Natural Disasters + Natural Beauty = Best Portrait Session

Natural Disasters + Natural Beauty = Best Portrait Session

Today is going to be a post that has been floating around my head for a few years. I’m going to try and keep it short and succinct, while letting the imagery do most of the talking for me. For this shoot, we used a natural disaster (forest fires) into an incredible opportunity for an amazing portrait session! Story below:
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Even before I read Austin Kleon’s “Steal Like an Artist” (highly recommended!) – I have been saving images, screen grabs, quotes and drawings for years on my various computer hard drives for future inspiration when it was lacking for years

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One image I had saved years ago was of a Japanese woman in some sort of fog or haze in black and white with loose hair tied into an unruly bun at the back of her head in silhouette. It might have been old enough to be from the 1940’s, but really moved me. She was photographed from down low with her eyes closed, as if in grief or deep contemplation. For some reason, that image burned deeply into my brain, along with dozens of others, of course.

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Recreation of my original “Idea Image” in black & white – (I’d show the comparison but I don’t have the rights to the “concept” image)

About a year ago, I met a really cool and sweet Korean woman named Vivian who was new to Seattle, who I think has a great sense of humor. I meet a lot of people in my daily life, and as a full-time, self-employed studio photographer, my brain is naturally tuned to scan faces for interesting features and incorporate them into new or existing ideas. Then one day I saw her with hair a bit astray and in the exact same look and I thought, that’s like the photo I saved! So right then I asked if she’d pose for me and she said she would.
Next step… I needed fog or rain but it was summer in Seattle…. the only time it’s sunny almost all the time. And this year it was REALLY dry.

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About four months later and a bunch of texting and emails later, the wildfires started. Not so much in Washington State, but in California and British Columbia the fire season (still going at the time of writing this) has been ferocious and unprecedented, and the winds blew all that smoke right into Western Washington. Even here in Seattle, public health officials have been warning those not in full health to stay indoors with the windows closed.
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 Call to action! The time was now. I called my friend Vivian and she met me at Discovery Park in Seattle and in less than three hours we banged out an amazing set of images that not only recreated the shot that I wanted even better than my “stolen like an artist” image, but she absolutely crushed the photoshoot as a first-time model.

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What do you think of this set of photos? Let us know in the comments below, and send Vivian some love! She’s a natural and needs to be in front of the camera more often!

~ see more images like this ~

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Rich Leighton
August 30, 2018

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About The Author

Pro photographer, writer, master naturalist, Florida native in the PNW, lucky husband, father of two boys, big hockey and soccer fan, and native orchid hunter.

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