I did it—I took my first self portrait and maybe we don’t need to sing the doom song when looking at my picture. My camera did not melt! No fire and brimstone came down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling! No 40 years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes… none of the dead rising from the grave!
My first thought was that the image was an utter failure. But after some reflection and encouragement from friends and colleagues, my first endeavor at a self portrait was not as bad as I thought.
In principle the picture was okay. The photograph had decent composition and the lighting was right. It was just weird looking at myself in an image that I created. Some effort went into planning this out, mostly the location. I originally planned to go to a natural setting, South Mountain Reservation specifically. In the end though, I decided to use my favorite photographic training grounds, Sinatra Park in Hoboken, New Jersey. I chose to shoot there because it had the most background potential. I had a choice of water, New York, sky, trees and grass.
A small tripod, no name – not available anymore
Shooting The Portrait
I am a believer in working with ambient light in my photography. It is the light we see everyday. Ambient light can transform a scene like Optimus Prime (haha, get it? Transform? okay). My favorite light for my photography is the crack of dawn where the principal source of lighting is sunlight mediated by the early morning atmosphere over Sinatra Park in Hoboken, NJ. Waking up super early is worth it. On a good day, you can get appealing illumination from almost any angle.
I did not want a normal perspective. I wanted to have more of a sense of space and open sky in the image. In order for viewers to know that I was in the open, I placed the camera slight lower than my line of sight and tilted it up a little. At this point, I tried to look directly into the lens and allowed the slightly cloudy sky become my backdrop. Because I could not see through the viewfinder as I was taking the image, I used the portrait setting on my D90 and set my remote shutter release on a 2 second delay so that I could try to look pensively cool. I set the on-camera flash to its lowest setting with the Gary Fong Puffer on in front of it to fill in the light a little and diffuse it. For those of you that use on-camera flash, you may want to get your hands on this diffuser by clicking the above links and purchasing it. Editor Chris Gampat has had a rough time with it. As for me, the result is above.
The processing for this image wasn’t complicated. I adjusted the color, the contrast and the clarity using Lightroom. I wanted the colors to be as simple as possible. That’s why I wore black. It allowed me to contrast against the sky. As for the settings, the camera did the rest of the work.
For this picture, I am at my most reluctant, but breaking a self imposed barrier of no pictures of me out here in the internet. This image is a total paradigm shift for me. I’ve been on forums on the internet in various incarnations for around 15 years and I’ve tried very hard to keep my likeness hidden from the masses. I have even appeared in an Associated Press article under a totally different name. In the end though, the camera does not lie, this is ME.
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