Engagement Session

After many years of photographing W, it finally came time to make an engagement portrait for her.  She has always been a positive-feedback-lending subject to photograph, so I was eager to capture her with her fiance, M.

I placed them in a garden alley such that there would be sky light in front of them, with heavy vegetation on both their right and left sides.  Putting them in this tunnel-like lighting scenario served to subtract light coming in from either side, making the main illumination come from front, back and overhead.   A reflector was also placed just underneath them mainly in order to produce catchlights in their eyes, while also adding subtle fill.

For me, once the subjects and I have found our way (through little trials and errors during the session) to a pose that feels and looks comfortable and believable, it’s only a matter of trying to illicit an expression that fits.  I was satisfied with these expressions because they showed happiness without being too effusive.

Tech info:  Nikon D3, 85mm lens, set to f2.5, and 1/1250th sec., ISO 800.  Shot in monochrome mode.




For this image I experimented with *not* using a reflector, which normally would kick some directional light into the subject’s face.  Shooting within a living room setting, with sliding glass doors in back of her serving as the main source of light in the room, the only light falling back into her face was very diffused, reflected off the various walls and objects in front of her.  I like doing little experiments like this because I learn a little bit more about my own preferences.  And here, I learned that I don’t necessarily like this really diffused lighting scenario.  I’d rather be working with a slightly more directional light — say, from a large white reflector in front of the subject.  For one thing, it was difficult in post processing to balance the light in the background with the light on her face.   Bouncing some light into the face would allow the background to be more correctly exposed, and therefore give me more options regarding how it is rendered in post processing.  It would also add some more modeling (soft shadows) to the face, and produce more attractive catchlights in the eyes.  As it was, the catchlights were a bit faint, so I emphasized them in P/P.

Tech info:

Nikon D3, 85mm lens set to f2.2, at 1/250th sec., ISO800.  Background walls were about 10 feet behind her.



Joe the Pool Guy

As photographers, we never have to go very far to find a photo opportunity because in the normal course of living, we seem to be constantly presented with a steady stream of subjects or scenes to photograph.  Still, it was a few years before I realized that the guy who comes to service my swimming pool could be a willing portrait subject.

Joe usually arrives to do the pool with his hair all tied and tucked under a hat, so it was fun to show him in a more non-work-mode way… in a way that I hadn’t known him before.  A photo shoot is such a great way to find out more about someone, whoever it may be.

For this image, I used the light coming in from a large window with Venetian blinds, with a white reflector on the opposite side to shoot a little fill into shadows.

Tech:  Nikon D3, 85mm f1.8 lens; white wall about 3 feet behind the subject.




A little while ago I photographed Tracy for use as model/lifestyle/personal images.  I used an 85mm lens for the entire shoot, mostly at f2.5, but ranging from f2.0 to f4.0.  I don’t really think I’m cut out to be a model photographer, but these types of sessions serve to keep my technique from drifting or degrading between photo jobs, so I’ll continue to take these shoots on when they come about.  More of Tracy’s session here.

Steeple on a Snowy Night

Most of my immediate family lives up north in Vermont and D.C.  According to reports, they’re having unusually heavy snowfall right now.  So that reminded me of an image I made one snowy night a few years ago during a winter visit.  My late brother and I were driving the snowy streets of downtown Burlington when we decided to stop into the City Market (like a WholeFoods) for some healthy goodies.  By the time we finished shopping at around 7pm and were exiting the store, it was cold, windy and quite dark outside.  However, light from the city streets and buildings was just bright enough to illuminate a nearby church steeple, and seemed to invite me to take a stab at photographing the scene.  By using an ISO of 1600 and a wide open lens at a slow shutter speed, I was able to get a reasonably sharp rendition of what I was seeing.  On the car ride back home, still shivering a bit (until the heat kicked in), I reviewed some of the images on my LCD screen and was glad I made the effort.  The lesson I took from this night was that even when conditions don’t seem favorable or even comfortable for making a picture, give it a try anyway.  So often it’s those very conditions that can lead to a memorable image, or at least a memorable experience trying to make one.

Nikon D200, zoom lens set to 68mm, f2.8, at 1/20th sec., ISO1600.  I remember handholding the camera, but I may have also braced it on top of our car for stability.


Groom-to-be, Charlie

In my previous post, I showed an image of my one and only niece.  This one here shows her newly declared fiance, taken at a recent engagement portrait session at the Shelburne Farms, in Vermont (USA).  The session had the two of them just being together while I tried to capture them in semi-orchestrated scenarios.   I call the approach semi-orchestrated because although I set the location, where they’ll stand, shooting direction, and general idea (together sitting, one giving the other a piggyback ride, etc.), within a particular context they do what they want (pose-free).   And I try to capture a moment, expression or mood.  By shooting this way, I think there is a higher chance of showing who they really are, not who they pose to be.

For this image, exposure-wise I wanted something in between silhouette and properly lighted.  Taking a few test shots, looking at the histogram, and fine tuning according to what I was seeing on the LCD screen, allowed me to get his face close to the envisioned exposure.  Then, since it was close in camera, later in photoshop I was able to refine it further by adjusting in levels/contrast.

Nikon D3, 85mm, f2.5, 1/1000sec., ISO200.  There was heavy backlight coming in from the afternoon sun over the lake, so using a good lens hood along with my hand near the lens, kept flare to a minimum.


Talking Photography with My Niece at the Lake House


Every summer I visit my parents at their lake house in New England.  One of the many bright spots of my visit is spending time with my one and only niece who, having seen her dad and most of her uncles with cameras around their necks all her life,  has herself become very drawn to photography.

For this image I was dealing with a very low light situation.  My overall aim was to get the light on the water to balance somewhat with the light on her face…and it was close enough for my tastes.  Although my shutter speed was a slow 1/25th wide open at f2.0, I trusted that the 35mm semi-wide length would hide or minimize camera shake if I held steady enough.  (With a longer portrait length lens, that same shutter speed may have introduced camera shake.)  I added a little extra sharpening to crisp it up a bit.  Lighting was from a porch light located to camera right, with the last vestiges of light from an evening sky over the lake to the left.


Nikon D3, with 35mm lens set to f2.0, at 1/25th sec., ISO 3200.


Baby Claus


This image is of a 5 month old baby boy.  Although I usually shy away from using props, the mom really wanted a simple shot with the santa hat, and that seemed harmless enough to me.  🙂

Lately I am choosing to show the client’s home environment in the backgrounds, rather than making sure I have a highly uniform background to the scene.  So in this case, I let the home’s foyer (with sunlight streaming inward) show up as a blurred kind of abstract.  This blurred background doesn’t really mean much, but it does (hopefully) subtly remind the client that it was taken within their home in a relaxed atmosphere.  It’s one of the ways I’m trying to keep indoor shots from looking like studio shots, which I am not that much a fan of these days.

Tech info:  Handheld Nikon D3 with 85mm f1.4 lens, set at f2.2, 1/800th sec., ISO800.  The lighting consisted of indirect light (sky light) coming in from the home’s large back door.  By using a relatively large aperture, the foyer scene was blurred enough not to cause it to be a distraction, at least to my eye.  🙂



Brother & Sister on the Dock

I like the little moments that occur between “poses”. Here, brother and sister are captured in one of those moments during a session that took place on their backyard mini-dock.

Tech info: Nikon D3, with a 24-70mm zoom, shot on B/W mode, JPG.

Twin Girls & a Dog

The parents of these twin girls really love their dogs… they’ve always been a part of our sessions through the years. For this session, the dogs kept strolling in and out of the doorway, and instead of waiting for them to clear each time they appeared, I just shot the scene with the dog(s) included.

Tech info: Handheld Nikon D3, 85mm f1.4 lens manually set to f3.2 at 1/640th sec., ISO 800, B&W JPG. Lighting came from open sky in front of the home, with the mid morning sun located toward the back right, so light was even and easy to deal with.



Pool Boy

Glad to be posting a new image after a busy summer.

For this image of a fresh-out-of-the-pool 4 year old boy, I wasn’t aiming for anything special except an expression that I’d be happy with.  He is an active boy and catching him in a non-action pose took some time and patience.  At 4, I’ve found that boys are very eager to please, so I asked him to wait while I focused my camera, but secretly I was waiting for his face to go into repose so that I could show his facial features off better, without the effects of smiling or other facial tension.  Personally, I am impressed with his Fonzie-like hairdo, which came about after he exited the pool water.

Tech Info:

Handheld Nikon D3, 24-70mm 2.8 zoom set at 70mm and f2.8, at 1/640th sec., ISO200, B/W mode JPG.  If I could shoot this image again, I would use an 85mm lens at f2.0, in order to blur out the background and surroundings more — 70mm is not a length I like too much, but the zoom is what I had on my camera for action-type shots earlier in the session.  Lighting consisted of clouds in front of sun, with the sun situated behind the boy so that I would always achieve backlighting whether the sun was out or not.



Camera Shy Girl

This is an older image that I previously had passed over because there were a few things wrong with it, but thought I’d give it a go and try to make it work.

In the straight image the girl’s skin was a bit blotchy around the arm and forehead, for some reason. So I softened the image in an effort to hide that.

Whenever you make a close up like this, little details are enhanced, including disadvantageous ones. Here the chin area had some of the girl’s hair showing and looking too close to (or possibly reminding the viewer of) a beard. So I tried to clone that out — still needs work though, unfortunately.

Lighting was my usual one light with reflector setup.

Tech info:

Fuji S2, 50mm lens set to f8, 1/90th sec. sync speed, 100 ISO, B/W JPG mode.