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Selecting the gear

From: Narrative Portraiture: On Location in New York with Rodney Smith

Video: Selecting the gear

As photographers, the gear that we choose really affects the type of pictures that we can make. And so with this portrait shoot of Rodney, I want to talk a little bit about the cameras and the lenses that I chose, and I want to talk about talk about why I chose those particular setups. Well, one of my first choices was this camera here, the Canon 5D Mark II, and a 85- millimeter focal-length lens. Now I like this one because this particular focal length, it allows me to get close, to maybe even create an intimate, or an authentic, or a strong, portrait, where I'm just removing almost everything but the face. And I wanted to create some of those pictures.

Selecting the gear

As photographers, the gear that we choose really affects the type of pictures that we can make. And so with this portrait shoot of Rodney, I want to talk a little bit about the cameras and the lenses that I chose, and I want to talk about talk about why I chose those particular setups. Well, one of my first choices was this camera here, the Canon 5D Mark II, and a 85- millimeter focal-length lens. Now I like this one because this particular focal length, it allows me to get close, to maybe even create an intimate, or an authentic, or a strong, portrait, where I'm just removing almost everything but the face. And I wanted to create some of those pictures.

And I put this lens on my body with a vertical grip, because that reminds me to not just shoot this way, but to turn the camera so I have that nice portrait orientation. Another setup that chose was this one-- again, Canon 5D Mark II, in this case a 35-millimeter lens. And I like this focal length, because it's wide, but not too wide. It takes in a lot, but not too much. If you really look at Rodney's photographs, one of the things you will notice is they feel natural.

They are almost a little bit comfortable. Even when you have a lot going on, say with this picture here, you can almost settle into it. And I think this type of lens, it helps me do that. It helps me tell a bit more of the story, it helps me take in the environment, but again, not too much, and in not too much of an exaggerated way. And then another camera that I knew I needed to use was this medium-format Hasselblad. In this case it has an 80-millimeter focal-length lens on it.

Now on this camera, that's more like a normal focal length, say, like, a 50, on one of these cameras. It's how your eye sees. And one of the reasons why I wanted to use that was, well, for starters, it's a film camera, and Rodney shoots with film. And as a matter of fact, he uses Hasselblads; he likes to shoot with normal focal-length lenses. And one of the reasons why he says that is because it allows him to get close. He wants people to be aware of his presence; he wants that to be part of the pictures--and so do I, especially when I am photographing someone like this.

Now, I don't consider myself a great film shooter; as a matter of fact, it's really difficult. and you don't necessarily know what you are going to get. But I knew that was a risk that I needed to take. You know, sometimes when we create pictures, we can go for what's easy, what's comfortable, but I wanted to create something special, so I really wanted to go for it, have a range, a couple of different cameras, and a few different options. With this camera in particular, it kind of does something to me. It puts me at ease. The winding motion helps me settle down into things.

So again, just to highlight, why these three different set ups? Well, this first one with the 85 millimeter, it helps me get close, create maybe an authentic or a strong portrait. That 35, it takes in the scene, but not too much of it. And then the film camera, it's kind of how your eye sees the world. It's normal. Whenever you shoot with that normal focal-length lens, you can't rely on the camera. You can't rely on the wideness of this lens or perhaps the closeness of this lens; rather, the scene is there as it is, and it's up to you to try to create something unique and special.

Show transcript

This video is part of

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  1. 2m 13s
    1. Welcome
      1m 27s
    2. Introduction to Rodney Smith
      46s
  2. 31m 37s
    1. Creating serene photographs...spontaneously
      4m 37s
    2. Creating photographs that ask questions
      4m 43s
    3. What makes a photograph good?
      5m 28s
    4. Film, digital, and the importance of the artifact
      6m 1s
    5. Contrast, tone, and black and white versus color
      5m 0s
    6. The early years and photography today
      5m 48s
  3. 13m 16s
    1. First impressions: A portrait without the subject
      3m 52s
    2. The finishing room
      1m 4s
    3. The darkroom
      7m 13s
    4. The final print room
      1m 7s
  4. 23m 11s
    1. Selecting the gear
      3m 41s
    2. Shooting the portrait
      6m 13s
    3. Reviewing the plan for the shoot
      2m 6s
    4. The portrait in review
      6m 36s
    5. Large prints in review
      4m 35s
  5. 8m 33s
    1. Why take pictures?
      2m 11s
    2. Cultivating the discipline to print
      2m 8s
    3. Exploring Rodney Smith's "The End"
      4m 14s
  6. 5m 27s
    1. Embracing a theme: Surprise, whimsy, or cliché
      55s
    2. Creating photos that ask questions
      2m 22s
    3. Creating fashion photos with a unique style
      2m 10s
  7. 26m 40s
    1. Photography is a reflection of who we are
      1m 47s
    2. Photography is about the art of observation
      1m 57s
    3. Working with models
      2m 10s
    4. Raise more questions than you answer
      3m 5s
    5. Mentors strengthen our vision
      3m 37s
    6. There is a right place for certain things
      4m 39s
    7. What influences you?
      3m 22s
    8. The camera as a tool for gaining wisdom
      3m 6s
    9. Creating photographs deepens who we are
      2m 57s
  8. 33s
    1. Conclusion
      33s

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