Nearly any family activity at the family home can be a great occasion for a documentary photo shoot…
Here we have kids baking cookies with their grandmother. These images were shot in the family kitchen using only the available light. I really like the story that you can piece together with these images. Everyone has a purpose and is in their element. We are capturing a memory, not just recording how these people look at this moment in time.
For this self-assigned shoot, I was testing out a used medium format camera, and though I was not crazy about the camera itself, I love the medium format “look” of these images. Even an in-use kitchen does not become a distracting background when you shoot with the 80mm lens wide open.
Mamiya 80mm f2.8 AF lens (at F2.8)
Ilford HP5 film
Here is a fun picture from our recent family vacation. The image has a lot of layers to pull you in. The obvious focal point is Molly’s face, but what is making her smile like that? Pull back just a bit, and you notice the puppet on Julie’s hand. If you look past Molly, you can see the boredom that usually accompanies air travel all over Emma’s face.
Finally, there is the light. You don’t usually associate airplanes with flattering light, but in this case the cabin lights were off and the strong back lighting from the windows gave me great rim light on the girls, and bounced around the cabin enough to fill in the shadows. Of course, the wide dynamic range of medium format black and white film was a major help.
Fuji GS645S Medium Format Camera with a fixed 60mm f4 Fujinon Lens – Wide Open
Ilford HP5 Film
Below is a gallery of documentary portraits from a recent shoot. I love the authentic expressions in these images. We even got some nice smiles and no one had to say “cheese”…
Beautiful color and awesome dynamic range provided by that ancient medium called film.
50mm & 85mm prime lenses @ f2
Fuji 400H film
Processing and Scanning – Richard Photo Lab
View the whole shoot and order prints here.
What can we learn from a single image? A lot, if we look closely.
From the setting we can tell that this was a home wedding that was held outside. From the bride’s dress, it’s pretty obvious that the wedding was held on a warm day. From the direction of light we can tell that the ceremony took place late in the day. Dad’s hair is blowing a little bit, so it was probably breezy, but the bride’s vale is staying pretty still, so it wasn’t too bad.
Finally, let’s look at our subjects’ faces. They tell us all that we need to know about the emotions of the day. Our bride is happy and excited, but also appears to be a little nervous. Probably because she is about to step off the deck, but on some level, she may be realizing that the next time she walks through that door, she will be a different person. And what about dad? To me, he looks happy and sad. As a father of two daughters, I can certainly understand.
Are there any details that I’ve missed? I’m sure there are. Everyone who views a photograph brings their own set of experiences and expectations and can spot different things.
Thanks for reading.
I was going through my archive looking for images to add to this site, and came across this one…
I love it!
It’s certainly not traditional, but it is real. The hat, the bib overalls, the messy face, the expression, even the out of focus cup in the foreground – I had totally forgotten about this day, until I saw this picture. Then it all came rushing back. That is the power of a documentary portrait, it doesn’t just capture what a person looks like, it captures who they were at that moment in time. Beautiful – no matter what is smeared all over their face.
Info for any photographers out there:
Sigma 50mm f2.8 Macro
Manual exposure, 1/180 sec, f/2.8, ISO 100, Compensation: +1/2
Check out the detail (Click on the picture to see it larger). When this camera gets it right it is really right. Unfortunately, when it gets it wrong, it is really wrong. There is no safe middle ground.
Welcome to my new website and blog. Here is some information about me. This will also be posted over in the about section, but I thought it would be some good information to get the ball rolling. Let me know what you think about the new site…
I have been living and breathing photography for the past 18 years.
It all started with the photography program at Westminster High School. I caught the bug, and proceeded through the Professional Photography program at Colorado Mountain College. After graduating, my (very understanding) new wife, Julie, and I picked up everything and moved to New York so I could take a job as a Studio Manager for a commercial photographer. After four years of working on lots of exciting shoots and meeting lots of great people, we decided it was time to move home and start thinking about starting a family. Shortly after returning, I started learning web design and looking for jobs where I could apply my knowledge in both photography and web technology. Before long, I started working for a large corporation, managing all of the images for their website. This role evolved to the point where I became the corporate photographer – shooting products, catalog covers, marketing pieces, events, executive portraits, etc. This role provided experience in a broad range of photographic specialties, and also provided the stability that we needed to start our family. We now have two beautiful daughters, Emma-6 & Molly-3, and a great life in Colorado.
Of course, the economy finally caught up with my employer, and we were purchased by an even larger corporation. This effectively ended my role as corporate photographer and over 18 months I helped the new corporation take over all of my imaging duties.
This put me in the strange position of being sad to leave a great company and great co-workers, but excited to get back to photography full-time.
So that is where I am now… Excited to be working with real people, documenting real moments, creating images that will be appreciated for generations to come.