Monday, January 10, 2011

17/52 Mildred Weber

So far in this project, I've had the opportunity to photograph 18 different people in 18 different environments. I've found myself in restaurant kitchens and people's living rooms. Shooting snippets of every day life and people on the ascent to big things. But by far the shoot that has meant the most to me is this one, my own Grandmother.

Oh, and this week we have a co-star.

Mildred Weber is my Grandmother. When I was young, I knew her as a woman who cared for me dearly and did everything within her power to make me happy. As an adult, I've come to see her not just as someone who watches over me and cares for me, but also as an individual. Fiercely resolute and independent, tenacious, and very, very strong. At times her genuine concern for those about whom she cares can come across as a nervous energy. In reality, it's nothing more than the manifestation of just how important her family is to her. She has lived through a lot, and although she would likely tell you otherwise, her vitality is still very tangible. She recalls memories of good times past not with melancholic sentimentality, but rather with a graciousness that she's lived a life in the presence of such good people. I'm lucky to not only know her, but to also know that I draw my roots from her as well. If I'm lucky I've inherited from her some of the same traits by which she has and continues to successfully navigate the challenges of life.

For this shoot I planned to rely heavily on using the ring flash as a fill. My approach was very much informed by an article written by the strobist last august. My key would be off axis enough to really rely on the ring flash providing much of the exposure, as well as maintaining a flattering quality to the light. This picture shows the placement of the key.

I was really worried about speculars on her glasses, but by having her not face me directly it ended up not being that big of a problem. I also drew in a lot of ambient light from the room, and tried to preserve the room's warmth. I gelled the key 3/4 CTO and the ring flash 1/2, allowing me to cool down the final color balance yet still maintaining the warm glow of the lamp. Here's an ambient exposure of the lamp only.

Speaking of ambient light, the final photo contains a bit of fake ambient light. What do you mean, fake ambient light? Well, it's funny you should ask. I'll explain.

The light coming in the window in the entry way to the right of the photo looked really nice, very cool compared to the warm interior light and my strobes. Only problem was, there wasn't enough of it. So I threw an SB-600 in the hallway and pointed it at the ceiling to provide an even exposure. Only problem was, i couldn't get it dim enough. I ended up covering it up with a two-stop ND filter and it balanced out very nicely at minimum power.

As of yet I haven't mentioned someone to whom much deserved credit is due. Presenting: my Grandma's dog Cher.

As evidenced by this last photo, our shoot definitely tried on Cher's patience. This was one of the later shots, and by this point she was obviously over the flashes and all the commotion disturbing her otherwise peaceful domain. As she usually displays an aversion to being photographed, she did a very good job.

Strobist Info:
SB-800 camera right with 3/4 CTO gel through white-over-silver umbrella
SB-800 on camera with 1/2 CTO gel through rayflash ring adapter
SB-600 back camera right with .6 ND gel bounced off ceiling

Camera Settings:
1/30 f/3.2 at ISO 400
Nikon 35 f/1.8


  1. Jay, you've brought a great big smile to my face with this one! Great tribute to your grandmother (and Cher!)