The Joy of Running

One of my favorite things about my work is having the opportunity to get to know my clients.  It’s important because the client-photographer relationship is one built on trust.  My clients place in my hands a large degree of trust in that when they step before my camera I know  just how to make them comfortable and relaxed, not self-conscious or embarrassed, in order to capture  the essence of their unique personality and beauty in each image.  That’s a huge responsibility!  Consequently, I do my best to live up to it in every photo session.

And, as I said, in the process I really get to know my client.  Joy Robinette, a young woman now attending  University of Stirling in Scotland, is a case in point.  Joy came to my attention the other day when I read an article about and by her in the local paper, the Bellingham Herald.

While this image was actually made in Bellingham, I always thought it had a feel of the British Isles, which as it turned out, was perfect for Joy.
While this image was actually made in Bellingham, I always thought it had a feel of the British Isles, which as it turned out, was perfect for Joy.

I photographed Joy for her senior portrait.  She was a striking young woman, poised and confident, with a vibrant personality and a smile to match.  Her beautiful burnt red locks of long hair tumbled down her back in a carefree manner giving her a spirited look.  Yet, upon meeting her and, especially, as I worked with her, I came to understand that she was deeply caring person, full of compassion and hope.

Sure, we talked about her accomplishments on the soccer field, which were many. But as she spoke about her plans for the future, about her desire to study abroad, I could tell that there was far more to this young senior than what met the eye.  So it should have been no surprise to read in Herald that Joy, along with her university soccer team, was undertaking a marathon run in Barcelona in March to help raise money and awareness for the  Association for International Cancer Research.

The day was gray and chilly but the water was a perfect setting for Joy with her plaid flannel shirt and red, wavy hair.
The day was gray and chilly but the water was a perfect setting for Joy with her plaid flannel shirt and red, wavy hair.

She’s established a website where you can contribute to her effort.  All the money raised is being done in memory of her own grandmother who died of cancer.

As Joy puts it: “…maybe together we can give some family in the future the best gift they could ever ask for — the gift of life.”  I am honored to know Joy.  I hope you’ll take a minute to help out by going to her personal link for the upcoming marathon at:  She needs only a few hundred pounds more to reach her goal of  £1,000.

You can read more about Joy here:

Fall into Fashion Week

It’s Fashion Week in New York and while most of us won’t be going, you can get a glimpse of what goes on and how it works in a piece that appeared in the New York Times on Sunday.

My friend, Barb Lupo, who owns Gary’s Men’s and Women’s Wear in downtown Bellingham, usually attends to check out the new designs and order her inventory for the next season.  And although all the shows and parties sound pretty exciting, I know from her own experience that’s it also very exhausting.  (Gary’s stages its own fashion show in October. Details can be found here:

Although many have asked if Tessa is a professional model, she’s not. But she was easy to work with, comfortable with taking direction and open to trying out different ideas during her senior portrait session last fall.

For everyone in the industry, it’s a hectic time, particularly for the runway and showroom models who hop from show to show with little time to spare.  Throw in a traffic jam or two along with all those in town for the big event and tensions run as high as the excitement as everyone tries to get to where they are supposed to be on schedule.While a career  in fashion modeling certainly has it share of  glamour, it’s a lot of hard work, long hours and requires considerable luck just to “break in.”  But you don’t have to be a professional model to look like one in photographs, if you have a skilled and talented photographer behind the camera.

Besides knowing the technical aspects that will make you look your best in the lens, there are also “trade” tricks that will bring out your best features.  When photographing my clients,  I’m constantly giving instructions and directions about how to position the feet, the hands and the head.   This is what professional models learn to do.

A simple change of clothing and placement on location produced an entirely different ‘look’ for her senior portrait.

Take Tessa, for instance, who came to me for her senior portrait  last year.  I can’t tell you how many people have asked me if she is a model.  She’s not.  Yet her images have that quality of a “fashion shoot” because we planned it together ahead of time.   During her one-hour session,  we managed to capture several different “looks” that conveyed her different moods.  And she took instruction well from me when I asked her move one way or another,  tip her head a certain way or cast her eyes in a particular direction.

A simple bend of the knee, for instance, makes a huge difference in the look for a woman.  The tilt of a shoulder can change the way a guy comes across visually.  These are little,  but important, things that professional photographers must know to produce top quality images,  whether for the fashion industry or for your home.

Yet another clothing change, the addition of the instrument, a slight change in location and dramatic lighting created a completely different feel to her senior portrait.

Like fashion photographers, my intention is to create a mood indicative my client’s unique personality. Unlike fashion photographers, the emphasis is not on the clothing but on the individual.  Whereas the job of fashion photographers is to convey a message about the clothing–romantic, exciting, trendy, classy–as a portrait photographer,  I want my portrait to say something about you.

Tessa has moved on, not to New York, but to Washington State University, where she’s studying microbiology.  But she and her parents will forever have  those images to remember when she had her own “fashion” session as a high school senior.

On Location in the City of Subdued Excitement

I did a walkabout of sorts this morning around downtown Bellingham, known locally as the “city of subdued excitement.”   I used the time to scout out some new ideas for senior portrait location sessions.

There’s no shortage of great spots for staging a photo session in Bellingham  and its surrounding area.  We have plenty of historic buildings, contemporary new ones, parks, shores and countryside to use as backdrops for a memorable portrait.  But I like to find places where my subject will be comfortable and at ease and not the center of attention for passersby who like to stop and watch us work.  After all, most of my clients aren’t professional models who are accustomed to these distractions.

The spot featuring these local landmark industrial structures was jointly chosen by Sarah and myself for her senior portrait. The timing couldn’t have been better as the train came by to add even more local color to the image.

Sometimes the suggestion comes from  the client.  Often it’s a result of our collaboration.  Sarah, for instance, featured in this image, originally asked to go to a popular local pedestrian bridge for her senior portrait session.  When I asked why, I learned that she wanted a place with Bellingham in the background.  Although the view from the bridge is great, it’s not so great for a portrait because the city and bay are so far in the distance you’d never know it’s Bellingham.  Instead, we came up with this spot featuring a local landmark  structure. There’s no mistaking where she lives.

Working as a journalist in Los Angeles, I got to roam  all over the place and came to know that city better than many who had lived there their entire lives.  It’s a little like that for me now in Bellingham  as a photographer.  Every year, I’m challenged to come up with somewhere I haven’t used before for a portrait setting. Over the years I’ve gotten to know about places that you may have overlooked during your daily life.  And a few very familiar ones as well.

For me, part of the fun of shooting on location is going to new places.  As long as I can get my gear in there without having to bring in a pack mule it’s not out of the question.  (If you can provide one I’d consider it.)  Many times, it’s just a matter of knowing how to make a setting look like somewhere else.  Toronto is frequently substituted in films for New York, for example; Pasadena or Vancouver for a Midwestern town.  If you know what you’re doing, places can look like something they’re actually not in this, the City of Subdued Excitement.