There are good and bad points about location photography. The good is that no two locations are the same, and the bad is that no two locations are the same. When I leave the comfort of the studio, the primary mission is to work with whatever conditions and settings I encounter.
Scouting locations for environmental portraits becomes a matter of trying to visualize and balance many different factors including ultimately how the camera will see the scene based upon variables of different lenses and lighting. It’s often a luxury to have someone stand-in for the subject (assistants are the primary recruits), but there are still always last minute adjustments when the actual person arrives.
Two assignments recently demonstrated opposite extremes in working with available spaces, one in the humongous lobby of the Connecticut Convention Center and the other a tight stairwell between floors at Cigna.
For the above business portrait of Mike Freitmuth, Executive Director of the Capital Region Development Authority which oversees the Convention Center, I wanted to place Mr. Freimuth within the context of the building, the lobby being the main feature. But because of the architectural shapes and lines, it was matter of figuring the right perspective which would help emphasize the person. I liked the setting but it all seemed kinda busy, so he was photographed with a longer lens and shallow depth of field to soften the background and make him stand out. Due to being on the edge of a landing, he was lit with a single light on the right while the unpredictable sun coming in and out of clouds filled in the rest.
The second portrait below is of Nicole Jones, Executive VP and General Counsel for Cigna. Whenever possible I try to get away from behind the desk or office and find an interesting setting. I liked the angles and dynamics of a stairwell on the Customer Center, but it proved to be quite a different challenge due to the narrow stairway not allowing much room to place the lighting. There was only couple feet of space on the right and a low ceiling to work with. A second strobe was placed at top of the stairs working as a hair light and adding to the background. Luckily, the light walls offered a nice fill for the shadows.
One of the main lessons I learned as a photographer is to be flexible, adaptable and have an open mind since we never know what the situations will be like. I always remember what Bruce Lee once said: “Be water, my friend.”, just go with the flow.