Self Portraits

I took these self portraits a couple of nights ago. I’ve been thinking about starting to do more studio-style portraits and as I wanted to see if there was enough room to do them at home, I thought I’d try it out myself.

I took them in our lounge and I honestly wasn’t sure how it’d go at first but it actually worked out quite well. We have some dark blue velvet curtains which were great for the background and I used two flashes on light stands and stood about a metre from the curtains which more or less turned the background black. I had my camera on a tripod and triggered it with a remote which gave me time to pose and try different things.

I didn’t do any full body shots as I didn’t want to move any furniture out of the way but there would be enough room to do that if I wanted to in the future which is good to know. In this case I was more interested in shooting from the waist up anyway.

The main thing I found a bit hard was positioning the flashes given it’s a small room and if I wasn’t careful the light could spread too far; sometimes the background looked totally black in camera but later on my computer I found I could make out the curtains. So I think I’d use a proper background next time and maybe step a bit further forward to fix that. A textured muslin background would look good too.

They came out well overall though and for just a fun experiment I like them a lot. I particularly like the shots with the masks. I’ve been thinking a lot about the masks we wear in our everyday lives lately, how the person we are in public differs from the person we are in private. I wanted to try to convey that in the images: the tie and jacket contrasting with the mask, a scream of repression.

With the Venetian masquerade mask I was particularly thinking of the Uncle Sam Wants You poster from World War I and how governments use masks of propaganda to convince people of their cause and given a lot of what’s happening in the world at the moment, I thought doing a take on that pose was interesting. Looking at the final image, it feels a little accusatory which I like as well… it gives it another dimension and I guess it’s a reflection of what I was feeling in that moment too.

I also thought the masks just looked pretty cool too which was the main thing!

I hope you like the photos. I really enjoy making creative self portraits like these, I’ll have to get back to doing them more regularly.

Photos © CJ Levinson 2018

Sitting and Reflecting

CJ by the Beach

Sitting by the water
I hear waves crash
And gulls call
And my heart sing

I took this photo last week while doing a photowalk near Pinny Beach. I was feeling a bit tired after walking for awhile and had quite a lot on my mind, so I thought I’d sit, watch the tankers on the ocean and let my mind wander.

I sat for about ten minutes and it occurred to me while I was sitting there that the scene might actually make for an interesting shot. I really liked some of the contrasts (particularly the rock with the sky and water) and I thought maybe if I put myself in it too, it’d give an interesting sense of scale. So I put my camera on my tripod, set a timer for about 10 seconds and then ran like a maniac to get back before the timer went off.

It took a couple of shots to nail the timing but in the end I think it worked well and captured the scene nicely. I think it also captured me quite well too, which I wasn’t expecting. The camera happened to catch me looking out over the ocean again and I think that kind of quiet reflection is quite true to my personality.

I guess I set out to take an interesting landscape and ended up with an environmental self portrait instead, which was actually better. Funny how that happens sometimes!

Photo and haiqua © CJ Levinson 2017

Self Portrait in Black and White

Self Portrait in Black and White

Sometimes I wonder
Who I am in this strange world?
I am simply me

I took this photo as a bit of an experiment. I’ve been playing around with flash in my spare time, trying out some different settings and ideas so I know I’ve got a few more styles to default to for portraits when I need them.

I’ve been using myself as a stand in and wasn’t expecting to use any of the photos but I actually really like this one. In this case I was experimenting more with creating mood and atmosphere and I think it’s quite effective, particularly in black and white. Reminds me of some of those dramatic sports profiles you see in magazines sometimes.

For anyone wondering how to create a look like this, it’s actually quite simple. I only used one flash (off-camera) and used a black reflector behind me to create the background (a black bed sheet or piece of fabric would work well too).

I had my camera on a tripod and sat about half a metre in front of the reflector and angled the flash across the right side of my face. At about 1/8th power that allowed the flash to illuminate just that side of my face without reaching the background.

It’s a simple setup and while this looks moody and dramatic, it works well for normal portraits too. It’s very versatile and a good setup to learn if you’re just starting out.

I don’t take that many self portraits but I’m fairly happy with this one. Might have to keep experimenting and do some more of them.

Photo and haiku © CJ Levinson 2016