Ice Castles Lincoln New Hampshire

Ice Castles NH

Rachel, Alexis, and I visited Ice Castles in Lincoln, New Hampshire in January. A group of artists come together and create these creations of ice with lights inside them. There is also a large slide, places to sit and take photos and just walk around and explore. It is kept very cold so that ice sculptures will last so you need to bundle up!


50 Faces: Alexis Lemus

I want to note that the photos in this 50 face project will not all follow the same format, I am not limiting myself to simple professional portraits, conceptual portraits, or any specific category of portraiture. They may all be different depending on time restrictions, location, the model, etc. The photo of Brys was taken quickly and meant to be a simple portrait. These images were taken over more time and some were a bit conceptual in that they used the environment and the harsh light of midday sun in a very purposeful way.

I should also note since these photos are of my boyfriend and he's easy to bug to model likely will not be the only photos I take of him for this project.


While hiking in Blue Hills this past Saturday (6/18) my boyfriend, Alexis Lemus, was kind enough to model for me and allow me to work on a few ideas I'd been wanting to try. Once Behr had finished swimming in the pond and we began our hike, I started looking for interesting areas to use as our location for photos. At first the paths were well traveled and any spot we might like would be often interrupted. After walking a bit further we found some odd rocks that had a dip in them you could imagine sitting it. I worked with alexis and this rock for some more simple portraits.

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If you took a photography class you were probably told midday sun it terrible lighting for shooting  especially for portraits. If you never took a class you might also have noticed when you take selfies on your phone that there is really harsh lighting on your face, lots of deep shadows, and funny shapes. In class you would have also been taught that if you had to shoot in midday sun you should look for shade or use diffusors to avoid such harsh lighting. All of this is very true but I love playing with harsh light and the strong contrast and highlights you can get from midday sun. While doing so I do my best to make sure that light doesn't touch my models face and adds to the photo instead of working against me. It is still not ideal lighting but you can get some really interesting highlights and shapes you just have to be careful it isn't distracting from your concept.

After I used the odd shape of the rock Alexis climbed on top of them just for fun but when he was up there I notice the light raked across his abdomen and worked to keep that light off his face while I shoot some more.

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This is an example of where the location and lighting just didn't work out as well in camera as it looked in concept. We kept walking for a bit after the first photos and I saw this broken tree with lots of branches coming out of it. I began to imagine how I might use the lines of the tree and Alexis's body to make an interesting composition. I worked to have his body create a continuous line in a bit of an odd shape while still looking natural. While I took this shot I thought it would be the most interesting one conceptually and to edit. However, once I began to edit I realized the lighting here had been less than ideal, it didn't do anything for him, or set the tone of the image. I may try to continue editing this image but I believe the concept ended up being more interesting than the final image.

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I have to say this is my favorite image! It also was a struggle to edit, I think I am happy with this edit but I may play some more and I may post another post with all my attempts. I also saw this as a huge opportunity to work on my black and white photos as I've mentioned before I am particularly picky about black and white and you won't often find it in my work.

For this image we found another fallen tree with branches in odd shapes. I asked Alexis to get into a bit of an uncomfortable position to make interesting shapes between his body and the fallen branches. I loved the angles of the tree and his body made as well as the shapes of leaves on his chest and abdomen the harsh lighting made. The bright midday sun light his body through the trees but also the background where it filtered through the trees. This created a strong push and pull between background and foreground which I wasn't looking for in this particular image. I worked hard to keep the tones of grey I loved in the foreground but flatten the background so it was less distracting. How successful you think I was probably varies based on the styles you like but I do love this image.

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And lastly I found more fallen branches and tried a few simpler shots but we were short on time and starting to find ticks on us so here's just one quick shot!


50 Faces: Brys Scotland

Beginning the 50 Faces project (which I wrote about in another blog) this time I told myself I wanted to do more than 50 photos of faces but rather 50 different individuals. It makes the project larger in scope while also implying there is one that stands out above the rest in all the photos I might take of that person. This means that there will be at least 50 blog posts featuring faces, and in the end you will see many more than 50 photos, but I will do a few blog posts at the end that identify 50 favorites for different reasons, 1 per person... if I can stick to that.


To start the 50 faces project I took a photo of my co-worker and friend, Brys Scotland, before she moved from MA back to Colorado. I didn't have much time, it was her last day at work, so I grabbed my camera and brought it to the mall with us on lunch. On the way back to the office I noticed some trees covered in vines by the mall and stopped to shoot a few photos at that location really quickly. This photos was unplanned, not conceptual in nature, and intended to be a simple portrait. While shooting I moved her around the area a bit until at the end I found the spot I liked and caught a moment where the wind gave her hair some movement and her expression was natural.

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I was very happy to start the project off with this picture especially given that we only worked on it for 10-15 minutes. It was a simple portrait but a successful one. I was happy with the composition and scenery, her expression, and the movement in the image.

 


Portrait of Carlos at sunset

CDIA: 50 Faces Project

When I started the part time photography certificate program at CDIA in Waltham one of the first projects they assigned us was to shoot 50 faces. It was an assignment created to help us get comfortable shooting portraits and start to learn what to look for. We learned even if you captured the right emotion if the lighting was off it wasn't a good photo, that if you didn't connect with the subject there was no emotion, how distracting your background could be, ways to adjust the lighting with simple props, and so much more.

Here are a few of my more successful images, several of which were taken after the project was completed because I knew more about how to take a successful portrait.

Portrait of Danny taken on a sail boat
Portrait taken on a sail boat

The above photos are of my brother and my mother taken on a sail boat several summers ago. They worked well as a pair. When you are shooting  candids sometimes you can't avoid some technical errors because you aren't setting the scene. These family photos were candid and a boat limits your movement. The photo of my brother has some lighting on his face that is a bit off, it would have been best if it was completely in shadow like my mothers. Both images also include glasses which can cause reflection issues and also obscure the eyes, which as human indicate emotion. In my mothers photo it would have been best to move the "lifesling" guide that was behind her, it can be distracting especially because as humans we try to read text when we see it. But over all these images work well as a pair, both individuals are wearing sunglasses, hats, and grey sweaters and clearing on a boat; they both appear happy, relaxed, and to be enjoying a vacation. Sometimes you can't get the perfect image technically but doesn't mean  you can't take a good photo.

Portrait of Carlos at sunset

The above photo is of my friend Carlos. When I first started the 50 face project my classmates and teachers remarked upon the quality of my photos of men being greater than those of women. This confused me a bit as I didn't think I had many male friends or an affinity for those images. Trying to see what my classmates saw I realized a few things about my work. I would overlook technical quality if the expression was right and men looked more at ease, weren't trying as hard in my photos than a woman. I was better at shooting the photos of men while having a random conversation and putting them at ease, while a woman was cognizant of the camera the whole time and I wasn't as good at distracting them. This photo was a favorite of mine because it is such a candid moment and had a beautiful soft rim light from the sunset.

During this time in the 50 faces projects, because it was so intensive and we just had to shoot 50 faces, I was just asking people if I could photograph them and doing it when they had free time. It was done without much thought as the best time of day or location for an image. I just happened to be leaving my house with my friend and stop him to take this photo. Doing this project the way we did made us evaluate why some photos worked and some didn't but forced us to work with the time we had and see what we could do.

Portrait of Cassandra

As we worked through the project we were also learning in class. The above image of my friend Cassandra was taken in my drive way during a bright sunny day. By this time I had learned way to deal with that sun. We had her back to the sun and she used some white foam core to bounce light back into her face so it was not too dark.

Portrait of Ian in some old foundation

The above photo was taken much later in the project of my friend Ian. He knew of an old foundation in the woods we could visit and use for a shoot. This was more intentional and planned than the initial 50 faces. We gave thought to the surroundings, time of day, and lighting more than before.

This project was a great learning experience and forced us to quickly learn how to deal with people and different situations while shooting. I highly recommend this project and hope to come back and post another 50 faces project in the near future.


Photographer Michael Thompson

I love color photography and because of this I often don’t give black and white photography much credit. Alternatively, you might say I give it too much credit, I hold it to such a high standard that cannot reasonably be lived up to. I feel that black and white editing is over used and is often done as more of an after thought than done purposefully.

I believe black and white photography should support the story of an image when color distracts from this purpose. Black and white photos should focus heavily on the lighting of scene and subject. A shoot should be planned with black and white in mind. The photos shouldn’t just be high contrast images that become literally be black and white but rather be filled with beautiful shades of grey.

My favorite example of successful black and white images are photographer Michael Thompson’s editorial images of Kate Beckinsdale. View them here on one of my Pinterest boards. Michael Thompson often shoots portraits in black and white but this series in particular spoke to what I love about the use of lighting in black and white photography.

These photos embody what I believe black and white photography should be. They purposefully use lighting and shades of grey to tell you about these moments in time. The black and white draws your attention to the lighting and sets a mood. These images perfectly evoke a mood and a story that could not be achieved in color. They portray the private moments of a woman awakening in the morning sunlight, moments spent in deep thought. In particular I love the image where she holds her hand up to shade her face from the sun, appearing to search out into the day to see what it might hold. The beautiful catch lights in her eyes and natural shape of the shadow on her face highlighting it are beautiful. The stripes of her shirt add dimension and subtly suggest lighting that is actually just the stripes.

My challenge to myself is to try to create portraits that do this just as well as Michael Thompson’s do. To create a series of portraits of one person or of different individuals that use lighting and shades of grey to tell their story.

 


Jenna modeling in the woods on a small waterfall

Bear's Den - Getting Elemental

Towards the end of the summer last year I was getting antsy to take some more conceptual photos with models. Two of my friends, Jacqui and Jenna, both actresses, quickly volunteered and got excited about the photo shoot. They were most excited about being involved in coming up with a concept for the photos and exploring a new hiking spot. It was so easy to move forward with a plan with models as excited about the project as I was. We quickly researched and choose a location. We chooseBear's Den in New Salem, MA, somewhere we had never been before but it wasn't too far away with pretty waterfalls in the woods.

When we reached our destination we were surprised to find even more than we expected! We parked right off a main road and took a quick hike through some woods to a small clearing where there were a few steep paths that lead further into the woods. Once in the woods we found a stream on our right that wrapped around in front of us and to our left where there were large rock formations. By the stream we found the remains of an old foundation. Having planned our concept based on trees, rocks, and waterfalls without having prior knowledge of the foundation we did not include it but it was exciting to find more possibilities than we expected.

We walked around the huge stone formation by the stream and came to the waterfall. The girls started pulling out their dresses and showing me what the possibilities were. The concept we had agreed on ahead of time was elements and they had chosen their clothes with it in mind. We hadn't decided if our concept of elements would juxtaposed the natural landscape or match it. We started with both girls together in a shot each matching a different piece of the landscape, rock and moss. I love the the idea of this shot, but it was early in the day and we we're getting comfortable working together, just warming up. I'm not used to work with two models together either so these didn't end up being my favorite photos. I plan to challenge myself to work more successfully with two models in the same shot.

Models by mossy rocks and trees in the woods
Jacqui modeling by mossy rocks in the woods
Jenna Modeling by a small waterfall and rocks in the woods

Every where we turned there was something new to use for the backdrop of our photos and it was all very close together - we didn't have to walk or carry our things any further! I began to work with each of them individually, and while one was changing I would shoot the other.

Jacqui and Jenna got into it, deciding on their own to jump in the water to get the shot, pointing out to each other things to try or poses they've done before that might work, and when to hold a pose... they almost didn't need me! The lighting was a beautiful soft light, but it was coming from above the trees so to get the right lighting I often had to have the girl looking up especially as it got later in the day.

Jenna modeling by mossy forest floor and tree roots
Jacqui modeling on rocks in the woods

After we tried the group shot, I worked on a few photos with Jacqui that didn't come out quit like I'd thought, still warming up to the shoot, I'd say. We played with her green dress as almost part of the moss and tree tops but I wish I was just a little taller, I'm only 5'3", then I might have gotten the angle I wanted.

Then Jenna and I climbed up the steep hill next to the rocks we had just been playing on to shoot with some exposed roots. Jenna was wearing a red dress to represent fire and against the landscape. Complementary colors and the brilliant hue of the dress made for some striking images. Jenna ended up keeping the dress on for more than one shot. In these photos the destruction of some trees where the power of the roots still held it in place and moss and other plants flourished was a nice balance to the fire red of the dress, destruction to life.

Jacqui modeling on rocks in the woods
Jenna modeling in the woods by small waterfalls and rokcs

Jenna then jumped on top of one half of the water fall in the red dress and we took some awesome shots showing a lot of the landscape. Fire to water, opposite elements quite literally, but also using the movement and shape of the dress to match the soft organic beauty of flow of water against the harsh geometric shape of the rocks. These images embody a lot of what I love to do in my work, subtly juxtaposing different elements.

Jacqui modeling in the water by a small waterfall

Jacqui switched to a brown dress (one image above, more on my FB page: facebook.com/mswphoto) for more of an earthy dirt and soil element against rock and moss. Then she switched into a stunning yellow dress  like the light of the sun and we started playing on the rocks by the waterfall (image above) using the human organic form against the harsh geometric form of the rock, I'm seeing a pattern here. Then Jacqui took the plunge and lay down right in one of the falls like she was climbing up the falls. Here I snapped the only portrait from this shoot and one of my other favorite images. Green life and earth to Stone to Water and Sun. Jacqui also then jumped right in the pool of water above the second falls and we played with her dress under water.

Jacqui modeling in the water by a small waterfall

These are my favorite photos I have taken in recent times, they embody what I love to do with my work, I hope to show you more like this as summer begins, and put even more story behind them in the future. I'm sure you'll see Jenna and Jacqui again.

P.S. be careful carrying lots of things over rocks... I managed to drop my camera, no damage luckily!


Male Miniature Horse.

Miniature Horse's

My obsession with animals when I was younger was not limited to specific animals, however, that's not to say I didn't play favorites. As many people say as the stereotype of little girls, I wanted to do horse back riding and was especially enamored with horses. These incredible animals have so much strength and can run forever. This also affected my reading choices and I read many horse books (especially the Thoroughbred series and the classics, like Black Beauty).

When I was still fairly young I was lucky enough to have an uncle who let my family stay at his house on Martha's Vineyard in Edgartown every summer for a week or two. One summer a large dog standing on his hind legs came up on the back porch and scared me silly, I thought it was a bear he was so big! Another summer a goat came to visit the backyard and would run away from my brother, it was fun to watch. I soon discovered my uncle's neighbor owned miniature horses as well. The neighbors name was Sandy and she was kind enough to allow me to visit every summer and take photos of the animals she had at the time. These are some photos from my visits when I was in high school.

Here three babies, a foal and two fillies, had just been born. One of the mothers had Heterochromia, one blue eye and one brown, which she passed on to her baby. I had so much fun visiting these horses, you will photos of them again.

Baby miniature horse with one blue eye.

Rosie, mother miniature horse.

Baby miniature horse.

Baby miniature horse.

 


Natalie modeling as a wolf in the woods.

Getting Wolfy in the Arnold Arboretum

My friend Natalie and I came up with this fun idea to play with doing a sexy wolf photoshoot where she was the wolf. On a brisk winter day we decided to drag ourselves down to the Arnold Arboretum and look for somewhere fun to shoot. We soon came upon what we affectionately referred to as a human size bonsai tree, I know we could have looked at the actual name of the tree, since we were in the Arboretum, but to us that was a what it looked like and that’s all that mattered. It was a low growing tree with lots of beautiful twisted branches. At this point we had only walked feet from the entrance we came in and decided we should probably see more options before we stopped so we kept walking.

Natalie modeling as a wolf in the woods.
Starting to get silly and figure out how to make a human sexy wolf pose in the woods.

The next place we came to we decided to play with some shots, it was already 2:30 and sun set was as early as 4:15 as it was early January in Boston. We found some cool jagged rocks and started playing around. The lighting was difficult to work with as it didn’t hit her face and while I love the rim lighting on her spirit hood, which highlighted the wolf well, it was easily blown out so I had to shoot dark and use a reflector and tree branches to hold it up. We used a stool to help exaggerate the size of her body and draped her fur vest over it. Here we got silly and played around with what worked and was wolfy but still human. It was a learning experience and we may repeat this shoot in different seasons… so stay tuned.

Natalie modeling as a wolf in the woods.

Natalie modeling as a wolf in the woods.

Natalie modeling as a wolf in the woods.

After we played by the rocks for a while we headed back towards the entrance and our bonsai tree. Natalie took a quick climb into the tree and found the one opening with beautiful lighting from the setting sun streaming through and I began working my way steadily up and down the hill by the tree as well as around the tree to get the shot from every angle I could. Playing with the composition of the shot with the different twisted tree limbs while she remained in a very similar position. When I had to chose my favorite photos it was a bit of a struggle as the lighting on her face was so beautiful. So I apologize if there are many similar shots :D

Natalie modeling as a wolf in the woods.


More photos on my facebook page: facebook.com/mswphoto