Crazy Day at the Studio with Some Jeckyll and Hyde Self-Portraits....

Or....What do hyperactive photographers do when they catch a cold, can't swim and don't want to infect their clients? Mostly find silly crap to do around the studio.

I felt it coming on yesterday, late afternoon, as I was leaving from an assignment location in the executive suite of a multinational, high technology firm. I sneezed as I got into my car. My nose stopped working right on the drive home. And then...BAM. I woke up with a head cold. Yuck. 

I decided that doing the outside, 7:00am, master's swim in sub-30 degree weather was contraindicated. (My GP will be so proud). So I've been stuck in my studio since 7am cleaning, filing and drinking way too much coffee.  Way too much. Client called this morning to tell me they'd gotten the files I sent them via Drop Box and that everything looked good.  I cancelled a lunch appointment and wished someone beautiful would come over so I could make portraits. But with a meaty cough and a drippy nose I decided I'd have to look for talent closer by. I elected myself.

In the process I've decided that self-portraits can be as revealing as a visit to a psychiatrist. You have to reconcile the self image (24 years old, perfect skin, handsome, with thick curly dark brown hair, athletic to a fault) with the reality that everyone else experiences when they interact with  you....(57 years old, too much sun, too much skin under the chin and grizzly grey hair). It's almost like a fresh brush with mortality.  Here's my sinister and nordic rendition:

The serious face that goads VSL readers into writing, "Don't you ever smile?" But I like the way the light works on the shadow side. Good cheek definition, for sure. Notice the engineer style adaptation of the glasses, just above my right eye. The screw in the hinge fell out nine years ago and I've been meaning to get the glasses fixed but the smallest size paper clip seems to work fine....a fix straight out of electrical engineering school. I also like the way that the hair swooping up makes me look almost as though I've got little satanic horns on my head. All the better to scare the people in account payables. In truth I had just coughed was attempting to re-arrange my face when I accidentally trigger the wired remote... really....

But I did include a softer look just in case.

If you haven't tried a self portrait lately you might want to save the money you've been spending on your therapist and come face to face with your own reality. It's actually kind of fun. I didn't think about doing this until I saw some really cool self-portraits that my friend, Frank, did. 

While my model is not up to the standards (by any measure) I usually set I do like the lighting in both images very much. Neither is lit with anything other than the natural light (indirect) that's coming through my studio windows. I have a ten foot by ten foot square set of windows that faces northwest. They start about four feet off the ground and go up to fourteen feet. If you position people in just the right spots you can use the windows as a flattering source all day long.

Gear.  I put my Sony a99 camera with a Tamron 28-75mm SP lens on the biggest, meanest, oldest and stoutest Gitzo tripod I own. It's an ancient, three section, five series. It weighs a ton but once you clamp something on it there's NO movement. I plugged in a cheap, generic, wired remote, flipped the LCD screen around to the front so I could compose easily and then banged away. The light isn't strong so I used ISO 200 at 1/4 second, f8. The wall behind me was painted gray 16 years ago. Maybe time for a new coat of paint.

That's all I've got. I get over colds pretty quickly but I sure hate living through them. Color me grouchy...

But animated...


  1. Great way to wait for a complete recover! In the first shot you seems very scientistic, a man who has many important things to think about. I like it!
    PS: of course wish you a full recover soon :-)

  2. lol, Kirk. Good advice here. BTW, did you go back to drinking caffeinated coffee? As a fellow coffee lover and swimmer I've been contemplating drinking fewer cups per day and am curious to know how you are doing sans caffeine? Your post about giving it up last year definitely got me thinking. In fact I've already cut back but not to the point of giving it up entirely. Hope you recover from your cold soon.

  3. Interesting, I like the softer look a lot, just the right amount of light and shadows. Will retweet.

  4. Kirk> "I've decided that self-portraits can be as revealing as a visit to a psychiatrist."

    Hahaha - awesome. And I really really like that first "engineer" photo. May I point to one of my own which I took recently, and which led another one of your readers comment: "Doc Brown"? I'll turn 56 in about 33 days from now, so there's not that much difference - except that I'm a Churchill-like "No sports!" guy ;-)

    Oh, and I'm lucky. If I need a psychologist - my brother has a diploma in that. He recommended Doc Brown's silver space suit...

  5. I suspect the animated version is the one your clients recognize :)

  6. Rockstar. Absolutely.

  7. Love the "animated version". I think it's time for you to do a sequel to "Airplane".


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