Palm tree? Check. Skyline? Check. Amazing sunset? Check.Sometimes the best way to make a nice portrait is to simply find a dynamic backdrop or location, square up your subject, and fire away. Location, location, location.
When I was planning my portrait of the Sentinel’s All-Central Florida high school football players of the year, I would love to claim that I had spent days upon days scouting the perfect location. That I tracked the sun, documented the exact time it dropped below the horizon, while monitoring local and regional weather patterns But, I did not.
About an hour before my scheduled photo shoot with Zack Darlington from Apopka High School and Matt Milano from Dr. Phillips High School, I ventured into our photo studio, only to find what could best be described as an explosion of photo props, studio lights, stands and backdrops. The room looked as though some larger-than-life being had turned it upside down and back again -- like a snow globe -- leaving everything within to settle wherever it landed. Obviously, the studio wasn’t an option.
Photographers tend to keep a mental scratch pad, if you will, of good locations for future shoots. My usual backup plan is the roof of the Sentinel with its wide-open skies, a few downtown buildings, and as much space as I could ever ask for. But I’ve shot there a zillion times. Its nice, but overused.
I quickly flipped through that mental scratch pad, remembering a small peninsula jetting out into Lake Eola with a beautiful view of the skyline at sunset when the conditions were right, and they were right that evening.
In January, the days are getting longer as the sun moves further away from the winter solstice, but the winter skies are still that deep, rich blue, devoid of the humidity and storms of the summer months. I had photographed a water ski show on the lake there in the summer, which almost made a beautiful image of the skier flying through the air, above the skyline, but it all came together too late and the light was gone. I made a mental note to come back to shoot something from that vantage point when everything would line up perfectly. Now was my chance at redemption.Matt Milano from Dr. Phillips High School and Zack Darlington from Apopka High School. photo by Gary W. Green
With the help of our Varsity Sports reporter Charles King who waited for Darlington and Milano at the Sentinel, I rushed over to the lake to set up lights. An octabox on a Dynalite as the key light, just off to the left of where they would stand, and a hair light, or rim light, tucked behind a palm tree off to the right. I took a test shot of the background with my iphone and sent it to Charles, saying “hurry!”
Once the players arrived, we shot for about 20 minutes as the light quickly faded into night. I tried a few different things. Some individuals. Some group shots. Some with action or with slow shutter speeds. Mainly, I just tried not to screw it up.
The resulting image ran as the Sports centerpiece on Sunday, January 13, 2013. We had lost the “sweet, sweet light,” but still had a nice backdrop to work with. Next time maybe I will actually track and plan everything in advance, so that I can be shooting at the perfect moment when everything comes together.Zack Darlington from Apopka High School. photo by Gary W. Green