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Photographic Evolution – Just Because

Recently I was able to catch up with my good friend, Brad, who’s been a mentor to me since forever, ever since I stuck my tongue out at him, my very first day as a stringer for the East Valley Tribune in Mesa, Ariz. You know when you meet some people, you just know that they’re a good person, and you like them? Brad was like that, is still like that. He’s a very good man. From the time talking with him about his and his lovely wife, Lorie, and their wedding, where his eyes got all mushy looking at old photographs, and I look up at Lorie and she cracks a grin, rolls her eyes and shakes her head. (Lorie lives in the moment, hardcore triathlete and just looking at her kicks my ass). So endearing. One of my favorite moments hanging out with Brad and Lorie – how they balance. It’s definitely inspirational.

I’ve always thought Brad should concentrate his photographic skill on his landscapes, and his portraiture. Β His stuff is mind blowing to me. very traditional, but his use and knowledge of studio lighting is freaking phenomenal. When I saw Brad, he had just received studio strobes he wanted to try out. He had purchased Profoto Acute B2 600 AirS and AcuteB Heads. He also had new a 22-inch beauty dish that he wanted to try out. So the main reason he wanted to this Profoto set over another one was because, with the tiny amount of light that it can put out, very feasibly you could shoot your f/1.2 lens at f/1.2. So Brad hands me his brand new Canon 85mm f/1.2 lens, which I believe most of the following shots were photographed at f/2.0 or f/2.2.

My thought process is what I’d like to share from beginning of the shoot to the final product. Also take a look at Brad’s work, it’s phenomenal. Hopefully you’ll gain some understanding to how I photograph and why, in case you maybe interested. πŸ™‚

So first off is the photographs of the grey card for proper exposure. The left photograph is overexposed, as most photographers will want the blacks black, the greys grey and the white, white. On the right image, more properly exposed for a true black, but I felt the white was along the route of a Zone 9 or Zone 8 on the Ansel Adams Zone System scale. (Yes, I began photographing with film and still do πŸ™‚ so I definitely learned the Zone System way back when) This test above basically told me I wanted to underexpose or add some mood to my coming portraits of Brad.

Color to me is very important, as the left image is photographed on Auto White Balance and the right image on Flash balance. Studio strobes, even the lights I use (called Speedlights) emit a blue (white balanced) light. So in essence the left photograph is colder in temperature than the right photograph. Doesn’t Brad look cold in the left photograph? Ha! Also compositionally I noticed the beauty dish is reflected in the mirror behind Brad, and right on the left side of him is his 3 feet by 4 foot soft box, which flattens the photograph. I want a bit of dramatic to this portrait. But first let’s work with composition.

Here I’ve positioned myself behind and almost on the ground of the glass coffee table. I notice the light is flat due to the exposure of the beauty dish with the soft box, so to add some mood to the photograph, I’m going to have to not use the soft box on my left, Brad’s right. Also I’m seeing the reflection of Brad’s head in the glass table, and I think I may want to play with that idea a bit.

In the left photograph, I eliminated the light coming from the soft box, but still needed just a bit of fill light to the side of his face in the shadow, and yeah, I’m not really digging the thought of Brad giving birth to himself. Kinda weird and definitely not working for what I want. So on the right side photograph, I’m definitely getting closer to the image I want, although I’m not overly digging the highlights on the left and right sides of Brad’s chair. And also in the right frame I was testing the amount of light coming from the soft box, and it was still too much, so best to turn the light off and use the soft box as a fill (basically reflecting any light from the beauty dish back on to the shadow side of Brad’s face).

Now I’ve got two candlesticks that I’m photographing through to eliminate most of the light on both sides of Brad, as the eye typically goes to the lightest part of the frame first then to the shadows. Also I needed to direct my model a bit more. Slouching photographs suck. With all the Bikram Yoga I’ve been doing as of late, I’m beginning to stop slouching. So I make Brad straighten his spine and contract his abs. In case you didn’t already know, at weddings I photograph, I typically make my photo subjects “work out” during the shoot, lots of squatting, lunges, kneeling, back arched, abs tightened. Makes for better photographs I think. πŸ™‚

Here’s the final pick of Brad I liked best. He’s stiff, but not too stiff, nice fall off from the light on his face, the reflection’s not way too horrible of his shirt, I tilted the camera so he falls into the frame (instead of tilting the camera to make someone fall out, I want my subjects more engaged plus falling out of the camera just looks weird to me).

So yeah, the most traditional shoot I’ve done in a long time. I hope I gave you some insight to how I think and how I create what I do to make some cool photographs. Anyone want to buy me some Profotos? I’d love you forever! Okay, well maybe I’m gonna test out the Alien Bees 400. Anyone got any thoughts on those puppies?