I spent a good part of the past weekend at a friend’s ranch. My main purpose there was to set up his new iMac (the beautiful 27″ model) and get all his “stuff” transferred from his old Windows box. During this process, while software was updating, files were copying, and backups were running, we also plinked around with some guns and shared stories.
Walking a lot is one of the main instructions from my back surgeon so I headed out on a walk around part of the ranch Saturday morning and took my camera along. There was still snow on the ground (the ranch got 3″ the previous day) and some frost on the vegetation. Unfortunately the frost was disappearing fast so I wasn’t able to catch many very cool pics.
I traipsed through the brush, careful to avoid a particular type of bountiful cactus which, besides poking into your skin, attaches to your clothing and forces you to pick the pieces off (I can’t remember the name of it). I found a few interesting things and took some photographs. There were several shots I wanted to take but it seems that my preferred angle always placed the shadow of the camera and tripod in the frame (the sun was still low). I passed on most of those.
Returning to my truck, I put away the camera and tripod. My rancher friend came over to the truck and leaned on the side of the bed as we talked. As I looked at him I realized I was staring at a very cool, candid shot. The sunlight was backlighting him and his face was in shadow with a perfect level of light. I asked him if he wouldn’t mind me grabbing the camera and snapping a few pictures and he sheepishly obliged.
The man pictured above is very wise. He’s full of skills and wisdom regarding ranching and all it entails, gardening, shooting guns and bows, hunting, cooking, and life in general. He helps me so much and it makes me glad that I have something to offer him (setting up his computer). I think the shot above reflects his skills in so many ways. The reflective look in his “I’ve lived life” face. The dirt on the hat hints at the hard, outdoor work he’s done.
In the two minutes (or less) that I spent photographing him I did run into some minor challenges. In the shot above one might notice that I violated one of the “rules” of photography in that I cut off his hands in the middle. I wanted to capture his hands as they were part of what made the shot IMO. However, when I zoomed (with lens and/or feet) to the correct point to do this, the sun snuck into my lens (I was using a hood) in such a way that I got flare (OK with me) and horribly reduced contrast (not OK with me). Maybe I can save some of those exposures in post but a quick look says they’re not very good. I didn’t want to be at a higher point either (nor did I have the means to get there at the time). So, I went with this shot (uncropped from the original frame) and I like it just fine. Rules are made to be broken.
Chromatic aberration was a problem as well even though I was using a high-quality lens (Canon 24-70 f/2.8). When a subject is so strongly backlit you just have to deal with CA. I fixed that up in Lightroom as best I could before processing but didn’t feel that it was worth the trouble to fix up further in P. The final image is a blend (via layer masks) of the original exposure, a single exposure tonemapped in Photomatix, and various adjustment layers. I brought in just enough of the tonemapped version to give the face an edgy look and highlight the rough-looking stubble on his face. With the large variation in exposure I also ended up using several adjustment brushes in Lightroom to balance light and dark areas somewhat. I left the face on the underexposed side (I agree with Raul Touzon’s statement in the photo workshop I attended — many portraits/photos are over-exposed and shouldn’t generally be so “bright”).
I would have loved to play with more angles, especially using my wide-angle lens, with him as a subject but I didn’t want to turn the moment into a regular photo shoot. I got what I wanted…hope you like it.