While providing diver support and shooting for the NASA NEEMO XXII mission a couple weeks ago, my friend Dawn asked if I could spare a few moments to do a new portrait of her. Having shot her before and always glad I did (she's our generation's Maud Adams, Bond girl of the 1970s -- click here and you'll see what I mean. Dawn crewed NEEMO XXI so that's Dr. Dawn to you. ), I jumped at the chance. The camera loves her (even facing away -- check this out), so I wasn't going to let the opportunity to slip by.
But, there was a challenge. While I've recently been shooting a lot to help with NEEMO press coverage and in-house imagery, the majority of the work's underwater and I'm hauling dive gear, so I didn't have a lot of surface-side gear that I normally use for portraits on location. I didn't even get to bring Headly. But, being a pro shooter isn't about having everything you'd like to have at the moment you'd like to have it -- it's about knowing light then using what you've got to get the job done.
During a break in my duties, my solution (as it always is in these cases) was to find the light I needed and augment it with what I had (two speedlights). I kicked around the support facilities for FIU's Aquarius Reef Base, finally landing on some nice indirect sun just inside the door of a tool shed. But, before pulling Dawn away from what she was doing, I wanted some test shots. My friend Jason was wandering by and "volunteered" (minor arm twisting) to fill in for Headly. Although I hadn't set out to portrait Jason, even as we worked I knew I had something. After some light adjustments and post processing, we got this:
Wrapping from channeling Maverick and Top Gun, I called in Dawn. Since both sessions were going to be in the same basic light and setting, my wheels were already turning on how to make them differ. To start, their individual features lent themselves to different positions. Then, I adjusted the lights a bit, changed my angle and we started shooting We ended up with this, among others:
The final touches were in post. Jason's shot lent itself to stylized black and white with a gritty, heavy-detail look that works well on guys. Normally, I have people pull their shades so we can see emotion in their eyes, but the aviators make this shot. He looks like a man-of-action, which fits. Jason has a big heart that he backs with action.
Dawn's more likely to be smiling than not, and we while have some of her lights-the-room smiles, I love the intensity her serious-side projects in this one. It reminds you not to stumble over her beauty and overlook that she's one of the world's leading space/underwater scientists. Finishing her image was the classic handling fitting of a lady (as well as a chance to do better; I was way heavy-handed with my last portrait of her). The result is something I like, but, I don't think I'll compare her to Maud Adams any more.
It's not fair to Maud Adams.