A look back at my favorite project from 2014. The website for a school.

Butterfly release. Nikon D7100+18-140mm lens+flash.

Looking back over a year's worth of assignments there are some that really stand out. It may have been the subject matter or the environment, or just that the people being photographed and the photographer were all in their own perfect grooves on that one particular day. For me the project that made me smile the most was the couple of days I spent making images of the kids at St. Gabriel's School in Austin for the school's website. Here the website, browse through and see for yourself. 

Working with clay. Nikon D7100+85mm f1.8G lens. Available light.

As is the case with most successful projects I've been involved with it wasn't that the photography was the star but that the producer of the whole project carefully crafted every single component; from the writing to the design, to the pacing and even the cropping of the images. In many regards this assignment represented a "dream job" for me. The school is in my community. I know some of the families whose kids attend the school. I'd done a video (with my friend Will van Overbeek), for Glasstire Magazine, about the art teacher. I felt at home.

But more importantly the marketing director trusted me to make the aesthetic decisions for the photographs. She gave me a list of the kinds of images she needed but left the selection of subjects, locations, lighting and gestures/expressions up to me. I was free to move from classroom to classroom and to stop and spend time where the images were working and to cut short locations or activities that didn't quite gel.

This was one of the first projects that I did in 2014 entirely with the Nikon cropped frame camera, the D7100. Over the course of the two shooting days the majority of the images were shot with either the wide ranging 18-140mm or the 85mm f1.8. I shot in raw but and trusted camera at all ISOs from 100 to 3200. I processed my files in the most up to date version of Lightroom and delivered high resolution Jpegs. I came to trust the performance of the camera and the zoom entirely. The 85mm needed some mid-course auto focus fine tuning, now it's perfect too.

The school is lovely. The buildings are pristine and inviting and the campus is situated in the middle of an very affluent neighborhood with rolling green hills to all sides of the school. The kids were great. They all seemed thrilled to be at school, curious and ready to learn. For the most part they ignored me and I got on with the process of taking pictures and they got on with their lessons. Most of the time I had only one camera out and in my hands. I kept a second camera and a few other lenses in a small, easy to carry bag. The only light I brought along was a Metz flash which was used mostly to fill in outdoor shots. Even the post processing was direct and straightforward.

Definitely my favorite project of the year.


Anonymous said...

The light in the second image is just astonishing! Masterful? The child's expression is wonderful.

Craig Yuill said...

The descriptions you made about these photos in an earlier post barely did them justice. These are fabulous photos. I am especially impressed by the photo of the girl holding the ball of clay. I am glad that you were able to finally share these photos with us.

Two of my favorite photos of 2014 were of my fun-loving daughter, taken with my D7000 and the underappreciated 16-85 lens. We are lucky to have such great subjects to take pictures of, along with gear to make wonderful pictures possible.

Anonymous said...

Hey Kirk,
nudged by your comment in the latest blog post I've come back and revisited this with the view of leaving a comment so that you continue to post this kind of thing (which is why your blog is one of only a handful I bother to check regularly).

These are two great portraits - I do like the environmental portraits that you do using available light, mainly because the variability takes you out of your comfort zone (I think). When you post portraits from the studio it's very clear that you have those down to a fine art. The lighting is great, the rapport with the sitter is there and the processing and tones are nicely done. It's almost too smooth.

On the other hand the environmental portraits have that air of fleeting moment captured, rather than face curated. There's something really interesting about that and there's context.

There's been a real drift (here in the UK at least) towards portraiture against a neutral background at wide aperture, giving the image a detached, dream like quality. And all the sitters look pretty miserable.

So your first picture here is lovely as it captures genuine expression.

The second one is made interesting by the clay (coupled with the great expression). It adds a touch of narrative.

I'd love to see you do more of this sort of stuff (I liked the profile of the bloke in the cowboy hat in the graffiti park too).

So yep, I'd be gutted if you stopped posting this kind of thing - I may not always comment, but it's these posts that have me hooked. I'll do my best to think of different synonmyms for 'great shot' too, as I guess it must be nice to hear it...