We are Statues

6 04 2010

Black. Man., originally uploaded by kamikaze productions.

It is my belief – mainly because I’ve been taking portraits for some time – that people have a uniformity of range. When it comes to posing, I will never make an argument that a model/actor (i.e. entertainer) has less range than a regular person. But what I will argue is that the raw and natural exposure to emotion that we all possess as humans gives us a range of posture and position that can create photos like this.

This photo makes me recall images of famous leaders that have carried their torch through our cold world. There are several factors that make their images inheritently more powerful – context, history, significance, to name a few. But that doesn’t mean we can’t attempt to re-create those same powerful images.

Technically speaking, I find that a close crop is going to be the best way of bringing the power to our protaganist. Shooting too far away invites distractions into the scene, marginalizing our subject and ultimately diminishing his/her power. For the model, simplicity is best. There are a range of emotions we as humans can express but it isn’t the “what” as much as it is the “how.” How should you express sadness, fear, strength – simply. Do not overthink the easy. And while modeling for a non-model may seem hard…it isn’t if you just channel what you already know. I can give more advice on techniquie, but I think it is self-explanatory and it would be more fun to experiment – which is what I advocate on this blog!

Some post-processing was used for the photo. I worked with contrast and saturation, but it pretty much communicated all on its own. Now go, get out there and shoot some powerful portraits.


Alternative Wedding Shots

24 11 2009

Her Walk., originally uploaded by kamikaze productions.

I shot my first wedding not too long ago. I didn’t have any of the camera equipment that a pro would recommend, nor the experience for that matter. I just came with my love of the camera and the art of finding the right shot. Why was I able to do this? Well quite frankly – this wasn’t a paying gig.

It had to be one of the great opportunities I’ve ever had. Being at a friends wedding and being able to capture some not so contemporary, not so cookie cutter, not so yearbook shots…making the wedding into you’re own personal artistic rendition. If you ever have the chance to do it, please do by all means. Sitting in the audience is boring anyway, so get up and try it out!

The picture above illustrates what I meant by artistic. Most wedding shots, and event photos for that matter, concentrate on a subject – in sports it’s the players and at a rally the orator. But how you capture an event is really the fun part. How do you transcend the subject so that the meaning becomes less simple?

The best advice I can give is step outside the comfort zone. Apply your street photography sense to the situation, in my case a wedding. The baseline, there is more than one way to skin a cat. (Is that the right adage?) In this picture, I shot the subject from the diagonal rear. The focus is her, but you get a sense that you may feel what she’s feeling as she is escorted past her friends and family by her loving father. You feel her regalness as all eyes are on the groom’s Queen, she is holding court. This isn’t a feeling you could capture by shooting her dead on center. Also consider the crop, which is tight in this case but encompasses enough of the supporting cast to draw you into her mind.

Trial and error always wins in my head…so just shoot and don’t be afraid to take the unnatural, the less normal of shots. Good luck and good shooting!

The World’s a Studio

14 03 2009

Next., originally uploaded by kamikaze productions.

Ok…so I’m exaggerating but then again I’m not. Whenever I’m asked by a friend to help them with some modeling shots, the first thing I say is you have to understand – 1) I don’t have any sort of studio lighting, and 2) I don’t have proper equipment (backdrops, etc). But I never turn down an opportunity to capture another subject, learn another skill, or just pick up the camera.

My friend Chelsea was in town and asked for a favor, so we tried to navigate my apartment in a way that would give somewhat usable lighting and background. Now here is where the whole anywhere is a studio idea comes in. We made a white wall be the equivalent of a backdrop and propped up lights to help eliminate shadows. Biggest downside – regular lights aren’t white!

But creativity is the important part of the experience. There was no way pictures were going to come out and be worthy of her final portfolio, but the practice and the experience yield returns as well.

One thing I learned – when you get in tight, you can mimic a studio quality image. Now this picture I have edited of course but the point is you can make an ordinary wall be a plain backdrop – I’ve contemplated taking the idea to another level and hanging paper to change a background color as well.

The ultimate lesson is that anything is possible with a camera and an idea. Studios traditionally have the fancy equipment, lighting, etc…but if you follow the mantra “Life’s a stage”…then it won’t be that hard for the photographer like you and me without the fancy stuff to adapt the phrase to say – “Life’s a studio”…just make sure you bring the camera with you when you leave the house.

Lack of Inspiration

17 02 2009

Winter Walk, originally uploaded by kamikaze productions.

It was somewhere around 15-22 degrees Fahrenheit that day. I was planning on doing some portraits in Central Park, but my “date” couldn’t make it. I decided because it was such a well lit day to hang out anyway and see if I could catch some good shots.

It had been awhile since I had just tried to capture landscapes and scenary, and I won’t pretend like it was easy. I felt mediocre at best, couldn’t put anything into frame – it was just rough on my ego. Couple that with the frigid temperature, and well inspiration was clearly absent. I may have taken somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 shots, and luckily I did walk away with a few I could be proud of.

The picture above happened when I was really justt rying to capture some depth by focusing on the shrubs with the majority of the frame lending itself to the walkway. However, a group of young people walked onto the ice and started to trek down the path. I snapped about 10 images making sure i blurred the passerbys on purpose. I thought it would add to the effect. And it did – I have a picture that served its purpose – wintery imagery, depth, and a cool feeling reminiscent of the cold climate.

I learned two lessons from this adventure. 1) When you don’t see anything you want to take pictures of – take the pictures anyway. Frame and re-frame just keep taking pictures until your brain kickstarts or you get a lucky moment. 2) Never ever choose to not shoot just because of a cancellation. I was already on location with gear – worse thing I could have done would be do go home after complaining to myself how cold it was. Keep shooting and never cancel on yourself, a sure fire way to come out with at least one photo to smile about.

A Portrait Doesn’t Always Have to Contain a Face

2 02 2009

An Inaugural Bow., originally uploaded by kamikaze productions.

Lengthy title, I know. But this is a relatively easy topic. A face must not always be the criteria for a portrait. According to wikipedia.org, a portrait is “a painting, photograph, sculpture, or other artistic representation of a person, in which the face and its expression is predominant.” Well not all rules are made to be broken but this is one definitely is. Or atleast, they can give this type a shot a new title.

Either way, next time you are engaged in a photoshoot, or simply just taking pictures on a photowalk, do me a favor – break your subject down into fractions. Start looking at your subject as a whole and then look at it as the sum of it’s parts. In the picture above, I believe that I have captured the same amount of elegance as would be captured with the full body and face displayed in the frame as well.

Shooting at different angles gives us different perspectives, a choosing alternative subjects within subjects gives us new way of conveying our message without destroying the original intent of the shot. Now, get out there and try that, this should help with any mental blocks giving you a new range of images to capture.

Poetry and Photography: Take #1

27 01 2009

No More., originally uploaded by kamikaze productions.

I’ve have decided to start writing again, poetry, prose, whatever moves me when I finish processing a shot. I used to write a lot more, and it only seems write not to abandon the craft…especially when the arts are incredibly interwined and touch the human emotion centers in many of the same ways. Here is my second poem but first blog posting to start 2009:

“No More”

There is a calm before the storm, but a calm follows swiftly in its wake,
The lull of destruction swirls with the unknown reality of limbo…
Will it end, will I move on, what do I do,

A tongue-tied heart and a teeming kettle of a brain,
an inability to silence the hurt, nor to communicate the joy…
yes, joy — jealousy brought about this pain,
never again and no more — I will not feel like this.

The world may ignore, but I weeped for you,
to have witnessed, was to have felt,
to have listened, was to have fallen with,
and to have recovered was to love…one day they will weep too.

Shooting Sexy

21 01 2009

Appeal., originally uploaded by kamikaze productions.

It wasn’t until recently, that I really got into shooting a model in a photograph. Most of the subjects in my work are my friends turned guinea pigs or strangers unaware of the new found celebrity via my lens.

I had a friend that approached me looking for some basic shots to start off her porfolio. It was an extraordinary challenge, given my lack of experience, not to mention the yellowish tint of light and low light at that — throw in no use of flash — in my apartment. So instead of really getting portfolio work done, it became a learning experience in what work and what doesn’t in low light no flash situations, and I found out that you can salvage a shoot if you don’t mind getting artistic.

This photo exudes sexy, classy — sexy. There is one element in this photo that keeps it sexy as opposed to the reaction — “She’s hot!” that you would get from a regular photo on some bikini modeling website. That element is absence of light, the vacuum that creates one of a photographer’s favorite tools – shadows.

Don’t get me wrong, I did use a preset in light room when I processed this shot, but the shadows are what make this photo what it is. There are both subtle shadows and overwhelming shadows. Subtle shadows have their role in a light ballad down the center of the chest, while heavy shadows drench her right side and even medium shadows have some play across her face.

Photography is capturing an image based on lighting…I have several other definitions as well…but regardless, pay attention to how you use the absence of lighting as well as the presence of lighting to capture the context, emotion, and aesthetic that you are looking for when shooting.