Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Forrest Salamida at Steamtown, Senior Portrait

Forrest Salamida at Steamtown National Historic Site in Scranton, Pennsylvania
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     I don’t do much retail type photography but when my wife’s nephew asked if I’d shoot his senior portrait I couldn’t refuse. Forrest lives with his family just outside of Pittsburgh and we would be meeting up with them in Scranton over the Thanksgiving holiday. Scranton is the home of Mary & Marty Salamida, the Matriarch and Patriarch of the Salamida Clan.

     Forrest leaves the theme of the shoot and choice of location up to me.  I don’t have to think too hard about the location. My favorite place to photograph in Scranton is at the Steamtown National Historic Park. It’s a roundhouse and rail yard full of old steam locomotives and rail cars in various stages of decay and restoration. I know Forrest is a musician and a singer / songwriter and that he never goes anywhere without a guitar. I imagined a young Woody Guthrie, riding the rails during the Depression, writing and singing songs for and about the people he meets in his travels. I get psyched up telling myself “this could be more than just a senior portrait, I could be about to photograph the next Dylan or maybe the next Springsteen!”

     Forrest and his dad, Chris, my wife’s younger brother, picked me up at the hotel. I told them what I had in mind and they liked the idea. After seeing Forrest’s guitar in the back of the Jeep I asked him if he had a case for it. I had imagined we would do shots of him walking along the tracks carrying a guitar case. He told me he didn’t but that he wanted to get one. Just so happened that not only were we going to pass a Guitar Center, but it was Black Friday and everything would be on sale. Chris agreed to buy him a case and he swung the Jeep into the mall parking lot. I thought it would be a quick in and out but anyone who has ever gone into a Guitar Center with a guitar player would have known there is no such thing. While Chris and I were looking at cases Forrest was busy trying out various Martin’s, Gibson’s and Takamine’s.  Some time later we convinced Forrest we had to go or we would miss  the good light. It wasn’t until we were in the parking lot at Steamtown did we realize that Forrest’s guitar didn’t actually fit in the case we had bought.  That didn’t really matter as far the photos were concerned, no one would know the case was empty.

     I photographed Forrest walking along the tracks, sitting and standing on the steps of passenger cars, in front of boxcars and leaning against the walls of various railyard buildings, but my favorite background was the rusted blades of a snowblower car.

Forrests's dad Chris as V.A.L.
     It had been mostly cloudy that afternoon so I used a battery powered Lumedyne in a small softbox as the mainlight and underexposed the ambient light about a stop to act as fill. Occasionally the sun did peek out from behind the clouds acting as a rim light or reversing the role of the Lumedyne from main light to fill, depending on which direction Forrest was standing. Chris acted as a V.A.L. (voice activated lightstand), holding the softbox high over his head for the duration of the shoot. We took short breaks when he complained that his arms were getting sore. I could have put the light on a stand or a monopod, which would have made his job easier but I wanted to avoid stands and tripods as we were shooting in a national park.

     Forrest is a senior at Moon Township High School. He wants to become a chemical engineer and will be attending either the University of Pittsburgh or Penn State in the Fall. Forrest not only sings but acts as well. He’ll be playing the part of Pierrepont Finch in his schools production of How to Succeed In Business Without Really Trying. Last year he played Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls.