Every Tuesday, savor Catherine’s evocative joie de vivre and mysterious lightness of being through subjects as diverse as Appalachian inhabitants, Tasmanian farmers, tribal people and celebrities.
Photo of the Week
Light makes photography. Embrace light. Admire it. Love it. But above all, know light and you will know the key to photography – George Eastman
When I first started photography, I was scared of artificial lighting. I didn’t understand it, so I avoided it. It was always easier just to put my subjects in the shade and call myself a “natural light shooter”. Ah, the lies we tell ourselves. Eventually, I learned how to use artificial light and light modifiers, and it opened up a whole new world. No longer was I dependent on the time of day or weather. Supplementing natural light grants me freedom on when and where I can shoot.
Good lighting is key to making your images dynamic. This means avoiding the on-camera flash which typically blasts your scene, lighting up every nook and cranny like it’s high noon. The location of this image was already dramatically lit, all that was needed was to illuminate the couple. Without additional lighting they would have been underexposed and lifeless; with an on camera flash the drama of the scene would have been washed out. So, I set up a directional Profoto head using a strip soft box with a grid that illuminated the couple with very little spill and shot the scene at 1/15th of a second on a tripod to bring in the dimmer ambient lights of the environment.
Don’t be afraid to get out and play with a strobe or a reflector. Take shots both with them, and without; direct the light in from different angles and see how the light and shadows interact to create more drama and zing. Is the image more interesting when backlit? Try it! Maybe the side works better for your shot. Pay just as much attention to where the shadows fall as to what the light illuminates, that is where the drama lies.
Did you catch Trey Ratcliff’s last Variety Hour? He battled beautiful fireworks, yet still put on a wonderful show about the Great Aussie Photowalk. Watch it here and check out all of the beautiful photos on G+ by searching the hashtag #TheWalkDownUnder
Don’t miss a chance to watch or listen to your favorite photographers – download the TWiT Photo podcast on iTunes for free :)
The image featured here was taken at the 2008 Burning Man Festival, a 30,000+ arts and culture gathering that takes place every September in the barren desserts of Black Rock City in America. I rendered this portrait as a metal print, which recently won first place in the WPPI NYC @Photoplus 16×20 Print Competition in the Individual Portrait Category. Here, you can see me with the metal print and winner’s award :)
TIP OF THE WEEK: Shapes–both singular ones and patterned, repetitious ones–often govern the composition of good photographs. They create compelling images because a sense of intrinsic order and inherent design reigns. The background of a subject isn’t always just there as a secondary element. Here, the patterened “background” exemplifies and supports the circular and triangular shapes of this man’s hair, glasses, and necklace. The design elements come together to create not only a cohesive, but a visually arresting, whole.
If you hang out with your subject long enough, eventually they forget about you and reveal their kinetic energy. My first set of shots is typically a wash – human subjects simply need more time to warm up to the camera. It’s all a part of the process. Incorporating a sense of movement in your imagery, as you see here with this portrait of a young Highlander in the Andean Mountain Range in the Sacred Valley area of Cuzco, Peru, lends your photographs a magnetic energy.
This sense of action and spontaneity locates a subject in time and space. Here, her hair is flying; she’s playfully tossing a small pillow toward the camera; and the low, directional light creates a sense that this dynamic image couldn’t have been captured at any other time or place.
In a fast-paced, every-second-counts environment – such as a wedding – I often prefer using a continuous light source. No light meters, excessive gear, etc. to slow me down when I don’t have the luxury of time.
In the image of this gorgeous groom, which Grace Ormonde ran on its title page, my continuous light source allowed me to capture my subject before he hurried off to his wedding reception at the stunning Viansa Winery.
With that said, portable hot lights, though more mobile then my studio strobes, have not always impressed me – short battery life, external heavy battery packs, and harsh quality of light have often caused major frustration. But the game is changing…
Jerry Ghionis is coming out with his new Ice Light which will definitely become a go-to item in my arsenal. It’s slim profile, lightweight portability, and diffused quality of light are something to be very excited for. Plus, Jerry designed it so – it has to be good. Another bonus? It comes with five gel packs to enhance the cool or warm effect of its illumination.
San Francisco’s famed Julia Morgan Ballroom – a study in timeless architectural beauty and unassailable elegance – is the backdrop for this image. Last year, I was generously invited to use this opulent ballroom as the site for a photo project, in which I recreated the unique glamor of Old Hollywood.
Here, a model in period wardrobe peers out the window, her vision assisted by the use of Galilean binoculars.
Powerful images engender an enduring effect not just because of their sheer technical mastery or absolute beauty, but more so because the photograph tells a story.
A pretty model might be nice or interesting for a viewer to look at, but unless something about her compels the viewer to ask questions – in this case, “What is she searching for?” or “What does she see?” – the image is ultimately forgettable.
Through the use of this prop, these history- and class-laden Galilean binoculars, the model invites a slew of questions that provoke the viewer to engage the photograph as a story whose conclusion they’re dying to discover.