Posts Tagged ‘Photography’

Portrait of Audrey

Thursday, 25 February, 2010

Audrey Hepburn by Michael Ochs Archives, copyright Getty Images
This is a great photo. No, I didn’t take, I only wish I had.

Besides the fact that the subject is Audrey Hepburn, and therefore it would be difficult to take a bad photo, this shot in particular is awesome. I came across it because my wife buys a fancy picture calendar every year, and for 2010 she chose to get one with portraits of Audrey Hepburn. So for the month of February I’ve had this gorgeous photo looking at me from the kitchen wall. With a quick flip through, I determined that none of the other photos in the calendar are as good as this one.

I don’t consider myself a very good portrait photographer. I prefer subjects that don’t move around, like buildings and trees and stuff. If I do take shots of people, they’re mostly candids of strangers, simply engaged in whatever they would be doing anyway, as part of an overall scene. I know good portrait photography when I see it, and appreciate seeing it, but I find it difficult doing it myself.

Focus on the eyes, capture an expression, don’t have the subject stare into the camera. Knowing the rules is the easy part. A portrait is a moment in time when you have to capture the essence of a person in a single still image. I don’t know what Audrey is looking at in this shot, but she’s happy and natural and her eyes are clear and bright. There’s a bit of a tilt to the image to give it some informality. The perspective is fairly flat, indicating a mild telephoto lens was used to avoid exaggerating depth features (producing a bulging nose, for example) – although this is standard practice for portraiture and any photographer should know this. The subject fills the frame, leaving no doubt that this is a photo of a person, not what the person is doing or where the person is. The lighting is soft and flattering, with no heavy shadows on any side, but there are sparkles in her eyes. This is difficult to achieve without a professional studio lighting rig. The background is nicely blurred and non-distracting.

Yes, it’s a beautiful photo of a beautiful woman, but technically it’s an absolutely drool-worthy piece of photography. I hope to make a portrait half as good as this one day.

(Photo by Michael Ochs Archive, copyright by Getty Images. Low resolution version included here for editorial and critical review purposes only.)

Getting up before dawn

Sunday, 21 February, 2010

Fire and Water
This is the right time of year to get up before dawn and take photos of the sunrise. The sun is rising later as autumn approaches, but we haven’t shifted the clocks back to compensate yet, and the pre-dawn air is still not too chilly. The last two weekends however it was pouring with rain, so I caught up on sleep instead.

Not today, however! We got up at 05:10, gulped down enough food to tide us over until a proper breakfast, and drove out to Dee Why beach and ocean baths. Traffic is really good this early on a Sunday morning! We arrived just before 06:00, a good half hour before sunrise.

Although ocean baths are very photogenic, the problem for dusk photography is that all the ones in the Sydney area are lit by sodium lamps. The ghastly yellow colour plays havoc with your colour balance. I took a few shots with the pool and surrounds in the foreground and the dawn colours on the horizon, but the better shots largely skip the areas close to the sodium lamps. Undeterred by this challenge, two other guys had arrived even earlier than us and were staking out prime territory with their tripods and cameras. As the morning progressed, we gave each other nods, but didn’t stop to chat – there was much more important stuff to do!

After a while, as the sky turned on a gorgeous light show, the first swimmers began to arrive. It’s almost always retiree-aged people who hit the water at the crack of dawn. That’s pretty cool. When I retire, I’m planning to take a sunrise swim every morning. If I’m not out taking photos that is. Because dawn really is the best time of day to take pictures. The light is wonderful, and somehow it always feels fresher and more vibrant than a sunset at the end of a day, when the light is kind of worn out. I know that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but it’s true – for some reason sunrise just is more beautiful than sunset. Anyway, it’s good to get out and exercise the shutter finger a bit. As with everything else, I never have enough time to do all the photography I want to do. But sacrificing a sleep-in for a sunrise is well worth it. More photos from this morning here.

After the sun started climbing into the sky, we headed to a nearby cafe for the decadence of a bought breakfast. To me, breakfast is a simple meal you eat at home. The idea of going out and buying breakfast still smacks of overindulgent luxury to me. Which is why I enjoy it on the very rare occasion we do it! Mmm… poached eggs, bacon, hollandaise sauce… And by 08:00 we’d finished this excellent breakfast, witnessed a gorgeous sunrise, got some exercise, taken some (hopefully) good photos, and we still have the whole Sunday ahead of us! Getting up early rocks!