The Tango

The Tango

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Portraiture, it’s a pretty simple idea… taking photos of people. Wait… it’s not so easy… dang it. As simple as a portrait concept may be, anyone who has consciously gone out and attempted to take photos with a purpose finds out real quick it is not such a simple job. The translation from idea to materialization is not so simple and quite hard to make these two matchup well. We are talking nearly infinite avenues in which to photograph a person when factors like location of subject, style of lighting, actions of subject, etc. come into play. It’s telling a visual story, no words need be spoken. What kind of story do you want to tell for viewing eyes? The idea drives the photographic work, sculpts the final product. On the topic of bringing mental visions to live, it goes beyond, “hey, I want to photograph _____,” and loosely photographing a subject matter for a few hours in a location that roughly works and produces the basic idea. No, this rough/loose approach won’t work 90% of the time for those who want that image in their mind. It’s really drilling down, not compromising, nailing that exact image in your head. Is the image in your head the image that you want to produce, or simply an inspiring idea to branch-out to some other visual? How do you make this all come together in the concept and planning stages so that you setup for success at the actual shoot? These are things I ask myself, being realistic, and not expecting magic to happen without giving a major contribution on my behalf before I even walk in to the shoot.

Drama, I hate it in life, but love it in my photographs (the visual kind, that is). Life inspires me (yes, very broad statement), it inflicts emotion, and I like to continue that momentum into my own work. This tango shoot, for example, is a variation off of a visual that popped into my head while listening to a song. Working away on my laptop in a coffee shop, my iTunes on shuffle, and out of 14,000 songs in my library, a song decided to play and that was it, instant visual. No more work was required, aside from materializing the concept into reality (finding appropriate location, talent, etc) which I think of as just details. The creation of original ideas for photo work is what I find the most powerful, not the various strings you can pull to materialize the physical shoot. So, a notebook of drawings and ideas sit on my desk, waiting for opportune occasions to present themselves which cater to certain photograph ideas to happen much more easily. Of course, not to downplay the materializing aspect too much, because only experience and a good execution plan behind the ideas will allow true-to-form visualization. Without the know-how and the plan, how else would you know when the moment is right to green-light an idea that has been waiting in the wings? Some of my hibernating ideas are commercial work, waiting for the right client who can best benefit from the idea for their marketing, others are for personal-type photography for babies, weddings, senior pictures, etc. To me, the ideas waiting in the wings are great ammunition for seizing moments. Having already worked-out idea and lighting concepts in my head, I’m ready to execute them quickly when said opportunity presents itself. I’m not left figuring things out on-location, working through them and wasting my client’s time. It’s funny to think that when the stars do align and the all the resources present themselves and allows me to execute a pre-visualized concept for my client, that the photo I just made for them was six months or a year in the making. The incubation period on this tango idea was only about two months or so. The process went like this: concept born, put out the call for some dancers, hunt for location, now put on low-heat to simmer and let time allow schedules and resources to come together. This concept is a little more forced than most, as I didn’t wait for a client to make this happen, it’s just personal work. This shoot is the first step into a much larger idea I have for dancing concepts, waiting for those resources to present themselves down the road. So in other words, a great starting point to venture further with the idea on a larger scale.

So, here we have our two tango dancers. Blacked-out room, dance floor, dancers, and that’s about it. Want your subject to be the only possible thing to catch the viewer’s eye? Don’t give them anything else to look at. Easier said than done, but like I did here by blacking-out the room with lighting techniques, the sole focus are the dancers. The challenge is that the idea in my head was specific, but dancers are nothing like your typical static portrait subject. They are movin’ and twirling in quite a large area, so my lighting had to flex around that. I wanted them dancing instead of just posing so that we had natural lines, a variety of angles and body language. We had music playing, in fact, the exact song that birthed the idea for the shoot was our key piece they danced to.

I finished up the main idea, then played around with some other stuff like silhouettes. As I wondered the dance hall looking for a bathroom, I walked by this funky looking couch. Next thing ya know, I’m dragging it onto the dance floor for a final photo of the dance couple. More of a casual, personal feel to the shot, the dancers out of there element.

As I write this blog, I’m making my way down to Arizona. Headed there to take a few portraits and some scenery photography. Took off yesterday morning and pounded the road, driving for about 18 hours before stopping. Headed down through Portland, Boise, Salt Lake, and now finished up the drive with the last 4-hour leg to Flagstaff. After a few days, it’s off to Phoenix. Just breached the Arizona boarder via Utah, it’s 8:30am, and it’s 83 degrees. Thank God a photographer’s work is mostly conducted in the morning and evening hours, especially since I heard Phoenix is hovering around 115.

Along the way there hasn’t been much. The 1400 mile trip doesn’t showcase much, but the simple scenery is oddly beautiful. Power lines, wind farms, and truck stops are about the only break in the vast landscapes. The climate is harsh to the point that you feel sorry for any animal you see out and about, trying to live in these areas. Heck, even the plants look pissed off, staring at the sky, hoping just one drop of water plops down on them today. And the snakes… I hate the snakes, so they can lay there and fry in the sun, bake into strips of jerky for all I care.

I’ll try and keep the blog company with a few posts on my 10-day journey, so I’ll see ya soon!