Salsa Lessons & Studio Lighting

February 16, 2012 § Leave a comment

Left: Tatiana Fernandez thinks of the sun and her home in the Dominican Republic as she poses for her portrait on Sunday Feb. 12, 2012. Fernandez moved Columbia, Mo. after being awarded the Fulbright Scholarship that allows her to study photojournalism at the University of Missouri. Right: After taking ballet lessons for eight years, Tatiana Fernandez says she still has a passion for dance. Since arriving in Columbia she regularly attends three different dance classes, including swing, salsa and blues.

Tonight, after wandering helplessly for 45 minutes through the bowels of Lee Hills, then up to the Missourian and back down again, texting, calling, searching for that Good Samaritan with the power to open a very  secure studio door Naveen came to the rescue and Tatiana and I were finally able to complete the half-finished photo shoot we began this past weekend.

I never thought I would enjoy studio photography as much as I did composing Tatiana’s portraits.  Prior to this experience I had lived somewhat as a lighting “purist,” opposed almost entirely to any unnatural light.  However, it was a surprising relief to be entirely in control of the environment in which I was shooting; a place where I could practice photography more as a science experiment than an art project.  Of course, what resulted was a beautiful combination of the two. To prepare for my first studio shoot I researched what type of lighting I would use to evoke the essence of “Tatiana” through my pictures.

For those of you who don’t know, Tatiana is from the Dominican Republic, which means she’s not a fan of this Missouri cold.  For the first of my selects my intent was to take her back home to the “DR” by evoking warmth and sunlight through the use of a single light source and reflector.  The diagram here shows exactly where I placed the light, camera and reflector.

Single Light Diagram

Only after testing my set up and playing with the equipment for a while (to use a snoot or to not use a snoot?) was I able to achieve the look I wanted.  And, honestly, the light falling behind her head on the background was a fluke.  I’d like to say I planned that, but…well…okay I did.

The second photograph demonstrates my use of multiple lights.  Here’s the diagram.

Multiple Lighting Diagram

For this select I ended up using the beauty light to create a high key portrait that I wanted to emphasize the color of her hair and her vivacious spirit.  Tatiana and I both love to dance and I really wanted to bring that out in the pictures.  So, after turning on the salsa music and a few awkward/embarrassing moments that ended with both of us in hysterics, I had some portraits that were more active and natural.  The one I chose has less movement than others but her expression and the light won it over for me.

Overall I really enjoyed this assignment, learning about an untapped area of photography that will actually earn me money someday (my parents will be so pleased), and made easier by the fact that Tatiana is incredibly photogenic.  So thanks, to my beautiful model, and if there was only one lesson I could take away from this project it would be to learn the Lab hours by heart, or just have Naveen’s cell number on speed dial.

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The First of Many

February 9, 2012 § Leave a comment

Norma Jean by Richard Avedon

As our class is about to plunge headfirst into the perils of studio photography our first assigned post for Advanced Techniques was to find a portrait (online or off) which captures the essence of the subject.  Portrait photography is fascinating because people are fascinating, and for every unique face comes an entirely distinctive personality.  The ability to evoke the nuances of an individual’s character and reach deep into their soul, even if only for a fraction of a second, is the work of a great portrait photographer.  Over the years, I have mentally catalogued my favorite portraits, usually by the “greats,” such as Annie Leibovitz (who could not like Annie’s work?), or Richard Avedon.  In fact for this assignment I did choose one of Avedon’s most iconic portraits.  Though I do not entirely agree with Avedon’s methodology for capturing his images (I have a problem when it comes to manipulating the subject to get an expected or desired response) his photograph of Marilyn Monroe seems perfectly exposed to her personality.  It was one of the few portraits of his in which he did nothing but wait and allow the subject to fall back into their natural self.  According to Avedon, this shoot was like any other for the iconic beauty, during which the camera only saw Marilyn Monroe, a blond-haired, red lipped facade carefully crafted by the woman formerly known as Norma Jean Baker.  Avedon took the same photos so many other photographers had already found as Marilyn played up to the camera, but this wasn’t what he wanted…he wanted to understand who she truly was.  So he waited.  Eventually the mask crumbled and beneath the confidence was someone very different.  He walked up and took the picture as she gazed off into the distance.  Where there was only vivacity and seduction, there was now melancholy and doubt.  Perhaps Avedon poured too much of himself into the photograph, or maybe I am reading too much into her expression, but I seem to recognize that face.  It’s the face of someone who is tired of pretending, someone who has played the part so long she can barely remember who she once was and hardly understands who she truly is.  The light is perfect for the situation as it hides nothing, for this is a portrait that reveals everything.  To the world Marilyn was mysterious and dramatic, but the diffuse lighting of this portrait adds an innocence and openness that’s unlike any of her other photographs.  And, if you’re wondering whether I saw My Week With Marilyn and am interpreting this photo from an influenced perspective, well, I haven’t, not yet at least…though it does look good.

Here are a few other portraits I found that I really enjoyed. Hope you like them too!

Michael Caine by Brian Duffy

Greta Garbo by Clarence Sinclair Bull

Cowboy, Nevada by William Albert Allen

 

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