This past Sunday, I went to the 2nd Annual Texas Photo Festival in Smithville, TX. for nice relaxing afternoon of photography. I mentioned on my previous post about my first visit to the Texas Photo Festival. I had a great time last year and was looking forward to going again. This year, the festival had a special guest, the 2010 Miss Rodeo Texas, Celesta Harvey, who patiently posed as one of the many models in this small Texas town. Celesta was hard to miss with her bright red jacket and bright white smile. While the other models were people from around town, there was no mistaking Miss Rodeo Texas with her color coordinated outfit — even down to her white stetson hat with red trim.
How strange it must have felt for Celesta to have several dozen people, many with large cameras and long lens, taking pictures of her. While I’m sure she’s been at the center of attention, especially with her Miss Rodeo competition win. it’s a different thing to pose in front of photographers. Miss Harvey did a wonderful job and after some direction from the seasoned portrait photographers, she was a natural. The portrait session started around 2pm, so the harsh mid-day sun was tough even with some scrims setup to soften the light. I was equipped with my Canon 7D with my new favorite 70-200 F4 IS lens along with an external Canon flash. While I may not have the largest camera/lens combo in “photographer equipment arms race” (you know these photo festivals are a great place for photographers to show off their gear) I was happy with my setup. My gear was nice enough to get the images that I wanted without being too big and heavy to carry around.
Towards the end of the day, when most of the other photographers had either left or attended a Photoshop seminar, I was able to take my best photographs. By this time, the sun was softer and lower in the sky. There were more open shaded areas where I could get nicer images of Celesta. The temperature was a bit cooler and by this time and after hours of practice, Celesta was more relaxed and comfortable in front of the camera. Or perhaps she was just too tired to worry about posing as a model and her true self came shining through.
Celesta told me she is going to Las Vegas next to complete in the national Miss Rodeo competition. I wish her the best of luck to win the national title for herself and for the great State of Texas.
My Thought Process
All of my portraits were done with one lens, the 70 – 200 F4 IS. This is a great lens and works wonderfully for portraits. Also, it’s not too heavy to carry around for many hours. Canon also makes F2.8 version of this lens, which are also very nice but they are significantly heavier. While I previously used the 85mm 1.8 Lens for portraits, this new zoom lens will probably be my new default portrait lens, especially places with decent light.
As you can see from my portraits, I have a tendency to get in really close to my subjects. I like tight shots and I rarely do full body portraits. I’m sure having such a long zoom is part of the reason but I’ve noticed with even shorter lens, I seem to prefer getting right up to people in my portraits. Only when I want to show the person in their environmental context do I back up to show more of the scene. For regular portraits, having a long zoom is great since facial features are flattened out and the backgrounds become nicely blurred. The person becomes the center of attention and background fades away.
Using some fill flash in these conditions can be very useful for several of reasons. If there is any harsh sun, the flash can be used to fill in some of the darker shadows. If the background is really bright, you can drop the exposure to darken the background while using the flash to add more light to the foreground. Finally, the flash adds some nice sparkle to the eyes by adding catch lights. Off camera flash is certainly preferable however all of Celesta’s images were done with flash directly on the camera’s hot shoe.
[Note: Click on the image for a larger version]
The image was taken with a Canon 7D with the Canon EF 70 – 200 F4 IS lens. I also had a Canon 430EX flash directly on the camera’s hot shoe. The image above as well as all of Celesta’s images in the gallery were taken as 18MP JPEGs. I used Aperture to sharpen, add slight vignettes and warm up the image. I also used the brush feature in Aperture to add additional saturation and skin smoothing to just the face.
The image above was taken at f4, 1/320 sec , no exposure compensation, ISO 200 at 100mm. Fill flash was used with 0EV compensation.