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Previsualization And Passion, Driving Forces in Photography
The Hooch, The Hooch Is On Fire!
The Technical: Often my photojournalistic roots kick in, as I’ve spent 30-plus years still practicing photojournalism, less than more, but it’s still my forte, and this photo of Elite Agency model Jenni, showcases how my photojournalistic eye is still open.
Elite Agency model Jenni is illuminated with natural daylight filtering from a window at the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Basically this photograph was captured indoors with a Canon 5D (unfortunately not the Mark II which I later acquired) using my Canon 85mm F/2.8L USM lens and the digital camera ISO set at 100. The graininess comes from postproduction in Nik Software, where I first started out with the Bleach Bypass filter, then the Dynamic Skin Softner, followed by their Silver Efex Pro using the Infrared Soft Film filter. I might add, this is done as a plugin in Adobe® Photoshop®. Yes, it’s a few filters, but it beats working in a darkroom where you’ll come out smelling like D-76 (film developer), Dektol (paper developer), stop batch (glacial acetic acid) and fixer (sodium thiosulfate). But, I can assure you, the original color photograph is just as nice, the difference, I wanted to add more mood to the image that what was already provided by using my Canon lens at F/1.2.
Part of my passion in photography is to interject mood into my images. Often the mood I want to create is the feeling that I’m there (you the viewer are there). If you look at the image long enough, you can feel that mood, especially when you gaze into Jenni’s eyes. Traditionally stronger images are those created vertically, not horizontally as we see here, but I went with a horizontal framing and composition because the elbow provides a diagonal, imaginary leading line to her face as it comes from the right corner of the image frame. Notice too, that her face is in the upper left third of the image, following the rules of thirds where you slice an image into thirds, both vertically and horizontally and place your subject at one of those intersecting points. The other key to that placement in this image, is the cropping from the left, thus giving the model space to look into the direction of the action.
Notice the diagonal, imaginary leading line created by Jenni's arm and elbow that bring you to her face, carefully placed in the upper third section of the image.
My old friend, now long gone into the heavens of paradise, the late Monte Zucker, always stated that the best light comes from the side or back. In this photo of Jenni, she is primarily lit from the side, not from the front, thanks to the filtered window light. Monte was right—God bless him, we miss him dearly.
The Story Behind the Image: One of my favorite places to conduct photography workshops is in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Normally I arrive a couple of days early with my talent, the models, make-up artists and assistants, thus giving them a chance to relax and acclimatize before all the photography workshop attendees arrive. Notice I said attendees, as all photographers, including myself, are students of photography, we never stop learning, not to mention technology changes every Monday when the Board of Directors meet.
A bird's-eye-view of our tropical photography workshop location in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Regardless, those extra days in the “VI,” as we call it, give us all time to relax before the workshop starts. Not to mention, most everyone starts out with an early morning flight on the day of arrival. I myself take an early morning flight to make the ferry schedule, and because I’m afraid I’ll miss the alarm clock, I stay up through the night and get some extra work done. Obviously we’re all usually exhausted by the time we get to our location, which involves landing in St. Thomas, waiting for what seems like forever in the un-air-conditioned baggage claim area where the temperature feels like a hot Texas summer, and the humidity is 99-percent. Once we have our bags, we jump into “Kevin’s” van and head down to the ferryboat for a five-minute ride across the Caribbean ocean to our tropical location.
Have Working Themes
When I go to teach a photography workshop, or while on a photo assignment, and even self-promotional shoots with one specific purpose, I constantly glance around and ask myself whether there is an additional photo opportunity to shoot something for one of my various “themes” I’m constantly working on.
Every photographer should make a list of “working portfolio goals”—ideal themes they’d like to accomplish. Then, when shooting, open your mind to all the possibilities. When the model is in make-up, look around, there is always another shot.
When we get to the ferry dock on the other side, if I don’t do it myself, I’ll send a couple of my team members up the hill to get the golf carts on our remote tropical location so we can ferry all the equipment and luggage over to “our spot.” By then we’re all drenched in sweat, exhausted, and we’re scrounging for dinner until we can hit the grocery store in St. Thomas the next day. Usually we all stay up chatting till about midnight, drinks in hand, until I finally pass out in my quarters, which over the past six years was coined “The Hooch.” Some of that term comes from my almost nine years as a former U.S. Army, active-duty soldier and combat photographer.
I like the hooch, it keeps me a comfortable distance from everyone else and it’s become my little retreat, not to mention it’s next to the infinity edge swimming pool where those “walking on water” photographs are created, so the hooch comes in real handy if it starts to sprinkle. Besides a safe haven during inclement weather, which is not often, the hooch has a rather large window that faces toward the ocean and sunset, thus during certain times of the day the light is amazing and ever since my first stay there, it puts me in the mood to shoot at times, especially during the hot afternoon when the light is too hard and harsh outside for photos unless we break out scrims.
So today, as I was finalizing plans for the workshop slash birthday event in Las Vegas next week, I remembered how I rarely celebrate my birthday and the last time I did was three years ago in the VI. A lot has gone on since and the following two years after that infamous birthday haven’t been too kind for practically anyone, myself included. So as I reflected on what “Lens Diaries” photo I would post, this one came to my mind as Jenni and Laura, two of my models, made special arrangements to throw me probably the best birthday party of my life—let’s just say, I certainly didn’t expect it—but that’s another story left more for my memoirs if my writings ever take me that far.
During that weeklong stay in the VI, as I normally do during workshop free time, I decided to do what I passionately love most besides my children and that is photography. So I asked Jenni one afternoon when my photographic passion hit if she’d like to shoot and she agreed. The only difference than most of my glamour photography, I was in the mood for something more photojournalistic and thus I wanted to also shoot some available light and the hooch provided that perfectly. So as moody as I was that day, I mounted my Canon 85mm F/1.2L USM lens on my digital camera and began shooting wide-open (aperture at it’s widest opening) with a shutter speed of 1/1000. Part of this shooting technique is my drive for a long-term book project theme I like to call Wide Aperture.
The juxtaposition of the fan in this photograph of Jenni helps illustrate the hot temperature in the hooch.
As a photographer I always go into a shoot with one mindset, photograph what I’ve either been hired to capture or create what I’ve previsualized in my mind. That day I had previsualized moody photographs of a model relaxing in the hooch and with the ambient temperature higher than normal we had the box fan running to keep Jenni cool. Just like arrival day in the baggage claim area at the St. Thomas airport, I was sweating like a dog when I began to create my photos and I not only created the feature photo of this blog post, but I also created another photojournalistic style photo illustrating the heat Jenni and I were facing that day in the hooch. Bottom line, sometimes the mindset and the model can funnel into a camera lens to create the feeling and the mood of the photograph—and the U.S. Virgin Islands location also helped set the tone that day.