Alright, time for another edition of Saturday Light! Although I should warn you now that if you’re looking for some kind of big production with lots of lights, you’ll be disappointed. In keeping with my trend these past few months, this is another really simple session. (I actually debated whether I’d even share it or not, since it’s such a simple one.)
But I figured I might as well, if only to emphasis a few points. So here’s my latest portrait session with my friend and long-standing model Sara and her brother Tony.
The order of the day was “fun photos,” because Sara and Tony come from a family that is, in their own words, not very serious. They’re okay with being a little silly and letting that true nature show through. So we scrapped the original idea of working indoors in a studio setting, which might have been warmer but wouldn’t have been as spontaneous.
Instead, we headed to Nay Aug Park with a plan to shoot in the treehouse and on the river bridge. But of course plans went astray within minutes of arriving when we found the treehouse gate locked and, although we considered just jumping it, we ended up moving on down to the playground area. Turns out this worked fine, as there were plenty of fun images to be made there.
The first dozen or so poses we shot were all lit by the ambient alone. There was a pretty heavy overcast in place so the light levels were low and very diffused, which is actually perfect for outdoor portrait work. I shot with the Panasonic Leica 25mm lens the entire time, although at a range of apertures between about f/2 and f/8, depending on the look I wanted. Regardless of the aperture, however, I was easily able to stay at ISO 200 the entire time and still maintain plenty of shutter speed.
I broke out the flash when we started shooting in the little castle tower. The just wasn’t enough light bouncing up into the inside of the tower and if Sara and Tony weren’t right in the windows, they fell into deep shadow and got lost. So to compensate I threw a YN-460 II on a lightstand with a small shoot-through umbrella and had my assistant hold it up at tower window level.
Something new I’m trying, the flash had a ¼ CTO gel on it. Granted, this isn’t exactly rocket science – low CTO gels warm the light a little and make it look more natural and alive when used with models. I’ve done it before with good results. But I’m always looking for ways to try something new and improve my technique, so I’m borrowing from famed portrait photographer Gregory Heisler (more on this another time).
We shot a few more on the playground, including the one below, which is probably the silliest point we reached, when I suggested the Sara climb back into the tower and play the “damsel in distress,” while Tony struck a heroic, knightley pose on the steps. (We even found a stick for him to use as a sword.) The result is fun. Not sure if they’ll use it, but it’s a good memory to have made – although in retrospect, I wish I’d used a smaller aperture and gotten a little more depth of field to keep Sara more in focus.
We wrapped up with a final series on the river bridge. It’s a covered bridge, so the flash power got cranked up a bit to balance with the much brighter ambient outside. I’m not really wowed by this part of the series – compared to the rest, they’re too static and I feel that we slipped back into the more “formal” portrait mindset here at the end.
In an attempt to liven things up, I tried having Sara and Tony run at the camera and leap at the same time. Unfortunately, these didn’t work out – it’s hard enough to time the leap, keep focus, and get the shot. But working in the dark of the bridge and relying on the flash, which didn’t recycle fast enough to give me more than a single exposure-per-leap, was just too much and it didn’t come together.
That happens sometimes, even in the best of shoots. And while I don’t really like ending on a low note like that, we called it a wrap. My models were cold, so we trekked back to the car and said goodbye.
Overall thoughts? Sara is great to work with and it turns out her brother Tony is the same way – fun and easy going, even in front of a camera. We had a good time and definitely came home with some fun images, portraits that are outside of the norm and should make a great surprise birthday gift for their mom. It would have been nice if the landscape wasn’t so bleak – a little color in the backgrounds would have been nice (although Sara’s red coat helped make up for that). I also wish I’d have gotten the jumping shots. If we’d had a few more minutes, I probably could have nailed them. But as it is, the clients went home happy, which is what matters the most!