100 Strangers Project, Set 8

I finally had the chance to edit and make some progress on my backlog of portraits. It wouldn't take me so long, if I didn't obsess over every last detail, but that's just how I work. 

Nick likes to give me grief about my perfectionism, but he's hardly that different. He obsesses over details, too. If you watch him on set, he's constantly calling out directions, or he jumps in there, himself, to make changes: maybe a few strands of his model's hair are out of place, maybe a fold in her dress needs to be smoothed out, a piece of the set needs to be moved, a prop needs to be added, removed, re-positioned, maybe the model's facial expression, body position, her hands, her fingers, the way she holds a cigarette, and on and on like this. He makes firm decisions about every last detail because he knows what he wants. 

I'm the same way. I want perfect light. I don't mean even light on both sides of the face. I don't mean a 1:1 lighting ratio. What I mean is, I want the perfect light, whatever I may decide is perfect for a given subject, whether that's 1:1, Rembrandt, split-light, backlight, etc. I want razor sharp focus on the camera-right eye. Not even a little soft. I want 105mm at f/4 for this project. I want black and white. Portrait orientation. Catchlights. Every time. I want a technically sound portrait for each of my subjects, because they deserve it. 

But each new set of portraits has its share of technical glitches. And I have to remind myself that that's ok. When I started this project, I knew that not all 100 could be perfect. This is all an exercise, after all. It's practice. The portraits themselves are just one goal.  The other goal was to confront my shyness, to become comfortable photographing people (and to get them comfortable with me, too), which is just as important, if not more. There have been some glitches in that area as well, but for the most part, there has been marked improvement.

The upside to making technical (and other) errors, is that I'm more aware and I'm watching out for them the next time I shoot (although it seems that I have to make some mistakes more than once for the lesson to really sink in...). 

I started this session off with my second ever approach in Spanish. Brenda. Stranger 51. I picked her out for her long, jet-black hair paired with her fair skin. If you look at the lenses in her glasses, my reflector is easily visible. I actually had a couple other shots I could've used, but I liked this one the best, despite the glitch. 

When I approached Brenda, she was with her parents. They stood back and watched me work. They were curious about the whole thing and seemed genuinely surprised and pleased at the result when I showed them on the camera LCD. 

Thomas and Lori, Strangers 52 and 53, a pair ( I say pair because I'm not sure if they were a couple). Thomas is local, and Lori was visiting from France. I'm always amused at how much easier it is to photograph the guys. The shutter count tells the whole story. For Thomas, it took 13 clicks of the shutter. For Lori, it was 47. She was a bit shy, a bit reluctant. With a little cajoling, a little flattery, and some help from Thomas and Nick, we got her to relax and by the end of the shoot, she was having fun. 

Nick, Stranger 54. An actor. His vest, tie and hat made him easy to pick out of the crowd. I think he said yes before I even finished talking. He was absolutely game to shoot. He gave me lots of expression and energy.

Robert and Ariel, Strangers 55 and 56, another pair. We had to give Ariel a hard time for being a redhead, named Ariel...

Henri, Stranger 57. His extremely unusual hat made him easy to pick out of the crowd. Nick guessed that Henri was writer. Not a bad guess. I would've guessed writer too. But Henri is a web designer. Still a creative type, though. I went with a split-light for Henri. I think it worked better than the last time I tried this approach. 

Shannon and Andrew, Strangers 58 and 59. Shannon is an artist herself. She makes jewelry, I believe. She instantly agreed to have her picture taken. She told me that as an artist, she believed in supporting other artists. I was grateful for that.

An interesting thing happened while I was taking Shannon's portrait. It was towards the end of the day, and the light was fading fast. As the sun dipped lower in the sky, either the trees or the buildings behind me cast some long and soft-edged shadows, right at the spot where Shannon was standing. They had the effect of dimming the light on her body slightly, while her face remained bright. It's almost as though she was light by a very carefully aimed flash. If not for that, I think I would've ended up with a very flat portrait. 

By this time, there was just a few more minutes of daylight left. I took Andrew and ran up the stairs of the Natural History Museum, where there was still some light and where the museum wall provided a good fill. I got just a few clicks before the light was gone and that was it for the day. 

So that does it for this set. As of today, I've photographed 80 people for this project. I still have a ways go to in both editing and shooting. I hope to be done in the next month.

Thanks for reading. See you next time.