Broken Banjo Photography

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Cathy and Reid in Their Speakeasy: Asheville, North Carolina

This is Cathy and Reid, with a Mason Jar of what is definitely not water.  In West Asheville sits one of my favorite bakery/cafes in the country, and Cathy co-owns it, along with Krista and Lewis, her business partners.  I had the pleasure of working there for a spell, making pastries and wedding cakes (yes, baking is one of my other arts/hobbies/careers...we all should have a few of those).  One day, as it turned out, Cathy hit the age of 40, and a party was thrown, in the style of a Speakeasy.  I was impressed with how many people played the part, and played it well!
I set up a simple photo booth at the Speakeasy party, using a typical setup for events like this: two small speedlights (AA battery powered, nothing fancy) at camera-right and -left, one speedlight mounted above and behind the subjects, camera-right, and a cheap clamp-on floodlight attached to one of my front light stands.  While I almost always bring a cloth backdrop, this ridged backdrop was already hanging and I liked the look!  I wanted a little drama, and wanted shadows behind the subjects, which is one reason for the floodlight; the other reason to have an always-on light, is for focusing purposes.  You never know how dark the room will be, and a flash is only light when the picture is taken! Use a cheap, $5 floodlight from the hardware store, and your images will usually be much sharper.
I have appreciated Cathy from before I actually met her; I lived for less than a year and a half in West Asheville, but many folks told me of the impact that the West End Bakery had made on the community.  Some call it revitalization; some call it economic or community development; some cry gentrification, but this downtown-away-from-downtown Asheville has seen many changes in the past decade.  I was present for the 10-year anniversary of the bakery.

Working with Cathy and spending some off-work time with her, I enjoyed her work ethic and dedication to sustainability, but the fun that she had.  I knew Reid less well, but loved spending a couple of outings with him as well, including a garden-tour-by-bike, which doubled as a progressive dinner to a few of our houses.

She asked me to take photos at her Speakeasy party, and I was very happy with how they turned out; a photographer never knows how in-character a community will be when asked to enter into an unfamiliar group of people, but from mobsters in fedoras to bonafide moonshiners (with bonafide moonshine) (don't tell anyone I  told you that), everybody rocked the look!
This is another of my favorites.  The man has such a wonderful expression, and with a tack-sharp focus on the eyes, this image is, I think, one of the best of this set.  I turned off the floodlight here to get some more dimension on their faces, allowing for soft shadows from the umbrellas near the camera.
Give people costumes (or catch them dressed up), and it takes very little direction from the photographer to get an appealing shot.  Give them a baseball bat and they are a baseball player.  Give them a boa and they are sultry; give them brimmed hat, suit, and holster, and, well...
So, obviously these images were manipulated later, on the computer.  Some photographers believe that shooters should "get it correct in the camera", especially when shooting portraits.  I do NOT believe this.  Given the 1920's era theme of this event, a full-color series of images would not fully support the intended feel.  I probably could have programed the camera to de-saturate the images, but why?  Here's the gist of my post-processing, in Adobe Lightroom on these shots, and I did the same to all of them, with maybe a few tweaks here and there: color-balance to my flashes; drop saturation to -82; lower the "blacks" to get a less-strong grey in the shadows; up the contrast; up the brightness; bump the clarity to +52 (this gives us a strong image in the contrasty areas); and the (and this is important) split-tone with some beige in the highlights and some light maroon in the shadows.  I also added a cheesy vignette, which frames the whole thing nicely.  Don't be afraid to use the tools at your disposal.
The Moonshiners.  Pumping up the "clarity" in post-processing does great things to beards.  Yes, she's got a long cigarette-holder.  Most of these were shot around f/7.1, which allowed most everything to be in focus.  Photo booths are rarely a place for f/2.8, since you get such a diversity of people, outfits, and you must be ready for large groups to wander in.  If there's any drinking, especially, you're bound to have moving targets, such as someone deciding to dance in the booth...
I love this one too!  Is this the Charleston?  You will likely see more of Ashley and Nate on a later post, as I was honored to shoot their wedding nearly a year after this!  I also love bowties!
So, here is another example of a pleasing misfire with the speedlights.  The camera-right flash fired, but the camera-left one did not (probably because it had not fully recharged).  The flash behind and above the couple, camera-right also fired.  This all resulted in more dimensional and dramatic lighting.  You can see the rear light's effect on the top of her hair, and on his shoulders.  Not intentional, not ideal, but sometimes the shot is still appealing!
Oh, so many favorites.  This is Lewis and Krista, the other owners of the Bakery, Cathy's business partners.  The light ended up looking great on the guitar, and I enjoy Krista's innocent wave atop her feathered appearance.  And where did he get that great bowler hat?

1 comment:

  1. Gosh Travis! This is wonderful to see! I love all the photos you took that night. I am honored that you were willing to be there and take such a crucial role in my celebration! In the midst of a super busy day I had to sit for a minute and go back in time with your photos - Thank You!