Tag Archives: Portraits

Portrait Day – Intro to Large Format class

Having a little fun with the panoramic function on my iPhone in class today. Took this picture of two of my Large Format students doing studio portraits with a 4×5. I dug into the vaults and found some of my remaining stash of Polaroid Type 55 and let the students burn a couple sheets. I was more than pleasantly surprised with how well it worked- my Type 55 has to be a decade out of date by now, but the pods still processed nicely. I’d post some results but my students ran off with the negatives before I could copy any of them.

This was also my first test of my PocketWizard wireless flash sync setup on large format, and it worked very well. I got a little clamp from B&H photo that locks onto the front standard of my camera, and attached a hot shoe to PC adapter to the clamp. The PC cord connected the shoe to the sync on the shutter, and the PocketWizard sat in the shoe.

The other PW unit was connected to my Calumet Travelite monolight. This setup let me use my Sekonic L358 meter which has a PocketWizard trigger module, so I could meter wirelessly. That’s a big boon even when doing still life, and an even bigger one when shooting portraits, because that’s one less wire for you OR your sitter to trip over. If you look carefully at the front standard of the camera, you can see the PocketWizard module sticking out of the side in the photo.

Portraits and Studio Lighting

Back in November I taught a studio lighting class at Photoworks. This was my first time offering this class, so the curriculum was a bit of a gamble – I started with foundations of studio lighting, working from hot lights on still life setups and a single light source, and built my way up to electronic flash systems with multiple lights. In this case, my students had the burning itch to jump straight to portraiture, as that was their primary interest. I had a wonderful bunch of students in the class and everyone brought something to the table.

The portraits here are taken by me of my students. The portrait of Joe was done to demonstrate side light with a large diffuse light source, and a reflector. For demonstration purposes I moved the reflector in and out to lighten and darken the shadows, and shot it with both high and low contrast. This is my favorite of the bunch – there’s three-dimensional modeling of his face with the light, but the shadowed side of his face is not lost.

Joe P.
Joe P.

Geraldine was lit to show soft, flattering light. This was the classic “butterfly light” with a large diffuse light directly above and in front of the subject, a reflector below to open up the shadows a bit, and then hair light and background light applied to create separation of the subject from the background.

Geraldine W.
Geraldine W.

The shot of Matthew was done to demonstrate that “edge lighting” look you often see in sports photos of young athletes in shoe commercials. Obviously Matthew is no longer a high-school football player, but the look is very masculine and rugged and it works well on him. This was accomplished with two equal-powered heads in soft boxes, placed behind the sitter, at 45 degree angles to the subject-camera axis, and then adding in a little fill in the front so his face wouldn’t get lost.

Matthew F.
Matthew F.

The final photo of the day is our group shot. That’s me in the center, if you’re wondering. My fourth student in the class was Leslie, who is the one hiding behind Matthew’s shoulder.

Studio Lighting Class
Studio Lighting Class

All individual portraits were done with a Tele-Rolleiflex and the Rolleinar 0.35 close-up adapter, on Kodak Ektar 100 color film. The two black-and-white images were converted from Photoshop. Ektar is a good portrait film in natural light, I’ve decided, but for studio portraiture, Portra 160 is better.

Ordinary Objects, Italian Edition

As you may well know if you’ve followed my blog for some length of time, I like taking portraits of ordinary objects- things we see in daily life and ignore and/or take for granted, like pay phones, water fountains, traffic cones, and trash cans. I’ve photographed them in Paris, Toronto, New York, Washington DC and now Rome and Florence. They all have a common denominator of their base functionality. I think though that the Italian ones seem to have just a bit more flair and style to them – take a look and see what you think.

This fire hose connector is probably the newest thing I’ve photographed in this series – the copper connecting pipe has only just begun to oxidize!

Fire Hose Connector
Fire Hose Connector

In contrast, this trash can in Florence with cigarette butt receptacle is quite well-used, but still has style.

Quadrifoglio Trash Can, Florence
Quadrifoglio Trash Can, Florence

… as does this Roman bin across from the Capitoline hill.

Trashcan in the rain, Rome
Trashcan in the rain, Rome

The poor mailbox in Trastevere has been graffiti’d and stickered and it still soldiers on.

Mailbox, Trastevere, Rome
Mailbox, Trastevere, Rome

Don’t you wish all payphones were this glamorous (and as easy to find)? Here in DC when I went to find a payphone to photograph, it took me several days of looking before I ran into one. I saw this one on my first day in Florence.

Payphone, Florence
Payphone, Florence

I’ll include this because it has a very utilitarian purpose – it’s a street lamp. Granted, a 15th century street lamp attached to a palace, but a street lamp nonetheless.

Torch Holder, Palazzo Medici-Riccardi
Torch Holder, Palazzo Medici-Riccardi

A public drinking fountain. These were ubiquitous across Rome, in very much the same form, some in better and some in worse condition. But they worked, and the water was sweet and clean, always flowing, and free.

Water Fountain, Trastevere, Rome
Water Fountain, Trastevere, Rome

A lowly door handle – this one in particular is attached to a palace, but there were plenty to be found of similar quality on middle-class residences in both Rome and Florence.

Door Handle, Boboli Gardens
Door Handle, Boboli Gardens

And last but not least, a traffic cone. Well, in this case, a red granite bollard some four feet high and three-ish in diameter, in the entrance courtyard to the Palazzo Barberini.

Red Granite Bollard, Palazzo Barberini
Red Granite Bollard, Palazzo Barberini

1/4 Plate Daguerreotype, Anonymous Couple in Wallet Case

Here is a lovely daguerreotype, the latest addition to my collection. This is a quarter-plate size piece, in a wallet case. I did not have anything in a wallet case before, so I jumped on the opportunity especially since the plate was in such nice condition. The scan does not do it justice, frankly, as the cover glass and the frame put the plate a little out of the focusing range of the scanner lens, making it look a little less sharp, and any dust is only magnified.

Anonymous Couple, 1/4 plate Daguerreotype
Anonymous Couple, 1/4 plate Daguerreotype

Here is the wallet case itself. The clasp lock in fact works. I suspect there was a better button to operate the clasp at some point in the past and it fell off. This scan again doesn’t do the artifact justice, as the clasp has a lovely pattern etched into it that isn’t coming through.

Wallet Case
Wallet Case

I wanted the wallet case to add to my collection because I do exhibit and lecture from these artifacts and the wallet style makes it all the more obvious how these were meant to be carried around as treasured keepsakes to show to friends and family, not put up on a wall or a shelf (although wall frames for daguerreotypes and ambrotypes do exist). It creates an interesting dynamic between public and private – these objects were not reserved for viewing in the privacy of ones home, but rather exhibited wherever and whenever the fancy struck. We’ve come full circle on this today, where now people carry their entire photographic life on a little candy-bar sized device in their pocket, which interestingly enough, is roughly the same size as the quarter-plate daguerreotype, just a little skinnier.

The Maryland RennFest

I’m a big fan of the Maryland Renaissance Festival, where people get dressed up in all kinds of reasonably (in)authentic garb and indulge in the fantasy of being in another place and time for the day. Costumes range from Renaissance royalty to fantasy characters inspired by Lord of the Rings and other sci-fi/fantasy stories.

While I often get tarted up in my own RennFest costume (I pass for a lesser lord of the Realm in my velvet doublet and tights), it was hot enough out that I decided this time discretion was the better part of valor and I would be better off in street clothes, just taking pictures. I wasn’t as photographically focused as I’d have wanted to be, pardon the pun, as I had a friend in tow who wanted to take in the sights. This was another photo outing where having the Rollei really came in handy, as people would quite willingly (if not eagerly) pose for the cool camera with the two lenses.

RennFest Fairy Girl
RennFest Fairy Girl

Photographing the fairy-wing girl was a hoot- she saw the camera, geeked out over it, and got even more excited when I pulled out my hand-held meter to take an exposure reading: “Are you metering me?? That’s so COOL!”.

I felt so sorry for this poor boy, out selling floral hair garlands from a hand-cart in the blazing sun. Black feathers in your hair, while they do provide some shade for the face, can’t be the coolest thing to wear when it’s approaching 90F / 35C.

RennFest Flower Boy
RennFest Flower Boy

I did take this one as a candid, since the Maryland Man was so deep in conversation with the lady.

RennFest Maryland Renaissance Man
RennFest Maryland Renaissance Man

The living statue was busy posing, like a statue, and would only change or break pose if you put a tip in her cup. A little girl of perhaps five or six years old was enraptured by the statue, and an adult woman who was monitoring the child had to keep admonishing her (in the gentlest and situationally appropriate tone) “Don’t touch the statue- she doesn’t want to be touched”.

RennFest Living Statue
RennFest Living Statue
RennFest Statue Girl, Profile
RennFest Statue Girl, Profile

Another cast member at the RennFest who was approachable, thanks to the Rollei. He did get a bit distracted by I think a rather buxom young girl in a harem costume passing by just as I snapped the photo, so his expression isn’t what I was looking for.

RennFest Pickle Boy
RennFest Pickle Boy

And yes, if you’re wondering, that’s a Pokemon figurine on his necklace. See what I mean about not hewing to historical accuracy?

MODEL SHOOT, GEORGETOWN – THE FILM EDITION, Duos

Ok, well, two duos and a single. I couldn’t leave well enough alone and stick strictly to the article title, as there was one image left that needed to be used.

Trevor, Grayson
Trevor, Grayson
Trevor, Grayson
Trevor, Grayson

At least the odd single is in the same location, same lighting, same film. So it kinda-sorta fits. All three are, as tradition, shot on my Rolleiflex 2.8E, with Kodak Ektar 100.

Grayson
Grayson

Model Shoot, Georgetown – the Film Edition, Black-and-White

I squeezed in a roll of Tri-X in my shooting with the models. I wish I had had the chance to shoot some frames of Trevor, the other model, in black and white, but such is life. Another time.

Grayson
Grayson

Grayson has a very commanding gaze and makes for a great portrait subject. He uses this to compensate for an otherwise willowy physique (not that there’s anything wrong with willowy).

Grayson
Grayson

We shot all of these down under the Whitehurst Freeway where it runs parallel to the Potomac River on the edge of Georgetown. Despite the deep shade it creates, it makes for some beautiful, soft light.

Grayson
Grayson

The tank top reads “I like bad boys” in French. It was Grayson’s own choice of wardrobe – very fun and cheeky.

Grayson
Grayson

The last shot was at a boarded-up building tucked away under the freeway. I’m surprised given the value of real estate in Georgetown that such a place could exist. Whatever, it makes for a neat backdrop for models. The bottle of Fat Tire was found en-situ, and trust me, nobody drank from it.

Grayson
Grayson