Tuesday, January 31, 2012

LONE RANGER: Another light painting

I had to take a portrait of Limestone County Sheriff Mike Blakely for a story about how few democrats are running for office in this year's elections in the Tennessee Valley. With Blakely being almost the only dem in his county and considering he's a real cowboy (I think he's the happiest person in this world when he's riding a horse), the idea of the "Lone Ranger" came to mind while I was driving up to Athens. But I wanted to avoid the obvious, that is, taking a picture of him riding into the sun or something like that. This idea of not having him on a horse was even reinforced when I went in his office and he told me he'd had knee surgery a few days earlier. As I was struggling to come up with something really fast, I noticed the huge amount of "cowboy" artifacts he had in there and also the beautiful color of the office walls. It was then when I decided to use "light painting" in order to get something with a moody feel.

The first task was to move things around a little bit. What originally hanged on the wall behind him was some kind of framed picture with glass that I had to remove. Then I used one of his baseball caps to hide the air conditioning's thermostat and placed a rope around it. The "cow skull" was the only thing I found around to fill the empty space left by the frame we had previously removed. I used one of my super-handy bungee chords I always carry in my camera bag. Because of this, the skull was hanging much lower, but I didn't mind it since that position created a nice diagonal line with the sheriff's head and the cap/rope. Then we brought his saddle from a corner and place it there and, finally, the rifle on the left.

It was a 15-second exposure, so he had to keep really still during all that time. First, I "painted" with a flashlight from behind the camera (first of these two pictures). It was OK, but I wasn't too excited about it because the spots of light were too obvious. Then I thought I could try to recreate a window light as if there were a window off camera right. So, I changed position and painted from there, leaving some seconds to move back and paint only the saddle and the rifle from another angle (2nd picture). I liked this second one much better and thought the use of light painting was more justified and suited the story better. The weekend editor (the picture was to be published on Sunday) liked the first one better because he could see the whole face, but I chose the second one for publication for the reasons written here. I also included that one in the portraits section of my website (www.jeronimonisa.com).

Which one would have you used? Opinions/comments welcome!


Michael Clark said...

I like the saddle and Sheriff Blakely's face better in the second one, but I like being able to see the detail in the items on the wall in the first. Especially the different colors in the logo on the steer's skull. For me, the long shadows on the wall in the second add atmosphere, but do so at the expense of drawing attention away from the primary subject. Then again, some might find the detail in the background objects distracting...

Dennis Calvert said...

Great work! I love the mood and textures you created.

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The long shadows on the wall in the second add atmosphere.
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