I recently photographed Mark Pauline, the founder and director of Survival Research Laboratories (SRL), for Hi-Fructose Magazine. Check out issue 48 of Hi-Fructose for a brief and fascinating history of industrial art pioneers SRL written by John Law. I've been a big fan of SRL since reading about their crazy machines and performances in the 1980's, so this assignment was very special for me.
Below are 3 portraits from the shoot.
1. After I arrived at SRL headquarters in Petaluma, CA, I spent some time walking around and looking at all of the amazing machines. Mark was working on a project near the table pictured above, and I set up the general framing without interrupting him.
Existing lighting was a mix of daylight and fluorescent. I turned off the fluorescent lighting to control color temperature. I set my exposure to have the room be a little bit dark.
Next, I set up a single Nikon SB-910 Speedlight on a stand to camera right, aimed at the ceiling. The ceiling was wood, which gave the light a warm tone. The Speedlight was used to light both Mark and the background.
I asked Mark to pose for a few minutes once everything was ready. I did a few quick lighting and exposure adjustments, made sure I had a few options by reviewing on the back of the camera, and then let Mark get back to work.
I really like the orange against green color palette of this shot, the hotspot on the screen in the background, and some of the supporting details like the calipers and WD-40.
Nikon D750 with 70-200mm f/2.8G VR II lens at 82mm
1/100, f/3.5, ISO 400
Nikon SB-910 Speedlight fired with a Pocket Wizard
2. Mark was working in his office inside the warehouse, which was made of salvaged glass. I set up the camera on a tripod outside, and took a few test shots. I liked the angle, and started experimenting with overlaying the out of focus wires in the foreground.
Again there were fluorescent lights in the room which I switched off. This image is lit only by a mix of low level ambient daylight and the light from the computer.
Sometimes you can find a portrait by just observing and keeping things simple.
Nikon D750 with 70-200mm f/2.8G VR II lens at 135mm
1/60, f/3.2, ISO 800
3. I'd been photographing the machines at SRL for a couple of hours, and kept coming back to the idea of using this spot for a portrait. The device that Mark is leaning on is a flame thrower.
I set up the camera on a tripod and played with the framing. A monolight was set up on a C-stand to camera right. I used a 22" beauty dish for a crisp look. The 130º beam spread allowed me to light Mark and the surrounding area with one light. The overhead fluorescents were turned off, and the exposure was set to have the ambient background light trail off into darkness.
I used a stand-in to get the positioning pretty close before asking Mark to pose. Some slight adjustments were made to the framing, lighting angle, and exposure. Once everything was set, Mark stepped in and took the natural stance that you see above. With just a little bit of direction to optimize the positioning relative to the machines, I knew this image would be a winner.
The portrait ran full page in Hi-Fructose Volume 48, and I'm really pleased with the way this one turned out!
Nikon D750 with 35mm f/1.8G lens
1/125, f/8, ISO 160
Einstein Flash Unit with 22" beauty dish and diffusion sock
Many thanks to Mark Pauline for his time, John Law for the great article, and Attaboy for the fun assignment!