Senior Citizen Couple, New Jersey (Steve Greer/Released)
It’s a New Year, and as I watch the first snow falling around me, I’m drawn to revisit a personal project. I’ve been processing some senior citizen portraits for an upcoming photo contest, and I thought it would be worth paying tribute to this generation, in my first post of 2015.
Below is a video montage and some thoughts during the project.
From a photo journalistic point of view, I’ve always been interested in senior citizens. The obvious arthritic hands and weathered faces are just the tip of the creative iceberg to explore with a camera.
This is my visual attempt to share the insight, stories, and “elderisms” of a generation. Not so much for the sake of history, but for the sake of relationships. At this point in their lives, most have shed the trivial distractions of life and have reached a perspective only reached through important lessons learned on their respective journeys.
This personal assignment was a chance to go beyond the pearls of wisdom and clichés like, “life is a journey” or “do what you love”. Deathbed confessions, excerpts from diaries, and sharing old photos from a misspent youth, gave way to an emotional photographic exploration.
Some of these folks I know well, and others through their generosity allowed me a glimpse into their world. Seeing their challenges, and sharing joys, regrets, and values, I learned not all seniors are like Napoleon and Josephine. Or Gracie and George. It was more eccentric, crotchety, but never boring.
Thanks so much for all who revealed their lives and participated in this project. Our time together turned out to be more rewarding and far richer than any image created.
When I was asked to photograph a Division 2 college swimmer, I had visions of the Sports Illustrated magazine covers. But once I saw how attractive she was, I asked if I could introduce more of a portrait beauty style lighting to this sports related photo shoot.
To achieve a high-key commercial look on the athlete, I positioned 2 Elinchrom strobes in strip boxes, one on either side of her. I also used flags to prevent any flare coming back towards the lens. The main light, or fill light, was an Elinchrom strobe attached to a large Softbox, positioned just off camera left and set for 2 stops under the key lights.
Thankfully the cloudy day outside the pool provided the ideal flat light for the indoor pool background. A sunny day would have meant high contrast light coming through the windows, creating harsh shadows and rendering a completely different scene and mood. Using my camera’s meter to expose for the overall scene, I then added 3 stops to overexpose the windows and give the pool a soft white atmospheric mood.
The swimmer was nervous being in front of the camera with all the lights and equipment. To make her feel more comfortable on set, I placed my camera on a tripod and setup a remote trigger. This way I could walk away from behind the lens, talk with the model, and give her a chance to loosen up and relax without me peering through the viewfinder.
After getting to know each other, offering her lots of encouragement, and cracking silly jokes, I could see the beginnings of a genuine smile. The expression and emotion that would make for a captivating image soon followed.
In post-production the model’s skin was already borderline flawless, making retouching easy. And with a little desaturation applied in PhotoShop, the glowing look and feel this athlete evokes is convincing. She could double as a beauty model!
The camera settings were 1/60sec, f5.0, 55mm, ISO320
Adding a Model to my Photography Concepts is the best way to challenge my creativity. And juxtaposing the ordinary with the surreal can often make conceptual images have a strong visual impact.
Recently, ferocious storm clouds raced over my house, offering an exciting heart pounding opportunity to make some dynamic cloudscape background photos. And later, while I was looking at the new images on the monitor, my young son came over and said he wished he could fly. Eureka! My next concept photo shoot was born!
Finding feathers, a trampoline, and a child who loves jumping, was easy. Determining the diameter of the feather shaft to match the model’s hand was more challenging. To solve this, the model held a piece of PVC pipe in each hand while jumping on a trampoline. This meant his fingers would be in the right position, and scale, to match the feathers, that would be later added in PhotoShop.
To complete the illusion, I photographed at a low angle to dramatize the height of the model in the air. For the jumping photos, the camera settings were ISO 100, 35mm, f8, 1/1000sec. The main light was a bright overcast sky. Two Elinchrom strobes in strip boxes rimmed the model to replicate the direction of the light from the clouds. And thanks to Icarus, no wax was required.
I have recently been featured in an interview on ForegroundWeb about my experience running a photography business. I’ve been lucky to be in the industry long enough to have a chance to reflect back at my career. And now I look forward to the opportunity to produce many more creative projects. To read the entire article, you can simply go to Alex Vita’s blog http://www.foregroundweb.com
Bicycle Rider pedaling on a Country Highway (Steve Greer)
As a Sports Commercial Photographer in New Jersey, I had an opportunity to create a Composite Photo of a road racing cyclist.
A full service sports specialist in Philadelphia was interested in showcasing the new racing jerseys for their competitive title-sponsored Masters Team. Together with the clothing designer, the concept was to create a high-energy environmental portrait of a competitive cyclist. It had to look fast, dynamic, and exciting!
In the studio, a fitness resister stand was attached to the back wheel of the bike. This helped the rider balance and stay on his pedals. After the images were made in a certain spot, the bike was carefully removed from the stand, and just the bike was photographed, in the same spot. This made cloning out the stand a lot easier in PhotoShop.
To make the composite believable, the angle, height, and focal length of the camera had to match the created background plate. Full studio lights and modifiers were used to sculpt and color the light to match the background. And the invented flares were then added using a PhotoShop plugin from the Knoll Light Factory.