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I have photographed this family for years. Every time, it’s been an effort to find locations that don’t look like the desert. This time, mom finally embraced the fact that they do, in fact, live in the desert and requested that we go out to get photos in the desert itself. So we met up at the Gold Field State Park Desert just outside of Mesa, Arizona for this family portrait session.
Arizona Desert Family Portraits
Before we shot the family together, we did the children’s photos in the harsher light. It is easier to photograph the group when the light is softer, after sun has gone down a bit.
The first test of the light was with their youngest son and his penguin. Penguins are very appropriate for the desert.
Mom’s dress is fantastic. The way it flowed in the wind created lots of movement and interest.
It’s important to note, desert light is very harsh. Without the use of a 2’x3′ soft box matching the sun’s harsh cross light, the photos would be extremely dark on the shadow side of the face. Using the Profoto B1 off-camera flash makes this easy. It is powerful enough to match the sun and portable enough to move when I need to move.
More importantly is its extremely accurate TTL which allows kids to move and adjusts for the change in distance. When little kids move, you have to move with them.
I love crying baby photos. Especially when there are other kids to react. The brothers’ reaction to their littlest sister really needs no explanation.
Toward the end, it started getting cold. Yes, it gets very cold in the desert as the sun goes down.
I love when the little ones leaned in to Dad for warmth. And of course, the shot of the family all together really showcases family togetherness at its best.
This image was my favorite because of its documentary nature… and the fact that it just feels like my childhood.
By the end of the session, I think all of the kids were either miserably cold, crying or frowning. So, any questions as to why we did the walking away shot for the final shot of the portrait session?
One of the things I like about my life and work is the constant variation in what I get to capture. I shoot weddings, portraits, commercial, documentary, and more. One thing I really enjoy is when I have the opportunity to work with other artists, like the musicians of the Phoenix Symphony. From the musicians and conductors, to the marketing staff and the CEO, everyone is extremely talented.
A few times a year, the symphony presents multimedia performances that include both music and video at the same time. This multimedia performance was a celebration of the work of legendary composer Elmer Bernstein. His iconic music was paired with clips from the movies his scores brought to life. It was conducted by his son, Peter Bernstein, who shared stories about his father and the music during the performance.
I like to photograph the score because I like to take visual notes. This practice helps me to remember things, like names, details, and more. And I love the way music looks on a page, the way the notes are like their own language. Even though I have played music my whole life, I can’t actually read sheet music.
Jim Ward is one of my favorite people. This intelligent business genius has been the captain of ships such as Lucas Arts now leads the Phoenix Symphony. His guiding hand has made it one of the few symphonies in the US that are financially sound. This gives great artists a stable benefactor. Who says art and commerce can’t coexist?
Phoenix Symphony orchestra master violinist Steven Moeckel getting in the zone before the performance. Steven is truly a treasure. Listening to him play is truly mesmerizing.
Peter Bernstein, son of Elmer Bernstein, conducted the symphony as they played his father’s exemplary film scores. To accompany the music, video clips from the films and clips of his father played overhead. Between the music, Peter also told stories about his father. One of the stories he shared was about his father’s experience in Hollywood during the McCarthy hearings and the Communist black lists that threatened actors, directors and musicians during that time.
It was filmmaker Cecil B. DeMille who vouched for Elmer Bernstein to keep him off the Hollywood blacklist. He was the one who gave Bernstein his break in the movies, which began his amazing career as a legend in film scoring.
Director John Landis (of Animal House, Three Amigos, and other ridiculous comedies) was there to discuss his experiences with Elmer as well.
My backstage lighting was critical to the success of these photos. With the Profoto lighting system, I am able to photograph in completely dark situations with complete confidence. With the A1 On Camera Flash (with a focus assist), and the B1 and B2 off camera flashes hanging from various walls and rafters, there is no image I can’t capture. I know where the action is going to happen and set up my lights prior to the event. Because I can control everything from the A1 On Camera Flash, no matter what direction I am facing, I can create light that will make the image work, even in the darkest conditions. Of course, when the symphony starts playing, the lights go off and I slip into stealth mode.
When all is said and done, photography is my opportunity and excuse to go into everyone else’s world. Whether it is photographing a wedding or a symphony, I love my work. And I love working with talented people who are at the very top of their game.
Reagan and Rusty have been dating for a while. Reagan is my niece, so I have seen Rusty at family dinners for a long time. When they asked if I would shoot their engagement portraits, they originally just wanted to do something in Phoenix. But, it was August. August in Phoenix averages 120 degrees. Not good. When thinking about engagement photography sessions, people don’t always think outside of the box. One of the greatest things about Arizona is that within two hours you can be in an entirely different climate. So that’s exactly what we did.
Payson, Arizona Engagement Session
Reagan, Rusty and I packed up and went an hour and a half north of Phoenix to Payson. It was still warm, I couldn’t do much about it being August, but nothing over 90. Fortunately, I do a lot of location scouting. I have locations logged in China, Budapest, London, Iceland, and a hundred other locations across the world. But, when it comes to Arizona, I have thousands. So, I took them to a great spot with tree cover all day long. I also brought my Profoto B1 and B2 along to make the light absolutely perfect.
The light tree cover is not this dark, but with a little extra light, I can remove the natural ambient light and then fill in exactly what I want, giving the image a more dramatic feel.
The lush grass and little spots of sunshine filtering through the trees and onto the grass makes for a perfect backdrop. Lighting is critical on this image to make sure my lights all appear to be coming from the sun so it doesn’t appear to be a flash photo. Obviously, on-camera doesn’t work. So, the flash is off to the left of the camera to follow the natural direction of the sunlight.
At the end of the photo shoot, Rusty was skipping rocks like a little kid. He and I finally coaxed Reagan into going into the water. She kept feeling crawdads crawling around her feet, so this was quite a challenging shot for her. But, in the end, I love the drips of water coming off her feet and the reflections coming toward the camera. Without the right lighting, the water droplets would have melded with the background too much. The drips would not show up and neither would the reflections (not that much anyway). You can see in the final shot where that light was that was separating them out.
Rusty helped me test the light by putting his head IN it! Good job, Rusty. He won’t be my assistant anytime soon.
Skye’s high school senior portraits were taken in Chandler and Gilbert, Arizona with an extra drive out to Canyon Lake outside of Phoenix. The music for this slideshow, “Callita Night” by KGB is licensed through Triple Scoop Music.
The final image in the collection was a must for Skye and for me. This was Skye’s Pride and Prejudice moment… you girls will know what I’m talking about. Guys, don’t worry about it!
CreativeLIVE – Adobe Lightroom® CC for Beginners
For those of you joining my workshop on CreativeLIVE January 14-15, 2017, this is where I will be posting links for the workshop. Keep coming back here for information and links to things and places I discuss on the air.
Links for you to click:
What HARD DRIVE should you buy? Check out the failure rates on the Back Blaze online backup service. Great info HERE. These are spinning drives.
For Solid State Drives, I love the San Disk Drives, check them out HERE.
My traveling RAID1 drive is made by CRU, called the Tough Tech Duo, which is a firewire 800 connection which I have connected via a Thunderbolt converter on my laptop. (CRU has a new Tough Tech for USBc as well, but USB3 cannot power it, so it has to be plugged in). Find the Tough Tech HERE along with other CRU items, like the small green case of the Tough Tech Mini I talked about earlier in the class. For the new version of the Tough Tech Duo USBc you will have to go to CRU’s website.
Check out the images I am posting on these FACEBOOK LINKS:
See what I made on Adobe Spark Page
Those who purchase the CreativeLIVE class can see how this was done in the bonus video.
CHECK OUT MY UPCOMING SCHEDULE AND DISCOUNTS ON LIGHTROOM PRESETS
Find out where I am and what I am up to right now! HERE.
He’s kind of a big deal!
When you have run out of things to pray about, or places to serve… say a prayer for the families who are fighting against the effects of cancer and other illnesses and look for some way in your community to bring a smile to their faces. Teddy’s Bears will go a long way to that end. So, yea… he’s kind of a big deal!