Monday, June 14, 2010



Settings: 1.5 meter softlighter to camera left and halfway between subject and camera, aimed at head and centered at head height, about 3 meters from subject. Metered at head to be properly exposed. Background was shutter dragged to come up to proper exposure as well.

I had asked this subject if I could photograph him over a year ago, and it just worked out this weekend to do a shoot. I had some locations in mind, and did a 1.5 hour location scout with my camera, 35, and 50mm lenses. Luckily I did this right before the actual shoot, so the lighting was identical between scout trip and the shoot itself. Doing a location scout is really pivotal. You don't want to feel rushed with the subject or you could miss some nice background elements trying to just find something quick. I pick locations based on "feel" and our eyes can take in a huge field of view, plus we are viewing "live". It takes exploration to find a single view for your camera that encapsulates this same "feeling" that you chose the location for. By having plenty of time by yourself with no lights, just your camera, you can find these views a lot easier. I'm constantly putting the camera up to my eye without taking a photo, just looking how things are compressed and what shows from that angle.

For the above shot, I loved how the trees went back into the background, and the serene feeling of the bare ground with just pine needles. This is a very uncommon setting in Iceland, tall trees like this and bare ground with no grass or weeds. I knew this was spot number one for the shoot. I experimented with different heights of the camera during the scout, and I knew I wanted my 35mm lens so I could see up into the trees, which would necessitate a low angle. The 50mm narrowed the view too much and you didn't get the same sense of height. I wanted a nice soft side light, so I used the 1.5 meter softlighter. I metered for the face, and then opened the shutter until the background came into a nicer exposure, 1/60th of a second. The rim light on his left side is from the bright sky coming through the open area of the tree trunks above, behind, and to the right.

In post, all I did was create a gradient adjustment in Lightroom for the top of the trees, which I boosted exposure by 1 stop, and made a bit more saturated, and added a slight orange color overlay to give it the sunny feel. The left side of this copse of trees had a road, where people were walking and cars driving, so in Photoshop I duplicated the layer, flipped it, and masked in just enough to show bushes on that side as well. I left as much of the original trees as possible to keep it from looking mirrored. I also made an adjustment layer for the ground, darkened it slightly and added more red so it wasn't so yellow.


This location was very close to the first, and uses all natural light. This is the main cemetery of Reykjavik, and it is an incredibly peaceful place. There are trees planted on most graves, and since the cemetery itself is about 150 years old, some of them are quite large. It's the most dense large forest in the capital area. This location was the hardest to scout. I wanted to capture the depth of the forest, and the serenity, without it being too cliche as a cemetery portrait location. I wanted peace, not morbidity. This tree was one of the more dense in it's foliage, and as such created the darkest area of the cemetery. I knew if I put the subject under it and facing out, I could get some nice soft light with decent shadows on the side facing the tree. We took a few shots of him looking toward me, but I had him look outward, and his profile looked great. I made sure to line it up so it was on top of the dark branch, to truly show the silhouette, and grabbed this image. It should really be viewed large to really appreciate the details and tonal depth. I love the composition of having the dark side and light side, but his sleeve and face serve as the main light spots in the dark half, properly drawing your eye to the foreground. His sleeve and the tree branch behind his head make a smooth S-curve with his face in the middle. The photo was mainly about the tones and composition, and I felt black and white treatment was more appropriate and would really let me draw out the details I wanted. The main color was the green of the foliage, his outfit was all grey and white, so the color version doesn't bring much.

Here are the other favorites from the shoot, all using natural light.

sindrisvan-2.jpg sindrisvan-6.jpg sindrisvan-5.jpg

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