In a neighborhood park, from a distance I saw a couple standing near a brightly colored umbrella. I thought that would make a keen background for a photograph, so I edged in to introduce myself. To my surprise, it turned out that I was looking at my acquaintance, Esther, and a guy I didn’t know.
She changed her haircut style to include bangs, and she was wearing eyeglasses that I didn’t recall her ever wearing. Some people transform effortlessly. I hadn’t recognized her at all until we were face to face.
Esther asked what I was doing in the park with my camera so I explained the 100 Strangers project to her. I apologized that I wouldn’t be able to include her in the set, although I could still take her photograph. And was this her new boyfriend? Yes. Say hello and meet Jason, 32/100 of my strangers.Jason didn’t have much to say; he was under the starry-eyed spell of his girlfriend. Sheepishly he agreed to be photographed under Esther’s warm encouragement.
I sensed that he was feeling ambushed. To ease him into the experience, I warmed him up by first taking Esther’s photo. He had a chance to watch me at work. Then I took a photo of the two of them together. That loosened his collar, so to speak. Finally, Jason alone.
We made a few shots, some with him smiling, and some not so. This one was with one of those in-between sort of smirks that can be taken many ways.
After sending out the pictures, Esther wrote me back and thought the photos came out great. I never heard back from Jason.
With this portrait, I was starting to enjoy seeing the magic that comes from using the fixed lens 50mm– F/1.4. I’m really happy about the upfront shallow focus on the subject and the background bokeh it can produce. The technical challenge is to get the focus on the subject before they move out of the focal plane. I usually spot on the eye closest to the middle, and it does make the second eye go into a softer focus. If I move the aperture smaller, the focus is better, but the background blur starts to reduce. So it’s a tightrope walk with choices and creative observations while in the field.