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Portrait of a Woman by Waterfall


I discovered several years ago that I loved this location, just a few miles out of town, for creating beautiful outdoor portraits. The light is quite nice as it falls into the steep canyons and onto the water, and rocks, below. There is an rich quality to this light, with the large sky acting as an oddly shaped giant soft box, providing a serene, soft light to the scene  most of the day. The wonderful dark rock walls assist in adding “shape” or “direction” to the beautiful light as well. I decided to do a session here for an illustration to add to my current book project.

Portrait of a woman by Michael Newcomb

Since the direction of the light is straight down, it works best for portraits with someone laying on the rocks, facing up toward the sky. I love this look, as the large open sky becomes the highlight for the eyes, The textures in the natural rock background are wonderful. and the tones quite even and deep, in the rugged black rock throughout the scene. We can capture some magnificent natural backgrounds that provide rich texture and don’t distract a lot from the subject. Since this area is right next to a waterfall, there tends to be a beautiful shine on the wet black rocks.

Portrait of a Woman 2 by Michael Newcomb

You  will notice some inconsistency in the color of my images here, due to the fact that I forgot to custom white balance until I had taken a few shots already. As  you may know, it can be difficult to correct for white balance perfectly, in post processing. Of course my practice is to always do a custom white balance, everywhere that I shoot, as that is the only way to get very good color consistently.

Portrait of a Woman 4 by Michael Newcomb

There is a beautiful “highlight to shadow transfer” in this light, due to the size of the light source being the entire sky, and the deep shadows, enhanced by the presence of all of the black rock surrounding the area. By simply being aware of the direction of the light and shadows on the subjects face, and adjusting the angle of the head and face accordingly, we can create portraits that look like they had the level of light control one would typically find in the studio.

Portrait of a Woman by Michael Newcomb

Portrait of a Woman 5 by Michael Newcomb