A Senior Moment

Sorry about the title folks… but I do live in Florida, “The Land of Retirees” and we hear that phrase a lot around here.

A few weeks ago, I was asked by my sister if I’d be willing to shoot my niece’s senior portrait – see what I did there :).  It’s been years since I’ve done any commissioned work, let alone serious portraiture, so I was a little apprehensive to accept but at the same time excited by the opportunity to do something special for my family.

Music runs deep in our family.  Mom is a singer and flutist, Dad was a professional jazz saxophonist, and Sis is a singer, flutist (classical and Celtic), and music teacher.   Taking after her mom, my niece is also an accomplished musician, playing the flute, guitar and harp.  Music being such a part of life throughout her school years, it was decided that this portrait should capture that in a unique way, with her harp being the featured instrument.

I started off by asking them to share with me some images/paintings that had the look and feel they were after and from that we set about planning the shoot.  We took an afternoon to scout out some local areas for the right setting but came back uninspired.  My sister has always liked the look of my home’s castle-looking front doors so with a little planning and a few hundred bucks spent on some frame fillers and props, we had our location settled.

The shoot itself took less than 45 minutes, most of that time spent with me shifting props around and trying to find the best stance for the harp.  Being such a large, detailed instrument I wanted to compose and light things in such a way that my niece wouldn’t become secondary to it.  For lighting, I used my new Rotolight Neo 2 and a Cactus Flash in a 1’x1′ soft box mounted atop a monopole.  I employed my two oldest daughters as grips.  I used ambient lighting as key, the Rotolight for fill on left and the Cactus-in-a-box as hair/effect lighting.  During the shoot, one of my grips/daughters got distracted and allowed the Cactus to tip so near the edge of frame that when it fired it left this gloriously soft ray of light coming in from the upper right of the frame; what Bob Ross would have called, “A happy little accident”.  Everyone preferred the look and feel of it so we shot it that way several more times until we got the effect to look just right.  During post-processing I added in some haze/atmosphere to take it up a notch.

And here is the final image.  Once I choose the right shop for the job, this will be printed on canvas at 16″ x 24″.


Sony A7RmkII w/ Carl Zeiss Planar 50mm f/1.4 AE (C/Y mount)


The whole project was a lot of fun.  I enjoyed spending time with my sister, and then seeing my niece’s face light up in approval of how it turned out was the best reward I could hope for.

Job done, I can now get back to just fiddling around with more old lenses.  Speaking of which, the old, 1970’s Carl Zeiss lens I used for this shoot performed spectacularly.  In the full size image you can easily see the details of the wound strings of the harp, every thread in the fabrics and the delicate texture of youthful skin.  I have to thank my dear friend Ryan for giving me this lens; such a thoughtful and special gift.


3 thoughts on “A Senior Moment

  1. Ahhhh, now I know the REST of the story behind the picture you so graciously shared with me a short time back!
    Tom- I must take issue with your comment- or- at least address it- that of ” (you were) a little apprehensive to accept”…
    Oh, my goodness, Tom- you are such an amazing photographer you just don’t know how danged good you are! I would challenge A-N-Y professional photographer to come up with a better portrait than this- in any way…. subject matter, composition, setting, final execution- anything!
    You are THAT GOOD!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Your portrait of your niece is breathtaking! Everything about this beautiful picture..captures so much, about your beautiful niece!
    Beyond perfect!


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