Seeing people’s reaction to a photo I have taken is one of my favorite parts of photography. This inspiration for this photo came from an assignment from my photography class, which needed to incorporate an off camera flash with an umbrella. This was one of my first attempts at taking a portrait because I usually stick to shooting landscapes.
I have been recently experimenting with smoke grenades so I though they would be perfect for this assignment. When thinking of what kind of shot I wanted the first thing that came to mind was having the forest in the background. I found the perfect location that was less than one hundred feet from my campus for this shot. I quickly set up my camera and the umbrella and told my model where to stand. Due to the wind blowing towards to campus I knew I was going to have to get the shot quick incase someone called the police. The red smoke seemed perfect to me because it stood out and would not have looked like smoke from a fire incase someone saw it. I went through two smoke grenades but finally got the shot I was looking for. The whole shoot took less than 15 minutes from start to finish and I was happy with the result.
I wanted the viewer to stare at and contemplate exactly what was going on in this shot. Smoke grenades are not very common to see in photography so I knew it would stand out from most other pictures people have seen. The image gives an end of the world feel to it at a first glance. The gas mask and the smoke grenade, along with the empty forest in the background, cause this strange vibe.
I find that it is always better to know your model that you are shooting with and making sure that they are able to take directions. In this case the model was a friend of mine so telling him where to look and what to do was easy.
To get this shot I used my Canon 6d with my 24-105 L lens, along with my Altura flash. I rented an umbrella stand from my school to help with the catch light in the eye. The settings I used for this shot were f5.6, ISO 400, and 1/80 shutter speed. This was still one of my first times using my off camera flash so it took some adjusting to get the settings perfect. The umbrella flash was set to medium power and I was going up and down one stop while taking pictures. I had a tripod with me, but found that it was going to be easier to free hand for this shot. It made things much easier to move around and get as many different angles as possible, which would have been restrictive with a tripod. I darkened the background, saturation, and added some clarity in Photoshop while editing this picture.
It was fun going out and shooting a portrait because it is different from what I am used to. In the end I got a decent shot but also learned more about taking portraits. My main reason for taking a photography class was to learn different techniques and skills, which is something that I definitely did while getting this shot.
About the Photographer
Usually I do not like to talk about myself when it comes to my photography because I would rather the focus be on my images. I have always been a creative kid growing up and I believe that shaped my unique style. I first found photography during my junior year of high school. I have studied many other photographers’ pictures that are similar to mine, to see what others have done and to create something new. I prefer to shoot landscapes, astrophotography, and abandoned photography. I hope to constantly be learning new techniques of photography.
To read more about the Northern Arizona University “Behind the Image: Guest Blogger” project on our blog, please read the introduction at youcansleepwhenyouredead.com/wordpress/4th-annual-northern-arizona-university-behind-the-image-guest-blogger-project. Please take a minute to leave your thoughts and constructive comments in the Comment section below – Faouzi would love to hear from you!