I was contacted a few months ago by the Discovery Channel to see if I would be willing to work with them on an upcoming segment on the fascinating life of Hannah Kristzeck’s, specifically her Senior Portraits, and prom. That was the easiest yes I ever had to muster! Hannah is a senior at White Bear High School (which is one of my contract schools) and dances at 4th Street Dance Center (which I also photograph).
Hannah is a primordial dwarf which is a very rare kind of dwarfism. She is only 30″ tall, but trust me, she has a big personality and was really fun to joke around with (standard fare for me when shooting seniors).
After several planning phone calls, the week arrived. Our lousy weather threw a major curve at us as the original plan was to photograph the session along the St. Croix River in Stillwater. I was able to get permission to do the shoot at North Oaks Country Club, and my crew of myself, Angela and Michael arrived on scene to setup for what proved to be a really fun afternoon! Angela did a fantastic job working with Hannah to make it comfortable for her, and I kept Michael busy as a grip moving lights and gear all around the room. We accomplished all this in an incredibly short amount of time. Anyone who has worked with me knows how fanatical I am at getting it right in the camera. I am not a fan of endless post production which is in my view a waste of time and unnecessary if you get it right the first time. I shoot all manual, all the time. Technical proficiency pays big dividends when you are under the gun of time pressure.
After getting mic’d up (note to anyone ever being mic’d, don’t wear a windbreaker that makes noises…) Hannah came out wearing her prom dress and it was time to make some magic. It was very interesting having the Discovery Channel crew (Victor & Sophia) from England capturing video and sound of the whole session for use in a program that will air sometime later this spring.
Victor was thrilled to see my constant light setup which allowed him to shoot using only the light I was using. We had to work quickly to get a nice variety of images from the 4 outfits Hannah brought with her for the session. Hannah’s size didn’t drastically change my shooting approach, but I was extremely careful how I managed the height of the camera, and angle of the light. I switched frequently between a 50mm prime, 85 mm prime, a 24-70 and my awesome 70-200VR lens throughout the session using my Nikon D700. Photographing on location is always interesting and a challenge to pick backgrounds (and foregrounds in many cases) to create a magical look, no matter where you are working.
We even ventured outdoors for one quick image in the rain/sleet/snow, 38 degrees, windy… wow she was a trooper to indulge my request. This image nailed it! This was shot with my 24-70, one flash on camera with a Gary Fong diffuser at 1/8th power manual. Camera (D600) was set at ISO 400, 1/80th at f 6.3. I had Michael holding a second flash with a Rogue Bender modifier also at just over 1/8th power to both backlight the umbrella, and add a little rim light to the subject.
The last segment that we featured was back inside with a series of ring light portraits. The ring light provided eye candy for Victor who shot from several very interesting angles while I did my thing with Hannah. I probably should have been nervous considering how many people will watch this show when it airs, but honestly, it was fantastic in every way, and I didn’t experience one ounce of panic. We had a great time, and I’m sure Hannah and her mom Jackie will love the images. I’ll be seeing my Discovery Channel friends again Saturday at the White Bear Prom, and will be supplying a few shots from Hannah’s dance school pictures next week. I can’t wait to see how this is edited and all comes together.
Hannah is an impressive young lady and I am honored to have been chosen for this challenging, but fun time.
Here are a few of my favorite images from the session. Call me to schedule your amazing Senior Portrait Experience! I can’t promise a television crew will show up, but I’ll make you look like a celebrity with or without them!
Barry Howell – Picture Place Photography 651-426-0232 firstname.lastname@example.org www.pictureplace.com