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photo of Hampshire Life cover depicting a portrait of an older black man wearing blue collared shirt, suspenders, and beige tie in front of a darker beige wall and city of holyoke massachusetts flag - letting spells out "Hampshire Life - The Gazette's Weekly Magazine for the Pioneer Valley" and "Great Scott? The controversial tenure of Holyoke's retiring police chief, page 12" - published by the daily hampshire gazette - photo copyright adrian feliciano, all rights reserved - see more at adrianfeliciano.com

Portrait of Holyoke Massachusetts Police Chief Scott

Photography assignment: The Daily Hampshire Gazette

In 2011, the Gazette sent me on assignment to take some photos of Holyoke Police Chief Scott for a story they were doing on his impending retirement. To this day, Chief Scott remains one of my favorite portrait photography subjects and this photo assignment remains one of my favorites.

Photography gear used

I didn’t have much, at this point, in terms of photography equipment. Just a Canon Rebel XTi, 580EX-II Speedlight, a Sigma 17-70mm 2.8-4.0 lens, a Canon 50mm 1.4, and Canon 85mm 1.8 lens and a basic camera bag.

No fancy lighting, no quick-setup light-stand, no portable softbox or light modifiers. Not even a cheap umbrella.

I just had some hair ties and a black foamie thing.

Meet Anthony Scott, Holyoke Police Chief

Chief Scott was no nonsense, approachable, friendly enough, but very disinterested in the whole ordeal. I managed to get a few photos of him outside the station. One of the images that got published was one where he immediately scanned the next street as one of the cruisers blew by, lights flashing and sirens blaring; the photo looked as if he was keeping an eye on the department as much as he kept watch over Holyoke. The City and Department were his domain and he kept a close eye on both.

Chief Scott’s ambivalence to getting a “photo for the paper” made it difficult to show any kind of connection that could engage readers of the Gazette. He had three basic expressions — bored, uninterested, and none — while his department was a mix of colors from red walls and beige ceilings to beige walls and beige ceilings and red carpeting everywhere.

Meanwhile, all of it happened to be nightmarishly lit by fluorescent lights above while blocking bright sunlight with blue blinds in front of large windows.

Can you imagine trying to take a decent portrait there?

Argh!

The portrait comes together

Fortunately, Chief Scott was a good sport and we quickly set up an impromptu portrait studio in his office since he was packing up and retiring later that week anyway. Shuffling some boxes aside, and opening the blinds brought in enough light to overpower the gross greenish hue from overhead fluorescent lights. It’s a cliche, but we did a few shots next to the United States flag.

At no point did his expression really vary even though, by now, Chief Scott actually seemed interested in getting a good portrait taken. You can kind of see the “how am I doing?” in his eyes in this photo. Settings were simple: 17-70mm lens, f3.5, 1/200″ at iso800 and eTTL flash for fill, bounced against a wall to camera left and flagged with a black foamie thing.

Finally, we decided to go with the City of Holyoke flag as more appropriate for a portrait background, since that was the city he watched over. I used a horizontal composition for balance between the city and the person entrusted with its safety for a decade and decided to just go with his no nonsense demeanor. A couple of quick “test photos” to dial in exposure and composition later, I told him that I was going to have him close his eyes, breathe in, exhale, and open his eyes, then take his portrait on a count of three. He nodded in understanding with a very slight smile, as if to say “Good, that’s simple. I can do this,” to himself.

With that, I gave Chief Scott his final set of directions, for real: “Okay, Chief, now close your eyes and take a deep breath…Great — remember on three — now exhale and open your eyes…”

The moment he opened his eyes, I hit the shutter and took this portrait, which ended up as the front page photo for Hampshire Life, a weekly magazine published by the Daily Hampshire Gazette, in April of 2011:

The final settings were: f4.0, 1/200″ at iso800 and eTTL fill flash bounced and flagged with a black foamie thing

The point

All told, I was originally there for fifteen minutes of Chief Scott’s time. As the photo assignment progressed, he ended up giving me about thirty minutes total and I did not want to take up more time than he was willing to give. The final portrait fell together in about five minutes.

As I thanked him for his time, he escorted me to the front door he told me that he was glad I was willing to take the extra time to work with him at getting a good portrait that he was happy with and captured what he felt was the totality of his career in a single image. I told him that it was my honor that he trusted me with the extra few minutes, because I could appreciate just how busy he was going to be, right up until the day he officially retired from the force.

He smiled, and said that he still wasn’t sure what he would do after his retirement ceremony. I told him that he could do whatever he wanted and he gave a half-laugh and said that was exactly what was scaring him. “Can you believe it? I’ve been such a hard ass for so long, but here I’m telling you how scared I actually am,” he said as we shook hands. “I’m glad I had some extra time.”

“Enjoy all the time that you have left, Chief.”

“…Thank you. I will. You too, son.”

A good portrait does not always need the best “pro level” camera, lenses, or accessories, nor does it need a studio filled with modifiers, strobes, backdrops, and an environment with perfectly controlled lighting.

It just takes the time to get to know the person in front of your lens, and making a connection with another human being who is feeling vulnerable while simultaneously trusting you to show them at their best.

It’s never easy but it is always worth the effort.

Are you near Boston, MA and want to schedule a photo shoot together?

Please visit my contact page and send me a message so we can get started!

Want to see more of my photography?

My portfolio features the best of my headshot, portrait, event, and boudoir photography.

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live performance image of Black woman wearing headphones at DJ decks with multicolored red, yellow, orange, and green background lighting effect at elements, a local Boston drum and bass weekly, held at The Phoenix Landing in Cambridge, MA - Photo © Adrian Feliciano, all rights reserved | Adrianfeliciano.com

Photography and an Eye on Electronic Dance Music

I was approached by Ryan Eisele a week or so ago about licensing a photo of Mizeyesis that I took while she performed her birthday set at elements, a weekly drum-and-bass event held at The Phoenix Landing in Cambridge, MA., for a pandemic interview series. The website is a newly launched community resource, and is centered on an electronic dance music community calendar.

I thought it was important to make sure that the licensed photo had the best possible edit I could create, compared to the earlier edit, so I made sure that the final version remained true to the original photo while bringing out greater detail in the lighting and LED screen in the background, highlighting (har har!) Mizeyesis’ hair, and balancing a touch more warmth with subtle vibrancy to her skin tones. The final version I sent out is high-resolution and un-compromised by Facebook’s brutal compression.

(I still didn’t use Photoshop to do it. 😀)

Thank you, Ryan! I am grateful and humbled by your outreach and am glad we could work something out that helps to support all three parties involved.

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female model in shego from kim possible black and geen cosplay photoshoot copyright adrianfeliciano.com

Shego Cosplay Photoshoot with Ashley

Portrait Photoshoot – Shego from Kim Possible

I went to Worcester, this past Saturday, to meet with Ashley for a portrait photoshoot idea she had contacted me about. Not gonna lie, it was a cold day.

Massachusetts is under a COVID-19 stay-at-home advisory between 10pm-5am for most people, so the timing was a little challenging. We scheduled the shoot early enough to have day light available to set up equipment and have plenty of time available for photography, and late enough that we would not be fighting with bright sunlight or waiting too long for darkness to happen, in case we had some flow toys to incorporate.

Ashley did bring an LED light-whip; however, conditions were not conducive to effective long exposure photography.

In order to simulate darker conditions, I decided to work with lower ISO, a shutter speed around 1/200″ and f-stops between 4.0 and 5.6, while using a speedlight for keylighting. Also, taking into account some fan-art of Shego using a greenish outline to her hair against black backgrounds, I used the mobility and hands-free operation of the RTMS2000 with a second speedlight with a green gel to provide hair lighting. You can see the full effect of those settings in the photo gallery below.

Once we got started, the photo shoot went surprisingly quickly and we were able to maintain strict distance and shooting protocols with COVID-19 in mind. There were a couple of occasions where I had to lower my mask due to my camera’s eyepiece fogging up a little, but it was a temporary measure as needed. By the time we packed up, what felt like three to four hours of photography ended up being about two hours and I was able to maintain consistency across images due to simulating darkness through in-camera settings.

Cosplay photography is something I don’t do all that often, but I am glad for the opportunity to exercise some creative muscles after a fairly sizable drought, due to the every worsening COVID-19 pandemic, here in the United States. As always, I am happy to be around people who take precautions seriously, and are willing to take the extra little steps necessary to watch out for each other.

Thank you to Ashley and the RTMS2000, without whom this portrait photoshoot could not have happened!

Shego Cosplay Photo Gallery With Ashley

Are you near Boston, MA and want to schedule a photo shoot together?

Please visit my contact page and send me a message so we can get started!

Want to see more of my photography?

My portfolio features the best of my headshot, portrait, event, and boudoir photography.

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Halloween Photoshoot at Burrage Pond

Halloween Photoshoot With a Demon and a Witch at Burrage Pond

This past Saturday, I met with some friends at Burrage Pond in Hanson, MA for some much needed photoshoot therapy together. It was the first time I picked up my camera since this past February, so I was a little nervous. Because COVID-19 rates are climbing again in the United States, I was considerably nervous. I have asthma and it places me into a higher risk group for serious complications because of SARS-CoV-2.

While organizing the shoot, it was important to be sure everyone present was on the same page in terms of what to expect, and that included outlining some procedures for everyone’s health and safety. I required a COVID-19 test to be taken two days prior to the shoot and if it was not possible due to timing, then strict social-distancing measures would be necessary. Thankfully, everyone involved understood and took precautions very seriously.

The day of the shoot itself went smoothly. The group of us walked into Burrage Pond in the late afternoon so we had plenty of light to work with, and so we had options on how to light and caught up with mutual banter and friendly roasting while I set up my lighting kit. It’d been so long that I was having momentary brain-farts, like “so how many batteries do I need for this flash again?..” Ugh.

We set up along a wooded pathway, isolated from everyone else, and very private. Perfect place for a photographer and his assistant to lure set up a shoot with two gorgeous models. The area included a large boulder off the walking path that was another perfect spot to use for the shoot.

The set up was a simple three point lighting kit. 1 speedlight and umbrella for the keylight, two gelled speedlights for the background and accent lighting, one red, one bluish-purple, all on basic manual radio-triggers. At the boulder, lighting was even simpler. The red and blue lights were set up for the background and accent lighting again while the key light was a handheld LED video light mounted on a voice-activated, remote-controlled, semi-autonomous, all-terrain capable mobile light-stand (my assistant).

The sun was setting, and shooting at night isn’t an issue more than trying to put away gear in pitch black darkness would be, so rather than shoot from the afternoon until around 9pm, it was better to call it a day around 7pm instead.

It was good to get back into a creative head-space again, after 8 months of self-isolating due to COVID-19. It was even better, more importantly, to be among people who were willing to be responsible for each other’s health and safety and who, clearly, value each other’s friendship. This pandemic has revealed a lot about people, who can be trusted, who is responsible, and who is worth making an effort for. I’m looking forward to another creative session with good friends soon!

Full Photo Gallery

Models:

  • Shayna Rose – Demon
  • Danielle MacNevin – Witch

Assistant:

RTMS-2000 – Artemis

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newly engaged bearded male and red-haired female couple lean across a table for a tender kiss. copyright adrian feliciano adrianfeliciano.com

Engagement Photography Session at Bull Mansion

Lennen and Luna’s Engagement Photoshoot at Bull Mansion, in Worcester, MA

Bull Mansion was built in 1876, it was designed by Calvert Vaux who was contracted by Daniel Wesson (of Smith and Wesson) for his daughter Sarah’s wedding present. Bull Mansion is also known as G.A.R Hall (Grand Army of Republic Hall). It is an ornate Victorian Gothic/Stick style granite mansion, which is on US National Register of Historic Places.

— From Bull Mansion’s Website

2018-01-05 WORCESTER, MA – I was contacted to schedule an engagement photography session by a Lennen, a friend from my Western Massachusetts goth-club days, for him and Luna, his new fiancee. He would be flying in to Massachusetts during the holiday season and had some gothy/Victorian styled clothing that they wanted to be photographed in. After tossing about a few ideas, we felt that photography for their engagement would be perfect at an equally elegant location so I contacted my friend, Victoria, who graciously allowed us the use of Bull Mansion, a historic building in Worcester, MA that was originally designed as a wedding present and is now an upscale restaurant and event space.

We quickly worked out an affordable photography budget, took care of paperwork, and confirmed a date for photography while I started lining up resources that included a Felicia as a special effects makeup artist, on-call models for more conceptual images should the opportunity arise (thank you Bekah and Gabi!), a photography assistant or two (thank you Artemis and Kalomo!), and a potential second photographer by way of Connecticut wedding photographer, Courtney Robertson.

Of course, no one could have predicted that there would be a major snow storm the night before the engagement photoshoot and that temperatures would plummet on the day of the shoot itself. Unfortunately, it made things more complicated by changing the timing and freedom of availability for everyone. Some showed up later. Some could no longer stay as long as needed. Some could not make it at all. It’s winter in New England. Shit happens. Suck it up and drive on.

For this blog post, I got stuck here for a little bit about what to write next. I suppose that I could go on and on in several directions. Some may want to read about behind-the-scenes stuff and get into the nitty gritty of creating romantic engagement photos with multiple light sources in a beautiful venue. Others may wonder about contracts, how I got paid, how we juggled everyone, or the kind of equipment I used, feel that I edited too much / edited too little, lets chin-stroke over lenses, sensor resolution, dynamic range, and so on.

It’s really all irrelevant.

The most important thing I can pass on is that we somehow managed to find a way to pull everything together into a photography session that challenged us to find the best in what circumstance, timing, and other factors presented to us. When I could not scout the location the night before, I showed up earlier on the day of photography. When one person couldn’t make it, we lined up another. When another was delayed by brutal traffic, we shot photos anyway. When another couldn’t be there, we shifted roles to involve someone else. When people showed up, we worked them into the process. When we began running low on steam, we broke things into smaller pieces and decided to go all out for one final creative push. When the final concept proved too difficult for one person to pull off, we quickly organized into delegated roles and a by-the-numbers approach to photography. Together, we found a way to make it all work.

The romantic in me feels that there was something symbolic in the sudden challenges that came up out of nowhere to shake up the flow of plans we made and the correspondingly equal effort we all made to overcome them in the hopes of creating something beautiful. Engagement is the pinnacle of romantic idealism where more than one person makes plans together in order to create something unknown while hoping that what results is lasting and beautiful. Then life happens to challenge those hopes. 

So what? Love each other, anyway. 

In the end, storms will come. Delays will happen. People will drop out. Results won’t be what you expected. They may have even failed to match expectations. The Good Idea Faerie will pay a visit. Strong wills will clash. What else can you do, but react to the situation exactly as it has presented itself to you? 

It is my hope that the images from this engagement photography session reflect the dedication of everyone involved, the challenges, the hopes, and the effort it took to create them and reminds the betrothed that they can find a way through anything, together.

So, congratulations, Lennen and Luna, on your engagement. May you have a beautiful life together. May you create something beautiful and lasting in the face of every challenge to come. May you have the support of a loving community, friends, and family with you every step along the way.


Photo Gallery from Lennen and Luna’s Engagement Photography Session at Bull Mansion


Behind the Scenes at Bull Mansion