I was commissioned to make a portrait by a new family on their favorite beach near Dartmouth, Massachusetts. This is the “behind the scenes” of this image.
First the technical stuff:
I used a Elincrom Octabank with a Profoto 2400 acute power pack attached to a Honda 2000 watt generator. My camera has a Hasselblad 501. Film was Fuji 400.
Setting up a portable studio on the beach is no small feat, but the results are worth it. My assistant and I had to haul the equipment down the beach and set up before the light went away. The Octabank is my favorite softbox because it is so big and compassionate. The problem with using such a large light shaping tool on the beach is its size makes a perfect wind collection tool. So, we had to use sandbags and rope to tie down the light. While cumbersome, the generator served a double purpose of providing power and weight. The only drawback to this setup was we had to commit to the location. You can’t get up and move around to follow the light. I needed to know where the sun was going to be as the session progressed. It requires planning and faith.
Once we set up, we made some images and wrangled the baby. As a general rule, the more elements in a portrait, the more out takes. When one of those elements just wants to play in the sand, and cries when it can’t, it gets interesting. I’m talking about the baby, not me.
I saw this image rise up to meet me. It was near the end of our session. It speaks to motherhood, newness of life, the joy of living, and the importance of family. It goes beyond the personal portrait and includes all of us in a private moment. Some might say it borders on being a cliche but that is a risk I’m willing to take. The line between cliche and iconic is thin.
When an image transmits the subject’s universal humanity, we as viewers connect with our own. That is what makes a successful portrait.