Workshop: Conceptual Portraiture with Tatiana Lumiere

Tatiana showing us how to work with dry ice. The science nerd in me was so taken with the fact that she understood dry ice sublimates not melts.

This past week Maryland Professional Photographers Association had a class on Conceptual Portraiture with the wonderful artist Tatiana Lumiere.

I will generally jump at any chance to learn more about my craft and it’s especially gratifying to be in person with other photographers to collaborate with. We had a number of models who were coiffed, made-up and costumed by Tatiana and Geniia Elliott Makeup Artist as well as various sets and locations.

As I’ve spoken of before, I have relished the opportunity to take on more creative challenges that stretch both my technical skills and artistic vision. So, I was excited by this class. After looking at the kind of art that Tatiana creates, I knew I would be inspired by having an opportunity to see her work. This was definitely true and I look forward to finding other artists to collaborate with on future projects.

After some demonstration and discussion with Tatiana, we were broken into groups to have our time with the models at various locations around the carriage house where MDPPA meets.

My first stop was with Jamie in front of the fireplace as Tatiana had first worked with the dry ice. As much as I love the textures of the old wood and stone in the carriage house, I didn’t particularly love it with the outfit Jamie was wearing. When Tatiana shot it, there was a curtain of fog behind her and I think I would have liked that better. In post I really pushed the color on the leaves and warmed her to fit in better with the warm tones of the wall. I also added some blur to the background to help separate her. This is also notable as the only set that had artificial light (a large softbox on a studio strobe and a large reflector).

Next we shot with Dana. She was made up reminiscent of Xena: Warrior Princess or a Wildling from Game of Thrones. I felt that the textures of the exterior wall of the carriage house worked thematically. It was pretty much the perfect time of day for a natural light shot. The difference between direct sun and the shadows of the “tunnel” behind the carriage house really help her stand out in the shot.

Next we went back inside to work again with the dry ice and a set that Tatiana arranged. This time it was with Kelly. Clearly, Geniia and Tatiana were taking Kelly’s lovely red hair as inspiration. This was one of the stations where it was challenging to move around and we probably had too many people working it. Especially since we were up against the wall and shooting with natural light through the doorway (as you can see above when Jamie was in the pit of fog)

I ended up not getting too many shots from angles that I felt worked for me, but I was so taken with the overall look. I definitely like the dreamy feel of natural light and mist. That’s on my todo list for a future project.

Finally we got to spend a little time with Rylee. This is kind of cool, because it shows how great natural light can be at the right time of day (in this case, sunset). Soft and glowy without really any effort or technical savvy. I was going for a glamor look, so the post processing might be a little heavier than I normally would use.

All in all, it was a great experience. I picked up some new techniques and inspiration going forward. Which is what it is all about.

 

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Getting your foot in the door

In my previous life as an consultant in the government market I learned that you don’t always get into the ideal situation with a new client. Sometimes you have to just get in the door, consistently deliver results and look for opportunities to make it your ideal job.

I have a long history of involvement with theatre. I love the theatre.

I’ve been working with the amazing creative folks at Red Branch Theatre Company for a number of years. RBTC is a local non-profit professional theatre with a mission to produce socially aware content and serve the community.

First, simply taking production stills during tech week.

 

That being said, I wanted to do more with the theatre. So we expanded my involvement to getting decent, headshots of the casts for display in the lobby and something the theatre could give to their actors.

rbtc-headshots

I kept pushing for more involvement and creative opportunity. While my work isn’t central to the work they do, I felt like I could be a larger part of their success. I hope that extending my involvement to other areas like having the headshots be of the characters instead of the actors would be recognized as valuable.

untitled-1

This was really a fun expansion of my work with the theatre. It meant that for new shows I needed to get an idea of color palette, content, tone and a little more interacting with the incredible casts and crew.

That just wasn’t enough I wanted to have a bigger impact and more creative reach. Instead of minutes with the characters, I wanted some real time for setup, evaluation and experimenting (shocker, a creative who wants more time to do their work). Theatre budgets, of money or time, aren’t large. So managing my desires with available resources was important.


Still we worked together last year in gym near the theatre to create some very cool images for a calendar to promote “Dogfight”.


 

 

I don’t know that the calendars sold as well as we would have hoped, but the project was fun and I think it helped promote the show.

 

 

 

 

It gave me more chance to try different things, change-up lighting and tell more of a story in my images.

 

 

 

 

With the new year, there were changes at RBTC. In addition to finally getting their non-profit status approved, they have become a Helen Hayes Award eligible theatre. The first show they produced that was eligible was Sweeney Todd. For Sweeney Todd we did a studio shoot with the principles that I discussed already.

These are the people I want to work with. When they get the grant for 1.5 Billion Dollars, they’ll be the only client I need. Until that happens my work with them will be more of an expression of my creative passions than my greed. 🙂
Along those lines I had hoped to do something funny and dark for the production of Heathers, but schedule and budget didn’t work out for that. That had me looking forward to the Fall and EVIL DEAD: The Musical!!!! I’ll talk more about that in my next post.

 

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My First Print Competition

MDPPA April “monthly” Print Competition

Last night was Maryland Professional Photographers Association‘s print competition and I entered images for the first time since joining Professional Photographers of America last year. I have really been inspired by the artistry and technical talent I’ve been exposed to since joining. There is no doubt in my mind it has upped my game being around these people and seeing how experienced, successful professionals work. So, how did I do? Pretty well. Of the 9 images submitted, 5 of them were merit (80 out of 100 or above) and one of those was in excellent (85-89). So much better than I could have hoped for and I’m really excited.

My most successful images were all shot with my Olympus E-M1 in RAW and then spent some time in Lightroom, Photoshop and ON1 Effects 10.

Does your camera see what you do?

Once in a while I will go back through older images that I didn’t have time to really dig into when they were shot. That’s the case with “Locust Point”, which was the image that did the best in competition. The image was shot in August of 2015, but it wasn’t until February 2016 after being inspired by Larry Hersberger at the MDPPA Annual Convention that I went back to work on it. I spent a fair amount of time on the image, once I got started, to make it what I wanted it to be. This was an iterative process with a couple helpful critique’s along the way and a desire to not leave it at “good enough”.

I’m going to show the before and after of this image. Not so much to share with you the amount of work I put in or the skills I’m developing. It is so that you can start to understand the difference between what a camera seesprint-P8130288

 

and what the photographer sees
Locust Point

As you can see, everything that I saw was not “seen” by the camera and it took a pretty fair amount of work to get it to where I could share what I saw with you. Does that ever happen to you when you take a picture?

Selected Other Images

Here are some of the other images and a little bit of their story.

Fire On The Bayou

“Fire on the Bayou” – Olympus E-M1 M.Zuiko 12-40 f2.8 PRO

“Fire on the Bayou”

This was shot while on an evening tour of Chicot Lake in Ville Platte Louisiana with my brother in-law. There was very much a “Walking Dead” feel to the Cypress Trees being lit from behind by the sunset.

 

Purple Dawn

“Purple Dawn” – Olympus E-M1 M.Zuiko 12-40 f2.8 Pro

“Purple Dawn”

This is another image shot while we were down in Louisiana at Chicot State Park with family. There’s a long boardwalk out onto the lake which puts you in the middle of things that was quite close to our cabin.

 

Those are my images that did the best in the competition. Unfortunately, none of my portrait work made it to merit. Even my favorite image of James “The Amazing” Randi which I captured backstage at the last TAM I attended.

The Amazing Randi

James Randi – Nikon D3s Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8 vrii

But that just gives me new goals and opportunity for improvement. So, I’m excited for the next competition in the Fall!

 

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