In August of last year I started work with Ohio-based musician Logan Gabriel, creating a logo and artwork for his first EP. Although the EP was only released recently, the project was concluded in October last year – this blog post will take a look at the process involved.
Logan wanted the cover to capture a moment, specifically he wanted it to be an abstract representation of an epiphany – that colourful click in your head that comes with the birth of a fresh idea. We spoke about Henri Cartier Bresson’s ‘Decisive Moment’, and after looking at and experimenting with a variety of ideas I came across this TED talk and showed it to Logan – we both agreed that it was the perfect direction to take things.
I started by doing a test shoot, confirming that I had the technical know-how to capture such high-speed photography. My housemate helped me make some little dough-balls in place of coloured sand, I poured them over my speaker and blasted out some extremely loud bassey tunes.
It wasn’t looking too fantastic, but at least they were frozen in time. It was intentionally shot at a very open aperture of f/2.8 to give it some real depth. I grabbed some salt to test some much more fine particles.
Now this was beginning to look much more exciting. I ordered some coloured sand – blue, purple and teal was a colour scheme which Logan seemed to be into – and I sent some initial mock-ups over (the first one features the logo, made prior to the album cover).
Whilst waiting for the sand to arrive, Logan and I agreed that it would be pretty cool if we launched the sand using some of Logan’s tunes, so I had him produce a short piece for me to use – it consisted of both trebley bits, bassey bits and some bassey AND trebley bits, which allowed the shoot to have a lot of variety in the pictures produced.
Once the sand hand arrived, I got my bedroom set-up going again and prepared to blast sand all over the place.
Unfortunately I never got a picture of the initial set-up, but here’s the aftermath. This is probably a good time to describe the setup and the technical details. The camera was just off to the left of this image on a tripod. I was shooting with a Nikon D5100 with a 50mm prime f/1.4 lens. The coiled wire is connecting the camera to my flash on a tiny tripod just out of frame to the right. The speaker is that lovely thing in the middle with a bin bag taped over it. To help direct the light, the flash had a bridge of black card connecting it to the speaker (not pictured). It was sort of a box-tunnel, so that the light wouldn’t splash out all over the room – we needed everything but the sand to be black. The lights were turned off, and the laptop’s brightness taken right down. This is how you capture such fast shots – pitch-black room, fire the flash. You don’t need complex, expensive or advanced equipment to get some beautiful shots. You do need to piss your neighbours off with a couple hours of extremely loud bassey tunes at night time though.
In the final shoot, I actually shot at f/10 rather than f/2.8 which is the lens’ sweet spot. f/10 was used because the images were much more stunning when all of the sand was sharp in the frame. To give it that sense of depth, I directed the flash towards the front half of the sand-‘splosions, so that further sand was darker. Here are some selected shots out of the 900 photos produced:
Satisfied with the shoot, I produced some mock-ups, shown below.
And check out these close-ups, they’re pretty sweet.
Logan wasn’t too keen on the mirrored sand formations that you can see in some of the shots – the very artificial feel it gave went against what his music represents, which I feel is a very valid and honest criticism. Although visually I felt they were the best approach, we agreed that to stay true to the music it should be avoided. After some more development, we came to the album covers below.
We went with the lower-case, modest but elegant choice of type using Neutraface, a lovely typeface by House Industries. Again, this was to reflect Logan’s music. The final cover was chosen, and the project was concluded.
It was great working with Logan – he’s a very honest and passionate artist, and I really respect the care that he puts into his work and likes to see in other’s work. It’s always nice to work with a client who wants things done right.
With that said, I’ll put an end to this post and leave you with a couple detail-shots of the cover. Also again, if you haven’t already, give the ‘moments’ EP a listen here, where you can download it for free too.
Thanks for reading.