9.06.2010

The five minute portrait. Just checking in.




This is my kid, Ben.  I'm blessed to have such a good kid.  I had some lights set up in the studio from my photo session with Alexis, last friday.  I walked past Ben's bedroom on my way out of the house and out to the studio and I was amazed at how much he'd grown.  I was also amazed that he was sitting on his bed studying his Spanish.

I asked him to come with me to the studio and spend just a few minutes sitting for a portrait.  I wanted to see how the light looked and I wanted to see if my memory of the Kodak SLR/n having better skin tones (by far) than my new Canon 5D mk 2 was just optimistic or if the Kodak really is a better portrait camera.  It is.  I also wanted to photograph one more subject before I tore down the lights and got ready for the upcoming work week.

To light this I'm using one gigantic 84 inch Lastolite umbrella with shoot thru diffuser on the front.  It's firing through a 6 foot by 6 foot diffusion silk that about five feet from Ben.  The background is lit by a little light in a small softbox five feet from the canvas background.  I'm using various black flags to prevent to  much "fill/spill" from hitting the shadow side of Ben's face.  This took, literally, five minutes and 20 frames.  I'm happy with the look.

I'm using a Kodak SLR/n with a 135mm f2.8 Nikon lens (MF) that I picked up last year for $60.  The light for both sources was from the Elinchrome Ranger RX.   The file is a conversion from raw with no levels or color controls.  I love the flesh tones.  That was my question.  I love that my kid dropped his book and followed me to the studio without a moment's hesitation.  Life is good.

23 comments:

Wess Gray said...

Kirk,

I'm always impressed with these simple, understated portraits you show us.
If it is not to personal, why have you not pursued this with a store front studio?

Wess

kirk tuck said...

Wess, First, thank you very much for the kind words about my work. I really appreciate it. Now, on to the concept of the store front. I'd love to but in the days when I got started the work around town was pretty much the same, formulaic stuff people had been doing since the 60's and 70's and, even though Austin was a hip town the people who bought portraits seemed to love the traditional styles. I went into the commercial end because for most of the 1980's, 90's and the first part of this decade the payoff was better. Bigger tickets. Then there was all of the travel opportunity. And the wide open scheduling.

I'm really thinking about plumbing the direct customer market here now. People have become much more sophisticated and the folks in my neighborhood seem to be a good market for this kind of art. I'll be sure to keep you posted.

Thanks, Kirk

David said...

From the photos you've posted of Ben, he's really looking more and more like you every time. Thanks for sharing.

Bernie Greene said...

It's a great pic. Love the light. If that is practically straight out of camera then the Kodak is indeed very impressive. Shame they don't make 'em like that any more.

kirk tuck said...

Bernie, every time I use a Kodak D-SLR I get a little angry. Not necessarily at Kodak for being one of the worst marketers imaginable along with the world's greatest maker of early digital cameras, but at all the stupid photographers who couldn't see great color and tonality if it bit them on the ass. Now we have cameras with lousy color and a lot of megapixels. Pretty much the opposite of what we really need.

If photographers understood the huge dynamic range that Kodak offered them, with the great color, they would all be embarrassed. Really.

Wolfgang Lonien said...

Nice photo, Kirk, like so often - and Ben looks really cool, and more man-like every day now.

What would be interesting is a direct comparison shot, like Kodak vs. Olympus vs. Canon (or anything else digital you have around). That would surely help "newbies" like me to see what you're speaking of.

cheers,
Wolfgang

Robert said...

I've been afraid of portraits, but I have been learning more and more and will be doing more soon. I just started reading about the Zeltsman approach to posing, and he recommends taking time to study your subjects face, which I guess wouldn't be necessary when shooting Ben. Do you spend a long time studying a new subject, and is it different when shooting film vs digital, would you combine shooting and studying when shooting digital, since you can shoot a lot more frames?

Dave Elfering Photography said...

Ahh.. the brotherhood of the Nikon 135mm AIS lens. Gotcha though as I only paid $25 for mine! :) Put a Nikon 4T diopter on it and its a smashing good macro(ish) lens and the combo has an incredibly smooth bokeh as well. I never got the "color" argument until I bought the E-P1 and gradually realized there was 10 minutes of post processing I didn't have to do on its output versus my D90 for each shot. Actually I find myself preferring the output of both my E-P1 and a $200 used D40 over the color from either the D90 or venerable D700. If photography is about light/color and not the frames per second and uber high ISO capability then I feel some important piece of photography is getting lost in the wash with each generation of the digital "revolution". Can a camera be technically more proficient but lack photographic soul? I'm not qualified to say but my inclination is to say yes.

murman said...

I hear the Kodak's have ridiculously low ISOs. What did you shoot at? Would this camera be usable with a couple of speedlights shot thru umbrella?

Rick Moore said...

I have had my Kodak SLR/nx tethered permanently on its own tripod in my studio since 2002. It is my sole, studio portrait camera. None of the DSLR cameras I own or have owned come close to what I can get out of that camera in the studio.

Thank goodness the plug-in power system on the 14nx works as the batteries are old and never were worth a crap anyway. Power management and iso above native settings were not a strong feature of that camera.

Glad to see you are keeping the dust off of yours also Kirk.

kirk tuck said...

Amen! Rick. Those cameras are the best portrait cameras I've ever used. Thankfully I've also got the a/c coupler......

Wess Gray said...

Kirk,

Thanks for the answer. Good luck with the new direction. Portrait photography and mothers have been more than kind to us for the past 35 years.

Wess

kirk tuck said...

Robert, I don't know anything about Zeltsman but I approach all my portrait sittings the same way. I sit down and chat with the person and get to know them. Figure out what makes them happy and sad and go from there. The good portrait is much more about a collaboration between sitter and photographer than about any secret technique or posing method.

Robert said...

Thanks Kirk, I prefer your aproach, it is a lot harder but will result in a more emotional picture than the put foot a in slot b method. I gave up on Zeltsman after chapter 3, he put me to sleep, and it went in one ear and out the other.

Dave Jenkins said...

Zeltsman and his followers were pretty much responsible for the formulaic portraiture Kirk spoke about earlier.

Wess Gray said...

Kirk,

Joe Zeltsman is a classic portraitist from New Jersey of our parents generation. Meisel Color Lab had a tape and slide series from him in the 70's. What Mr. Zeltsman provides is the basics on posing and lighting, much like the beginnings of math (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division). In my opinion, a great place to begin, but not a great place to end.
Robert, learn the rules first, then find your own vision on breaking them.
The only saying I came up with, "passion and knowledge become art" is how I explain this to my self.
My best, gentlemen,

Wess

Anonymous said...

Kirk,
I just heard about the heavy rains that blew through Austin. I hope you and your family are well.
Chops

Nevin said...

Kirk,

Big fan of your blog! Did you have the M9 long enough to get a feel of how its Kodak sensor compares to the older ones? Thanks, Nevin

kirk tuck said...

Nevin, The M9 sensor is delicious. Not a high ISO champ but a "no holds barred, best in class" best under 400 ISO sensor. I'd love one in a Canon body.

kirk tuck said...

Chops, we live up on a hill. No damage done. A few trees down around the neighborhood but no bad stuff. Still a bit more rain in the forecast for today....

Hugh Alison said...

Kirk, interesting post - a few questions:

- do you use Canon's own software (DPP) for processing RAW? The "faithful" and "neutral" settings are a bit more realistic than the "portrait" setting.

- is the Kodak DCS/SLRc the same camera except for the Canon lens mount? Both seem to sell for about the same as a 5D mark 1 this side of the pond.

- would you suggest getting one ?

kirk tuck said...

Hugh, as I understand it the major difference between the c and the n are this: The C is based on a Sigma produced camera body with their AF module while the N is based on the Nikon N80 film body with its AF module. While the chips are identical some of the firmware features ( such as long exposure time ) differ.

while I love the look of the sensor both bodies were legend for being electronically delicate and, in the case of the N, the proprietary batteries might become very difficult to find since they were not produced in great numbers.

If I didn't already own one I would look toward the Canon or Nikons and spend some time profiling and fine tuning them. Just as you suggest with the prescription to look at DPP and the various file settings.

Hugh Alison said...

Thanks Kirk,

I shoot at least 95% Black and White; pretty much got my 5Dii set up to match my previous film setup (HP5+/Perceptol developer / 200ASA / Yellow filter)when converting RAW using DPP.

I think half the fun is just using prime lenses with a decent viewfinder.