10 Most Meaningful Images of 2018: #8

Emma 8.28.2018 ISO 500 - f1.8 - 1/1000 sec

ISO 500 - f1.8 - 1/1000 sec

Danny A

Danny A

Ollire L

Ollire L

For years I have said that I would not shoot portraits. Even now I have little interest in shooting studio portraits. The thought of sitting in a studio shooting the same shot over and over again just doesn’t appeal to me. But, my interest in shooting portraits was forced to change about 18 months ago.

"Dad, you’re going to take my senior picture.”

That came from my oldest daughter, Lizzy in the summer of 2017, just before her junior year in high school. My son’s senior photos came back from a good friend of ours and we were looking at how great they were and I asked if Lizzy was going to go to the same person. That’s when she told me that she I was going to take it for her.

Ummmm, I have no experience taking portraits…. but okay.

For the better part of the first six months of 2018 I engrossed myself in learning how to take pictures of people. Youtube, CreativeLive and LinkedIn Learning all became favorites of mine. I learned about flash photography, portrait lenses (I eventually bought a 50mm 1.4 lens that I love btw), and working with your subject. As I immersed myself in this genre I came across the work of Chris Orwig. Orwig is a photographer based out of southern California who specialized in a particular type of portrait photography: natural light narrative portraiture, a type of portraiture that doesn’t use flash instead relying on natural light and aims to tell something of a story in a single photograph. I watched every Orwig video tutorial I could find on narrative portraiture. I studied not only his in camera technique, but more importantly the way he interacted and built rapport with the subject in order to get that single, story-telling image.

I also practiced… a lot. I asked friends of mine if I could capture their “narrative” portrait explaining to them that I was trying to improve my portrait photography prior to shooting my daughter’s senior pictures. I had several takers (thankfully) which gave me the opportunity to practice, make mistakes, learn how to process portraits, and try new techniques prior to Lizzy’s shoot.

The three images above are three examples of the prep work I did based on Orwig’s tutorials. Here is a bit of their story:

  1. Emma - One fo the more important lessons I learned from Orwig was the power of open shade to light your subject. Open shade can provide some of the best lighting conditions a natural light photographer can find. This image of Emma is a great example of what Orwig would refer to as “garage door” lighting as this image was taken in the open garage door of a barn. The natural lighting, which came from the not only the ambient light, but also reflected light off the ground beneath her did a wonderful job of illuminating her face. A bit of post processing to clean up the background and my portrait of my youngest daughter was complete.

  2. Danny A - Danny is a podcaster, guitar teacher, co-worker friend of mine. When I shared with him my desire to improve my portraiture, Danny offered to be a subject. His teaching studio is located in an old mill building in Dover, NH, the type of old mill building that has huge light filled windows and thick brick walls that ooze of history. It was a perfect story telling location. Yet, as we got shooting, I remembered a lesson taught by Orwig - use a prop to tell the story. How could I tell Danny’s story without including a guitar? And so, I asked him to play his guitar for a bit and captured a number of shots including this one with a very narrow depth of field on him tuning his instrument.

  3. Like Danny, Ollire is a friend of mine who volunteered to be a subject. Ollire is an amazingly soulful person whose wisdom and care provides support for a number of people on many different levels. When I spoke with Ollire prior to our shoot, I told her I wanted to capture a portrait of her that celebrated her journey (both past and future) and I wanted to use Wagon Hill Farm in Durham, NH (the location of “The Wagon”my first post in this series) as our location. After 45 minutes of shooting (mostly for me to practice some techniques) Ollire and I walked to the location for our “journey” shot and captured several frames before we got this one. What I like most about the shot is the story that it tells. Ollire is walking a path with no particular end in sight, with her yoga mat over her shoulder (representing how important yoga and meditation are to her), with the incongruity of her glancing back while still stepping forward (representing the journeys, both past and present). It was really the shot I had envisioned leading up the shoot and, I believe, captures my friend Ollire perfectly.

I have a feeling you may see an image from my daughter’s senior shoot later in this series, but I felt that these three images as a representative sample of learning that took place for me to better take narrative portraits, needed to be a part of this blog series, and thus collectively, they represent #8 on my top 10 most meaningful images of 2018.