Saturday, April 21, 2007

Portrait Improvisation

Bike Route to Assignment
Bike Route Home

I really try to think out my portraits. When I get the text of the story I'm illustrating I'll read it and start trying to come up with some visual strategy. The problem is, you can't over plan. You have to improvise.

Most of the time I have no idea what my subject or location will look like. Sometimes the images I had in mind called for a certain type of look that the subject doesn't match. Or, the location will be a dull office with stucco ceilings or the size of a shoe box. This is when thinking on your feet is important.

This portrait was shot in the foyer of his office. It was small and there was several light sources coming from different directions adding up to a pretty flat picture. I closed the blinds and set my shutter speed as high as it would synch so I could cancel out any stray light coming from the overhead flourescents and the other rooms.

Don Clarke is a geologist who has done some work with the city of Long Beach studying what happens to the land as it is being pumped for oil. Thankfully, Don had a mini oil pump. I first envisioned using it as a gobo castign a shadow of a large oil pump behind him. However, it didn't work out because I couldn't keep the shadow from becoming too abstracted. I finally settled on setting it so it would appear in the background. I gelled it with a snooted strobe to make it look more dramatic.

Don is lit by small softbox on a lightstand. I had forgotten the swivel head for the strobe so to make it tilt forward, I propped a small book beneath one of the legs.

I also took some shots without a strobe for a lighter less posed feel just to cover the bases.

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