A few years ago I bought these lace curtains from IKEA called Lill — $5 for a pair! I didn’t have any windows to hang them in front of, but I thought the sheer white material might come in handy one day for a photo shoot. I’ve brought them to dozens of different shoots over the years, but never got around to using them until this past summer. Kathryn and I got up at the crack of dawn on a cool August morning at sunrise so I could finally use the airy fabric for some beach portraits. As a busy engineering student, Kathryn doesn’t have as much time for modelling as she used to, but I hope we can continue to make images together for years to come.

For these beach portraits I used a variety of gear including a new lens acquisition that doesn’t normally lend itself to flattering pictures of people — the Nikon 14-24mm ƒ/2.8. Typically this type of ultra wide angle lens is best suited for landscapes as it distorts the image quite a bit and makes various body parts look stretched out and wonky. There’s an unwritten photography rule that says you never really want to photograph people with a lens any wider than 24mm (and even that should be avoided if there’s an alternative available). Some photographers are more conservative and won’t go below 35mm or even 50mm. Well, for the first beach portrait in the gallery below (the epic black and white image set against the clouds) I broke all the rules and shot it at 14mm. Was there distortion? Sure. But I kept the distortion on Kathryn minimized by positioning her towards the centre of the frame and away from the edges. In a portrait like this, the model becomes an element of her surroundings, looking tall and statuesque since I was crouched down slightly. Kathryn is tall but the elongated pose and wide angle distortion help reinforce it. (This image also happens to be one of my top-rated images on 500px.)

The other monochrome beach portraits were also shot with the same 14-24mm lens, this time at the 24mm setting. Ordinarily, tight portraits like these could be accomplished with a 50mm or longer lens, but I really wanted to capture the feeling of being enveloped in the wispy white fabric, and having it extend to the edges of the frame. This means I had to be close to Kathryn and practically wrapped up in the fabric myself — any passersby must have thought we were a couple of childish weirdos, flitting around the beach like ghosts with a big bed sheet over our heads.

Other notes:

  • I used two camera bodies to minimize the amount of switching lenses I’d have to do (I shot with three different lenses this day), since being at the beach increases the risk of water or sand damage that’s possible.
  • Since the background was an important element for these beach portraits, I went a bit against the grain of standard portrait photography and shot everything horizontally instead of vertically.
  • Everything was photographed with natural daylight and no light modifiers.


Click images of Kathryn below to enlarge

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