Winner’s Circle: March Photo Contest

The theme for March’s photo contest was “Inspired by Light,” and we were in turn inspired by the many great entries we received. It was a close call, but Kara McDonald’s “Lightning Bug” won us over with its clever concept and its exceptional execution.

"Lightning Bug" by Kara McDonald
“Lightning Bug” by Kara McDonald

We asked Kara a few questions about the making of this photo, and about her photography in general, in this month’s edition of Winner’s Circle.

Photo courtesy of Kara McDonald
Photo courtesy of Kara McDonald

MPEX: Where did you get the idea to use light painting this way, i.e. outlining the bug’s edges?

McDonald: My husband and I have been very interested in lighting lately and how we can take our business to the next level using different lighting techniques. While looking into off camera lighting,  my husband stumbled across light painting and we wanted to see what kind of effects we could get. I wanted to use the light to highlight the unique shape of a Volkswagen Beetle and give it a dramatic, almost neon-like effect.

Photo courtesy of Kara McDonald
Photo courtesy of Kara McDonald

How long did it take you to capture this exposure? Did you get it right the first time, or did you make multiple attempts until you got it just right?

We were actually pretty surprised about how quickly we got the shot! I figured it would be much more difficult to achieve the look we were going after. My husband manned the light source and traced the outline of the car while I figured out the shutter speed that would make that particular shot work. After 3 attempts, we were able to capture the image the way I wanted it. This photo was taken with a Nikon D3s, 12-24mm wide angle lens, 100 ISO, f/22 with a 262 sec shutter speed. As soon as I saw it in camera, I knew we had captured the look we were going for. Once we got it into the computer, I simply boosted the highlights and vibrancy of the RAW image to get the image the way it is now.

Photo courtesy of Kara McDonald
Photo courtesy of Kara McDonald

Whose VW Bug is that? It looks like you stumbled upon it in the woods.

It’s my husband’s ’71 Super Beetle. His great-grandfather left it to him and has been sitting in our back yard for a few years now. And no, we don’t live in the woods–we just have lots of pine trees in our backyard. Unfortunately, the Bug has become a part of our landscape for now. My husband does hope to restore it one day when we can afford it, but in the meantime it serves as one of our props.

Photo courtesy of Kara McDonald
Photo courtesy of Kara McDonald

What kind of photography do you usually do, e.g. portraits, landscapes, etc.? Do you make your living from photography, or is it more of a hobby?

My husband and I started our photography company, Mark Durant Photography, last year. We are based in Southeast Georgia and we specialize in Weddings, Families and Senior Portraits. It started as a hobby for both of us and has evolved into a growing business. As of now, photography is a part-time business, though we hope to be able to take it to a full time level in the next few years.

Photo courtesy of Kara McDonald
Photo courtesy of Kara McDonald

How long have you been taking photos? What made you want to become a photographer?

Initially, I always tell people I wanted to learn about photography to take great photos of my kids. So I really have been taking photos since my daughter was born, 5 years ago. In the past few years, I became more interested in learning more and began reading everything I could to learn proper camera technique and started shooting every day. Once we started our business, I began second shooting with my husband for weddings and working with families and children for their shoots. It may be a bit cliche, but I love photography because I love capturing moments in time. As a mom myself I know how quickly my own children have grown and I love providing a photo that shows that unique time in a child and family’s life.  Taking photographs help to hold on to those special times that pass too quickly. I also have loved supporting my husband in his dream and pursuing our passion for photography together.

See more of Kara and Mark’s work at their website or on their Facebook page!

Midwest Photo

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