Sunday, February 9, 2014

Senior high school photos: Erin Dean

Late last summer, my brother- and sister-in-law in western Illinois dropped me a line to ask if I would handle the senior high school graduation photos for my niece, Erin. Their family drives to Indianapolis to spend Thanksgiving with us every year, so they were thinking we could do the shoot when they were in town for that.

I was looking forward to the opportunity; I figured I would try to get the majority of my shots outdoors to exploit the natural light there, so I spent the next couple weeks scouting places in nearby Garfield Park for possible backdrops. Normally, weather in Central Indiana in late November is pretty mild -- 40 and sometimes even 50 degrees on the average for highs. I figured our chances to luck out and get great outdoors shots would be pretty good.

A week or so before their visit, the thing I had been fearing happened: The long-range forecast told of frigid air coming through on Nov. 27, the day before the holiday and the day we set aside for the shoot. There was even a bit of snow in the forecast.

To keep this story short, I lined up access to an indoor facility near Downtown Indy to use either for all the shots, in a worst-case scenario, or as an additional backdrop if we couldn't do much outdoors.

The weather on the 27th turned out to be as cold as the forecasters had predicted -- the warmest it got was 29 degrees, and there were light snowflakes falling in the early afternoon when we set out for Garfield Park. On the plus side, there was some sunshine mixed in with periods of cloud cover, so we'd have some interesting light play to exploit.

Mindful of how condensation would form on a camera when coming indoors from sub-freezing temperatures outside, and knowing we wouldn't have time to wait for the gear to warm up between the end of the outdoor shoot and the start of the indoor shoot, I decided to use my older Canon 7D, equipped with an EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS lens, for the outdoor shoots. While in the park, I left my 6D -- equipped with an EF 24-70mm f/2.8L lens -- indoors then retrieved it before the commute downtown to the indoor facility, where I used the 6D to exploit its superior ISO light sensitivity feature. A few of the outdoor shots also included light flash fill; I used flash with a Graslon dome diffuser for indoor shots, although very few of those made the final cut.

Erin was a trooper for the outdoor photos. She withstood the biting cold posed in in a sweater and jeans. She would throw on a coat as we moved between locales, or on longer moves within the park, she'd dart into her parents' warm mini-van until we were ready to trip the shutter again. For fun on a couple pictures, we had her keep on her knit mittens.

We were outdoors for a little over an hour; we couldn't start much later to hope for a lower sun in the sky because there wouldn't be enough time to do what we wanted to do indoors, as the facility closed at 4:30. We didn't get to all of the spots I'd hoped to use in the park, but we did get to a lot of them. At around 2:15 p.m., we headed to the downtown area to finish the shoot indoors. Erin changed outfits there, and we spent the next two hours finishing the shoot.

These are the results of that shoot.

Above: Erin picked up photography several years ago then gravitated toward making short films, using a Flip camera. We decided to integrate the gear into a couple of the images. 

Above: In an attempt at a "fun" shot, I asked Erin to flip the head/ear band warmer she'd brought along, a sort of defiant gesture toward the cold that afternoon. I liked the result, and you can see a few of the snowflakes juxtaposed on her dark jeans. 

Above: In a nod to the cold, I applied a slight infrared texture to this shot of Erin walking toward me.

Above and next two below: White balance and color variations of some shots of Erin standing, using window light for our illumination. The second one below reflects an archival framing I pulled from my filter options in Corel Paintshop Pro X4.


  1. So glad to see that you finally posted these! They're very nice! I'm sure Erin is proud...

  2. Thanks for sharing. Two thumbs up, Joe :) You really captured Erin's personality. It's nice to read the behind the scenes detail. Lynn Dean