This combination of images shows a portrait of Gino Lucchetti, photographed by Seattle Times photographer John Lok, with and without the studio lighting Lok set up. Slide the bar to the right to see the portrait without the Lok's lighting. Slide the bar to the left to see the final portrait. By day, Lucchetti is an environmental scientist for King County. He is also a lyric tenor and has sung in productions with Seattle Opera and the Seattle Symphony. As he says he enjoys doing both, Lok decided to make this portrait on the lower part of the Cedar River in Renton, Wash.
I was hesitant to call Gino Lucchetti at 10:00pm the night before I was to make his portrait. It was for a feature story Nancy Bartley was writing to profile Lucchetti, who is an environmental scientist for King County as well as a talented lyric tenor who has sung in productions at the Seattle Opera.
But I was determined to make my idea for the portrait a reality, and that meant running it by him and getting his seal of approval before shoot day. I knew from previous experience that it's always best to get my subjects to be as enthusiastic as I am for a maximum chance at success.
I got lucky: after a great, 45-minute conversation, Lucchetti was totally on board with my idea of photographing him in a river, which would give me a nice backdrop and be symbolic of his work with the environment.
But which river should I choose? During our conversation, he mentioned he had done work studying the habitat on the Cedar River. I immediately latched on to that. It just so happens that I recently spent a day with my little daughter playing in a shallow spot on the Cedar River in Renton that featured a scenic bend as well as a sand bar near the shoreline from which to stand directly in the water.
I knew exactly where to make the portrait.
Nancy Bartley / THE SEATTLE TIMES
On the day of the shoot, my biggest worry was whether my lighting gear would survive being set up in the riverbed, but everything went without a hitch. I placed my light stand into the soft sand and weighed it down with a 20-pound sandbag as well as a battery pack for my lights. Because I was working alone and wanted to minimize the chance for damaging gear, I used only one light head but that was really all I needed.
I composed very simply, with the river and trees framing him. Then, I began to shoot. At first, I had him in a static pose and experimented with some slow shutter speeds to give the water a dreamy-smooth look to it.
JOHN LOK / THE SEATTLE TIMES
But what I really wanted was to meld his passion for singing opera while standing in the river.
So, toward the end of the shoot, I asked him to sing a passage from "Nessun Dorma," an aria from the final act of "Turandot," by Giacomo Puccini. I know very little about operas, but this beautiful piece has always stuck with me for some reason.
As Lucchetti began to sing and as I looked at the images on my camera, I knew my portrait idea was a good one.
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It was an incredible experience to be there in that river valley, hearing that voice of his delivering a beautiful performance, if even for a brief moment.
Lighting setup: Hensel Porty 1200B battery pack, powering one EHT1200 flash head, shot through a Profoto 5-foot Octa Softbox.
Camera setup: Canon 1D Mark III, 50mm/1.4 lens, on a Manfrotto tripod.
Exposure: ISO 50, 1/40 sec @ f/7.1. I used a PocketWizard wireless transmitter to fire the strobe.