Client Session: Blake’s Senior Portraits

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I’ve been shooting a lot of fashion work lately, so it was refreshing to get back to my ‘roots’ with some family-style portraits again. This good looking guy is not in fact a model, but ‘merely’ a local high school senior. I had met Blake about a year ago briefly, when I covered his mother’s military retirement ceremony. So I think it made this senior-portrait session more comfortable for everyone involved, since we all knew each other. It was good to see his mom again too. Mom attended the session, and did a good job of “supporting from a distance” so her son didn’t feel awkward.

And we sure got a killer sunset that evening!

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Which was fortunate, because this shoot had actually been rescheduled from a previous date. We had to postpone the earlier one due to weather. No it wasn’t raining, but it was overcast and not really what Blake had in mind for a background. While I can’t guarantee beautiful sunsets for my clients, I do try and work with them if the sky isn’t behaving (and my booking schedule makes it practical). So glad we were able to reschedule for such a grand evening!

Blake picked the location, which I hadn’t shot at before (even though it’s in my home town of Ventura). We headed over to the beach at Marina Park, which had quite a few different ‘photogenic’ spots…surprising given its small size. I had scouted the area earlier that day, as I try to do with locations I haven’t shot at before. That obviously makes the portrait session go more smoothly. And it’s one thing to have visited a location on a casual basis before—as I have done with Marina Park—and quite another to visit it with a session in mind. It’s not enough to have vague memories of a place if you want to make the session work; you have to go there with your ‘camera eye’ turned on. I have to determine which direction the sun will be setting, are there any hills in that direction that will cause an ‘earlier sunset’, where will I place the subject, where the light is going to come from (both flash and natural)…these things are important.

Below I’m doing my crazy shoot-into-the-sun routine again. I like the look the lens flare gives to sunset shots…warm and inviting.

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Lighting was very simple for this session, since I didn’t have an assistant (and didn’t need one). I just used one light, through a 45″ shoot through umbrella. That actual light got switched out half way through, while the umbrella remained the diffuser of choice. Initially while the sun was still strong, I used my Norman 200B. You can see below how the strobe (camera left) is just a little whiter than the setting sun hitting his face camera-right. As the sun began to get serious about setting, I swapped out a Nikon SB-28 with a 1/2 CTO (i.e. orange) on it, to match the changing color of the sun. The lead shot above is an example of ones that were taken this way.

The hardest part of the shoot was trying to find a spot for my lightstand that would keep it stable. This was especially true while we were perched on the breaker rocks. At one point I had two legs straddling two different rocks, one hand stretched to hold up the light stand, and the other shooting away with the camera.

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And finally we have Blake (below) perched on some small sand dunes, with the strobe coming from camera left, and the sun lighting the front of his face.

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We did have to high-tail it out of the park though, as a park official came over and reminded us that the park closes at sunset and the gates would be locked. Never mind we had at least ten minutes until sunset, and were heading that way anyway! I guess it was dinner time for him and he wanted to shut things down early. So other than the final dash to the parking lot, this was a nice and relaxed portrait session, with two great people and one wonderful sunset!

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