Shooting in the studio is always a joy because it's so laid back. With no constraints and ultimate control over lighting and the set, there simply aren't many of the practical limitations to creativity that are realities for most shoots. Recent I photographed one of my oldest subjects, my good friend Erik, in his studio-converted apartment in Connecticut. During the edit, both Erik and I were feeling the high-contrast black and white look, as it fit well with the very two-dimensional minimalist set we had created. Playing with shapes and lines, I think we were able to create some interesting and unique portraiture. Take a look.
For twenty-somethings like me who's grandparents aren't always going to be around, getting to spend time with them means a lot. I've been fortunate to get to spend time and develop relationship with my grandparents recently, for which I'm really appreciative. But as awesome as getting to spend time with your grandparents is, another perk about being around old people is that they're amazing to photograph. While mine in particular can't seem to understand why I always am pointing my camera at them, a worn and weathered face makes a far more interesting portrait subject than your every-day photo subject.
I recently painted a new canvas backdrop. Ok, well it's not really new — I actually painted the back side of one of my existing canvases, which you can see how I painted here. The process was as fun as always, and I think I got some really cool results out of this one. Every new one I paint I get to experiment and learn new ways to achieve the textures I want. Plus, I ended up with some pretty cool looking hands from the paint.
With my new backdrop completed I figured I should give it a test to see how it photographs. And who better than my grandma? I talked her into standing long enough for a quick (and by quick I mean 2 minutes tops) photoshoot while I snapped a few frames with the camera in one hand, holding a white bounce card in my spare hand. This was mainly achievable because I shot on my little Fujifilm X100T, which practically fits in the palm of my hand. I did get a few frames out on my black and white film camera too, but I'll have to wait a few weeks to see how those turned out.
Although it was a brief shoot, I've got to say, I like how the photos turned out. Both my new canvas and my old grandma photographed beautifully.
Testing is how you improve as a photographer. Constantly trying new lighting techniques or ideas lets you see what works and what doesn't. It lets you perfect your lighting skills and proficiency on set, so when you have a paying client, everything is guaranteed to go smoothly. It's one of the few times you can show up to a shoot with absolutely no concept, no plans, and just try to make something work. Doing impromptu test shoots is like a blank canvas — you show up, see what you can get, and learn from it. You learn to problem solve and make something out of nothing. The freedom is liberating.
This recent shoot with my good friend Jessica was a test shoot that provided a personal challenge. I had traveled back to Moscow to see friends for the weekend, and was staying at Jessica's place. We have a few free hours in the morning before going on a hike that afternoon, so we decided we'd throw together a last minute photoshoot. We didn't have any models, a studio space, or any plan to speak of. We tried to find some friends who were willing to sit for the camera, but didn't have any last minute luck. Without models, we decided that we'd just photograph each other — neither of whom had showered or prepared in any way to be photographed that morning.
We drove around and found a sheltered area out of the slight breeze and set up a nice little studio outdoors. We experimented with mixing natural light with a pop of studio strobes outdoors, primarily shot against my small hand-painted canvas backdrop that I had in the back of my car. I also experimented with letting go of the strobes entirely and shooting just natural light and using black cutters to knock down light and create shadow and depth to the portrait.
In the short session we captured some interesting images, some of which I think work really well in black and white. With just a few hours one morning, going from no plan at all to a final image felt like a productive use of time and allowed for a little flexing of my creative muscles. Here's to something a little different.
And a bonus photo... A picture of a creepy old house somewhere on the Palouse, photographed during my weekend in Moscow.