Sunday, September 23, 2007

Portraits: Up until the last second...

...I have no idea what I'm going to shoot most of the time. Usually, I have no idea what I'm getting myself into. I've never seen my subject before. I've never seen the location I'm shooting at. That's why every single piece of equipment I have is in my trunk everywhere I go. A colleague told me my boss Dewey once said that we have to "Stop, Drop, and Roll with the punches."

A key player in the making of the George Lucas movie Star Wars Episode II Attack of the Clones (I've never seen the movie, I swear) once said that pre-visualization serves the purpose of selling a concept. I find that to be truer and truer with every portrait I've planned in my head beforehand. It sells the idea to my editors, but hardly ever do I get the image I set out to capture. And almost always I emerge with something better.

In the case of this portrait, my most valuable pieces of equipment were my ears and my mind. Ray Waiter of Appleton, 74, has been running marathons for about a decade and a half. He's shown opposite a prized trophy from the 2002 Fox Cities Marathon. He placed third in the 65-plus age group.

The moment I met Ray, he showed me the bronze trophy. He was so proud of it. He joked that he thought it looked like a Heisman Trophy. It was special to him and I new that I had to incorporate it into the portrait. I had my colleague Kirk Wagner hold the statue halfway between Ray and I. The perspective makes the trophy appear larger and it's form balances the frame against Ray's determined body language. Often, I use flashes to jazz up the lighting scheme on a portrait, but this was a case for simplicity... just me, my camera, and a subject.
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