The Hidden Story of Her Portrait

She walked away from her group awkwardly for her portrait. Her feet were not designed for walking on the ground but rather swinging through the trees. As she came to a halt, she started to look around and then she looked right up at me. The second I saw her eyes I clicked the shutter release and captured the shot.

I did everything I knew to make sure of the correct camera placement and that the exposure was right before hand. Yet,  I was still worried about that shot. She had stopped in a photographer’s nightmare. She had placed half of her body in the direct rays of the harsh late morning sun and the other half in a dark cool shadow.  The other issue was that she was modeling for me according to her own mood. I had about half a second to make the shot and I couldn’t ask her to pose again if I didn’t get it.

While there is nothing you can really do to get an animal to cooperate with you 100% of the time, I concentrated on the 1st problem of lighting.   The photographic trick is to get the dark areas in the shadow to show their hidden detail all the while coaxing the same from the bright light of the sun.   To compound the issue, her hair was a brilliant reddish-orange brown that reflected the light in a swath of color that was overpowering in the sunlight.

As I snapped the shutter on what would be her portrait, I wasn’t as concerned about the dark areas as I was about the stark white of the sun and getting her eyes into focus. When you use animals as your subject it is so very important to make sure that you get the eyes in focus.

The result was a photograph with a white spot under her chin that simply made her chin hairs glare in pure white. Meanwhile, the reflective light on her already Portraitbright orange coat produced a jarring look that simply overpowered the feel of the portrait.   I wanted those eyes. So, I went to black and white to make my last image of her portrait.

I’ve learned that while many great photographers exist in the fields of color and black and white photography, you cannot be afraid to cross the line from one to another to show the vision you had as an artist to create it. This is the painters equivalent of using a brush or a palette knife.

Depending on your subject material, and what you want to express you should always choose the best instrument for the job.   My artistic vision of her portrait wanted to see the meaning behind her expression and the feeling in those eyes. Thus, black and white became the tool for the job.

Humans have an uncanny psychological dependence for face recognition. We depend on faces for non-verbal communication almost as much as the sound of a voice for language. By looking at the eyes and facial expressions of another person or animal we can determine things such as intelligence, feelings, and even predicting behavior.

So, I wonder what she is thinking.

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