Wednesday 10 June 2009

Pick of the Pix Series, Portraits #1

Specs: 1/100s, 235.0mm, f/5.6, ISO: 400

I'm lucky that the NZ Taekwon-Do community are so used to me pointing a camera in their direction and that they put up with it! I get some amazing opportunities to capture portraits. And for now I prefer to capture portraits without any set up where those being photographed are just going about their business. I have set up studio-like environments to capture portraits with a large studio flash and a mottled material background and they can look pretty good. But my favourites are always those taken without any set up or posing. They're just quietly taken on-the-fly and are completely natural.

The photo above was taken during one of Luke Thompson (foreground arm with tatoo) and Mark Trotter's Impact Club training sessions where I've featured a few other photos of them.

It was taken from a distance with my 300mm zoom lens zoomed in for a tight crop and abstract high contrast image.

Here is another portrait image of Luke Thompson taken at the same session. He's hot and sweating and is about to repeat their routine:

Specs: 1/50s, 235.0mm, f/5.6, ISO: 400

And this one of Mark Trotter featuring his tattoo and wrist band:

Specs: 1/60s, 150.0mm, f/5.0, ISO: 400, contrast enhanced

And another of Mark lining up to begin a section of their routine:

Specs: 1/100s, 115.0mm, f/5.0, ISO: 400, contrast enhanced

The three portraits above work well because they all have a bright background against the most important part of their profile - their face. However, they're not just siloettes - they show a lot of detail in the darker parts of the image to make the image informative as well as graphic. Because they're taken at a distance with a 300mm zoom lens I get the benefit of being out of their way as well as the telephoto lens throwing the background completely out of focus, removing distractions from the subject.  Also, enhancing the contrast in black and white makes their amazing graphic tattoos jump out at you. 

Luke, Mark and others in the team knew I was there taking photos like crazy but they were completely focused on what they were doing and, being used to me, ignored me.  With my telephoto lens zoomed in I was able to capture these natural portraits without them becoming self-conscious in front of the camera. So, one aspect of getting great natural-looking portraits, is to have the subject completely comfortable with you being there with a camera.  

When I prepare to photograph a world champs event, I start at least 6 months before the event by taking lots of photographs up-close to them during the training sessions.   At the beginning some are very self-conscious but, after a few sessions, get used to it and end up pretty-much ignoring me.  The guys don't care much but the girls take a while to loosen up and relax.  The coaches and managers can be the most self-conscious... they tend to hate being photographed.