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This is a photo of James Dean, taken by Roy Schatt in 1954.
This was how the first test shot came out.
I used my Nikon D200 with a 70mm lens. ISO at 125, exposure at 1/125 sec and f16.
I only used one softbox with a white backdrop to get this lighting.
I had the light too far to the left causing a hard shadow on one side of his face. The light needed to be more straight onto him, higher up, as well as me being higher too. I was pleased with the tone of the backdrop though.
The lighting is better in this image but still not in the right place, and I do prefer the above image. Also filling light on his head has caused a small halo around him which can look ok sometimes but I would prefer not to have it. I hopefully got the pose and lighting right for the final shots with the 5 x 4 large format camera.
This is a scanned 5x4 large format image of Josh. I think the negative got slightly exposed to light as these were some light areas on the bottom right.
The lighting is slightly better in this but to have it like the top photo of James Dean I really needed to bright the light round towards me.
All the setting on the large format camera were on 0. The tripod was at the right height so no need to raise the front.
Having taken test shots with my digital camera, I set the same for the 5x4.
Although on a 5x4 a setting of f16 would give a shallower depth of field then my nikon D200 with a DX sensor, it still gave me enough of the subject in focus.
Large format is something I would really like to experiment and practise with after using it for this project.
Dennis Stock's famous photograph of Hollywood actor James Dean is one of the great movie star portraits. Dennis Stock was a 26 year old photojournalist. He had joined the Magnum agency in 1951 and became a full member in 1954. From the beginning of his career he had been mainly interested in producing a sequence of images that told a story about a given subject. In his photographs of James Dean, he aimed to show a young movie star in both his professional and personal life.
While I had the model in the studio I to try taking a shot, similar the the above of James Dean. Ideally I would have been able to change the lighting. He should have been further away from the back drop and maybe lit from behind to give the right shadow. This is something I want to try and create outside sometime, just to see if I can get close it it.
This is Kelis, a famous r & b singer, who my below model is a big fan of. I wanted to see if I could take some photos of my model in the style of a few that had been taken of Kelis.
My model, Gemma, had similar hair, skin tone and facial features to Kelis, which helped as the whole idea for the project is to take portraits of friends, in the style of their idles.
As these were taken with a digital to get the right lighting, for some reason, my model got the giggles. This was probably my fault but she seemed a bit uneasy at first , so I tried to loosen her up a bit.
She isn't laughing in the final shot.
I think I got the lighting quite accurate this time.
This is the lighting set up I had for the above image.
2 umbrella's projecting light onto the backdrop, set at f16
Two black boards between the model and the backdrop, to stop light contaminating the subject, lighting only the backdrop.
One soft to the right of the subject, set at f11.
I had not been a big fan of white backdrops until I saw Richard Avedon's
' The American West ' book. Of course it wasn't just the backdrop that attracted me. As soon as I saw the first image, I had to go through them all. Usually I have to have a quick flick through then go back over them in more detail. I was fascinated with some of the characters he had found, and some of the poses they struck when put in front of the camera. I know Avedon got really involved with getting the subject exactly how he wanted, or to make them react in a certain way.
(left image) The way this guy stands makes it so much more interesting than just standing straight. He reminded me of the way Iggy Popwould would stand in photos. I imagine this guy had the look and maybe lifestyle but on a lot smaller scale. Maybe playing in a band in a western American bar in a small town, or just getting drunk thinking he should be in the band.
Here Avedon chase's a model around the studio looking like the big bad wolf. This is an example of the extreme lengths he would go to, to get the right shapes, flow and emotion from the subject.
Below left is a photo from Avedon's 'The American West', and on the right is a photo taken of me as a test shot for my project. I was not trying to copy one certain photo of Avedon's but it did come out quite like his. I did cheat a bit to make me look like I had been working down a mine or with oil. When converting my image to black and white, I brought the red right down, which just darkened my skin giving this effect.
Here I got a white bed sheet and nailed it to the frame of my garage. I had no one to help model that day so used myself.
I used my camera on a tripod about 3 meters from backdrop.
It was a really bright day so had an aperture of f22, and ISO at 100.
I found that the light was too harsh and causing too hard shadows.
Looking on a forum on the internet I found someone saying that Avedon would
take the photos in the shade rather in the sun, but them are saying he would use
an umbrella or two. Bit confused so will try just in the shade (can't see it being light enough) and maybe with a flash.
Day 2. After finding out that I would either have to take the portraits in the shade or with something stopping direct sunlight shining on the subject, I checked the weather report. It said it was going to be cloudy all day, which is what I wanted at first. Of course the sun came bursting out with out a cloud in the sky. This would have caused way to much hard shadows and no one would have been able to keep their eyes open. I did not have enough space on the side of my house to set it up in the shade, so I got another bed sheet and managed to construct a roof for the shots. This worked quite well, although I as the day went on, cloud came in and covered the sky. This meant I had to constantly take light readings as I was using a Pentax 6x7 medium format camera I borrowed off my dad.
Here is the Pentax 6x7. I used a cable release so I could stand up straight and not make it so obvious as to when I was going to take the photo.
I had the choice of three lenses
Left to right : 75mm | 135mm | 200mm
I had a quick go with all three and then chose the 135mm lens. This was just right for the amount of space I had in my garden.
I asked a load of friends from my home town to come over on a Saturday to help me with my project. I was hoping for about 50 but then again it was a Saturday and a lot of my friends tend to go out on a Friday!
I took a digital photo to go with each medium format photo, so that I could put them up on here quickly, and have an idea as to how the final shots would look. As the back drop was not quite bright white enough when the clouds came over I had to change the levels on photoshop so that the subject didn't blend into the backdrop too much. I also had the setting on the camera the same as the Pentax. Iso - 400, exposure 1/125 and aperture 5.6 - 11 depending on sunlight.
I took this photo of my flat mate in our flat up against a wall. I asked him to pose like the above image, as this is quite an old fashioned pose, and wanted to see what it looked like with a modern looking male.
This is one of my favourite's. Its of Sam who is on my course. He was helping
with lighting and I also used him to take a few test shots. His big crazy hair which when lit from behind, and the lightlights brought down (in photoshop), gives a webby halo look. Also, as it was a quick test shot, Sam just acted himself, jumped in front of the camera, then off to help others set up their studio. I can see the stress in his eyes as he tries to help everyone at once as he is very handy with the studio equipment. He usually smiles in test shots, but not this time. It said it all!
These were the final two images I have chosen . They were both taken in the small studio I set up in my garden.
With Sam (above) as she has really light blue eyes, I wanted to bring this out. I had seen one of Richard Avedons ' The American West'
subjects, with similar eyes. On one of his prints he under exposed all but the head of the subject so that your eyes would drawn straight to his. I also tried doing this dodging around her body.
I did the same on Chris (below) as he also he light eyes. I have been friends with Chris my whole life and have watched his grow up and change in his looks. I waited about 10 seconds not saying anything. I then took the shot. I just tried to get him to relax and look into the lens.
This was a project that I really enjoyed. It gave me a chance to use a large format camera, and to concentrate on portraits which I have wanted to do for a while. My orginal idea changed from taking photos of friends looking like famous people, to portraits I took in my garden, in the style of Richard Avedon.
I didn't get as much use of the large format camera as I would have liked, as the model was no around for long. This is why I changed idea for the project. For the final idea I used a medium format camera, as I had the use of my fathers Pentax. It gave me good experience on taking many portraits in a short amount of time, and it's something I want to carry on doing. I would like to have my own project which doesn't just replicate another photographer work, so something in my own style.
I have realised that I do want to work with people, taking photos of people, but really want to have something a bit different to the usual portrait. I know this will be hard as I guess there is only so much styles you can add to portrait while keeping them detailed and clean.
Over all the project went well I feel, although I changed towards the end, I still ended up with images I was happy with, and have gained more experience.