Posts Tagged ‘Harvard’

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Back to a Favorite Spot

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

We’ve all got favorite places; places that for whatever reason we keep coming back to, whether it’s because they’re pretty, they’re comfortable, there are good people there who we enjoy spending time with, whatever.

The weather has been beautiful in Boston for the last couple of days (with the exception of that earthquake yesterday! Does that count as weather?), and I had some free time last night so I decided to go back to one of my favorite places in Boston for shooting at night.

The Longfellow Bridge connects Cambridge and Boston across the Charles river, and looks out on the part of the river known as the Sailing Basin, because as the widest, most open part of the river, the MIT, Harvard and other university sailing teams, as well as the public all use it as a great spot for sailing small boats. On any given afternoon there are dozens of sailboats on the water here.

This spot on the bridge is a favorite of mine because in addition to the great view of the river, from this vantage point there is also a great view of the Prudential building and the Hancock Tower, Boston’s two tallest skyscrapers, and the bridge faces southwest, meaning it is wonderful for shooting landscape photos at dusk.

"Charles River Basin": Canon 5D Mark II, Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM @ f/8, 17mm, 3.2 sec., ISO 160. ©Chris Conti Photography

For this image, because I knew I wanted both the natural light in the sky as well as the artificial lights inside the buildings to be visible with a nice balance between the two, it was important to wait for just the right light. I knew that would mean in this case that would mean a little bit after sunset, when the sky had dimmed sufficiently to not overpower the artificial lights (sunset photos can be gorgeous, but I’ve found that often the best light is actually after sunset, such as here). With the camera on the tripod and using a wide-angle lens (my trusty Canon 5D Mark II with the superb EF 17-40mm f/4L lens), I stopped the lens down to f/8 because shutter speed wasn’t going to be an issue (thank you, tripod) and I wanted the little bit of extra sharpness that comes with a smaller aperture. Using a remote cable release to fire the camera to avoid shake I fired a few frames to test exposure (the camera’s internal light meter here is a decent starting point but only a starting point) and play with a few different angles. Since I wasn’t using a tilt/shift lens and the camera needed to be angled up to get the framing I wanted, I had to do a bit of digital alteration in post (Photoshop’s “Lens Correction” function) to remove the distortion and make the buildings straight.

The result is what I think is a nice image, somewhat different than ones I’ve taken here before. It is by no means perfect though (if in fact an image can ever be), so I’m sure that I’ll be back to this spot again some time.

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Posted in Equipment, Field Notes, Gear, Projects, Techniques | 1 Comment »

Harvard Yard Portrait

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

Yesterday I did a fun, quick portrait shoot for a young entrepreneur and businessman who wanted a professional portrait for his resumé and his personal website. Since earning his master’s degree from the Harvard Kennedy School, the subject has founded a number of consulting services doing business both in the United States and abroad. The client is young, dynamic and technology-savvy, so we wanted a portrait that conveyed these concepts. As such, a traditional head-and-shoulders corporate headshot was too old-fashioned for this application.

Since his experience with Harvard was a substantial part of his background, the client decided he wanted to use Harvard Yard as the setting for his portrait. This presented somewhat of a challenge because while we wanted to capture the overall aesthetic of the school, I very much wanted to avoid being boxed into the stereotypes that come along with many people’s perceptions of Harvard. So, we had to use the setting subtly, so that the image didn’t scream “Harvard!!”

I went down to Harvard Square the day before the shoot scout out a couple of locations and see what might work well. The architecture of the buildings in the yard is quite unmistakably Ivy League, and many of Harvard’s buildings, perhaps most notably its Widener Library, are iconic. Even so, the campus offered plenty of quiet, tucked away corners that could serve very well for my purpose.

The day of the shoot I arrived with a minimum complement of gear, because I wanted to be portable and I knew we would have only a short period of time for set-up. I brought my Nikon camera body, a number of lenses, a small external light unit and a translucent disc light softener with stand. As it turned out, the sky was very overcast that day, diffusing the natural light and making the softening disc unnecessary.

I had spoken extensively with the client before the shoot (something I always like to do, so that photographer and subject can begin to get comfortable with each other, a process that is so important in shooting a good portrait!) so I had a good idea of the concepts he wanted the portrait to convey, so we were able to get started very quickly. I knew that to prevent the image from associating too closely with Harvard I would want to achieve a very shallow depth of field and blow the background way out of focus, so I initially chose a 70mm f/2.8 lens.

We moved around the campus trying different compositions and chatting about the client’s business. I always enjoy talking with people I meet about their backgrounds and what they do. Everyone has got a unique story and I’ve found that if you listen you can learn something from just about everyone. We were on a very tightly limited schedule and as time was running short I wanted to try one last composition. This time I selected my 50mm f/1.4 lens (this is my favorite lens. It yields very sharp images, and has such a wide aperture that it allows extremely shallow depth of field). Usually for a portrait I like a lens longer than 50mm (in the 70-120mm range), but in the location we were working there wasn’t sufficient room to back up (besides, I liked the very shallow depth of field). By now both the subject and I were getting cold and starting to shiver, but we had established a good dynamic and we were comfortable with each other, so I wanted to stick it out a bit longer and see what results I’d get. Sure enough, it was these last few minutes when I captured what turned out to be the best images of the day.

semil

Chris Conti Photography Portrait Photography #4

If I had had more time I would have liked to set up a bit of lighting gear (a bounce reflector to fill in the subject’s eyes, etc.), but alas we were out of time. The client had wanted a head-and-shoulders portrait that portrayed him as competent and capable, but that also was a little bit edgy, and I think we accomplished that; both the client and I were happy with the results.

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Posted in Equipment, Field Notes, Gear, Projects | No Comments »

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