Turner Beach with the Out of Focus Guy. Missed his expression earlier. Rain was bearing down on us, he had his back to the waves, and we had this odd piece of driftwood stuck in the sand. He used his face to interpret the situation. I snapped the picture and his feet got washed over by the water. At least it’s warm in Florida.
Did a little photo story for John Deere Furrow a few years back about Smude’s cold press sunflower oil and of course they don’t use all of them. Always liked this shot.
She marched through the door and right over into the lighting set while the rest of the group filtered in for their head and shoulder pictures. There were 24 people and she was going first.
“You don’t want to do this do you?”
“You want it over with.”
“Well, I’m going to take good care of you.”
The people I work with are not of the red carpet, Hollywood set. They’re not likely to have personal trainers and managers. If they need something, they go get it themselves. Many of them have physical employment or own their own businesses or both. Having a picture taken is the last thing in the world they’d normally do. And yet, here she was, Ellen, for a head and shoulders picture as part of an association she belongs to. The picture was required of all board members.
At the top of my mind in these situations is the notion that people have something sweet and positive about themselves that I need to try to find and pull out. Ellen is a very nice person who gives generously of her time and talents so other people can have opportunities. So with limited time and a small set the challenge is to create the chance for Ellen to put her best foot forward and for me to capture it in the camera.
From my side of the camera, when all is said and done, I always feel like I let Ellen down. If I’d worked a little longer, harder, smarter perhaps I’d get closer to the goal. I feel strongly about not creating a new and unknown person with technique and software. But I do feel strongly about using the tools to help bring the person I see in Ellen up to the surface to share with everyone.
Head and shoulder pictures fall short of a portrait. At least in my world and in my mind. Portraits are a notch or two more intense. A proper portrait will involve more preparation for the subject and with the setting, location and lighting. Portraits also are likely to take more effort in production. To me at least, a portrait is something you want to enlarge and hang on the wall or publish in a magazine.
But head and shoulder pictures are a different genre. Not that an excellent head and shoulders picture can’t become a portrait, but I think the two things are for different purposes and are taken in different circumstances. And head and shoulders pictures have become so much more important. Social media has spurred additional interest in the need for a good, professional-looking head and shoulders image for many people.
Professionals want a good picture to have on their Linkdin, Facebook, Twitter, blog, and web site. It needn’t be a highly stylized portrait but it must have enough polish so the viewer gets a good impression of the person. That’s where I come in, I guess. Most of the people for whom I take head and shoulders pictures are at work and take a pause to come in and get a picture taken. Most of them have made some effort to look nice but we aren’t investing a lot of time in make up and costumes. What walks through the door is what I’m going to work with.
I invest enough energy in the lighting and background so everybody gets a fair shot. I’ll spend enough time to give everybody a chance to put their best foot forward. Let’s face it, most people don’t have movie star good looks but most people have something wonderful I try to pull out. Oh, and the time issue. There is never enough, really. But I want each person to have their time and have the opportunity to chime in about wants and likes and preferences.
And people are all so different. One person will walk in, step into the lights, strike a pose, and snap – you have the picture. The next will want to stop and look at each image, worry, fuss, make a few suggestion and try again. There also are plenty of people with specific needs. Like I said, we don’t all get movie star good looks.
Cold day outside and I decided to review some pictures from the past. Went back to 2012 where this image of Dean Williamson of Three Hearts Farm in Bozeman, Montana caught my eye. It was a good memory and part of an assignment I did for John Deere Furrow magazine. Dean was harvesting greens that morning. Bozeman isn’t the easiest place for growing produce but Dean had a system worked out to help extend his season at the front and back. Much of the produce went to the Bozeman Community Food Co-Op.
Had the opportunity to take aerial photos from a helicopter. It was assignment work for my job at the university. No arguments from me that I have a nice job. This kind of thing isn’t going to happen very often. The guy ahead of me only did it two or three times in 30 plus years and all of those were from a small airplane. Helicopters are the most awesome because they can stop, go up and down, and turn around on a dime. It was a small machine and just right for taking pictures. We made a couple of different runs and had a few adventures along the way.
Timing is everything, though. No doubt the time right after sunrise is the most fun and most beautiful. As the day goes on you quickly loose contrast and texture.
When I was informed we’d gone more than two weeks without seeing the sun, I went looking for any patch of color. It was dreary: almost snowing, almost raining, cold, gray, winter solstice. And here was this withered up, frosted over fruit with a death grip on its color.
Just had an itch for a horse photo. In fact, I’m feeling guilty that I haven’t been out taking horse pictures since early November. That was a sale with lots of action and drama. To scratch the itch, I spun through the archives and hit on the first thing that caught my eye. But I better get some winter horse pictures!
There’s a big difference between assignment photography and taking pictures for the hell of it. Maybe that’s obvious. But for those of us who live on assignment photography, taking pictures for the hell of it is very important. It’s a luxury to snap a picture without the consequence of failure. Financially, that is. Saturday, I had the chance to wander around with top notch photographers @sharkypix, @laurinovakphotography, @stevesfoto , and @thomashawk.
The pressure for taking pictures for the hell of it is on you. You can fail to live up to your expectations, or fail to create what you wanted. That’s it. Strive to meet your own standards or to challenge your notions to do what’s new.
Hastily at the end of the day I was working my cold fingers to get a few last night shots of the Milwaukee Art Museum. Earlier, I’d given away my flashlight to a couple of kids climbing around in an abandoned factory thinking it might keep them a little safer in the quickening darkness.