Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Sometimes, Things Are What They Are

Sometimes, I get hired to make seductive, crafty, escape-from-reality, photos of gorgeous, alluring, beautiful, women. Other times, I get hired to make less-crafty, more obvious, the-message-is-clear, pics of cute, pretty girls that say, fairly clearly, where things are going.

Yesterday was one of those days where the latter was the order of the day.

It's no secret the schoolgirl genre appeals to many men. It is what it is and things are what they are. Men are sexually drawn to youth. I suppose women are drawn to the same. I say, "I suppose" in my observation about women because I'm not a woman and, as a realistic sort of guy, I don't pretend to know what goes on in the minds of women.

To deny the sexually-provocative appeal of youth, i.e., youth in it's sex-appeal prime, is absurd. It's part of how we're wired. It's built into the design. For most men, young and old, it's a very basic instinct. And because of that, products are marketed and sold, sometimes obviously and sometimes less obviously, that exploit that instinct.

It's not just sexually-explicit adult products that prey on men's and women's attraction to youth, but hordes of products in the mainstream as well. Youth, beauty, and sexual allure are used to sell just about everything and anything. Sex sells! Youth sells! And sex, coupled with youth, often sells even better!

Sex and youth are also used to sell products aimed at our personal hopes and desires to reclaim our own youthful appearances and sense of being. Think everything from skin-care products to fashion to Viagra to, well, to almost anything else.

Morality-driven people struggle and battle against this sex-and-youth stuff. In fact, they often rail against almost everything where sex and sexually-provocative content is used as the carrot. IMO, they're fighting an eternally losing battle. People are what and who they are and all the morality in the world isn't going to change their basic instincts. Leastwise, not in the private domains of their personal thoughts and imaginations. The Thought Police don't have a prayer, as well they shouldn't.

Hey! I'm just saying!

I also had a chance yesterday to try out a new piece of glass I've recently added to my camera bag: A Canon EF 70-200 f/4L USM.

I know, I know... I should have bought the IS version of the 70-200 f/4L. Better yet, the f/2.8L IS version.

Frankly, I can't remember the last time I shot any pretty girl photographs at f/2.8. In fact, I rarely use an aperture wider than f/5.6. And since I almost always use strobes, IS becomes significantly less of an issue. For those occasional times I'm using reflectors only, I'll put the camera on sticks if the 70-200 f/4L (non IS) is in use.

For me, money spent on gear is always something I carefully consider, i.e., in terms of how much, and on what, I'm willing to spend. This stuff ain't hobby toys for me. They are the tools I use to fatten my wallet. Whenever I can buy a tool for less, i.e., a tool that gets the job adequately and effectively done for less, it means my wallet is that much fatter. I've said it before, I ain't a gear elitist. Plus, I haven't won the lottery... yet.

Yep! Being a practical and frugal guy, I tend to buy tools that closely match the job; my job. In this case, the f/4L (non-IS) should do me just fine when I need those focal lengths, especially considering how much less this lens costs than its higher-priced siblings.

The pretty, plaid-clad, 18+ schoolgirls at the top are Morgan, left, and Louisa, right. Image captured under the mid-day sun, right around noon, in the backyard of an upscale home high in the Hollywood hills. Those white blouses were tough to keep under control in that environment and I wasn't as successful at doing so as I would have liked to have been. Yesterday's client demands very bright, evenly-lit, images (they don't much like shadows) and prefers them shot in daylight exterior locations. That kept me walking a fine line with exposure, driving it to the slightly overexposed side.

I used a Canon 5D w/ Canon 70-200 f/4L at ISO 100, f/16 @ 200th for this image. I also used two, modified, front lights, set at 45s either side of me, to battle the sun and background ambient. I should have leveled that horizon line a bit. Oh well. Sometimes, I guess I get a bit myopic and don't notice things like that until after I've processed the image... and then laziness kicks in.


Gary said...

Interesting what content and style does for how you shoot. After having my 70-200 2.8 I don't think I could use the 4. I got mine for a good deal on craigslist it is the non IS but I use it mostly in brighter situations so I'm above 300th of a second but outdoors if I can pull it off I prefer straight natural and the DOF at 2.8 is just fun but it is a personal style thing it would probably look as good at 4.

EleganceAndChaos said...

I have noticed that you are adding quite a bit of new equipment the last few months. Is this a result of times (a lot of photographers retiring or just going out of business due to the economy) and you not being able to pass up a good deal or is your new focus on shooting different genre causing you to anticipate that you will need new tools?

After shooting primarily with the Sigma 24-70mm F2.8 and short primes the last few years I am finally starting to add longer focal length lens. The move has more to do with wanting the get the compression effect of the longer focal length lens than with a specific business reason though.

I am going the way of longer primes though as opposed to the 70-200MM F2.8. I have rented that lens for shoots in the past and love the flexibility, but that things weighs a ton. A day of shooting with that monster sure builds the arms. :)

jimmyd said...

Most of my clients aren't big fans of overly shallow depth of focus. They'd also have to run to the dictionary to look up "bokeh." So, in general, 2.8 wouldn't work well for most of the people who pay me. There are times when elements of ones personal style are dictated by those signing the checks. What'd'ya gonna do?

Yep. I have been adding gear to my arsenal. And I've been doing so for some of the reasons you cited. Some of it I've bought new and some used. The 17-40 f/4L I bought new. The Tamron 28-75 I bought new. The 70-200 was used but the date code makes it an '08 model so I didn't get that much of a super-saver deal. It was an okay deal but certainly not at a fire-sale price. I also bought the 135 soft-focus used but that was more a curiosity buy. I'll probly dump that lens now that I have the 70-200... or, maybe not. Not sure.

I love primes as well, even if they sometimes offer less flexibility. I still have my sights set on the Canon 135 f/2L... and I will get myself one! New or used not sure but, oh yes, I will have one in the not too distant future. I see it in my crystal ball. Actually, it's an old, cracked, glass doorknob but sometimes it shows me things. ;-)

Lou said...

Very nice shot, Jimmy, and this helps answer a bit of wonder for me. I just received the older 70-210 f/4 (non-L, non-IS) for the low low price of some severely underpaid website work from a friend, and so far I'm really pleased with it. I was hoping it'd end up to be a good portrait lens (as all I have other than that is the 50mm f/1.8 II), and in the few days I've been tinkering with it, it seems like it'll get the job done nicely. Your shot emphasizes that thought. Thanks for the severely well-timed blog post hehe. :D

Gary said...

Guess that is the advantage of not getting paid (haha the only advantage) I still have a day job so haven't transitioned to that place where I am beholden to client wishes. Part of me wants to be there part of me hates the thought losing the love because I am not doing what I love anymore because I have to do what someone else needs.

I'm hoping that in a few years when my day job goes out of business I will have the skills and the contacts to do something with my photography for now I am perfecting and refining skills.