Welcome to this weeks blog post lovely people and welcome to all my new subscribers! I'm excited to finally show some new work as everything I've been working on over the past few months has been NDA'd which is why I've not posted in a little while.
So lets get into it! Over the past year I have been working on a large commercial project with Spitfire Audio in collaboration with Hans Zimmer, working with the largest ever recorded string arrangement of 344 players all recorded in the main hall at Air Lyndhurst, to create a new sample library titled Hans Zimmer Strings. If you didn't catch my previous post you can read about the recording sessions here
Spitfire Audio are a Music sample company who create world leading sample libraries used by some of the industries most honoured film and TV composers, including Hans Zimmer himself, most recently on his newest score for Dunkirk. For part of the marketing campaign for this collaborative product which was released last month I went to L.A to spend two days in Hans Zimmer's Santa Monica studio and was given the rare opportunity to photograph his unbelievably beautiful working environment.
I'd heard that Hans Zimmer's studio is nothing short of spectacular, housing one of the largest collections of equipment that I'm sure musically minded people out there would refer to as 'gear porn' and an art collection that could fill its own gallery. Straight away I took a look online and I could instantly see that most, if not all of the photography of Hans Zimmer's studio that existed where HDR, heavily processed, multiple exposure blended type of images. This is an obvious sign that it's a tricky space to photograph...
When I arrived and made my way through to the studio space I was blown away! This has got to be the nicest studio space I've had the pleasure of visiting since working within the music industry. The mood of the space was completely different to how I expected after looking at others photographs before my visit. For me the mood was the number one factor that makes Hans Zimmer's studio unique to anywhere else I have seen. Sure it's filled with incredible gear, instruments and priceless works of art, but to me instantaneously it was how Hans has used colour and light in his design to set the mood of his working space. That was the most important thing to try capture.
Wow this was a hard room to photograph! I say hard in the respect that it's not a straight forward meter for the exposure and find your composition, it's so busy and you want to try and get everything in, that finding a starting point is the problem. I settled on the above composition and with the help of Hans's Technical Engineer Chuck Choi we got the space dressed for my frame. Ok so remember before I mentioned blending exposures seemed to be the only way to get a photo in Hans's studio....? Well it definitely is and I hate doing it, but for the above image my Canon 5D MkIV just couldn't handle the dynamic range. BUT instead of using the horrible method of shooting multiple exposures for the whole scene and smashing them together in software that makes everything look like Willy Wonkers chocolate factory, I opted for a more subtle method that I had never tried out before. This method is choosing one base exposure and using plates to pick out details that could do with a boost using my Canon 600Ex-rt Speedlite hand-held, triggered by my Pocket Wizard Mini TT1 and Flex TT5 receiver. I gelled my Speedlite with a Full CTO to match the ambient tones coming from the ceiling lights. I think I ended up with 27 images all together to create this one, but it I feel that the image is as close as I could get to how the space looks with your own eyes. Below you can see each image I shot which combined create the final photo.
We were also here to film a part of the campaign video, so for day one this was one of only two photos I took as we had a pretty big scaffold rig to set up to shoot some long tracking shots hanging the camera over the sofa and moving slowly, into the side of the studio where the control desk sits. Below is another image of mine that mimics the shot we got on the film camera looking onto Hans's incredible desk space. Again this image was created by flashing in details of the composition that my camera couldn't compensate for in the base exposure. On the main screen at the centre of Hans's desk you can see the GUI software for Spitfire Audio's product that I was advertising.
Day two was all about details and capturing more intimate parts of the room after having both main wide hero shots in the bag from the day before. Hans Zimmer has an insane collection of guitars beautifully presented in and around his studio. The two above particularly caught my eye. The guitar (left) which looked as if it was straight out of Mad Max! and (Right) an Ibanez twin neck that was sitting next to the Bosendorfer piano you can see in the photo below.
I'm not a musician and have never been able to play an instrument, Wonderwall on the acoustic guitar is about as good as it gets.... But I have been surrounded by music my whole life. My father had a pretty decent taste in music and a nice little record collection which included David Bowie, Roxie Music and UB40 that now lives with me. My Mother was into Tamla Motown so I've had a good musical upbringing. But the first record I can remember being played was The Lion King Soundtrack, a Disney Vinyl that I still have to this day, which is why the image below was kind of a surreal moment. Hans's Oscar for 'Best Original Score' was perched on top a rack in the corner. His only Oscar which I have always found strange considering his portfolio of Films he's worked on but there it was, a piece of metal that symbolised in my eyes the best piece of music ever written and my childhood favourite film. There's nothing to talk about the actual photograph, it was kind of a snap shot which I wouldn't normally take. But in this instance it was more of a photo to show Mum than anything else.
Hans has definite affection for skulls, they really add to the dramatic mood of the space which consists mainly of deep reds, gold and black. Very Pirates of the Caribbean. Four lamp shades in the room are custom which I believe are made from the original skulls used as props in the film Hannibal. Below is one of such lamps that I used my black velvet to isolate the skull from the background and lamp stand. Originally the idea was that this could have been the main artwork for the product but unfortunately it didn't make the cut, but I'm still in love with the simplicity of this image. Makes for a great wallpaper!
Hans wasn't around unfortunately for the two days I spent in his studio which was a shame, but we're talking about one of the busiest composers in the world! My time to meet Hans will come soon..... Keep an eye out in the following months! I've got some great ideas for how I would love to take his portrait. There was another very special photograph that I took this day which you can see below. Not the best shot by far from my two day challenge but to my amazement there it was..... A signed and numbered limited edition framed print that I made up for Hans of a photograph I shot at Air Studios from on of his recording sessions for this product. Normally I would hope that my clients (We sent it to him without asking if He wanted it) would hang my work up on the walls, but as you can see the walls are filled with gear so just seeing that it made it all the way to L.A in one piece was amazing. Let alone it actually being displayed next to pieces by the likes of Egon Schiele and David Bailey was a little overwhelming. Thanks to Spitfire for arranging my work to end up in such a fantastic art collection.
Hans Zimmer Cellos
Digital C-Type - Fuji Crystal Archive Matte
Signed and Numbered
15% White Boarders on print
860mm x 646mm (L) Edition 5 + 1AP
COA authenticated by artist sent separately
Well thats your lot for this weeks blog post, I hope you enjoyed reading about my time spent in the studio of Hans Zimmer. If you would like to follow my work please SUBSCRIBE to my blog to receive weekly posts (something to read on the tube) comment and share would also be much appreciated.