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In the Douglas Kirkland on Photography series, well-known photographer Douglas Kirkland explores a variety of real-world photographic scenarios, sharing technique insights and critiquing the results.
This installment follows Douglas as he creates a portrait for Kodak's On Film series, which features portraits of directors, cinematographers, and other major players in the film industry. Douglas has shot nearly 250 portraits for this series over the past 20 years.
The course begins with a discussion of the unique qualities of film—its clarity, definition, and tonal range—and of film's enduring importance in today's digital world. Next, Douglas tours the Mamiya RZ67 medium-format camera, demonstrating its components and comparing its format to 35mm film. He then demonstrates a variety of lighting, posing, and styling techniques while photographing Owen Roizman, an award-winning cinematographer, in the Kirkland studio in Los Angeles, California.
The course concludes with a critique of the resulting photographs. Douglas also shows how he resized and cropped the image to fit a print advertisement.
So here is our setup. This is the wonderful camera we are going to work with, which I have done through the years, always, on these images. We have a special tripod here. It's good for medium format because the camera is heavier, and this is the 100 to 200 zoom. It allows me to make more than one picture very quickly. I can shoot one waist and up and then quickly just swing over and I have his head and shoulders in a second. And frequently something like that really helps, because again, I hate to stop and be changing lenses if it's avoidable.
I will stop if I need to get like a 50 wide-angle or something, but short of that I try to do most of it here, because again, always, Owen is the one who is going to get my attention here today. Actually, Jer, could you push the table and chair from the camera to your right? Okay, thank you. I am good. I just wanted to do that so I have a little more room here in this space. Normally, I don't have my subject-- today it's Owen--sit in until we are pretty much ready, because I don't want to wear him out with this. Sometimes people say, "I'd like to sit in," but I mean I want to save Owen his energy and everything for when we start shooting.
So Jer, would you sit up a little higher please, maybe turn to the side. Yeah, that's cool, and lean your arm on there. That's good. See, there is a possibility of a picture right there. Since this is film, the only way we can fully anticipate what everything will look like, how the nuances of lightning and everything will work, is with the Polaroid back. Since this camera allows the magazines to come off and on, we just put the Polaroid on like this and there, it's locked. We pull the slide out, and we have a Polaroid camera basically here.
Now, I want to say some of the reasons I do this. One, I don't worry about exposure. We get the exposure pretty accurately with our meter. So we know the exposure, but I wanted to see how the lights are working, because we are working with electronic flash, with spotlights, and various power from different heads coming from the power pack. Ultimately, I want to see exactly what all the lighting looks like, but you know, the other remaining thing, very important: Frankly, I can often enthuse a subject about the picture as I get excited and I look at the Polaroid and say, "Look at this.
This is great, take a look!" And I give it to them to look at and that's part of it. So okay, okay, great! Okay, now I think it's about 20 seconds or something. What is that, 30 seconds? Female speaker: Yeah. Douglas: Might be slightly gray, because I'm pulling it too soon. Douglas: No, it looks good. Jeremy, you should go in the movies. You see, so there is the effect, right there. You can see the effect of the spot on the background, and so we are up and ready to go.
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