Last week was an adventure far outside of Seattle, ranging all over the Midwest. This included Nebraska, Iowa, and Minnesota. I’ve been to Chicago a couple of times, but really this was my first chance to see a giant chunk of the country that I’ve previously only flown over. Wren is a native Iowan and was my guide. The reason for our trip was really unfortunate, and I won’t go into it here since it concerns family. However, it still turned out to be a chance for me to experience what Iowa had to offer. Also, Minneapolis, where Wren went to school and where my brother and sister-in-law live with their two children.
So, not going to shock anyone here, but Iowa has a lot of corn.
Driving around endless cornfields, I couldn’t help but think about how cool it would be to use it for some kind of photo. It’s a sight we just don’t have here, and though I didn’t have any particular ideas, I wanted to play off of how endless the fields were. The only thing I could think of doing was some kind of portrait of Wren, since it’s her home, though she’s now a lot more comfortable as a city girl.
So we found a promising stretch of cornfield on our second to last day and started taking some pictures. The first problem was: corn grows really fast. What I’d thought was just over waist high corn early in the week was now over Wren’s head. This got in the way of the idea of her waist deep in an endless field, which was really all that I’d thought of. We took a nice photo of her and her mom (who had come along for the adventure, and then helpfully went over to explain to the confused farmer what we were doing in his crop) but then I was sort of stumped.
The only other idea I’d had before we got there was a sort of joke photo of me with a map in the middle of the field looking as alien as I felt all week. We’d brought sunglasses and a map to prep for that, so after I took a few unsuccessful and uninspired glamour shots of Wren, I handed her the camera and asked her to grab the shot of me. We had our first bit of fun at this point, with her yelling direction, and me doing what I do best: look mildly confused and irritated.
This gave me the notion to get a similar pose with Wren, which made her come up with a MUCH better idea. Why not pose us together? If we’re both in the photo, it can actually tell a story about both of us and visually represent our feelings about where we were and what we were doing that week. Also, it would hopefully be a lot funnier.
With this in mind, we talked quickly about how we could do it. We found a stretch of corn, marked where I would be and where she would be. Then she took my picture, making sure I was looking in the right direction. Then, after matching her camera angle and lighting, and giving a few directions, I took hers. We were pretty sure then that it would work, but we’d have to find out when we got home.
I was lucky enough to have some time off work when we got back to Seattle, so one of the first things I did was pull up the photos and see if they fit. They did, perfectly. A quick polish and the finished combined photo was ready to go. I’m really proud of it for a few reasons. First: it tells a good story. Though it’s heightened for comedy, I think it shows us off and how we felt after this week of roaming around together. Second: it was a good use of just a little time and basic equipment. We shot this with just my little speedlight as a fill and it came out really well. And finally, it makes me happy because it’s a real collaboration. It came from both of us having ideas and playing off of each other. We were also both behind the camera and giving direction. That’s why both of our signatures are on the final shot. I’m going to be doing a lot more solo shooting this week, but a joint project was really fun and hopefully something we’ll do more of.
NEXT POST: Working with babies on a creative family portrait – the photo to the right is a preview of their first reaction...