Photo Frosh: “30-Day” Challenge: Day 1 – Self Portrait

For the first few challenges, I’ve been fitted with a trusty Nikon D7000 and a Tamron 17-50mm f2.8.

So far, I really like using the D7000. I’m new to Nikon, but it took me no time to learn how to use the D7000. The 16.2 MP CMOS sensor is awesome, and it’s actually quite good in low-light situations, which will be important when we get to my self portrait.

I’m having a lot of fun with the Tamron 17-50mm f2.8 as well. The shallow depth of field is really fun to play with, and the autofocus is quick. The 17-50mm zoom allows me to go from wider shots to a more natural portrait-appropriate focal length. Its versatility and general quality make it a good lens to learn with.

The first challenge in capturing a good self portrait was thinking up a creative concept. I didn’t want to just stand in front of the camera, click the timer, and say cheese. I wanted to do something a little more dynamic than that.

The idea was to get a picture of myself in the middle of High Street with cars speeding by me. Midwest Photo is located on High Street in Clintonville, Columbus, which means I end up crossing High Street a dozen times a day (that’s an exaggeration, but not by much). Crossing High Street during rush hour is what stands between me and my car at the end of the day. It’s become a part of my daily life.

Part of the challenge was that I wanted a slow shutter speed with a narrow depth of field. However, I went out there with my Nikon D7000, a Vanguard tripod, and Cactus V5 Radio trigger at around 3 PM and the light was just too much. There was no way to get a shallow depth of field or to get a slow shutter speed.

Then one of my coworkers had a really good idea: throw a Promaster 72mm Variable ND filter on the front of the lens. This allowed me to darken the scene and expose with a larger aperture and slower shutter speed.

I shot the photo below at a 1/2s f/13 ISO 100. I was pretty pleased with it. There’s some dynamic motion of the car behind me and it’s well lit, but I was disappointed with the large depth of field. The backdrop isn’t the most exciting thing, and because of that I feel lost in the photo.

While I was looking through these photos, I knew I didn’t want any of them to be my “self portrait.” My coworker asked me why I wanted my photo taken in the middle of the street. I shrugged. “I just thought it would be cool,” I said.

“But what does it say about you?” he asked.

This was an interesting point. I wasn’t taking a self portrait that really said anything about me.

I came up with another idea: me and my computer. I love the internet. I’m in front of my computer 95% of my life (no exaggeration). So, I came up with the idea of being illuminated by my computer.

For this one, I turned the ISO all the way up to 1600, which allowed me to get set my aperture at f2.8 and my shutter speed at 1/30s.

The real challenge was getting the desired lighting effect. I knew my computer monitor would not be enough to light me in my pitch dark room, so I placed an LED light on the floor behind my coffee table and tilted it up, to make the light look as if it was coming from the computer. I quickly and easily removed the actual LED in post ended up with an image I’m really happy with!

So, Challenge 1: Self Portrait is a success. I hope this provides inspiration for you to enter our SELF PORTRAIT challenge, sponsored by LumoPro. Send your best SELF PORTRAIT to michael[at] by October 26 at 5 PM for your chance to win a LumoPro Speedring Bracket Kit.

For those of you following along at home, the next challenge is the Rule of Thirds! Feel free to send a photo that showcases the rule of thirds to michael[at], and we’ll include it in the blog.

Midwest Photo

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