Wind-blown grassesWind-blown grassesDry grass blowing in the wind near Canberra.

A new year's resolution - of sorts

January 15, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

I haven't done all that much photography (or blogging) in the past year. It's not through conscious choice; I just don't seem to have "got around to it". 

This is not a good thing. Making photographs clears my head, allows me the rare experience of actually creating something, and gets some use out of my substantial investment in gear. So my failure to get out and do photography hasn't been positive.

Actually, it's not quite true that I did no photography. I have had some success over past 12 months. I was happy with a couple of shots made mid year at The Pinnacles north of Perth. 

Sand dune, Nambung National Park, Western AustraliaSand dunesSand dune, Nambung National Park, Western Australia Sand dune, Nambung National Park, Western Australia

Even more to the point, I fulfilled a commission from my wife made while we were still living in Canberra: to make family portraits of her kids. 

The deal I made with them was simple: they come around for lunch, and before we feed them, they give me 10 minutes to make the photographs I wanted. I would then do anything else they requested, and then we'd eat. After processing, I would print any image (of the images I approved) in any size they required. 

It worked well. In each case, they chose images they liked, and my wife chose an image she wanted. Each household now has images they like which are framed and on the wall. I'm pleased. I'm particularly pleased that in each case, my wife chose one of the images I had purposefully made. 

Let me explain.

In each case, I thought long and hard about the characters of these people (who I know quite well) and the dynamics within each family. As you would have expected, this resulted in three completely different images. (For privacy reasons, I'm not going to publish them here, but while each was a group shot, they were very different in tone and posing.) After I'd loaded them into Capture One, I was pleasantly surprised how well they'd worked: the personalities and the relationships had come across. My wife agreed and in each case, she chose one of the images I'd pre-visualised.

Her kids didn't select my "picks", I might add. We got the "why did you chose that?" (with varying degrees of vehemence) in each case, but they themselves are happy with their choices - and that's good.

So, what are the take-ways from this exercise? In no particular order, they are:

  • I tend towards low key images (as opposed to high key) and hence the the black backdrop worked best.
  • On the other hand, the black backdrop is a pain in terms of dirt showing where people have stood. There must be a solution for this, but I don't have it as yet. (All suggestions welcome.)
  • My long (3m x 6m) backdrop (bought on eBay) worked best as I didn't have to spend time in post covering up the concrete floor. Using a shorter backdrop left me with some work.
  • Taking charge worked. Not for the first time, I learnt that when having their portrait made, even strong-willed people seem happiest when being told what to do - probably because they're a bit nervous. After a while, each relaxed, got into the swing of it and made suggestions and requests - which I was happy to work with.
  • Don't be afraid to make a few photographs. Across the three shoots, I made 180 images, although half of these were made with one of the three families. Having multiple shots gave me choices and options for my subjects.
  • In each shoot, I used a couple of Elinchrom flash units. Each shoot was an experiment, and therefore different, but they were all a variation of "butterfly lighting" (where the light source is above and behind the photographer). Results were all quite good.
  • My Nikon D800 continues to perform and the large, detailed files give lots of latitude in processing - although it's merciless in picking up skin detail in portraits!

So I did do photography in 2016 and had some good results. But I didn't do enough. I must get my camera out more in 2017!

I hope you do too.

Shane

 


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