how i got the shot: Master Captain

Master Captain Roman Krstanovic

Certain people command respect. Sometimes it requires a cold, steely exterior necessary to be the master and commander of a ship circumnavigating the globe. In many ways, the captain is part celebrity (to the guests) and part dictator (to the crew). I had first sailed with MC Krstanovic in 2003 on my first journey around the world as the photographer with the Semester at Sea program. I was asked to take his portrait and I was very inexperienced and nervous. I had 30 seconds and the results reflected it. Terrible light, framing and execution.

Fast forward 5 years and I'm on the ship again ready to take his portrait for a second time. With some luck he remembered me from years before which automatically creates a familiarity and comfort. Krstanovic was at ease and I felt comfortable placing him where I wanted and taking the time (2 minutes) to get the shot right. 

This portrait is all natural light, taken somewhere between Brasil and South Africa. It was a wonderfully calm day. With moments to scout a location in the technical marvel of the bridge of the ship, I noticed a dramatic sky on the starboard side and the light was coming in from the stern of the ship. There is a small deck area off the bridge where captains overlook docking procedures. I asked the captain to join me on this deck and positioned him so the sun was coming from his back left shoulder. The outside area was painted white and had glass windows surrounding part of this deck area. The light created this gorgeous wrap from one wall and perfect fill light from the other. With a quick meter reading I placed the Captain in a strong position facing away from the camera while also creating a short-light Rembrandt lighting pattern.

I thought the image turned out perfectly with all the elements falling into place with natural light. Rarely am I so lucky to have proper dramatic light create itself without my interfering with light modifiers. I brought a physical print to the Captain later and he was over the moon with the results. We became quick friends and he would invite my wife and I to his private cabin for wine and cheese, buy us drinks whenever he saw us in the lounge and treated us like friends and royalty. 

I will forever remember the night in the Captains cabin when he recounted a portrait he absolutely hated taken by a photographer a few years prior. He was congratulating me on creating an image that truly spoke to his persona and ego. I felt quite proud. He may not have realized that the photo he distinctly remembered not liking was taken - I believe - by me...

A really weak-sauce lighting diagram because other photographers gave me shit for not being more technically specific in my blog posts.