Summoned By The King

Jonathon Curry poses for a senior portrait, Wednesday, May 26, 2010. Small, battery operated flash units were used for a polished look in this location which was without A/C power.

Now that you’ve successfully chewed and swallowed that first morsel of truth I dished out in my last entry, I think you’re ready for another: I have a hard time keeping things simple. Perhaps that’s because, in my mind, “simple” often equates to mediocrity. Mediocrity terrifies me more than almost anything in life, more than wasps, accidentally falling into large bodies of water at night, and marriage… combined! Naturally, then, I make sure that even small jobs I take on have some room for me to add my signature style to separate them from the rest.

Just ask any of the clients I’ve worked with on a regular basis, and they’ll tell you how they’ve rolled their eyes at me more than once when I show up to “simple” talking head interview shoots with cases of lighting gear and spend an hour or more tweaking the looks. These are the same clients, however, that smile at the results in the edit suite, so I don’t feel bad as they help me drag all that gear up the stairs at the shoots!

Enter Jonathon Curry, a recent graduate of Merrillville High School in nearby Merrillville, Indiana. Jonathon has worked alongside me at the West Side Theatre Guild on a few of our larger productions, and has quickly become a part of the family there. Jonathon has what I would describe as a “delightfully pompous” attitude, and his quips and thoughts on most things in life, well, let’s just say you can’t help but admire this guy’s gusto! So much, in fact, that our technical director at West Side has adorned Jonathon with the moniker “King Jon”.

When King Jon approached me to shoot his senior pictures, I was honored that I’d have the chance to make his likeness eternal with the royal treatment. As our chat via Facebook progressed, his highness described the typical “cap and gown” photo that his mother had in mind, and the mediocrity alarm began to sound loudly in my head. Nightmares ensued for days of being chased with my cameras by mottled, muslin backdrops and large, foam 2010 numbers. Surely the dignified king was worthy of a senior portrait more unique, more becoming of his majesty?

I respectfully pitched to the king a few alternate ideas to make his portrait unlike any that his serfs would have in their graduation invites, including a few in black and white to be photographed at one of my favorite abandoned buildings. The decay and darkness of this location would surely represent the destruction of mediocrity King Jon embodies in his own life (plus, it just looks cool). After deliberating with his mother, err, cabinet, the king agreed to my plan.

Jon poses here in front of one of the location’s dramatic steel-sash windows. I shot from a low angle with a wide 17-40mm lens to give Jon a sense of power and authority in the frame. This image was lit with my Canon 550EX through a Photoflex Medium Silverdome softbox off the right side of the frame.

For the location shoot day, I packed a simple, 2 flash light kit, using one Canon 550EX and one Vivitar 285HV unit, fired from the Canon 1D Mark IV camera via Pocket Wizard Plus units. Obviously there is no A/C power available at the abandoned building location, so battery operated units were essential. Plus, I wanted to keep things light and simple. The less time spent in these unpredictable locations, the better. On the Canon flash, my main light up front, I used a Photoflex Medium Silverdome Softbox. The Vivitar unit was used on most shots as an unmodified hard “kicker” from off to the side / back to separate Jon from the background. I used a piece of blackwrap taped on the side of the Vivitar head to flag the light off my lens.

The lighting setup above was used for the cap and gown look. A Canon 550EX in the Photoflex softbox for my main light, with the Vivitar unit unmodified off to the left side of the subject for a kicker.

We did three looks, the first of which depicting the king in his cap and gown. I used a 28-70mm lens wide open at f2.8 to throw the background out of focus as much as possible, to make this shot the “cleanest” of them all. In fact, the greenery through the windows in the background actually starts to look attractive out of focus, as if we’re in a place that is not falling apart. For the second look, Jon threw on some dressy-casual clothes for a few frames against some really great, large steel-sash windows. We wrapped up the shoot with Jon in casual clothes posed in the dustiest chairs he’s ever sat in, which made for some great texture back-lit with the Vivitar unit on a high power setting.

The texture in the old plaster wall and in the wooden seat backs really leaped out when the power level of the Vivitar 285HV back light was turned up.

In the end, King Jon approved of my offerings and graced them with his royal stamp of approval. His serfs on Facebook offered their good tidings as well, in comment and “like” form. As for the mere mortal author of these works, well, I came away unscathed from another near-miss with mediocrity. I’ll tell you, it gets really hard at times to think of unique ideas to pull off in conventional situations, especially things that will be appropriate for the subject and be approved of by the client. Luckily for me, this shoot with the king left me confidently holding the crown.

Jonathon “King Jon” Curry poses for a decidedly-unique senior portrait, Wednesday, May 26, 2010.

Posted in Photography, Portraits by Guy Rhodes on June 8th, 2010.

6 Responses to “Summoned By The King”

  1. Lisa D. says:

    Great pictures!

  2. Judy Fidkowski says:

    Hey Guy,

    thanks so much for sharing these images AND for sharing how you lit them!!!

    They are BEAUTIFUL.

    Nice work.

    You “DA MAN”!!

    Judy Fidkowski

  3. Jahaira says:

    Very Funny!! Hail to King Jon!

  4. Guy,

    Followed you here from SS. Things look good! Keep ‘em updated :)

  5. Daniel says:

    Nice work Guy, I like the casual clothes shot.