Shooting the Blues: Portrait Session with Jill Newman at Gas Works Park


A few weeks ago, I had a wonderful photo session with blues guitarist Jill Newman of Vancouver, B.C.

She was looking for different poses and backgrounds that would differentiate her from the typical “standing between railroad tracks.” These were for her upcoming album and posters for venues she’ll be playing at.

Blues Guitarist Jill Newman:

Blues guitarist Jill Newman for her new album at Gasworks Park in Seattle, Wash., on Saturday afternoon Feb. 1, 2014.

Blues guitarist Jill Newman for her new album at Gasworks Park in Seattle, Wash., on Saturday afternoon Feb. 1, 2014. (© Paul Conrad/Paul Conrad Photography)

A week before the shoot, I went with my wife Heidi to meet her at the Seaside Bakery Café in Blaine, Wash. Jill and Heidi began talking and as they did, I could see the Ideas begin churning in Heidi’s brain She came up with a great plan that Jill agreed to.

Jill was looking for something industrial and unique. Heidi recommended Gas Works Park in Seattle. It was open, had plenty of structures to shoot around, and was an industrial look she was looking for.

Getting Comfortable

Blues guitarist Jill Newman for her new album at Gasworks Park in Seattle, Wash., on Saturday afternoon Feb. 1, 2014.

Blues guitarist Jill Newman for her new album at Gasworks Park in Seattle, Wash., on Saturday afternoon Feb. 1, 2014. (© Paul Conrad/Paul Conrad Photography)

The following Saturday, Jill and her partner Jordan, who writes the blog “Rain In Blaine: Tales of the Perpetually Soggy,” picked me up for the drive down to Seattle. On the way, I began texting my friend Earnie Glazener.

Fortunately he had the day off and wanted to come and help. Great idea. He said he’d bring some gear along so if I needed it, we’d have it.

Colorful Pipes

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - Blues guitarist Jill Newman for her new album at Gasworks Park in Seattle, Wash., on Saturday afternoon Feb. 1, 2014.

Blues guitarist Jill Newman for her new album at Gasworks Park in Seattle, Wash., on Saturday afternoon Feb. 1, 2014. (© Paul Conrad/Paul Conrad Photography)

We met him in the parking lot to plan the shoot. Earnie brought his Pocket Wizard FlexTT5 remotes, reflectors, and his own camera gear.

We planned our shoot to begin in a set of concrete arches, go inside the main building, then end near the large outdoor structures. Basically, we made a big circle.

Inside the main building:

Blues guitarist Jill Newman for her new album at Gasworks Park in Seattle, Wash., on Saturday afternoon Feb. 1, 2014. (© Paul Conrad/Paul Conrad Photography), bellingham portrait photography, bellingham wedding photography

Blues guitarist Jill Newman for her new album at Gasworks Park in Seattle, Wash., on Saturday afternoon Feb. 1, 2014. (© Paul Conrad/Paul Conrad Photography)

It took a bit to feel comfortable shooting her. About halfway through the concrete structure, she and I began to loosen up. Earnie showed up about this time and used his reflector to fill in the shadow areas.

With Jordan playing security guarding the extra gear, we continued shooting and moved to the outside of the main building. There were some pretty colorful pipes that are on the outside which I used as a background.

Taking a Breather

Blues guitarist Jill Newman for her new album at Gasworks Park in Seattle, Wash., on Saturday afternoon Feb. 1, 2014. (© Paul Conrad/Paul Conrad Photography) bellingham portrait photography, bellingham wedding photography

Blues guitarist Jill Newman for her new album at Gasworks Park in Seattle, Wash., on Saturday afternoon Feb. 1, 2014. (© Paul Conrad/Paul Conrad Photography)

After that, we moved to the inside of the main building with all the old pipes and equipment. Using my SB800 and SB80 on remotes, I lit Jill with one strobe and Earnie held the reflector. We found a pair of old tanks and I positioned her between them.

With the Sun streaming into the main building, I used that as my main light source, Earnie held the reflector at my right, and we had a single flash on the left which I set 2 stops below to add more fill.

Back outside, the Sun was becoming lower in the sky making the light a bit more dramatic. Using it and just a reflector, we took a few around some of the smaller rust colored structures. Eventually, the Sun set behind Queen Anne Hill and put the park in complete shadow.

Against One of the smaller structures:

Blues guitarist Jill Newman for her new album at Gasworks Park in Seattle, Wash., on Saturday afternoon Feb. 1, 2014. (© Paul Conrad/Paul Conrad Photography), bellingham portrait photography, bellingham wedding photographer

Blues guitarist Jill Newman for her new album at Gasworks Park in Seattle, Wash., on Saturday afternoon Feb. 1, 2014. (© Paul Conrad/Paul Conrad Photography)

Not to fret, there is a technique I used a few times before that I thought would work great for these light conditions: Put the background in silhouette, under expose the sky, and use a powered up flash to light the main subject.

The Money Shot

Blues guitarist Jill Newman for her new album at Gasworks Park in Seattle, Wash., on Saturday afternoon Feb. 1, 2014. (© Paul Conrad/Paul Conrad Photography), bellingham portrait photography, bellingham wedding photographer

Blues guitarist Jill Newman for her new album at Gasworks Park in Seattle, Wash., on Saturday afternoon Feb. 1, 2014. (© Paul Conrad/Paul Conrad Photography)

We did a few of these then it began to get too dark. we wanted to shoot a few photos of her on the big “kite-flying” hill with the city as a background. As it was late, my thought was to shoot her with the city lights in the background. But we needed to wait a few so we went to dinner.

At about 7, the lights across Union Lake were bright and vibrant. I precomposed my shot, made a few test exposures which ranged between half to 2 seconds, then tested the strobes.

Lights of Seattle:

Blues guitarist Jill Newman for her new album at Gasworks Park in Seattle, Wash., on Saturday afternoon Feb. 1, 2014. (© Paul Conrad/Paul Conrad Photography), bellingham wedding photographer, bellingham portrait photography

Blues guitarist Jill Newman for her new album at Gasworks Park in Seattle, Wash., on Saturday afternoon Feb. 1, 2014. (© Paul Conrad/Paul Conrad Photography)

Dreaming:

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - Blues guitarist Jill Newman for her new album at Gasworks Park in Seattle, Wash., on Saturday afternoon Feb. 1, 2014. bellingham wedding photographer, bellingham portrait photogrpaher

Blues guitarist Jill Newman for her new album at Gasworks Park in Seattle, Wash., on Saturday afternoon Feb. 1, 2014. (© Paul Conrad/Paul Conrad Photography)

We took about 20 or so photos with various poses. Then we moved to the main structure. Several years ago I shot the structure in silhouette with the city lights reflecting orange off the low clouds.

Using this and strobe, we took only a few photos. The shutter was about 15 seconds at f/4 and used a main strobe  on the right with one powered down 1 stop on the left.

City Lights Igniting the Sky:

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - Blues guitarist Jill Newman for her new album at Gasworks Park in Seattle, Wash., on Saturday afternoon Feb. 1, 2014.

Blues guitarist Jill Newman for her new album at Gasworks Park in Seattle, Wash., on Saturday afternoon Feb. 1, 2014. (© Paul Conrad/Paul Conrad Photography)

The “spots” in the one above are actually stars. I thought at first they were dust, but upon checking other frames decided they were stars.

Had it not been near freezing, we would’ve spent more time testing various shutter speeds, poses, etc.

Overall the images came out pretty good.

Do you know of a local band, musicians, artists, or performers in Bellingham, Whatcom County, or Skagit County that needs some images? Let them know I’m available.

Thank you for stopping by to read and view my work. Feel free to comment, critique, or just ask questions.

Also, feel free to share and reblog, link to, and add your site in the comment section.

Paul “pablo” Conrad

Follow me on these various Social Networks:

  1. Instagram: @PaulConradPhotography
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Paul Conrad is an award-winning photographer living in Bellingham north of Seattle, WA, in the Pacific Northwest. His work has been published in newspapers and magazines throughout the United States and in Europe. He is available for assignments anywhere in the Pacific Northwest. Although his specialty is photojournalism covering news, sports, and editorial portraits, he also is skilled in family portraiture, high school senior portraits, and weddings.

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