Sunday, December 30, 2012

10 Favorites from 2012

It has been forever since my last blog update, so I feel that it would be proper to post an end-of-year top 10 to recap some of the work that I've been doing:

To this day, I still consider this photograph one of my best overall images - light, pose, composition, setting, all came together for this instant.  On camera right is a reflective umbrella with two speedlites providing the one main light.  Outside of the frame, and also on camera right, I had his mom and my assistant hold a white sheet to diffuse the sunlight.

I don't often shoot ambient light, so it's sometimes tough for me to realize when to put down the speedlites and modifiers.  The soft light fits perfectly with their embrace...I couldn't see it working better any other way.  Also, finding this location came about through simply getting out of the car, and chatting it up with the locals.  Otherwise, I might have driven past this spot a hundred times without ever noticing, and recognizing its potential - it has since become a go-to for my couples portraits.

This photograph is from my first engagement session.  When planning any session, I always come with at least one new idea to try out - one 'go for broke' kind of shot, and this was what I had in the back of my mind.  We attempted three leaps, with the photograph above resulting from the third attempt.  For the set-up, I slightly underexposed the ambient while front-lighting the couple with a pair of speedlites camera left.  I feel that there a perfect amount of motion blur (from the ambient settings) combined with their expressions frozen by the flash.

The summer months were a bit slow as far as work was concerned, but I think that a lot of families were simply waiting for the magic of the Southwest in fall.  This was from near a location that I knew well, but had not ventured back along the paths very far until I location scouted for this family.  It always pays to have an understanding of where the sun will be at a given time of day, because otherwise you'll have a group of people waiting around for that 'best light!'  To that end, this session was planned around the movement of sun across the sky catching the best light in each location as the two hour session progressed.

From the same session, but taken later in the day, back to the location that I knew transforms beautifully just prior to sunset.  If you're photographing the fall leaves, there is a tremendous difference between leaves that are front-lit (with the sun behind you), and ones that are side or back-lit (shooting into the sun).  There's a glow about them that simply cannot be matched. 

Along the same lines as the black and white couple portrait above, it never hurts to chat it up with the locals about potential portrait locations...especially since so many great spots are privately owned!  This photograph came about after purchasing a bag of apples from a local couple's roadside apple stand, mentioning that I'm always on the look out for new locations, and them inviting me over.  The timing could not have been better, as only a week later a frost hit and most of the leaves and apple were gone.    

As evidenced in a lot of my work, I rely heavily on the dramatic light that is created by shooting into a setting sun and then front lighting the subjects with off-camera speedlites or strobes.  This is especially useful out at White Sands National Monument, as the ridges in the dunes only reveal themselves with low-angled light.  At any other time of day (other than sunrise, of course), the dunes will photograph very flat and featureless.

When brainstorming for this session, what started out as an indoor studio product shoot for the steampunk corset, soon progressed into an on-location session based upon a story line.  It was my first time attempting to tell a story through a series of photographs, and with that mindset, really helped me guide the models and progress the theme.  Of course, mother nature lent a hand with one of the most brilliant sunsets I have yet witnessed here in the Southwest - a perfect aesthetic for the hero and heroine.  

Hopefully one day I will have a 'method' named after me, but until then, here's an example of what can be achieved using the Brenizer Method.  This is actually a composition of 27 separate files, combined in Photoshop, to create a wide-angle photograph with an impossible-to-otherwise-achieve depth of field.

As 2012 comes to a close, I am reminded (in this photograph especially), that it is not always about perfect light, perfect pose with everyone smiling and looking a the camera...that most times it's those off-guard moments that reflect best who we are as people, as families, as partners in life.  And, isn't that what portraiture is all about?

A big thank you once again to everyone who has supported's to a happy, and healthy new year!