This is an editorial-style portrait I took of my father.
All my life, we have heated our family home with firewood. My father, who was a master plasterer during his days of hard labor providing for my family, has always genuinely resembled a lumberjack. This is his natural state. Plaid, boots, blue jeans.
I could not count the days I have pulled up to my family estate to find him chopping giant rounds of oak, by hand, to use as fuel to heat our home. He could have afforded to buy pre-split wood, but he was frugal.
He also enjoyed the work. And difficult work it was. I have done plenty of it myself, but I could never keep up with my old man. My mom would bring him out a mason jar full of juice on ice to trick him into taking a break. My father was a man of discipline. I really wanted to capture his spirit in a photograph.
My father had been battling an illness, which was taking a heavy toll on him. I decided I wanted to take a proper portrait of my father–and I wanted to freeze a moment in time by setting the stage. So out back we went, to the woodpile.
I buried an axe in a nearby wood round. Its handle was worn from years of him swinging it to split the very wood that I carefully planted around the frame. I handed him a mason jar full of juice to sip on as I set up my High Speed Sync studio strobe, complete with 52″ parabolic reflector, double-diffused with rip-stop nylon for some soft light. I added a gold reflector opposing the strobe to add a spritz of warmth to the frame. The sun was at his back, creating some nice rim lighting.
Always a positive man, a smile came easy to my dad, although I could tell he was feeling a little awkward about it. We joked a little, and talked. Precious, rare communication between us silent types.
I wanted to isolate my subject, so I shot the photo with a narrow depth of field, and straight-out-of-camera I was super-stoked with the result.
The shot turned out exactly how I wanted. My dad was pleased, but when I handed my mother the framed print, she began crying. The picture showed my father in his element; a hard-working man with un-erring ethics and a heart of gold.
Sometimes photographing for free is the most rewarding of all.