In 2005 Lollapalooza ceased to be a touring festival and dropped anchor in Chicago. With the inaugural year, I came out to cover the festival and was also hired by the company Sennheiser to do a backstage portrait with their product. I had never met Steve Stevens but was a huge fan of his work with Billy Idol. I was asked to arrive hours before they were suppose to hit one of the main stages. There I sat with the “hurry up and wait” mentality. I missed several of the band’s live sets during that time. Which would have been fine but no one was assisting me in any type of direction of how, where and when I was going to do the shoot. I’ll admit I was also a bit green dealing with these sort of shoots on location especially without any assistance.
So I waited and waited.
Then Steve Stevens just walks up to me at 5:25 PM and goes, “lets do this, I have five minutes before I’m going to hit the stage.”
So I scrambling to figure out the game plan with the guitarist whom keeps shooting down my ideas. No, can’t do it on stage before our set, no, I can’t grab a guitar because they are already on stage and it went on and on all the while my precious minutes are slipping away.
I had seen the touring cases and I thought maybe I can use these to get some kind of backstage vibe. I show Steve the shot and we start to figure out how to place him in the background.
Normally I focus on the subject’s eyes and if the rest of the subject matter drops out of focus, that is fine. However, in this case the product is equally important. The Sennheiser product in mind was a little square wireless guitar transmitter the size of a wallet. Not the most visually exciting thing to hold in your hands. I realized quickly as the clock kept ticking down, I need both his body language and my composition to bring the energy needed to pull this photo off.
Steven started doing a few poses but to be honest, they just weren’t doing it for me. He was trying but I felt there was still something missing.
Missing was showcasing the product, it was getting lost in a already cluttered background. Bring the product to the foreground was the obvious way to handle it. Okay, starting to come together but need to put his head up.
Okay, I have now spent a minute and a half figuring out the composition and the next hurdle presents it’s self. How do I get both Steve and the product in sharp focus without losing the dynamic of the perspective I just created?
Either from pure arrogance, ignorance or a little both, I came to only one conclusion… shoot the shot twice, once with the hands in focus…
and then one with the focus on Steve and figure it out in post!
Which is exactly what I did.
We shook hands, he walked onto the stage. I proceeded to shoot most of the show from the side stage as the rain fell down.
As I was walking to the next stage, a golf cart goes flying by me, it’s Steve on the back, he sees me and he goes, “are we all good” and not knowing I just gave the thumbs up and hoped for the best.
I came home and I was surprised how easy it was to merge the two images. The main shot is Steve Stevens with the second focusing on the product, his hands and some of his arm. I never told Sennheiser for the fear they might be able to see through my Photoshop skills. But all these years later, I think I nailed it. Especially for a shoot that I did in three minutes!