Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Grande Dame of the Ball...

This was one of those last-minute assignments... one of my former photo editors, Robyn Larsen, I think said it best calling it a "breaking" features assignment, basically a term used when an editor forgets or just plain doesn't put in the assignment until the last minute when the page is ready to be designed. This was certainly one of them. While I was setting up the studio to shoot employee mugs and the football players of the year, the Life editor asked, "Hey since you've got the studio set up already do you think you could shoot Roy Helen (Ackers) for the Sunday Life cover?" Of course, it wasn't really a question, more a statement, "hey she's coming in, we need this." So, after finishing the employee mugs, and asking myself "How the hell and I going to shoot this in a plain studio?" It's one thing shooting athletes in the studio, it's all about the lighting and making them look like a badass. However, that's not really the goal when I'm shooting photos of an 89-year-old woman for a story about her being the Grande Dame of the Philharmonic Ball!

A little background on Roy Helen Ackers, she's pretty well-known around town. Mostly for the hats she wears, I think she's got 100's of them, and they are all quite eccentric. They always match her outfits, and often, so do her nails and eyeliner etc. So, here I was in the studio trying to figure out how the heck I'm going to shoot this, and the answer was, it's just not going to happen. So, I went back and set it up to shoot it at her home. About four years ago I shot a photo of her in her home for one of the local non-profits (below) and it turned out really nice. I figured the only way this was going to turn out well is to shoot the photo at her house. So, I packed up my lights and headed out. Now, I gotta say, Roy Helen was awesome to work with, she basically told me to do whatever I needed and we could shoot the photo wherever I wanted. Most of the time the society types want to control everything, so this was a welcome change. Since this was a "breaking" feature photo and the page was being put together as I was shooting it, I had to shoot horizontal, so I changed things up from the previous photo. I also used two lights, a soft box to the left and a grid off to her right, to make her pop out even more I shot a full one second exposure so the little bit of camera shake would mute out the background while keeping her sharp with the strobes and making her pop out even more. I gotta say, as far as "breaking" features go, this worked out better than others... If only it had reproduced better, UGH!

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