Tuesday, October 21, 2008

No-warning portraits

Right before leaving for work today, I ran back inside and grabbed my camera bag. Today was the last decent weather day for awhile (til the end of the week, at least), and you never know when a shot might appear.

I was sitting at my desk at work when my aunt appeared with a cousin visiting from California. "If you have a minute, I'd like you to take our picture." I'm not sure what she was expecting me to use, maybe the spa's clunky point 'n shoot that has perpetually dead batteries and that I absolutely abhor (I inherited it, as it was purchased well before my arrival), or maybe the old Polaroid that we snap employees with at staff meetings in recognition of their years of service (that, again, I'm not super impressed with). Peg isn't the kind of person that really thinks about details like that, so she was nonplussed when I hauled out the enormous D100 with the womping 17-55 f/2.8 that I just happened to bring with me. I think most people ought to bow just for the awesome lens, but no one ever does.

Anyway, I asked her where she'd like the portrait made and she waved her hand around our office. "Oh, I don't know. Anywhere." Again, not one for minor details like making a decent portrait of an 11-year-old in a cluttered office environment. I glanced out the window, "We're going outside."

I hit the door two steps ahead of them and simultaneously scanned for possible backgrounds, open shade and where the sun was angled. Peg, not being a stickler for things like this, has no patience for those who are, and I knew I had limited time to get a decent image before she started getting antsy. "There," I pointed to a grassy area with an ivy-covered hardscape wall in relatively open shade. They gamely picked through the wet grass (damn sprinkler system) and I parked them in front of the wall.

Four clicks later and we were done. Two of Max (full body and head shot) and two of Peg and Max (same arrangements). I chimped as we walked back inside and could tell even on my weensy screen that I had some goodies. I didn't realize quite how good until I processed and printed tonight.

They're all decent, but I'm particularly proud of the headshot of Max. Beautiful, soft Rembrandt lighting (which means half the face is slightly brighter than the other half, leaving full detail in the "shadowed" side, which gives a more realistic feel and some dimension), detailed highlights in his hair, and small catchlights in his eyes, and a background out of focus just enough to make Max really pop.

Now, I'm most definitely not a portrait artist. I actually prefer most of my images to not have people in them. People are messy and hard to shoot and never, ever happy with how they look. I worked for a wedding photographer for a year and swore off portraits forever. I do them at this point only for family, and really only family I like, and with advanced notice. But, you know, when my aunt walks in and she also happens to sign my paycheck, and I'm on the clock, and she says, "Grab yer camera," well, I grab my camera. And hope for the best.

Today, I got lucky and the best happened. On top of it all, I got to play with my camera on work time. How cool is that?

(No, I'm not posting Max's photograph here. I'm not sure his parents even know of the blog, and as a parent myself I'd be a little freaked about an image of my kid floating around on the internet without my knowledge. If you really, desperately, truly need to see my awesome portrait of Max, e-mail me. If not, just trust me. It's good.)


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