Just up to my into.

Thought I’d pause for a moment to rumi­nate, though, on the nature of what works and doesn’t in the lens.

Now I can’t take a stu­dio shot to save my life. This is not often true. Many, and I mean many, pho­tog­ra­phers are just bril­liant at por­trait pics. Well, I’ve never really tried it; I don’t have the por­trai­ture back­ground and I don’t have the con­trolled umbrel­las and flash light­ing that you need to make it all work.

Besides, it’s all so … stiff. Posed. So it’s not my thing.

I think that’s prob­a­bly all right. My time lens­ing, after all, has yielded results such as this and this. I seem to have a knack for grab­bing sub­jects, putting them in ambi­ent space, and say­ing, now stand like this … think happy thoughts … done.

(Actually it’s more often like see it, grab it before the sub­ject knows it’s hap­pen­ing. Reflexes, I guess.)

Relevance is the lat­est round from this kid. I’ve known him a cou­ple years, and he’s a senior in HS now, and his mom asked me to do my thing for one more go-​​round. (He has plans to basi­cally escape, as fast and as far as he can, when he turns eigh­teen. Good for him.)

I shot 157 frames. This was a good one.

I had that one in mind; I wanted the idea of the dark fram­ing and light back­ground. Grabbed that by chance with a 60-​​degree bounce flash.* Still, I’m pleased with the effect.

Now I have to tell you that the sub­ject does make a dif­fer­ence. This is a hand­some young man, all of sev­en­teen, and you can hear the sighs when he walks down the street. He’s cute, damn cute, in a way many other boys are not. Being pho­to­genic helps.

So, you know, this.

He’s not famous, but he looks like he should be.

This is why, when you’re doing out­door or can­did por­trait pics, you blow a mas­sive num­ber of frames on noth­ing much at all. I got 2 out of 80 frames, on aver­age, that were, you know, good. The oth­ers were decent, but of the day’s effort, 30 or so were really worth hold­ing on to, most of those because they were in odd poses or vary­ing backdrops.**

Some of it is the equip­ment. A 2 MP phone cam­era isn’t all that hot. Some of it is hav­ing the right set­ting; stu­dio or au naturel, what­ever. Some of it is know­ing and trust­ing your gear. Some of it is hav­ing the eye. But a hell of a lot of it is rap­port. We had that. So we made this, and the other things we’ve made.

What makes a good can­did or nature por­trait? Well, I guess, all of those things put together. Like get­ting to Carnegie Hall. Practice, man, practice.


* No joke. Nikon D40, with the cheap Speedlight on the hot shoe. When it works, why argue, or drop $500 into flashes you don’t need?

** I know, dig­i­tal pho­tog­ra­phy makes it all seem like a cheat, because you can just take pic­tures all day long. Did you know that Nikon had a speed-​​winder in the 80s that advanced film through a cam­era at the rate of 5 frames per sec­ond? Shoot hun­dreds of frames, pick the best one per­cent: This is not a new idea. Difference is it costs a hell of a lot less now.


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