Boys on the Beach

I recently did a portrait session with a father and his three boys, ages 7, 11 and 13. They’re from Iowa, and had a big roadtrip planned for the July 4th holiday. Dad found me on the internet, and we worked out a plan for family portraits while they were here. Not a lot of scheduling leeway since they weren’t in town for very long. Two days, in fact! I recommended one of my favorite LA-adjacent locations, Malibu.

They drove from Las Vegas and arrived in LA around noon, and called me up. Dad said “I don’t know how your weather normally is out here, but is this sky going to clear up?” Ah yes, the dreaded marine layer that the California Board of Tourism doesn’t want you to know about. That’s right folks, it’s not all sun, all the time out here! More like 330 days of the year, tops. Hey, we suffer too!

While we didn’t get sun, we got drama! Here’s my favorite shot from the session:

[click “continue reading” below for more…]

Normally I would have consulted tide charts and advised the client on the right day and the right beach. But like I said, scheduling constraints just didn’t allow it. Basically one evening, do or die! Well it turns out the tide had elected to be at near maximum that evening. El Matador Beach, where we took the portraits, is gorgeous and dramatic. But at high tide, it can be a little, shall we say, ‘interesting’. We couldn’t move far from the steps leading down to the beach, and in fact, had to dodge waves in the middle of shooting. I’d yell “run!” and they’d all scramble, only to reassemble as the water receded.

This was the most fun I’ve had in a long time on a portrait shoot! We had a real sense of camaraderie, what with dodging waves, racing against the fading light and generally having fun. The father had said how excited the boys were to have their portraits taken, which I had originally discounted. Children, excited about getting their pictures taken? But it was true! They even took my picture with their disposable cameras!

What a great bunch of guys. It’s a shame they live in Iowa, because I’d love to work with them again.

Here are the three boys without dad. Gotta love those El Matador rocks!

And I love outtakes! The youngest wanted ever so badly to go play in the water, and kept sneaking off. When told to hurry into position, I managed to snap this one as he ran. I like the echo of the rock in the background, which seems to be leaning and running like he is.

And for the nerdy photo stuff:

Two SB-20s on a bracket, fired into a silver umbrella as key light. Sb-28 as fill, or used as a hair light as required. Camera was Fujifilm S5 Pro. I didn’t get out the Bronica ETR-s (medium format film) this time, because of time restraints and the added complexity.

My light stand legs were under water more than once, and I didn’t want to risk having a camera on a tripod. I only got my shoes soaked once though, which was good. I think!

6 thoughts on “Boys on the Beach

  1. Thanks Jen!

    As for lighting, I have one word for you: strobist. That site didn’t teach me everything I know about lighting. But it did teach me that I could light professionally on a shoestring, with lights I could actually carry out onto the beach. I can’t recommend it enough. Just don’t tell anyone else. He’s got over 10,000 regular readers, but established shooters don’t seem to know who he is!

  2. Matt,

    You did a wonderful job with the boys and I, we had a WONDERFUL trip to California, and thanks to your hard work and dedication, we have pictures that we will cherish the rest of our lives. I hope to bring the boys back in a few years and do this all over again.

    Great Job Matt, the boys and I owe you!


  3. Thanks very much, Jerry! If you’re ever out this way again, you know who to call. 🙂 It was a pleasure working with you.

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