Friday, June 26, 2015

Four80East - "Positraction" Album Promo Art

Rob DeBoer and Tony Grace of Four80East

How lucky am I to get to work, so soon, with another pair of masters of their art? This time I'm happy to say we had a budget and luck was on our side (more on this in a sec). My clients were internationally acclaimed jazz musicians Tony Grace and Rob DeBoer of the band Four80East, "an electro-jazz collective that’s all about the groove".
Their new album "Positraction" will be available in stores really soon...July 17, 2015, so while the album art was done, they still needed promo shots of themselves with their friend's (and my friend's) old Chevy Malibu, which is featured in the album art, and which, coincidentally, I've shot before. 

After our pre-pro meeting we had a good idea of the ideal location and the guys and I set out in different directions to find it. I was about to give up for the day when I came across the perfect place...a new parking lot right on the waterfront not yet fully set up to accommodate paying customers. I could not believe my luck, and the spot was approved immediately. But would it still be empty on the day of our shoot? Although we had a budget for this project, it didn't include location permits. So, on the days leading up to, and including the morning of the shoot day, I checked repeatedly. Sure enough the lot remained empty, except for one artist sitting painting at a little table, one time.

It wasn't just the location we needed to be clear, but the weather. And the week of our shoot we seemed to have more rain storms, and heavier rain storms than I can recall in one week in June in Toronto. Miraculously the day of our shot was the one dry day of the week. We had actually wanted, ideally, blazing sun for that California sun-drenched look. Unfortunately it was a fairly hazy day, so we had to create highlights and flare with lighting. We also had the challenge of getting light into the car. But this was all easily doable because once again, as I often do, I brought more lights than I really thought we'd need, just in case.

The other big unknown was whether the car would start. Furthermore, the owner of the car, who was the only one who knew for sure how to coax the finicky engine into actually engaging, was not allowed to drive it for another few weeks because of a recent surgical procedure. So Pete (car owner) had to accompany Tony out to the car's resting place in front of a friend's house way uptown and see if they could get it going and make it successfully downtown. It was with great relief that my assistant and I pulled into the lot to see the car almost exactly where it was supposed to be. The few times we had to reposition it it started pretty much no problem. It wasn't until the end of the shoot, I think because I had my back mashed against the console to do this shot

and accidentally turned on the hazard lights, that the car actually died. Thanks to the lovely and talented Victoria Dixon who was just finishing packing up her hair and make-up kit...she jumped into action and offered her van for a jump start.

We did have a couple of mildly tense moments when another small photo team showed up, and two different sets of police arrived. The other photo shoot turned out to be just a guy and girl and a car, so they drove up, took a few shots, stopped to chat briefly about the car and took off. The first set of police pulled up in a police boat, disembarked and started walking towards us. Had anyone been doing anything wrong, like holding an open beer in a public place, for example, we could have been in trouble. Thank goodness nobody was. I didn't stop working for a second. Cedric (Swaneck, assistant extraordinaire) said hi, and they kept going right on past us to a restaurant across the street. By the time the second set of police arrived I figured they were just stopping for food, too, which it seemed they were. 

Of course, all this time we had had a 'Plan B' given the uncertainty of the car and the location and the weather. I had repurposed one of my hand-painted backdrops to match my vision for an in-studio portrait of Tony and Rob and had set it up, with lighting, back at the studio. So once we finished in the parking lot we headed back to the studio and did this:

One final note about our miracle location: when I found it I knew we had lucked into a rare opportuntiy which wouldn't exist for long (ie. a big empty, unmanned lot right on the waterfront). A week later the gate/arm was down blocking the entrance.

To see more about Four80East and their awesome new album just Google them...they are everywhere! In fact, here's the shot they posted on Wikipedia:

To see larger versions of my two favourites of these images please see my website at
And to contact me please e-mail me at

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