Shutterings and Mutterings - photography blog

Cover of Ghost Music by Billy Jenkins

A Ghostly Challenge

What's the dream of a photographer who loves music? Apart from producing an expensive book that sells millions of copies and rakes in obscene wads of cash? Simple: a commission to take an album cover photo and create a promotional video.

Thanks to my friend Billy Jenkins that dream has come true for me. The finished cover, released on Friday, April 13, is at the top of the page.

The original idea in Billy's mind was an image of him peering through the strings of a piano frame. We went out to do a test shot using some weathered railings and got the result below...

Billy Jenkins and railings photographed by Beowulf Mayfield

I tried tracking down a beaten-up piano frame but discovered the average frame comes with a sounding board that would need to be taken off. A nearby piano repair shop said it would cost £60 to provide a suitably deconstructed frame and we decided that would be a waste of the limited budget and opted for a light-painted shot.

Light painting, very briefly, is a long exposure shot in which torchlight is played over the subject. This provides the opportunity to use light varied colours and, if the subject is moving, capture ghost-like movement.

Billy and I went round to Charlie Hart's Equator Studio in leafy south east London, where Billy has recorded several of his recent albums, and spent a couple of hours taking light-painted shots plus a series of rapid exposures for use in an animation sequence and some shaky video footage.

Charlie made some delicious coffee, played back the album while I was shooting and went "Oh yeah!" when he saw the coloured torches being waved about.

Billy Jenkins at the piano photographed by Beowulf Mayfield

The image above is an out-take from the session. There was a side light by the piano to enable the player to see and I liked the back-lighting effect it created and decided to keep it on while shooting. It meant I had to work with a shorter exposure time that usual - about two seconds instead of the usual ten - but it provided a good effect.

I'll talk about the animation I made for the promotional video in another post soon...

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What camera? I used a Nikon D700 The lens was an AF Zoom-Nikkor 24-88mm.

Where did you get the coloured lights? I used a couple of LED torches from a hardware shop with home-made coloured gel filters over them. I'll write a blog post about them soon.

Where can I get the album? Ghost Music is a download only release. It's available through iTunes or your favourite download or streaming channel. You can hear it through Spotify or your platform of choice.

Who the hell is Billy Jenkins? You can read all about Billy at You can also find out more by listening to the Billy Jenkins Listening Club podcast...

You can see more by visiting my Flickr photo stream.