum kit with him for the gig. So we wait.
The musicians reminisced about their busking days on the streets of New York. They laughed as they swapped their stories. It was intriguing listening to the saxophonist state that that's how he literally earned his rent money.
At 5:45 the musicians need to be inside the venue to set up for the event. Finally at 5:35 the drummer arrives. I quickly go over again with the quartet their positions. 5:36 places everybody!!!!
It's GO time. I begin to shoot between the commuters as they walk by I was actually impressed that some NY'ers actually walked around or even stopped to not interrupt our shoot. In addition the buses / traffic were almost grazing my back I could feel the intensity of rush hour. The width of the sidewalk was as far as I can get back from the jazz musicians. Even with my 24mm ƒ2.8 it felt tight to compose the shot to incorporate the detail of the iron gate. Using a Nikon SB900 flash a on light stand fired remotely with Pocket Wizards I banged out only 26 shots of the band members in various situations. There is no time to test lighting while the subjects are in place. The key is getting the correct lighting ratio between ambient and strobe. So just before I begin to shoot I take one ambient shot of the scene then adjust my strobe to be 1.3 stops less than my camera's ƒ stop. I want the shot to have a natural blend between artificial and daylight. After 4 minutes I knew I had the shot. The musicians pack up cross the street, they are on time to set up for the gig. Mission accomplished!