Shooting with Penny Pitchlynn

Meet Penny Pitchlynn. She's a badass. She's the Norman, OK, based musician behind LABRYS plus she's the bass player in the indie rock band BRONCHO. I also remember her Low Litas days awhile back. She reached out a few weeks ago through a buddy of mine and we finally got to work on something together. Have I mentioned I'm always down to make stuff with other creatives? 'Cause I am.

When she reached out I immediately knew I didn't want to shoot something with her playing or an interview about her music projects – there's plenty of solid stuff out there already. I did want to try and play with contrasts though. I'm always a fan of the idea of who we are vs. the person we sometimes need to be. In setting up the shoot, I sent Penny some reference images and an idea of a person being in two different worlds; Kinda like how I feel about being on LinkedIn.

This was also a bit of a shotgun blast in the dark with hopes of hitting something. "Hey, let's try a book light." "Oh I know! Let's shoot white on black and black on white!" "Man, that Vaseline on a clear flat would be cool." "What about shooting through a curved piece of glass to distort the image?" If you're up for it, here's a link to download the look book I put together for the shoot.

Penny had an interesting comment while we were shooting and trying out different techniques and ideas. She mentioned it was kinda like her time in the recording studio and recording with different microphones. There's not always one right way to do something and there's creative value in trying different approaches.

CRAZY thanks again to Cynthia Dreier for coming on again to be part of a personal project. Seriously, she's one of my favorite people to work with on set. Obviously she kills it with the hair and makeup, but more than that I trust her and the ideas she brings to keep things looking great on camera.

For wardrobe, I had Penny bring a couple different options but stuck with solid white and black. I knew I was going for a Polished vs. Rough look and wanted contrasting white-on-black and black-on-white, but wasn't set on which was which personality beforehand.

I did the whole "convert-your-bedroom-into-a-simple-studio" thing again with a white paper backdrop for one setup and a black piece of fabric for the other. I knew I wanted to feature Penny and especially her facial expressions, so I didn't try to go all dark and moody" with the lighting. Again, I used my styrofoam bust to rough in the lighting setups before having the talent sit in.

For the black background, I setup a book light to camera left using an ARRI 650 bounced off some white paper I'd taped to the wall and pushed through a roll of diffusion hanging from a C-stand. I also used a small ARRI 150 through diffusion as a backlight on camera right to help separate her from the background.

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For the white background, I'd originally planned to stay with the book light on camera left as the key, but having such a large light source made the white background too bright and distracting. Having the background brighter than Penny's face wasn't working and I didn't have a way – or the space – to cut the background spill from the book light. I swapped the lighting setup so the key light was a smaller source and coming from above. Now that the source was smaller, I was able to use a solid flag to cut even more of the spill from making its way to the white background.

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For the in-camera effects, I used a thin coat of Vaseline on a clear flat in the matte box for some shots as well as shooting through a curved lens. Shooting through the Vaseline made for softer edges and a cloudy image if you use too much. Yes, I know... I used too much of it in some of the shots and it's distracting – fight me. I also used the curved lens of a pair of plastic safety glasses held right in front of the lens to make the double image distortion. I've also tried shooting through curved glass like wine glasses and vases, but keep coming back to the smaller lenses on safety glasses. Shooting through the curved lens changes the path of the light as it gets to the image sensor.