Hana and I met for the first time at 6 am for this shoot. I had never seen the stars over Lake Erie before, not even when I proposed to Emily last year. I tried a few long exposures when the light was so dim that I had no choice. It was so dark that my light meter only worked in reflective mode. I had never incorporated the long exposure glassy water look with portraits before, but I think they turned out pretty well. The first few in this set had exposures of about 20 sec. Hana's dress and the waves moved in the morning wind. In the future, I might try using more distant poses so that movements of the subject are minimized more.
Eventually some visitors came to the beach, including sea gulls and machines that groomed the shoreline sand. We responded by sending Hana running at the gulls. This was possibly my favorite part of the shoot, even if the exposure wasn't timed to sync with the focus. I also enjoyed trying more traditional portraits with the longer focal length 150 mm lens. The Sonnar lens sometimes surprises me with perfectly sharp focus on the eyes. I especially like how the one with her hands folded turned out.
I am noticing that each time I shoot a portrait session this summer, I feel myself improving -- trying new things, getting more comfortable suggesting poses, and mixing up the shots for more variety. I am enjoying this process. I also have learned how to scan negatives to really make the images pop. I chose to bring these into digital with "high key" exposure. Even though the morning light was soft, I felt there was something really bright and playful in the mood. The softness of the morning light allowed me to bring up highlights without blowing them out -- a look that I really appreciate. Film gives me the flexibility in exposure to do this.
Equipment used: Hasselblad 500 c/m, Distagon 50 CF, Sonnar 150 CF, Delta 400 b&w film, Epson Perfection V700
For a little change on the blog, I thought I would write something to go along with the photos. The theme of this post will be about how the familiar can aid in creative expression.
I've known Jess for a little over a year. This was our third time shooting, and I felt like it was the best session so far. Knowing a model helps to skip over a lot of the process of getting to know one another and being sure the experience is a comfortable one for them. This time I could help direct her into poses, while still encouraging her to be herself. It's easier to do when the relationship is already established.
This time, I brought only the Hasselblad and decided to use just one lens (Distagon 50 CF) and two kinds of b&w film (Ilford Delta 400 and 3200). I thought that by limiting the choices I had to make on the fly, I could focus on making good images. I knew what kind of look I was going for, so I only had to make the decisions ahead of time. The limitations proved helpful, as we got a variety of shots I liked, even with a single focal length and without any color.
We drove to Edgewater together with Jess's high school friend, Jen. Edgewater is usually a crowded beach, especially on a Saturday, but we could avoid that with a little forethought. We walked down the hill from the western parking lot to the shorter beach. There were only a handful of people and I did my best to leave them out of the wide angle of the lens.
The weather was better than I could have hoped for or expected. The low sun afforded both direct and back lighting. The waves were actually the greatest obstacle. A few times we each got slapped with some of Lake Erie's water. The tiny pieces of shell stuck to Jess and made it difficult to do any poses in the sand.
I had a few things I wanted to try and some of them didn't happen. But I learned a lot from this shoot by sticking to a single goal: to portray Jess on the shore of Lake Erie in a way that was honest and true. I use portraiture as a way of getting to know people and sharing my experience of them with others. Is it possible to get to know someone through an image? While there is much about photography that is superficial and vain, there is insight to be had from an image. How someone holds themself and looks at you can tell a lot about the experiences that person has had. Portraiture for me is less about acting out some role one knows nothing about, and more about being oneself openly.
I believe that people of Cleveland are shaped by experiences of hard work and a struggle to find meaning in the shadows of larger and more prosperous cities. I wanted these portraits to convey that sense of strength which comes from struggle. At the same time, I wanted Jess's light to shine out with a kind of hope that overcomes the burden of the dull and boring. It was an ordinary day at the beach, but one that I'll remember for the visions we created and the friendship we shared.
I will post more images than usual from this session because I'd like to share what I normally get from a 2 hour shoot on 4 rolls of 120 film (48 pictures total). A digital photographer might shoot hundreds of pictures in that time. With film, especially medium format, I find myself slow down to make the most of each frame. I find that care and deliberation make for better photos. I have no desire to fire off my camera like a machine gun and fix things in post. I want the process to be intentional.