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Tag Archives: Portraits

Sweet assignment

I really enjoy opportunities to photograph people in their workplace, doing what they’re really good at and hopefully, doing what gives them a sense of fulfillment in life.

I very cool assignment came up recently for me and two of my co-workers at the University of Richmond. We spent some time with chef Tom Parfitt at UR’s Culinary Arts Center, interviewing, filming and photographing him as he made some delightful chocolate creations. We were putting together a story, along with video and still photos describing his journey from restaurant dish-washer to pastry chef, and his process of making chocolate ganache desserts (to view the story, video and more images, go here). Needless to say, we were all on board with doing this piece.


Tom with the final “plated” desserts: chai-infused ganache in a chocolate shell and espresso-flavored ganache in a teacup shell.

My awesome colleagues Kevin on video and Kim doing the interview with Tom. We would have had no problem staying the whole afternoon!

And yes, we sampled them … and they were really good.

Yeah, I’d be smiling too, if I were him! Tom is a fantastic teacher who makes preparing foods look a lot easier than you think.

If you live in the central Virginia region and want to learn any number of culinary skills, check out the Culinary Arts Program and see what they have to offer. Your taste buds (and your family and friends) will thank you.

Hoop dreams

Being someone who is 6 ft. 6 in. tall, every so often I am asked the question, “Did you ever play basketball?” Aside from informal pick-up games with friends on the playground, I never played organized ball in school. I was always drawn more to sports like baseball and cycling. But I’ve always enjoyed watching basketball and following the progress of certain teams and athletes, both professional and collegiate.

So I was very excited to have the opportunity early in 2011 to photograph a couple of University of Richmond basketball players at the campus’ Robins Center arena. Brittani Shells and Justin Harper were two standout players who’ve gone on to play for professional teams since graduating last spring, Shells with a team in Israel and Harper with the Orlando Magic of the NBA.

With each of them I wanted to create a portrait that was somewhat unique, and not simply a headshot of them holding a basketball. Way too many of those kinds of media shots out there. With Brittani, I wanted the camera to have a very low viewpoint, so that she would appear more prominent in the setting. This meant I had to be flat on my stomach with camera at the floor, looking up. Being a tall photographer, getting myself smaller is always a challenge I’m faced with when doing shoots. I also wanted dramatic light, so I lowered the ambient (available) light of the arena with the exposure and lit Brittani exclusively with off-camera flash, one to camera right through an umbrella and one to the left for a slight edge light. I may also have had the on-camera pop-up flash triggered for a slight fill light.

For Justin, I did some shots of him on the court with the basket in the background, but then moved to a second location, the seats near courtside. One thing I had underestimated with the 6 ft. 10 in. senior was getting his huge frame into a spectator’s seat (something I should have realized, as I am always apprehensive about things like movie theatre and airline seating myself! Where to put the knees?) This setting also required a step-stool for me to get up to his eye-level while shooting, always a handy thing to bring along on a shoot! I wanted his shots to be somewhat more relaxed and not as “game-time” intense, so I tried to keep up some light conversation as I shot, to hopefully, capture a genuine moment with him. The lighting setup was somewhat similar to Brittani’s, with the key light on the right and rim light above and to the left.

They were really great to work with during these shoots, and I’m so proud to see these two student-athletes go on to fulfill their dreams of playing basketball after college. Good luck Brittani and Justin! And go Spiders!

A Face In a Place

One kind of photography that I’ve really been enjoying lately is the “environmental portrait”, or, as one of my favorite photographers, Joe McNally likes to describe it, “a face in a place.” The idea is to take a person and shoot them in a location or environment that says something about what they do, what they like or who they are as a person. The context that they’re in should have some meaning or significance and add something to the photo. It should also, hopefully, be visually interesting, or else, why would you want to show them there in the first place, right?

I’ve been fortunate to be able to do many of these kinds of portraits in my work at the University of Richmond, mostly for our university’s website, where we feature various UR students, faculty, staff and alumni and the things they’re doing on (and off) campus. Here are some of my favorites from this year. Click on the links to read more of their stories.


Biology professor Dr. Laura Runyen-Janecky and Caitlin Smith, who worked together last summer on bacteria research related to tsetse flies.


Student Jade-Evette Strachan, who worked with kids in the Richmond community at the William Byrd Community House and researched children’s interactions based on gender.


Ken Hart, the UR athletics equipment manager for 30 years. He handles lots of equipment and does lots of laundry! While doing the shoot, the women’s golf coach stopped by and teased us, saying, “I don’t see any golf clubs in this scene!”


Law student Providence Okoye. She is from Nigeria and is looking forward to fulfilling her dream of working in the legal field and helping people. She already has two clerkships (working in a courthouse for a state or federal judge) lined up for after she graduates.


English major Nicole Prunetti who did summer research into Shakespeare’s knowledge of 16th and 17th century law. Taken at UR’s Jepson Theatre stage.


And last, but not least, a family-related photo. This is my cousin Bruce, who really, really likes Coke and has a vast memorabilia collection of “The Real Thing.”

Meeting these people and getting to know them through their activities and interests seems endlessly fascinating to me and thoroughly enjoyable. It’s one aspect of doing photography I love so much.

Brad and Kristen

What better way to get practice doing portrait photography than to have your good friends as your models! (And good-looking ones too!) It’s an added bonus when they’re expecting a baby—as our friends Brad and Kristen are. Kim and I had a fun time doing some “expectant couple” shots of them recently in their home. They could totally model for a living, if they ever needed second careers, they were that easy to work with and comfortable in front of the camera. Although it was a challenge to keep Brad’s shirt buttons from popping off—he’s such a proud dad-to-be!

Here are several shots I got, using a white backdrop and two Canon Speedlights, one on each side, with shoot-through umbrellas. My talented wife Kim provided the art direction and styling. You can also check out her shots here.

Oh yeah, by the way … go Penn State! Another Nittany Lion is on the way!