— Dane Creek

Assignment and Editorial 2: Portraits

Our second assignment was for four images: two environmental portraits and two personality portraits. We had two weeks to get them done. The catch? The environmental portraits couldn’t be of anyone we knew.

Another challenge during this assignment was the snowstorm that hit during the first week. That proved to be a blessing as class was cancelled and the assignment was extended one week.

This assignment taught me about the importance of a personal network when doing editorial photography, something that proved valuable throughout the class. It also taught me about asking for access to locations well in advance of the assignment deadline!

I also carried my camera with me everywhere during these three weeks, and stopped numerous times to get photos of people I wouldn’t normally have approached (my UPS driver, a Snohomish County plow operator, random Les Schwab employees, a firefighter from a nearby station, and a random guy blowing giant bubbles on a street corner).

My first environmental portrait shoot was with Scott Greenberg of Convergence Zone cellars. We got connected via a mutual friend who saw my plea on Facebook for ideas of people to shoot. He very graciously agreed to a portrait session at his winery in exchange for the final images. It was a great shoot. I brought a single flash, a softbox, and a light stand, and we spent about 90 minutes working various poses around the winery. Here’s the one image that wound up in my final assignment submission:

Tasting a new Cabernet Sauvignon on Friday, Jan. 20, 2012, winemaker Scott Greenberg of Convergence Zone Cellars in Woodinville, WA, checks for different flavour profiles as the wine develops. This vintage, placed into barrels in November 2011, has hints of plum flavour and will age at least two more years before bottling. (Photo/Neil Enns)
Tasting a new Cabernet Sauvignon on Friday, Jan. 20, 2012, winemaker Scott Greenberg of Convergence Zone Cellars in Woodinville, WA, checks for different flavour profiles as the wine develops. This vintage, placed into barrels in November 2011, has hints of plum flavour and will age at least two more years before bottling. (Photo/Neil Enns)

Not bad overall! A different perspective, it’s clear that he’s involved in the wine business, and the barrels behind him are nicely placed.

My second environmental portrait came after several weeks of waiting and hoping for access to my local fire station, Fire District 7 Station 72. After several email exchanges they agreed to a brief shoot on a Tuesday evening, one day before the assignment was due. I took my flash, a red gel, a light stand, and went to get a photo of a firefighter in a mask. I submitted this:

Standing in front of a fire engine in Snohomish, WA, on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2012, firefighter/EMT Matt Nutterbrock is dressed in full protective gear. Nutterbrock is a three year veteran of the department, based at Station 72, headquarters for Snohomish County Fire District 7. (Photo/Neil Enns)
Standing in front of a fire engine in Snohomish, WA, on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2012, firefighter/EMT Matt Nutterbrock is dressed in full protective gear. Nutterbrock is a three year veteran of the department, based at Station 72, headquarters for Snohomish County Fire District 7. (Photo/Neil Enns)

The shoot at the fire station taught me some important lessons:

  1. If you are going to use gels for creative effect, make sure you get some shots with and without the gel. I didn’t, and during class people did want to see what this looked like without the red effect.
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask people to do things. I did a reasonably good job of that during this shoot: he’s wearing a mask and the lights are on behind him because I asked for that. However, had I been more directed in my requests I would have had a higher number of good images to pick from.

As happy as I was with this photo, it wasn’t particularly well-received in class. People complained that it was cropped in too tight, and it was difficult to tell what was going on.

The two personality portraits were a little easier. The first is Colleen, our bartender on Monday nights at the curling club. Again I brought a flash and a light stand, directed her a bit on how to pose, and got this:

Sipping a non-alcoholic beverage, Colleen Richardson takes a break while bartending at the Granite Curling Club in Seattle, WA, on Monday, Jan. 23, 2012. A volunteer, Richardson has been the Monday League bartender for the past three years. (Photo/Neil Enns).
Sipping a non-alcoholic beverage, Colleen Richardson takes a break while bartending at the Granite Curling Club in Seattle, WA, on Monday, Jan. 23, 2012. A volunteer, Richardson has been the Monday League bartender for the past three years. (Photo/Neil Enns).

Colleen loved the photo, and it completely captures her fun spirit. The second personality portrait was definitely my weakest photo in the assignment:

Watching his bubble, Eddie Blunt brightens a dreary day in Everett, WA, on Sunday, Jan. 22, 2012. Blunt's favourite location to practice his craft is outside Providence Children's Center in downtown Everett, which he says gives him "the most bang" for each bubble. (Photo/Neil Enns)
Watching his bubble, Eddie Blunt brightens a dreary day in Everett, WA, on Sunday, Jan. 22, 2012. Blunt’s favourite location to practice his craft is outside Providence Children’s Center in downtown Everett, which he says gives him "the most bang" for each bubble. (Photo/Neil Enns)

It’s just… eh. But it was the best of what I had, so in it went.

Overall for this assignment I count nine separate portrait sessions to get the final four images. I told you in earlier posts this class wound up being a lot of work!