Monday, October 31, 2011

Valerie M. Senior {Portraits}

Yesterday I got the opportunity to shoot my first-ever Senior portraits for a friend of mine at work.

One day a few months ago, Valerie - one of the girls who works in the mail room part time - sidled into my cube and said she really like the photos I take at work and wondered if I take Senior portraits.  I thought she was joking, so I said something about taking photos of geriatrics and laughed off the request.  She insisted that she was serious and I told her that I'd never shot any before, but that I'd be willing to try.

So over the past couple of months, she periodically stopped by my desk to remind me about her portraits.  I still wasn't sure if she was completely serious, so I kept putting it off "until it wasn't so hot outside."

But then about a month ago, she stopped by with an earnestness that told me that she was, indeed, serious.  So we set a date for the shoot and talked about what she had in mind and what she was into.  I really wanted her portraits to reflect her personality.

Turns out Valerie is a transplant from Oklahoma, and a self-described "country girl."  So I envisioned something with sweeping rural landscapes and tall waving grass.  One problem: Texas is in the middle of the worst drought in its history, so all the grass is dead, and it has been all summer.  Up until a couple of weeks ago, I was secretly panicking.  The Texas landscape is just downright ugly right now.  And then a couple of cool fronts came the second week of October, and with it some much needed rain.  And it turns out that the rain we got was just enough to make some grass grow in some places.

Saturday, my family and I headed out for a picnic/location scouting drive to see where the best grassy landscapes were.  Luckily, we found some great locations all in the same place.

The day of the shoot, I called my buddy Matt and asked if he'd like to go along and help me out with the shoot.  This being my first portrait shoot, I was a bit nervous that I'd screw things up and end up with no good shots.  I would have made myself look silly and have wasted poor Valerie's time.  Matt is an exceptional photographer in his own right, so I knew that with him there that if need be - that is, if I completely sucked up the joint - that he could just beat me over the head with a telephoto lens and finish the shoot himself.

The shoot started rather oddly with me trying to awkwardly explain what I wanted Valerie to do - "okay, stand on the back of my truck in front of this sign."  But thankfully, it got better very quickly.  I knew we were racing daylight.  Golden hour was just beginning, so we had about one hour in which to shoot as much as possible.  I had several locations in mind, so it was going to be tough.  But Valerie was a great sport.

I literally could not have completed this shoot without Matt's help.  Being a photographer himself (and having worked together several times before), we were completely in synch. He popped out a bounce card at exactly the moment I was opening my mouth to ask for one.  He knew exactly when the bounce wasn't doing the job anymore and that it was time to switch to flash.  And best of all, he knew exactly where to stand and where to direct the light without me having to explain it.  And then, toward the end of the shoot - after the sun had gone down and we were winding down and getting "a couple more just for fun," he suggested we shoot through the reflector, which created a huge beautiful, soft light.  And we shot for another 20 minutes in three more poses.

My thanks to Matt for all of his help and to Valerie for giving me the opportunity and for trusting me based just on what she's seen me shoot at work.

These are a few of my favorite shots: