The Breakfast Nook

Today’s subject was a 99-year-old woman whose son is the district judge. She lives in a fashionable home in a quiet, tree-lined neighborhood. My goal was simply to shoot her portrait and get out before it was time for me to pick up the kids.

For this assignment, I chose a small, simple tool, the Nikkor f/1.8 35mm prime, which is truly my go-to lens. It is lightweight, fast and reliable, capable of great images under almost any conditions. (Especially lighting; it eats up bad lighting like a kid eating a candy bar.) It was also the right tool for last night’s long-exposure assignment at the county fair. All in all, it’s my most-used piece of glass and the most versatile. It was certainly right for this particular job.

My mind first went to setting — not on my camera, but at the subject’s house. She had awesome green front doors that would have been very photogenic, but I scrapped that idea once I saw that she was on a walker. I doubted she ventured outside very much.

She offered the standard argument when my reporter and I said I was there to take her picture. “Why me?” I have learned to be patient and put on the charm when explaining that no story is “complete” without a photo. She reluctantly agreed.

I had spotted a vase of pretty yellow flowers on a piece of furniture outside her den and suggested we work that into our portrait. I thought a splash of color might brighten the image and the lady being photographed. Besides, I like yellow. She answered, not contrarily, that she spent most of her time in the kitchen, so we agreed to make the picture there. I wanted her comfortable and glad that her photo was being made. It would come through in the photograph.

The kitchen had a pleasant breakfast nook filled with afternoon sunshine. The light was soft and the colors of the nook were earthy with that desirable splash of color provided by a painting mounted above the fireplace. It looked like the perfect spot for an elderly woman to nap, read or daydream. She managed to relax a little and smile for the camera. I snapped eight frames from two different positions, using no flash, at f/4.5, ISO 400, +0.33 (exposure compensation).

EPLEY

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