Then and Now: A Matter of Style

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(NOTE) Tomorrow, August 8, 2010 we will have a live discussion on how to go about identifying clients who would be consumers for your work. This is for commercial photographers, we will not be discussing direct-to-consumer photography (wedding and portrait), however, everyone is welcome to join in. It will be one hour long and you will find it here: Lighting Essentials LIVE (Vokle). I will not be embedding this as we still can not figure out why the chat doesn’t work on the embed. So please head on over to the site and RSVP. This is a single event show, it will not be taped – miss it and it is gone. See you there… and be ready to get some great ideas.
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Let’s just look at some photographs.

These images are side-by-sides and have an old image from the vault next to an image made recently. Now the make-up and hair can date an image pretty well, but I still love these shots. For me, the transcend the time period they were taken in and become interesting photographs all their own.

I love to make photographs. And to look at photographs. They remind me of things lost, time between. I can’t always remember the subjects name (hell, I have problems with that now) but I can remember every detail of the shoot. Camera, lens, aperture, film, what we were talking about, where we were, how I lit it… I have a ‘snapshot’ in my mind of that tiny time frame, and the image is the thing that takes me back. Or simply exists as a reminder all its own.

The moments captured on film or sensor is but a tiny slice of time… and yet that moment is indelibly etched on our memory as well. And what about the images that we never caught on a camera? Aren’t there myriads of images stuck in our brain as tantalizing as any photograph could be. The moments that moved us, terrified us, engaged us or opened our hearts, are there – forever in our minds eye. Fleeting and blurred sometimes, and only a wisp of an image. Mom, at my 14th birthday party. Dad when he told me mom had passed… the look of shock on his face, and then the glance up at me that will forever be a part of me.

I had no camera that day I lost my mom, but my mind took care of that. I can remember and see scattered images of that day. And almost all of them are stills. The very first time I saw my babies… they are totally captured, and savored again and again in my head. It is those ‘moments’ that we see for a fleeting slice of time that I try to capture with a camera. The images presented here are similar in that attempt.

In the opening shots, we have a shot taken about 26 years ago in Chicago, and a shot taken last year in Mexico. They both feature very limited DOF, and a tight frame on the face. There is a bit of whimsy or mystery to both… the one on the left as she gazes off into areas unseen, and the one on the right confrontational and striking.

I used a Nikon F3 (180MM 2.8) with the newly released T-Max 3200 pushed one stop (ISO 6400) to catch her being lit by the ambient light outside the studio. It was a little after midnight when this shot was taken. There is a moon out, but most of the light is simply the ambient from scattered streetlights and shops. We are on the second floor, and the slight gauzy curtains became a large softbox. The tungsten light behind her is simply a lamp on a shade turned toward the back. The black and white print is multi-toned.

On the right is a shot taken in the shade in Mexico. I have white boards under her chin and on the right side of her. Close in. Camera is a Canon and the lens is a 80-200MM L at 200MM/2.8. MUA Lorri Mitchell did a very natural look and I had Laura look straight into my lens for a ‘direct’ intense look that captivates the viewer.

Diagram:

A pair of simple portraits:

I love the way these two pics go together. Both with soft, full frontal lighting and both are blond.

On the left, a shot that is also about 24 years old. Taken in my office when the studio was in Tempe, the subject is sitting on a chair with the open floor to ceiling windows behind me. No additional cards of fill. Nikon F3 with 180MM 2,8 Nikkor and T-Max. I worked with her in the soft light and made sure she kept her face up and into the wall of light behind me. We shot a roll in the office while waiting for the MUA, and the shots were not even processed for a few months. These seemingly candid shots were actually my favorites from the day.

On the right is a shot from last year… with a ringlight. I rarely use ringlights and I borrowed a lens from another shooter to do the image. The 24-70MM 2.8 Canon is a great lens. One that I will never purchase. I don’t really care that much for those focal lengths. Well, the 24 is nice, but the rest… meh. I have a lot of shots of Samantha looking at me, but this shot, looking away, seemed so soft and had such a mood to it.

I like the way the light on both seems to be coming from camera, has no fill and allows the shadows to ‘live’ as they fall away from arms and cheeks and hair.

Diagram:

More after the jump:

Yeah, I have been shooting a long time, but I have a style – a vision that is personal to me. I like my images to be accessible, emotional and feel more like a glimpse of a moment in time than something that I ‘created’. It has always been so with me.

The next duo:

On the left a shot about 28 years old of a great model friend of mine, Brooke. She is now an author and had her own TV show about animals for quite a while. But at this point she was a model getting her book together. We found some cool old clothes and went for a totally editorial look. I had her run down the little road as I chased her with Nikon and 180MM 2.8 Nikkor attached. She stopped and made a bunch of cool poses and I got every one of them. This is my favorite. The image is multiple toned. The sun is right on the horizon behind her and we simply opened up to get the exposure on her. That let the background blow out, which was the intention of it… I didn’t want the urban houses and power lines to show off in the distance. The blown out background sets her off nicely. The shot looks quite natural – as if you were there. The image is multi-toned.

On the right, a shot from two years ago in Detroit. Kimmy is in a doorway and I am using totally natural light to make the shot of her. However, the dark alcove she is standing in would have been way too dark. I put a small speedlight behind her at 1/32nd power and angled it slightly up. This opened up that back area a bit and gave her some definition. The sunlit area behind me – the ambient – was fine and neutral to bring her a soft, almost wrapped light. Another foot forward, and the sun would have lit the left side of her (from camera). Kimmy’s natural pose and smile really sell the shot as being something nearly candid.

I love natural light and often use a speedlight to open the shadow areas.

Diagram:

Our last duo:

The shot on the left is 25 years old and was shot on Polaroid Type 55PN of a lovely young lady who was also a friend. I am using a small softbox (home made fome core) right above and in front of her. The background is an old piece of canvas, and I have a light on it with a medium reflector to create a gradient and separate her from the background.

The lens on the camera was a 210MM Nikkor at 5.6, and the camera is slightly tilted to keep the focus through the entire image. The Type 55PN Negative is contact printed on a medium fiber paper and multi-toned. I wanted a shot that seemed candid, yet a bit classical as well. Her features were perfectly sculpted by the small box – 20×20 – and without fill the drama was increased.

On the right is a headshot from last year. A very large softbox with surrounding fill cards for the main, and then a bright silver umbrella is over the top of her and set 1/2 stop over the main for drama. I am a little over her position to shoot down a bit. The aperture is about f8 and the lens is an 80-200MM. I am as close as the lens will focus, and the flash is way down in power as it is very close to her. MUA: Lorri Mitchell.

Both shots show a variation of the headshot and both have a bit of mystery to them. The glamor on the right is offset by the aloofness of the model on the left. Her intense gaze outward is very similar to the gaze the model on the right bestows on us, the viewers. In both shots I am working a different angle to the face to bring something back to the viewer that is a little different than a straight on headshot.

Diagram:

Thanks for viewing a few of my shots here… some from decades ago and some recent, but I hope they also show a glimpse into the way a steady vision can maintain itself for a long time. I have always wanted my images to connect to the viewer, create a bit of mystery and draw the viewer into the shot, and hopefully impart a little of what I saw – beyond the surface of the image.

BTW… some recent posts:
Shooting Waverunners in Mexico – In the Ocean
Interview with David Giral, Montreal Photographer
Enough Negativity: Ten Things to Positively Affect Your Photography
Four Photographers on the Trek to the Top

Follow along on Twitter if you like, and if you are interested in a lighting workshop, check the information at Learn to Light

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About 

I am in love with light.

Also known as Don Giannatti, photography has been the focus of my life for most of my adult years. I have written three books for Amherst Media (available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble: keyword 'don giannatti'. Lighting Essentials is my flagship blog and ezine with a slightly different slant than most photography related blogs. If you are interested in becoming a better photographer, check out www.project52.org. Thanks for visiting.

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