Mam Knows Best? An Unexpected Step 2 on my Journey………….!

You may recall a previous blog I wrote: Every journey starts with a single step…  Well read on to hear about a very unexpected step two along my journey to tackle head on a couple of my well documented aversions with my photography - artificial light and portraits.

The End Goal

The aim is to eventually capture some good athlete portraits and where better to start than with my mam, a talented (field) hockey player in her day - some seventy years ago.  The opportunity came quite by chance when I was down visiting her and explaining yet again (old age memory problems) what I did for a living.  In the end I said let me show you, I'll take a couple of pictures of you!

So after I nipped to the car to grab my Canon 5DSr body, EF24-70mm f2.8 lens, 600ex-rt speedlite and transmitter, a far slower walk to the garden followed.  Being a true fair skinned celt my mam was not going to sit in the sun but she did sit so that the sun was catching the back of her ginger hair; hair that is far paler than in her shin breaking heyday on the hockey pitch.  Feisty by all accounts!

The Set Up

It is clearly a serious undertaking this photography modelling lark.  School boy error, I should have got my mam to clean her glasses.  Lesson for the memory bank.  Also when I arrived she had just washed her hair which dried out while we were outside.  I didn't have a brush and she didn't have a mirror so that was ok? (ethics considerations noted!).. The camera was hand held and off camera flash provided by the speedlite held out to my left at arm's length.  The sun was over her right shoulder.

Variations in light was achieved by moving the angle and distance of the speedlite rather than dialing down its power, although the flash was set with an exposure compensation of between -1.0 and -2.0.  All the images taken were with the lens wide open at f2.8 and the shutter speed ranged from 1/800 - 1/2500th of a second.

My mam has never suffered fools, so it was always going to be a tricky assignment.  Eventually I managed to get her to occasionally look towards the camera although the flash unit was of more interest most of the time.


As always I asked for feedback.

Point 1. - I took too long.  [Trust me I did not.  I will book her in with a couple of photographers I know, who shall remain nameless, if she wants to experience how long it can take]

Point 2. - I need to hold the camera in two hands, as it looks heavy.  [Mentioned about the speedlite and was told that most people attach them on top of the camera!]

Point 3. - Too often she wasn't in the centre of the picture, probably (she felt) because I was holding the camera with one hand.  [Why did I ask for feedback?]

Point 4. - I showed her an image processed in black and white.  No it made her look old and she liked how, in colour, her roll neck top matched the chair and the flowers.  [That would be the flowers that you would not see so well if you were in the centre of the picture.]

Point 5. - After point 4 I reprocessed the image in Sepia.  Apparently I am now being ridiculous.  [Guilty as charged]

In Conclusion

At the end my mam said she had had a great time, so that has to be the best measure of success.  And whatever happens in the future she will remain the first 'athlete' I had model for a portrait.

From a technical point of view I was pleased with a number of the images and am beginning to be able to better predict the outcome that comes from the different settings on the speedlite, albeit it constrained by both camera and speedlite being hand held.

My suggestion that next time we could do some action shots with her running around was not met with the greatest enthusiasm so perhaps I will need to find another model at some stage.

..........................and I am pleased to say that no pensioners were harmed in the production of this blog.

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