Portrait Play Time

June 22, 2012 

It's been a sportrait-filled year as I've worked on my lighting techniques to try and add edge and attitude to the athletes I've photographed. But when it came time to photograph our athletes of the year, I had to change things up on the fly.

Our sports department was having trouble getting in touch with male athlete of the year Matt Hadley, and when it turned out he was already college-bound, we had to fall back on this outtake from our fall football preview:

It's an OK enough picture and I remember Matt liking the smiling shots better anyway. Female athlete of the year Ellie Heiden was coming to the studio within the hour, however, and it would look weird to have a studio shot next to the outdoors one. Luckily, Ellie had time and was game to find an impromptu location. I always ask subjects to describe themselves as I try to figure out a concept and when she leaned toward fun instead of serious, I suggested the Playground of Dreams.

I picked a semi-remote tower to avoid ruining play time for the dozens of kids already there and wanted her to lean out like the queen of the castle:

It felt a little forced and cheesy, and while I fiddled around trying to figure out the next move, she leaned out the side. I liked that posture and wrangled two girls to fill the windows. I ended up selecting this frame for the story:

I tried a couple more setups while we were there, wanting some playful kids to blur by, but it was difficult to direct random passersby to run through like I wanted:

Ellie was a good sport with all the suggestions and even threw out one of her own, having some faux adoring subjects staring up at her:

Ultimately, I thought the frame with the windows had the best mix of expressions and motion. Plus, Ellie had played soccer since she was about those kids' ages, was winning this Herald honor relatively young as a sophomore and could be seen as a role model to young female athletes.

Maybe all those are a stretch conceptually, but I'm hoping it was at least a fun photo that fit her personality.

Speaking of personality...

When I think of Detroit, $100 homes and crumbling urban ruins come to mind. Motor City photographers Brian Widdis and Romain Blanquart set out to change that perception with Can't Forget the Motor City. The project tries to capture the soul of a city that is often reduced to "ruin porn" in the words of this Wired feature.

For even more iconic imagery, check out David Burnett's story of how he missed photographing the Vietnam War's Napalm Girl alongside Nick Ut 40 years ago because he was changing film.

James Madelin talks about the cruel business of being a professional photographer over at SportsShooter, essentially saying it's not worth it and that the business side will kill your love of photography.

While Lens has a feature on the booming number of photo collectives, centered around some big-time shooters who left their coveted staff gigs to join the new photo business revolution.

Is your pet tired of your incessant Instagramming? Your furry friend may be able to return the favor soon with Pet's View, a camera that is triggered by your pal's heartbeat to capture its most excited or terrified moments in life.


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