Man on a Boat
In May 2015, at the 42nd Annual Algonquin College Photography Program Exhibition, I received the Portrait Award of Excellence chosen by Steve McCurry for this photo.
I was surprised, honoured, and humbled. Surprised because my class was full of truly talented photographers with some down right beautiful portraits. Honoured because Steve McCurry is a world-renowned photographer whose portraits have graced the cover of many magazines, books, and newspapers around the world. And humbled because I know I didn’t do it on my own. There were weeks of planning along with great effort put in by my assistants and model and aid from my professors with post-production decisions afterwards.
The prize included a plaque, my name on a trophy, a copy of one of Steve McCurry's beautiful books, and a letter from Mr. McCurry regarding my work. It read, "Congratulations on making a successful photograph. I like this portrait because it seemed so natural - the lighting is understated yet effective. I wish you the best of luck for a successful photographic career ahead." Those are words that I have cherished ever since and will surely continue to for years to come.
This print is now hanging in my office, with its plaque below it. Many people comment on it, usually asking who the model is, and I love to tell them more about it. I think people often see a photograph and don't realize the work that goes into creating it. Especially in a editorial type portrait, there are hours and hours spent dreaming, planning, and testing out ideas before even stepping foot on set. Followed by many more of culling, editing, and printing. But usually it's worth it.
Here's a look back into the process of how this photograph was made.
It started in class in early September 2014. I was given the assignment to photograph a corporate portrait of someone. I thought of a new friend of mine who was studying Marketing. I figured he could use a portrait for his linked in profile or something of the like.
He was in. Perfect - I would get the shot I needed for my simple assignment. And he even asked what I charged while I was still a student - bless his soul. That was when things started getting creative.
Obviously that was a joke, but it got me thinking.
My theme for my portfolio was water, so while browsing through consumer portraits online this image by Roth and Ramberg Photography stood out. I figured we could do something along the same lines to work it into my portfolio.
As I continued my inspiration search on Pinterest, I came across this series by esqire. http://www.esquire.com/style/g325/best-mens-overcoats-1109/
The editorial was perfection and I wanted to recreate a piece of it.
But I didn’t have a boat or a lake so I dismissed the idea a bit. I didn’t think it would be possible to make happen.
One day a few weeks later, however, I was chatting with a classmate after a different shoot we were working on and mentioned this dream shot I’ve had in my mind. She reminded me that her parents own a fishing resort an hour and a half out of town. Naturally, we got planning. I drew up a lighting scheme and sketched a mock-up. I was going to have a main light creating a Rembrandt lighting style on his face, with a fill a few stops down on the other side. Depending where the sun was I'd put a kicker behind him in the boat to give some separation between the model and what was behind him. And most importantly, we were bringing a fog machine to get that hazy mysterious feel. I talked over equipment with professors, booked assistants and my model, planned wardrobe, and we were ready to go.
Once the big day finally came and we made the trip out it to our location we had a lot of fun piecing this photo together. To the right is a shot of our set. You can see Alicia holding the main light to keep the wind from knocking it down. She was also manning the fog machine on the dock next to the boat. My fill light is the smaller soft box over on the right and behind it on the hill you can just make out my camera on a tripod practically laying on the ground. Becky, who's parents own the resort, is in the red hiding behind the large soft box. And Ian my model is securing his tie getting ready to face the cold metal seat of the boat (I gave him a reflector to sit on but it didn't help much). Below is a timelapse of the images I took leading up to the one we chose. It includes exposure checks, setting the white balance, light tests, trying to get my tripod to sit where I wanted it on a weird hill, playing around with the fog machine, and more.
Consulting with classmates and professors after the shoot, I chose the image we felt had the most impact and I then spent a lot of time re-touching, choosing paper, and printing and re-printing until I was completely thrilled with the result. Please come by my office for a visit if you want to see the print in person! Below are some of the photos which didn't get chosen and sadly haven't seen the light of day since.
A final thank-you to Becky, Alicia, and Ian for their help in creating this photograph and to Steve McCurry for his kind words.