Sasha and friend.
As a photographer it’s a pivotal moment when you know that your subject is relaxed and comfortable with their surroundings, that they almost forget they are being photographed.
That precise second where they are truly themselves is magical and can not be duplicated. For some subjects it is the tunes of their choice; music in the background or a classic Sauvignon…for others, a stuffed pink pig.
Shooting with the Lensbaby is somewhat a “leap-of-faith” at the very least you have to be able to just set your need to control every aspect of photography on the shelf.
The magic of creating an image for you is exactly that…fun it goes back to the beauty of watching a print come to life in a shallow tray of Dektol and then making refinements under the enlarger, never really knowing exactly how it is going to come out until you move it from the bath to the fixer.
The Lensbaby composer can offer some extremely sharp portraits or those that have such shallow depth-of-field that it makes the viewer uneasy.
Whether you’re photographing the children or the family pets over the Easter Holiday take the time to play and create without restrictions. Resist the temptation to reach for the “control” you’ve place on the back shelf…at least for the day.
Aunt Edith born in 1916 "Hell, you do the math."
Without a doubt every visit starts out with me asking Edith how she is doing and her standard reply is “I’m getting old!” and my reply is normally “Well no shit Edith your ninety-five years old and you have a stainless steel knee that won’t bend leaving you much like the tin-man in the wizard of oz without the oil can.” This is always met with an Edith impish smile.
Edith Robertson is Anne’s aunt but I’ve been claiming her for my own for the past thirty-five years. She is pretty sure that I only love her for her fortune but you can’t put a price on that spirit she brings to the table. She is diamond tough with a heart that packs the same brilliance.
Edith was born in 1916 a year before the start of the First World War; they called it the big one. It was the start of the Great Migration when blacks started to move from the rural South to the urban North to escape a culture of slavery and racism. There were jobs in the North and Chicago was a boomtown producing goods that Europeans could no longer build while fighting a war. This really has no bearing on your life when you’re growing up in Dawson, New Mexico a place that God couldn’t find on the map.
If asking about her age you will hear “I was born in 1916, hell you do the math.”
I enjoy these visits as they are a reminder to take each day as they come; stay tough; and keep looking for that fortune.
Good photography has more to do with background than it does with subject content. But yet many of us give the environment that we put our subjects in the least amount of consideration. This is most evident in portrait photography.
If you enjoy taking portraits of family and friends take the time to put a little research in possible locations where you live. Two pieces of equipment are needed, a pencil and paper notebook (I have about ten years worth of 3”x6” pocket planners that are killer for this.). Keep these in your car at all times and take note of that old brick wall covered by vines; that crumbling wood water tower on the edge of the orchard; that cool dark and seedy ally behind the hair stylist.
Treat your subject with respect and like your family and don’t give too much direction a bit of a light heart goes a long way.
No trespassing! Ask for permission first, you would be amazed at how kind and helpful people can be once they know you want to take photograph. Understand your rights about shooting on public property which means parks, exterior of city libraries, etc.
Take the time to note the direction of your background and where the light may fall. When is the best time to make your photograph? Keep checking back with the seasons. That ok path near the creek in the summer may not have luster until autumn.
It’s more important to carry a small camera than to get bogged down by equipment that sits in the home closet. I carry a small Panasonic DCM-TZ3 because of its Leica lens and 10x optical zoom.
Remember that photography is about passion and not your equipment or technical skill. It is also not about being visually lucky…it’s about making your own luck by being prepared!
Don’t over think light and backgrounds when taking portraits at home.
Experiment with both natural and artificial light by using whatever light elements you have around the house. Diffuse the light with white cloth or cardboard. Try bouncing light off the walls or ceiling to soften shadows.
A wonderful way to observe light and shadow is to take an egg, place it on a plain sheet of white paper and photograph it on the kitchen table. Move your light source up and down and change the distance to your subject.
By moving a lamp around the table and at different levels and distances you can watch shadows build and fall.
Friends, family and pets make wonderful subjects and since you already know them it takes some the awkward silence away from your first meeting and your rapport is built.
Think high and think low. Most images are taken at eye-level and its fun to experiment with angles. Remember that you can empower a subject by shooting from a lower angle and make them appear vulnerable by adding space and shoot down on them.
Be patient and have fun, remember that for every rule in photography there is a good reason to break it!