This was a fun trip with my friend Micah and his band called Sing Love...I was asked to come along and document the trip as well as shoot video of their live album recording.
This post will focus on the photos I took on the trip, and when the videos are done I'll share another post about the video side.
It was a fun little taste of the touring band experience because Sing Love has a 1967 tour bus that they drive for road trips, and that's what we took up to Michigan. The event is called Ice Camp because it's held at Miracle Camp in the middle of winter, and this particular weekend was a gathering of all the students of all of Northview Church's campuses, which along with the leaders made for about 400 people.
These shots were with a Nikon D750 and a Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8. The second one is a little blurry but I loved how the passing semi made it look like we were time traveling, so I kept it.
Sing Love is an unusual band because it has a big pool of members, and most of the members are ages 14 to 19.
Micah has developed a system of developing young musicians and raising up worship leaders to go out and serve the church with their gifts, and it's really neat to witness and be a part of. These young students are more talented at 15 than I was at 22, and they're just getting started! Several of them are into not only music but photography and videography, so we had a lot to talk about all weekend.
We stopped to get gas on our way out of town and as I stepped off the bus I looked across the lot and spotted a lighting situation that I always keep my eye out for after it rains...I love when warm neon colors land on the ground next to cool colors. I'd been talking with Hayden about photography anyways, so I grabbed my 85mm f/1.8 and asked him to come along so I could take some portraits.
I never thought I'd take cool photos at a gas station but I really like how these turned out.
On the puddle reflection one I think the focus is off because I'd focused on real Hayden instead of puddle Hayden....I should have focus on him through the puddle. Note for next time.
I brought along a small prism to experiment with, and I got some cool results on my first couple shots of Logan. The prism is a simple, cheap tool to add some really cool and unpredictable effects to an image.
After we got going I tried using the prism with a flash and got one cool shot but scared the heck out of everyone in the front area of the bus so I decided not to experiment anymore.
One thing I learned from the weekend was that the prism doesn't work on wider focal lengths because you can see the prism itself in the frame...seems to be best used at 50mm or longer.
We got there late and unloaded AV system and instruments from the trailer and went to bed around 1 am. The next morning all the pinkness forced me to force Micah to let me take photos of him.
After a morning of rehearsing, we drove into town to get lunch. It was a pretty drive that for some reason seemed prettier just because I knew we were in Michigan instead of Indiana.
When we came back I got the prism back out and took some shots of the band as they rehearsed...it can't turn a bad photo into a good one, but it can make a good photo more interesting.
They had a session with the students and leaders before their dress rehearsal started, which turned out to be the only session I got some photos of because I was filming on the rest of them. It was a fun and energetic atmosphere, and it was neat to see so many students engaged with the music.
It began to snow during this session.
This was a pretty magical discovery that I made after slipping out a side door after shooting in a stuffy, packed room. From one moment to the next I was suddenly in the exact opposite situation--standing peacefully out in a refreshingly cold night all by myself. I stood there for a moment taking it in, and that moment was one of my highlights from the weekend.
I went inside and Jonah asked if I would take his portrait outside, which I was happy to oblige because I hadn't gotten a portrait of him yet and because I knew the snow made for a unique creative opportunity. With all the streetlights casting shadows in different directions, I had to have him look up toward a light to get his face lit in a way that was flattering.
During the break after that session ended I experimented with the spot right outside the auditorium by taking some shots of Logan, and when those turned out well I went back in and invited anyone else who wanted portraits to join me outside.
It was a challenging but fun setting...again, it was hard to get good light coverage on their faces using only the streetlights because there were different lights coming from different directions. I tried a lot of things that didn't work but ended up with a couple sharp, reasonably-well-lit shots of each person.
A couple things I learned the hard way:
1) This was more of something I was reminded, but most decent shots look great on your camera screen or on your phone...but it doesn't actually mean they're completely in focus.
It wasn't until I got home and blew these up on my iMac that I realized that I nailed the focus in very few of them. I think I may have gotten a little hasty with back-button focusing and re-composing instead of moving the focus dot each time to make sure it was right on their eye right before I hit the shutter.
2) Apparently RAW files have kind of a white balance limit!
All these shots were super orange outside and as the white balance was fluctuating I decided to just choose a white balance mode so they'd be consistent, thinking I could completely fix it in post. I was wrong because the colors were so orange that even when I slid the white balance slider all the way to the left in Lightroom the photos were still a little too orange. I should have dialed in the white balance manually with the Kelvin option on my camera. Instead I flipped through a couple presets and chose one that seemed less orange than the others. So I had to dial in more red on the tint in post to try to cancel out the greeny-orange color from the orange street lights, and I never was quite able to get the white balance right on some of the shots. Lesson learned!
During one of the sessions I stepped outside for a bit and then looked back and saw Kent, the high school student pastor, looking like he was posing for a fashion shoot. The students got a kick out of seeing this shot of him wearing shorts with boots in the snow. It's somehow made funnier by the fact Kent does a great job leading the student ministry, providing substance and intentionality while still being fun and easy-going.
The next day was the last day of camp, and it was a beautiful morning.
There was this really neat tunnel that ran underneath the road separating the two sides of the camp so that campers could cross safely at will, and when we were waiting to leave I took Logan over there and got a few more shots right before we left. Such a cool spot!
One shot inspired me to make a movie poster for Logan on the way home, with a movie title that some of us came up with to be funny.
We got the trailer and bus loaded up and began to head home. At this point we were all pretty well-rested and relieved to have no further responsibilities for the weekend so it was a pretty fun and light-hearted ride back.
The Ugly Location Challenge.
I love trying to make a beautiful shot in a place that isn't beautiful, and I got my chance on the toilet of a moving tour bus. Hayden was sitting on the (closed) toilet hanging out back by the bunks and I found that the light was surprisingly soft. I went and grabbed my camera and switched to a 50mm and came back and took a few portraits. The quality of the shots amused us greatly because we all know they were taken in a bathroom.
From almost the same spot that I took Hayden's photo I could see that some soft light was coming from the front of the bus to the bunk where Abrielle was hanging out, and when I asked her to pose for a picture she jokingly went into a pose that actually translated really well. The focus was really tough because I was at 1.4 on a bumpy bus, but a couple of the shots came out great.
The bus has these hooks for black curtains to go around the front to protect it from heat when it's sitting in the sun all day, so I got those out and blocked out the side windows, leaving only the window and the driver windshield open to light. The last photo in this set was shot against one of those black curtains in the front of the bus, and I was pleased with how that one came out also.
I really don't remember why Hayden was blowing up this Twizzlers bag; I just remember thinking that seeing him doing that in the bathroom was a perfect "tour bus shenanigans" photo, so I went and grabbed the 24-70 and came back to get this shot.
We finally arrived back at Northview in Carmel late Sunday afternoon and got everything unloaded. It was a great little trip for me, a fun outing with fun people...and it ended the way I want all trips to end, with me going back to my home to be with my wife and my daughter, who I'd missed very much.