Ryan Watkins Photography Portrait, Wedding, Commercial, and Fine Art Photography – Clare, Michigan – Ready to Travel9895789456
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Ryan Watkins Photography
How I Got the Shot(s): Studies of Cassi Over the Years

It is always great when you can find a great reliable model to work with. My first shoot with my distant cousin Cassi was way back in high school when she hired me to photograph some images of her belly dancing in Beaverton, Michigan. After I graduated from the Hallmark Institute of Photography and moved back to Michigan, she became one of my go to models. I’ve had her both model and assist on several personal and commercial shoots.

Cassi - Mt Pleasant, Michigan Portrait photography Mt Pleasant, Michigan

 

This first image was shot in Nelson Park in Mt Pleasant, Michigan shortly after graduating from the Hallmark Institute of Photography in 2013. As I had mentioned before Cassi is a belly dancer and she came prepared to this shoot with all of her belly dancing garb. I had cassi stand behind the leaves of some weeping willow trees. The late afternoon light worked as a backlight separating her from the background. I lit her face with an Alienbee B1600 strobe with a shoot thru umbrella to create a nice soft light. I used a longer lens (my Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8) at a wide aperture (smaller f number) to throw both the background and the leaves in front of her out of focus. I just recently bought this lens and knew that stopping down to f/4 (instead of shooting wide open at f/2.8) would result in a sharper image. After using the lens more I found out that I could get images which were plenty sharp wide open at f/2.8.

Shot using a Nikon D600 with a Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8 Lens. Lit using an Alienbee B1600 with a shoot thru umbrella triggered with Radio Poppers powered with a Vagabond Mini. As I’ve mentioned in prior posts I quit using Radio Poppers in 2016 because I found them unreliable and switched back to using Yongnuo flash triggers which are way cheaper and have been far more reliable in my experience. ISO 64 170mm f/4 1/125 of a second shutter speed.

Cassi - Mt Pleasant, Michigan Portrait photography Mt Pleasant, Michigan

 

This image of Cassi remains one of my favorite images I’ve taken period. This was shot during an evening at Nelson Park (one of my most frequented locations) in Mt Pleasant, Michigan. I’ve shot several images on these rocks with a variety of different models but none of them have lived up to this image of Cassi fully decked out in her belly dancing garb. I had Cassi sit on the rocks in front of the waterfall and I boomed the the light out in front of her head. This makes the soft light come from above instead of the side. In post I later did some dodging and burning to bring out the shapes of rocks and her outfit.

Shot using a Nikon D600 with a Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8 Lens on a Feisol Carbon Fiber CT-3371 Tripod with a Kirk B3 Ball Head with a Kirk L Bracket. Lit using an Alienbee B1600 with a shoot thru umbrella triggered with Radio Poppers powered with a Vagabond Mini. ISO 100 155mm f/4 1/125 of a second shutter speed.

Cassi - Mount Pleasant, Michigan Portrait photography Mount Pleasant, Michigan

 

This image was shot just a few minutes after the first image on the trail between Nelson and Island Park in Mt Pleasant, Michigan. I had Cassi go thru her various dances and once she bend over really far. I had her hold that pose and later flipped the image from horizontal to vertical in post. People are always confused by this image because of the orientation and her pose. Her face is lit with the natural light which was soft due to the time of day and there is a slight edge light added with an Alienbee B1600 strobe to give her a bit of separation from the background. I also did a far amount of dodging and burning (lightening and darkening) in post to the get the tones where I wanted them.

Shot using a Nikon D600 with a Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8 Lens on a Feisol Carbon Fiber CT-3371 Tripod with a Kirk B3 Ball Head with a Kirk L Bracket. Lit using an Alienbee B1600 triggered with Radio Poppers powered with a Vagabond Mini. ISO 400 135mm f/4 1/125 of a second shutter speed.

Cassi - Clare, Michigan Portrait photography Clare, Michigan

 

I would do another shoot with Cassi in October 2014. This shoot took place at my late grandmother’s property outside of Clare, Michigan. I had always loved photographing craggily trees like those in my grandma’s yard. For this shoot I took multiple images with my Alienbee B1600 lighting various parts of the trees and later merged the different exposures into the result you see above.

Shot using a Nikon D600 with a Nikon 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5 Lens on a Feisol Carbon Fiber CT-3371 Tripod with a Kirk B3 Ball Head with a Kirk L Bracket. Lit using an Alienbee B1600 with an shoot thru umbrella triggered with Radio Poppers powered with a Vagabond Mini. ISO 200 18mm f/13 10 second shutter speed.

Cassi - Clare, Michigan Portrait photography Clare, Michigan

 

These next two images were from the same shoot and were Cassi’s idea. She had recently bought a gas mask and wanted to use it in a post apocalyptic looking shoot. We figured the dilapidated barns at my grandmother’s property would work out well. This first image was lit with my Alienbee B1600 strobe from outside the barn. The strobe puts out a white daylight balanced light whereas the natural light was bluer due to the time of day. A longer exposure was used to get the dark blue of the sky to show in the final image. A quicker exposure (like 1/125 of a second) would have made the sky go black making the image far less interesting. Even though these images deviate from my timeless style a bit it is always fun to mess around with the more advanced lighting techniques I was taught in college.

Shot using a Nikon D600 with a Sigma 28-70mm f/2.8 Lens on a Feisol Carbon Fiber CT-3371 Tripod with a Kirk B3 Ball Head with a Kirk L Bracket. Lit using an Alienbee B1600 with a shoot thru umbrella triggered with Radio Poppers powered with a Vagabond Mini. ISO 100 35mm f/16 5 second shutter speed.

Cassi - Clare, Michigan Portrait photography Clare, Michigan

 

This next image was shot at the same location but the light was placed inside the building resulting in a far different look. We left the location shortly after taking these images because we heard what we thought were coyotes.

Shot using a Nikon D600 with a Sigma 28-70mm f/2.8 Lens on a Feisol Carbon Fiber CT-3371 Tripod with a Kirk B3 Ball Head with a Kirk L Bracket. Lit using an Alienbee B1600 with a shoot thru umbrella triggered with Radio Poppers powered with a Vagabond Mini. ISO 100 28mm f/16 5 second shutter speed.

Cassi - Ludington, Michigan Portrait photography Ludington, Michigan

 

In the summer of 2015 Cassi and I did a shoot together in Ludington. Ever since I had moved back to Michigan I had wanted to do a shoot with a model in Ludington. This first image was shot at the park right next to the beach. I placed Cassi between two large trees and lit her completely with flash.

Shot using a Nikon D600 with a Sigma 28-70mm f/2.8 Lens on a Feisol Carbon Fiber CT-3371 Tripod with a Kirk B3 Ball Head with a Kirk L Bracket. Lit using an Alienbee B1600 with a shoot thru umbrella triggered with a standard sync cord (I was starting to get tired of the Radio Poppers at this time but hadn’t moved over to the Yongnuo yet) powered with a Vagabond Mini. IS) 50 70mm f/10 1/60 of a second shutter speed.

Cassi - Ludington, Michigan Portrait photography Ludington, Michigan

 

This next image was shot on the beach. This is another one of my favorite images of Cassi. It has a very editorial look to it. Cassi also does larping in addition to her belly dancing. In this image Cassi is decked out in her larping garb. I had the sun lit Cassi’s back and hair separating her from the background. The light breeze caused Cassi’s hair to sway in the wind giving the image a hint of motion and gesture.

Shot using a Nikon D600 with a Sigma 28-70mm f/2.8 Lens . Lit using an Alienbee B1600 with a shoot thru umbrella triggered with a standard sync cord powered with a Vagabond Mini.

ISO 50 70mm f/7.1 1/250 of a second shutter speed.

Cassi - Ludington, Michigan Portrait photography Ludington, Michigan

 

This last image was shot with Casi resting on a bottom of a lighthouse. I wanted the image to be very stark and graphic focusing on the lines and shapes in the image. One of the reasons I changed the image to black and white is so the colors wouldn’t distract from the design of the image. Around this time in my career I felt like I was too dependant on using the Alienbee strobe for my portraits so I started shooting more natural light. As time as went on I’ve started to shoot more with a small Yongnuo speedlight as well as natural light. I still very much like the Alienbee, but it can be a pain to lung around during lengthy location shoots.

Shot using a Nikon D600 with a Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8 Lens handheld in natural light. ISO 400 170mm f/2.8 1/320 of a second shutter speed.

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