Out of the 3,000+ pictures I've taken so far this year (2013), the below portrait is easily one of my top 5 images. You would think this was a planned studio portrait, well, it wasn't. It was a completely random encounter.
In May of 2013, I was in Winnipeg, CA on a business trip. Whenever I travel I always take my camera. I really enjoy travel photography and I wish I could afford to do more of it. When I do travel, I always like to plan what it is I'm going to photography while I'm in a particular location. This was my second trip to Winnipeg and I've found the people to be quite friendly, so photographing strangers was definitely on my list of things to do.
On this trip, I was staying at the Fairmont Hotel downtown Winnipeg. This hotel is connected to a underground concourse which connects to the building I was working in. The section of the concourse connected to the Fairmont has these upscale boutique style shops. I was walking through the concourse, on my way to my hotel room when I saw this young lady working in one of these boutiques that sold chocolate. She was wearing a this cool fedora, so I thought this might make a good portrait. On my way back through the concourse, I noticed she was still there. There was nobody in the store, so I figured this would be a good opportunity to ask to take her portrait. I went into the store, introduced myself and I told her that I loved her hat. I explained that I was in town on a business trip and that I’m photographing interesting people while I was in town. I asked her for her name and she said Del. She goes on to say she models (what are the odds). I asked if I could take her portrait and she agreed. She had this look on her face like she just received a unexpected present. I asked her to stand in front of the black painted wall. The first picture came out blurry, I noticed the camera shutter speed was slow due to the low light, I knew I needed to use my flash. I rarely use flash when photographing strangers, but due to the dim light, it was necessary to get a good exposure. I did not use my on camera flash because the light is flat and harsh, plus it causes red eye. I had my off camera flash in my bag, so I used it. I connected it to my sync cord and held the flash in my left hand extend out and shot with my right. I took a few pictures until a customer came into the store. I got Del's email address to send her a copy of the picture and I went off to work. When I saw the pictures later that day, I knew this would be a nice black and white portrait.
Old Hollywood Glam
When I returned home from Winnipeg, I started the editing process. Immediately I began to see that old Hollywood style of glamour portraits - with the distinct shadows and soft/glow lighting. Del has great cheek bones which allows the shadows to add form and character to her face. Being close to the wall and holding the flash away from the camera to my left added the angled shadow behind her, adding a nice spot light affect to the image. During this impromptu session, I did not direct Del at all, she struck each pose on her own, which speak of her experience as a model. When I emailed Del the picture, I told her I could see her in this style of modeling, she replied she would love to model in this style.
That's the back story.