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Picture this: Trial and Error

Published: Monday, May 5, 2014 11:35 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, May 7, 2014 7:43 a.m. CDT
(Monica Maschak – mmaschak@shawmedia.com)
Colin Lyman, Huntley senior center fielder, hit .431, 17 RBIs, scored 29 runs and was 28 of 30 in stolen bases.

This isn’t a super recent photo, but it’s one of my coolest.

It was a last-minute decision to take this portrait. It was almost 10 p.m. and Colin Lyman, the baseball player pictured, agreed to stop by the newsroom to have me photograph him in our studio.

Taking sports portraits usually is a cool experience because it’s more interesting than just setting up lights and having your subject grin directly at your camera. Photographers can be super creative and there are a lot of photos out there to look to for inspiration.

I remembered my photo editor had a random rope light laying around our office. I also knew I wanted to have more of a dramatic feel to the photo as far as using studio lights goes.

I’m so thankful that Lyman was patient, because the process took much longer than I expected. I began taking close to an hour of trial-and-error shots. But first, we had to hook up the rope light to an outlet. 

We taped it around his baseball bat, and the rest of the cord had to go up his sleeve and down his back to be plugged into a wall and also so it would not be completely visible in my photo. We actually had to do this several times because he would swing the bat so fast, the rope light would fly off.

I started off using multiple lights (in image 1), but didn’t like how “flat” it made the image look. I wasn’t getting the depth I wanted. I kept fiddling with it however – changing settings on both the lights and my camera, I tried different angles and distances.

That’s when I decided to simplify the process. I started using only one light (image 2).

At first it was dark, but after a while of playing with the settings I started to see the image I originally imagined.

The rope light helped to illuminate the bat’s motion, and the single studio light was enough to light his face and create the shadow in the background.

The best way to learn is through making mistakes, or at least having enough time and drive to figure everything out – otherwise known as trial and error.

• Picture This is an occasional column showcasing photographs by Daily Chronicle photographers. You can reach photographer Monica Maschak at mmaschak@shawmedia.com or 815-756-4841 ext. 2234. You can follow her on Twitter @ddc_mmaschak.

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