Small Town Knife Fight

Small Town Knife Fight Playing Pool

Small Town Knife Fight Playing Pool

No, not another story about living in the murder capital of Canada. Last weekend I had the pleasure of doing a promotional photo shoot for Edmonton trio Small Town Knife Fight.

The band play an uptempo instrumental rock that keep the foot a tappin’ and the beer going down easy. There are listening samples available on their official website, but I know they’ve recorded new stuff with Sound Engineer Jesse Luce that’s slated to be released later this month so You might want to wait a bit to officially let your ears ooh and ahh! For those in the Edmonton area, they have a gig coming up at Brixx on August 19, 2011 so go have a listen.

My connection to the band is through their Ewi/Bass player Sam Toms who also happens to be the current Web Programmer at Studio Post and future Civil Engineer for a city you just might fear to live in.

I met up with rest of the trio, James Connor (guitar) and Ethan Markwart (drums), at their rehearsal space – a Millwoods bungalow not far from where I grew up. A romantic might call the room intimate with subtle mood lighting. A skeptic could gripe that it’s too small with lousy light. A realist would say it’s a bungalow basement; good thing the Nikon D7000 has excellent high ISO options. As for me, I was grateful that the guys had spent five hours cleaning the space in preparation for my arrival!

James Connor of Small Town Knife Fight

James Connor of Small Town Knife Fight

Ethan Markwart of Small Town Knife Fight

Ethan Markwart of Small Town Knife Fight

Sam Toms of Small Town Knife Fight

Sam Toms of Small Town Knife Fight

Small Town Fish Eye

Small Town Knife Fight Fish Eye

Fisheye Jam Session

Fisheye Jam Session

Although I brought all my camera gear, I knew early on that my options would be limited to the 18mm end of my 18-105mm lens and my 1.8f 35mm with Fish Eye adapter to get full band shots. I set up an SB 600 strobe as a slave flash and took out my 48 inch 5-in-1 reflector to help with the lighting I also put on a Gary Fong Collapsible Lightsphere to diffuse the light.

In addition to the limited space to set up the lights, I wanted to preserve the intimacy of the location so toned down the flash power which meant I had to set the ISO at between 1600 and 6400. After listening to a recent interview with Street Photographer Eric Kim I’ve warmed up to the idea of interpreting High ISO noise as grain and treating it as an artistic statement rather than a technical limitation. I tried a few exposures at H1 and H2, but even the DSLR’s LCD showed more “grain” than my artsy fartsy standards would allow.

The musicians were good enough to get out of their usual positions and move into a tighter group and allow me to get real close with the fisheye and show an over the top view of their performance. I’ve done a fare bit of post processing (more later) to punch up the highlights and push back the shadows, but hindsight tells me I should’ve set up some small over head lights to add a little “ping” to the cymbals and other metallic surfaces.

 

Small Town Sell Out?

Small Town Sell Out?

Shooting pool in BW

Shooting pool in BW

 
After the jam we moved over to the band’s usual post-rehearsal venue, Danny Hacksaw’s Pub & Grub. The draw was free pool on Sunday and a cold beer, but the bar also offered me wider shooting angles and light spilling in from the wall to wall windows. We kept things pretty casual to start with me switching between my 70-300mm lens and Lensbaby Composer.

We ended the session with some formal posed shots and me locked to the tripod again using the fisheye and wide angle to get some group shots with eclectic bar ambiance. I decided to go tripod mostly to give an interesting slideshow option for their website or videos. The content of the shot would change, but the framing wouldn’t.

Small Town Knife Fight Fish Eye Pool

James Connor, Ethan Markwart and Sam Toms of Small Town Knife Fight

The next step has proved to be the most time consuming; post processing. I fell in love with the HDR technique discussed in an earlier post and also wanted to amp the saturation on the photographs. Small Town Knife Fight, despite the name, have a hard rocking upbeat sound that remind me a bit of the surf guitar sound from the early sixties. Thinking about that sound combined with the retro look at the bar brought to mind the creamy saturated color on album art from that era.

Even though it’s much more time-consuming I’m finding the HDR technique gives me much more control to manipulate the color correction and get the look I want. Most of shots have also benefited from a final pass through PhotoShop featuring Curves adjustments, selective dodging and burning, painting out unwelcome artifacts and cropping.

All in all it was a great Sunday and I’m happy with the selection of photos I’ve made. Even better would be if you like the pictures enough to check out the band and help make them go huge!

 

About Chris Wulff

I like to make pictures. Sometimes they move across the screen, sometimes they move you. I draw with fire on wood, with my finger on a phone, with a keyboard and fancy filters and sometimes even with a pencil on paper. I use a camera to capture what I see and my imagination to capture what I can't see.

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