I have often preached that self portraits are a great way to experiment and learn. So when I see a great self portrait, like Brian Day‘s self portrait, Boomtown, I feel the need to share. Brian has been featured here on Shutter Photo once before in our spotlight of his photo, Awakenings. If you compare the two photos, though the subjects are different and the intent is different, you’ll see some similarities. Most notably, Brian’s love of dramatic lighting.
In Boomtown, the lighting is what makes the photo. This is almost a film noir approach – dramatic lighting, strong contrast, subtle back-lighting. Throw in a baggy suit and a fedora, and you might even think this is a frame from a modern reinterpretation of Casablanca, or a 1940’s era detective movie. But lets look deeper into the light. The primary light source is high and to the right and behind our subject – between the wall and our dark figure. You can see the shadow cast by his legs. I suspect there is a certain amount of supplemental fill light low and to the left of the camera as well; just enough to cast some light on the pants and the open flap of the jacket. I can’t tell for certain, but there may be a light on the wall itself – or the fill light I previously mentioned is actually intended to light the wall, and the fill on the figure is a welcome side effect. It’s also possible that the primary light is diffused or bounced to provide some illumination on the wall as well. No matter what the actual setup, a lot of thought went into the lighting of this photo.
As I mentioned, Brian Day has been featured here before. So it’s likely that if you’ve been with us for a while, you’ve seen Brian’s work and perhaps browsed his photostream. Even so, I would encourage you to go back and browse it again. Not only does he have a great body of work, but as of late, I think he’s found his brand: A characteristic style that separates Brian’s work from the rest. If you browse every photo that has been uploaded since February or March (2010), there is a certain character that ties them all together. Subject matter changes, the type of photo changes, some are even in color. But stylistically, you can tell they are all created by the same photographer. This is a brand, and Brian has found his. Here are links to a few just to demonstrate what I mean: Enigma, Attention Deficit Disorder, The Inanimate Heliophile and Scaffold.