The idea to shoot HS athletes has been floating around in my head for a while. I suppose the idea was actually conceived one night while my husband was surfing the web. He came across some stunning photographs and called me over to look at them. They were amazing and I stood in awe and admiration as he scrolled through breathtaking landscapes and portraits from all over the world. …And then he landed on a series of hockey players. They were raw, hard, rugged, regular, sweaty…and awesome. “I want to take those pictures”, I muttered. “You should”, he replied.
But how? I didn’t really have a clue about studio lighting. I have lights in my studio, but I never use them. I never want to. If I’m honest, I’ll admit that I’m semi-afraid of them. They are so hot, I fear that they’ll
make me sweat start a fire or something. I mean really, why risk it when we can we just find some open shade somewhere.
Then, a few weeks ago, Nick Duveau came by for some impromptu Senior Banquet pictures. Nick plays hockey.
The wheels began to turn…and turn some more, and before I knew it, my “June Photography Project” was birthed: I would photograph one HS athlete from each sport.
Nick was willing to be my guinea pig. He came by a few weeks ago, which gave me an opportunity to see what would happen when I flicked the switch on my studio lights. I draped dark sheets over the four huge windows that illuminate my studio with glorious sunlight, and suddenly the room that I had previously known all the sweet lighting spots in became a blank canvas – or more accurately a black canvas. I had never solely relied on studio lighting and didn’t really know what to expect from this experiment. As Nick laced up his skates, I clicked a few practice shots. I looked down at the viewer on my camera and smiled. I liked it. Shadowy goodness. I snapped away for the next 45 minutes, trying different backgrounds and lighting scenarios. I was thrilled with the results. I asked my husband to find those initial pictures of the hockey players that I had seen many months before. I wanted to see how my interpretation compared to the inspirational images that had since faded from my memory. The only thing I remembered about them was that they were hockey pics and there was an element of hard lighting. Turns out the lighting wasn’t as hard as I remembered, and my images ended up being very different from his. However I was happy with the creative differences…and I was still pleased with my images even after viewing his images.
Once my son Biruk saw the hockey pictures, he became interested in getting some soccer pictures taken. This gave me an opportunity to test out “fake sweat” (Nick’s sweat was real).
The key to fake sweat is moderation. By the end of the shoot, Biruk took matters into his own hands with the fake sweat and well…
…he looks like he has perspiration malfunction-itis. Moderation people.
Once I had tested lighting and fake sweat, I felt like I could move forward with the project. With the help of some friends, I procured HS uniforms, equipment, and male athletes (no small feat). I also got my hands on a fog machine (insert evil cackle here). On Thursday morning four young men (and two moms) showed up at the studio.
Luke went first.
Then I mentioned that I had a fog machine, but I wasn’t sure how to use it. Luke quickly figured out that my remote wasn’t plugged in (duh) and we were ready to try it. I enlisted my 6-year old daughter to deploy the fog, and it was on. And I was in love. Once I saw the effect of the fog, there was no going back. Non-fog pictures looked bland to me.
However, the problem with fog, is that it has a mind of it’s own. It’s a tough puppy to train. See here, we lost Jack in the fog. He’s been consumed by the fog. He looks ethereal – which isn’t what we were going for. Of course, Jack’s friends might have been making him laugh at the moment the fog was perfect, say here: Once the fog takes over, you need to wait for the room to clear before you can resume. Fog is tricky, but in my opinion (and in the opinion of my 6 year old fog button presser), it’s worth it.
I’m so down with the fog. I shall study it and learn to harness it’s power.
Next stop: Football. Interestingly, the fog was shot onto Nick from the left, but somehow it looks like it’s coming from the right. See how tricky and unpredictable fog is? (Don’t tell his trainer, but Nick did this pose with a torn ACL). Then his mom got involved and well…we had some shirt removal. I’m personally a fan of showcasing athlete’s bodies – muscles are what sets athletes apart from the rest of us. Though I wouldn’t have asked any of the boys to remove their shirts, when their moms told them to do it, I high-fived myself (on the inside, of course). However, I heard from someone who thought it was “over the top” for a HS athlete. That one opinion has haunted me and has led me to wonder about popular opinion on the “shirtless images”. I wonder if there is a clandestine group who thinks I’m some kind of cougar perv who is out to solicit the fake-sweaty arms of young men. If you care to give your opinion, leave a comment and let me know either way. I’m curious.
And speaking of mom-involvement. Hanssen’s mom was the wind beneath my wings for this entire project. I could.not.have.pulled.the.pieces.together.without.her. Period.
..and the crowing achievement of this whole project so far, was seeing someone comment on FB that Hanssen “looks like a superhero” in this photo:
…cause making HS athletes look like superheroes fills me with joy.
Stay tuned for my adventures in coloring fog. Up next is track and wrestling.
Editorial note: If you would like to see the amazing photos that inspired this project, the link is here (images 38-50).