Sunday, 15 January 2012

Assignment 1 - 1st pass

It's easy isn't it? You think about what the shots will be, how many poses to think about, what lenses to use, how to fulfil the assignment requirements. Well here were my thoughts:

Son number two, second in line to the country estate and an equal share in whatever fortune is left, has agreed to sit for me. Mark has sat for me before and this time I have asked if he could bring his progeny - the third in line to the pile we call home. In my mind I had considered the requirements of the assignment, close in, head only, head and shoulders/torso and full frontal (length). I had decided to try and depict various aspects of his life - him, him and his guitar and with his son (6 months old). I would therefore try and depict the various characters - hard and soft that make up a "new man". I now realise that I haven't included his wife - our daughter in law, and whilst I appreciate she doesn't like having her picture taken I maybe should have tried a bit harder to include her in a "picture" of our son. I also had some of the older photographs of Mark in mind to try and include in the images in some way to link through in a generational theme. More thought needs to go into this.
And here's what happened. I would use natural light, I have some studio flash units, soft boxes etc, but, because today we had good light and our lounge has a west facing window and I thought I would draw the blind and use a reflector to bounce some fill light to balance things up. Well as it happened the sun was too bright even through the blind and so I had to think again, shot left has Mark squinting. I moved the position to a flatter light, though before I did I did get another image that I not too upset about - right. Left f8.0, 1/400 sec, ISO 1600 Nikon D3, 18-200mm set at 200mm (300mm equivalent). Right f2.5, 1/1600, ISO 400, D200 60mm lens (90mm equivalent).

The flat lighting, which made things easier for Mark, made things a bit more difficult for me. Whilst my sitter felt at ease, these early shots seem a bit placid and I still prefer the shot number two above right. The photograph left is fine, I think Mark is adopting the "mean and moody look" apropos the heavy metal (I think that is what he calls the music his band plays??) but, whilst I think it is passable it is.... calm? Left f8.0, 1/60 sec, ISO 1600 Nikon D3 18-200mm set at 150mm (225 equivalent). Right f8.0, 1/400 sec, ISO 1600Nikon D3 60mm (90mm equivalent).

This shot(s) is better, I think because it is on the slant, though maybe it could be improved if Mark was looking directly at the lens. I have edited this shot as the "bright spot of light" on the end of his nose needed toning down I felt - I include both for completeness. f2.8, 1/3200, ISO 1600 Nikon D3, 60mm (90mm equivalent),

 Moving to head and shoulders/torso. The two that I have included at this stage have distinct feels about them. On the left it is, again, a placid image. Mark is leaning against the wall and facing square on to the camera; nothing wrong with the image per se, but it lacks any kind of dynamism - a bit like when we needed to get him up for school. Whereas I think the photograph on the right has that "moody" look a guitar hero might look for. I remember when he asked me to shoot the band for their first album cover - he wanted something like Bob Dylan's "Highway 61 revisited"[post posting edit - of course I meant Freewheelin'], but with four male band members rather than a loving couple! No challenge there then. Left f8.0, 1/160 sec, ISO 1600, Nikon D3, 18-200mm set at 52mm (78mm equivalent). Right f2.8, 1/3200 sec, ISO 1600, Nikon D3, 60mm (90mm equivalent).

In the portrait shots above the ones that work best for me are the ones where Mark is at an angle; where either his pose or my lens were not in synch with each other, rather there was an element of, for the want of another term, a dynamic tension. Either he is leaning forward or backward, or my lens has moved to a place between plumb vertical or horizontal - even if he just "cocking his head" it adds an element to the photograph. The passivity of the shots without this element I find a little staid. Additionally the close in shots, by implication have a significant amount of the subject "out" of the picture; this seems a little of less is more to me when looking at the images as a set. I still, upon reflection, like the top right portrait with the awkward lighting, the eyes about centre in the frame and the least amount of face as my favourite of the pure portraits. Mark's left eye, dominant because it is largest in the frame, closest to the viewer and sharply in focus draws the viewer to it straight away and holds the viewers gaze whilst the dramatic lighting across the eye region seems to help that. The fact that his right eye is out of focus tends to help push the gaze back to the dominant eye.

I've mentioned Mark is in a band and I have taken a few pictures of him with his guitar across the years and it is very important to him, so I asked him to bring it with him and we would use it in the session. All three of these shots have the look of someone who feels that the guitar is part of them, is important to them, is part of the person they are. Mark has been playing for about twenty years - we paid for him to go to classical guitar lessons which didn't go down too well at the time (a similar fate befell the piano lessons as well). However he found a young lady who taught him contemporary guitar and he took to it like, well, a young Bert Weedon. It could be because the classical guitar teacher was much older chap, however we are happy he plays, just not sure about his choice of repertoire. Left f2.8, 1/3200 sec, ISO 1600 Nikon D3,60mm (90mm equivalent). Right f2.8, 1/2500 sec, ISO 1600, Nikon D3 60mm (90mm equivalent). Below f2.8, 1/2500, ISO 1600, Nikon D3, 60mm (90 mm equivalent).The shot on the left is my favoured head and shoulder, the  line of the guitar stem in line with the profile of Mark's face is a good echo and again with the help of a short depth of focus centred on the near eye makes this image work better for me.

I am a little torn on the torso shots. The shot without the guitar above right, where I have him lean his head forward whilst tilting my lens suits him well I think but the the torso shot here with the guitar shows how precious it is to him.

Which brings me to the final part of the assignment requirements - full length. I had envisaged that I would have Mark horizontal rather than vertical and couple him with his son Rowan. Mark and Natalie are unsurprisingly very proud of their son and our first grandchild. I wanted to bring these boys together and present their bond. We are particularly proud of Mark, the role of father he has adopted and the closeness he already has with his son. I wanted to portray this in the pictures. I needed to use a reflector for these shots as the sun was dipping down.
There were several shots I could have chosen, but the part of the session that had father and son didn't last long as our grandchild became tired within about ten minutes from the start of this part of the proceedings. Lesson learned. Next time get the infants and children shots out of the way first - or at least in good time. Left f8.0, 1/25 sec, ISO 1600. Right f8.0, 1/30 sec, ISO 1600. Below f8.0, 1/40, ISO1600. All three with Nikon D3, 70-200mm lens set at 70mm (70mm equivalent).
I had wanted to have an intimate shot of the two boys either face to face or sharing a moment - but it wasn't to be. The last shot nearly has them in a sleep pose, Mark is clearly shamming but Rowan is not and not nearly at his best and so we called it a day there.


  1. Well the best laid plans...

    ...aaah bless what a cute little baby...some lovely pics. Love the one of your grandson looking up, very cute. And some great portrait shots too. The ones with the guitar are my favourite. We're all learning the guitar at the moment (supporting our eldest daughters interest), trying to master 'yesterday'! My only slight reservation with the earliest portraits is the cropped hand on the shoulder, it implies slightly defensive body language, although it works fine when you see all his arm later on. But what a great set...and your pride is evident must be pleased with these.

  2. thanks Penny. I may decide to re-do this assignment. Mark is very good about sitting for me, but there were so many things I need to reconsider. When I've photographed people before, and not for any specific reason other than fun, it didn't matter too much - but when there is something riding on it the pressure mounts and the fault lines appear!

  3. This is a great set. I like the top right one best - it presents a more hidden aspect of your son somehow. Interesting as well how the ones facing right are different from the ones facing left - like holding up a piece of paper and looking at each side of one's face separately. the ones with the baby are lovely.

  4. Thanks Catherine - I suppose like all babies he is photogenic, and we have lots and lots of pictures of him. The photo of my son you refer to seems to suggest he is moody, when in fact he is very placid; but I wonder if veracity is a commodity I need to overly concern myself about in this exercise? We'll see what transpires at the end of the assignment.

  5. Well - I suppose no one is a 100% everything so we all have a different side of our personalities. Could have a long debate about 'veracity'!

  6. Of course you are right Catherine. I stand convicted on the veracity statement, mea culpa; I did see him stamp his foot once! Seriously, of course for viewers they only see what what is in the image, and unless the photographer can depict another narrative then the truth is just what is in the image. Maybe that's a good reason not to choose someone who is very close?