Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Jones Family Farm

Paint it Black
Abandoned Jones Farm

Tucked back in the woods, in a secluded location of Lake Ray Roberts (just outside Sanger Texas) is an old farm house built in 1850 by Jackson Carroll Jones and his wife.  Common in those days were large families and at one time it is said there were 12 people living in this small four room house.  I can only imagine how cramped life there must have been.  But I suppose when you're living on the frontier, running a farm, the more the merrier.  This land was purchased in 1984 by the Corps of Engineers, which soon built Lake Ray Roberts.  Thankfully they kept this old farm house intact and even fenced it off from public access.  This has kept the house, barn and work shed in practically untouched condition!  While there is no furniture inside the house, it still has all the little details like door knobs, sinks and kitchen fixtures.  The barn and shed are still chocked full of rusted farm equipment and all the "junk" they seemed to save up over the years living there.  All this makes for some great photo opportunities.  

I was lucky enough to get this opportunity about a month ago when the Denton Camera Club took a field trip to this old farm.  About 20 of us were given access early in the morning.   We fanned out with our cameras and began to create our photos and document our findings.  It would be an amazing place to do a portrait photo shoot at.  But we kept it to just shooting the farm itself on this trip.  Although I did take a moment to use myself as a model (2nd photo above).  Like most old farm homes, they do have a certain amount of creepiness about them.  This one is no exception.  While alone in the house for a few minutes, you do get odd feelings of how much has taken place over the years, right where you're standing.  It's a very cool place to explore and it hasn't been vandalized with graffiti or looted clean like most abandoned farms.  I really hope it stays this way.  The place really is a photographic gold mine!   

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Shooting Fashion with Shelby

Shelby is a local model who I had been wanting to work with for sometime.  She's very comfortable in front of the camera and can easily pull off many different looks.  A few weeks ago our schedules finally matched up and we met up for a shoot.  The whole thing was on short notice, so I had to come up with a location fast.  I quickly opened Google Earth, where I put marker pins on locations I come across and want to remember later.  This is one of those times I was very happy I'd been doing this!  I was reminded of a spot I had found the previous winter and thought it would be a prime location for portraits once everything was green outside.  Behind the local dog park are a network of gravel trails which weave through the woods.  Perfect!  I loaded up all my gear and headed off to the shoot.

We started the shoot at 12 noon, which isn't ideal normally for a photoshoot.  But we had the advantage of shooting under the tree canopy of the trail, and this made it ideal since I could now control the light nicely with my camera and speedlights.  First thing I noticed was we were working with a bright background.  Sun light and green Spring colors was going give me an excellent contrast to Shelby's auburn red hair.  It was at this time I decided to go with a one-light setup.  In most portrait situations, I prefer to use at least two lights of one fill light and one at a back angle for rim/highlights.  This gives the subject separation from the background and, well just looks pretty cool.  But because of the natural light of this location, we had great light to work with.  Shelby and I quickly picked out a spot on the trail to work with.  I marked different spots on the trail where I needed her to stand to make the best use of the shade and ambient light.  This is the spot I would dial in my Canon Speedlight for.  I then setup one Canon 580exII on a light stand with a 32 inch white shoot-thru umbrella, to the left of my camera since the sun was coming from high and to my right.  And I was shooting this session with a 5DmkII and 70-200mm f/2.8L IS.  This lens has long been one of my favorite portrait lenses.  Some think it's just for sports/action.  But it provides excellent image quality, nice bokeh (soft background blur) and perfect image compression between the subject and background.  And on a full frame camera, you don't have to be 5 miles back to get them in the shot.

We began shooting and I mostly let Shelby pose how she was comfortable.  Only a few times I would have to have her adjust her hair or move a stray hair off her face.  Sometimes I would instruct her to angle herself to play to either my light or the sun light, depending on which looked best for the pose.  I do try to suggest and demonstrate a pose I want her to try (which Im sure looks ridiculous).  I kept the speedlight set on a fairly low power since I only wanted it use it as a gentle fill light.  I believe it stayed at 1/8th to 1/4 power at most.  And on a few of her shots we used a 5 in 1 reflector set to the solid white side, laying on the ground with my bag propping it up slighting towards her.  This would create the perfect fill light from below to brighten any shadows if the sun became harsher.  Thankfully Shelby showed up with perfectly done make up and hair.

We worked for about 1-1/2 hours and stopped as the sun began to take away most our nice shade.  But by then I had shot at least 15 "keepers" out of about 150 photo's overall.  This type of shoot is known as a trade, because it gives both the model and photographer material for their portfolios.  It was a lot of fun to work with Shelby, the images were a nice addition to my portfolio and I hope hers as well!