A few weeks ago I took Kailee’s high school senior portraits. This is the third time I’ve worked with this family, and I always enjoy getting to know a family over time. I made her older brother’s high school senior portraits last year, which you can read about here. Kailee didn’t want to replicate what her brother did though, and instead wanted her images to be taken with lots of wildflowers around. And we got ’em!
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When my client had made the appointment, months in advance, she had requested a location with lots of wildflowers. April seemed like a good month, but we’ve had a lot of rain this year in California. The flowers bloomed early, and I was concerned that they would be almost gone by the time the appointment arrived. I even contacted her mother and suggested we move it up, but that wasn’t possible. So I crossed my fingers and continued keeping an eye on several different locations known for their flowers.
Ultimately the flowers continued their long bloom, and we were able to shoot locally in Ventura. Arroyo Verde Park is a beautiful spot throughout the year, and the spring flowers are thick along the hiking trails. I knew they were primarily yellow flowers, so suggested Kailee wear yellow and/or white. Why not wear something contrasting the yellow, like blue or purple? Because of the green! Even though the yellow flowers contribute the most significant color in the images, the green is there, but goes unnoticed. (You’re noticing it now, I’ll bet.) However if we introduce a contrasting color into the mix, suddenly the green becomes a player. And then you have three colors to deal with, with possibly unpleasant results. Turns out Kailee had the perfect dress for the occasion. She even had the perfect necklace!
Lighting was very simple, as it had to be since we were hiking up some challenging trails. I had Heather assist me on this one, assuming the role of “voice-activated light stand”. I used just one light, my Metz Mecablitz 60, through a 43″ shoot-through umbrella. I had planned on using a fill light, but it turned out not to be necessary. I was able to adjust the ambient lighting so that fill wasn’t needed. The lead image has Heather standing neck-high in wildflowers, holding the strobe camera-left. In the image directly above, the light is camera-right. You can see the sunlight to the rear, providing a hair/edge light on Kailee’s hair and shoulders in both images.
For the image above, we moved even further up the trail. At this point we were shaded completely by the hill from the setting sun, so I turned the scene around and shot the eastern sky and sunlit hills in the background. My subject is lit from camera left, and this time I’m standing in flowers too (and precariously perched on a steep upward slope, all the while keeping an eye on a stinkbug that didn’t like me). The flash is further away and more subtle here, giving just a little pop rather than appearing “lit”.
If you’re shooting in a canyon or valley, always consider that the sun will seem to set earlier there than it really does, because of the hills. I had planned an earlier shoot time than usual, just for that reason. I also had another location planned, that didn’t require direct sunlight. There is a hidden woods at the bottom of the canyon, and I wanted to shoot there. I’ve shot there before for landscape/nature images, but was not entirely pleased with the result. Turns out it needs a person in that location to make it work!
The lighting is the same one-light affair, but this time shadows are more contrasty because there is less ambient light to fill them. Rather than bump my ISO too high, I simply used a slower shutter speed and rested my camera on an extra light stand I’d brought. With slow-ish shutter speeds of 1/40th second, it did require Kailee to stand still. Any motion yielded a slight ghosting, but fortunately there were very few of these. In the image below, you can see the weak skylight hitting the trees on the left, whereas my light is camera-right.
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