Three pics on a Sunday, an unexpected beetroot/portrait

So it's Sunday morning, I go for a walk around the block in a misty rain all is drenched on the streets of Bondi, and I take shots as i go with my phone enjoying the diffused light for a change from the usual hard contrast. I get home and upload the pics to Instagram.

I get home feeling inspired and make a piece of toast with smashed beetroot, sautéed carrots, and a sprinkling of parmesan and parley. It tastes really good and I decide to make another and shoot it. I need natural light and a white plate, and i style it up carefully, shooting with my Zeiss lens and old Canon. The shot kind of reminds me of Irving Penn's aesthetic - it could be the clean whites and the rough and ready food combo. I post it to the 'Gram and one friend says it resembles Groucho Marx.

Smashed beetroot and carrots on toast.

I move on to shooting some sea shells. I had been wanting to do this for a while since doing copy work of a print of some in black and white by Max Dupain, which I had shot for an auction catalogue. The pic in on my Art & Object page...

I couldn't do it exactly like Max since I had no black velvet kicking around the house, so I decide to use a circular piece of black slate I had been given as a cheese platter by Felicity Jenkins as a gift. I had to progress with daylight as I had done with the toast shot - keep the light natural. Also, I was liking circlular composition and a square crop from the morning walk, so I kept with this look.

Interestingly, if you look at the food shot and the shell study closely you can see from the 'plates' and their shadows that the lighting is the same.

Shell Study, after Max Dupain.

After the shots I got a phone call from a friend asking me to do some portraits of her son this afternoon for an acting agency. I agreed, and after the call got to thinking about how to do it, with my Fuji camera gear at my office across town. What the hell, I can use the same set up as for the still life shots - the Canon and the Zeiss 50mm, my only Canon mount lens. It should be ok, though I prefer a longer focal length.

Then I thought approach. I like Martin Schoeller's portraits of celebrities so I had a look online and found a discussion about his technique...kino flo lighting, damn, I only have Profoto strobes...I decided to look at the book i bought in Bangkok, Lighting People by Rossella Vanon. It's one of two great books on technique that I have, the other being Light Science Magic. I settled on a lighting approach, and then considered a mid length portrait. I have a postcard of a photo by Nicholas Muray of Frida Kahlo, an iconic image. I decided I would use that for inspiration.



by Nickolas Murray, wow!

Problem is, to replicate the shot above i need a grey wall, and the lighting is more complex than you think. The Muray shot is a masterpiece, taken in 1939, when colour film was in its absolute infancy (Kodachrome came out in '37).

In the time of writing I shot some portraits of Xavier. As so often happens I used the Frida pose from above but to no great success. Irregardless, here is a separate photo from the shoot that I am happy with:

Xavier Lenehan, 2017.

Xavier Lenehan, 2017.