Bobbi Lane on Leaving the Nest

Photographer Bobbi Lane has shared with us many of her secrets for creating gorgeous portrait photography in two Webinars. Here, in her own words, she goes into detail about the most recent session she gave for PocketWizard viewers. 

©Bobbi Lane
©Bobbi Lane

The idea for my portrait of the young woman with the nest and egg and feathers came out of a dream. I am a committed believer in exercising creativity and going through several processes to help develop ideas. One of the first steps in that process is brainstorming with other creative people, then writing down words to trigger ideas, and then letting it rest a bit and coming back to revisit the ideas in a few days. My associate Matt Burdick and I were sitting around one day talking about “what’s cool.” We tossed around a lot of concepts and then I arrived at “feathers.” I’ve been a birder all my life, even worked one summer at a bird observatory/banding station in Manomet, Massachusetts. I find and collect feathers wherever I go. To me, feathers are really cool.

I was looking to tie this in with a concept for a high school senior portrait, one that was much more conceptual than practical. I found two bird’s nests on my property, and I had a variety of glass and ceramic eggs, as well as many feathers I’ve collected over years. Quite often when I am engaged in the creative process, I dream images after I have done the above steps, and this allows my subconscious to explore and percolate ideas. I woke up with this image very clear in my head. It all fit in with the idea of graduating high school: “leaving the nest,” taking off, flying, “testing your wings,” hatching into a new life!

I’ve been a photographer since I was 16, so having preconceived images is not new to me. However, it is rare the image in the brain is the one that actually is captured. This shot—the final creation—is truly what I woke up with in my head!

We made a series of three photos; the nest shot, one on a high key or white background with feathers all around her, and a profile of her blowing feathers from the nest, in a Webinar for PocketWizard and Sekonic with Joe Brady. Joe and I had talked previously about me doing Webinars, and this was my second one. I have a huge technical background, and I enjoy the challenge of solving problems, but I am much more interested in the creative results of the storytelling.

The photo was fairly easy to make, but a little time consuming. First Matt hung all the feathers with monofilament from C-Stands. They were hung at different heights and attached at various places along the feather shaft so they would hang at diverse angles. I wanted the feeling to be more dream-like and I didn’t want to over light, so I used the Nikon flashes to concentrate the light. I chose the Rogue Grid as the main light on her face, with the smallest spread of light. I just wanted a tiny spot on the egg in the nest, so I used a snoot made by Strobies. Both of these were on high stands. There was a third light directly behind the model on a high stand with a wider Rogue Grid to provide some edge light on the flying feathers and a hair light on the model. We used the MiniTT1 and FlexTT5 for the Nikons with the AC3 ZoneController, so we could control the intensity of the lights without having to reach the flashes. This is such a great convenience, otherwise we would either be climbing step stools to reach the flashes, or having to lower the stand, and then try to replicate the correct position of the lights. I was also able to change the intensity of the lighting with my Sekonic L-478DR.

©Bobbi Lane
©Bobbi Lane

Once everything was tested and ready to go, we started working with the subject. Photography is a discovery and it’s important to shoot a lot to find the rhythm with the model and also to fine-tune the concept with slight variations in poses, expression, etc. Matt grabbed a piece of foamcore board and started fanning her with it, which made her hair fly and the feathers move, too. My final selects were with the model’s eyes closed because it keeps with the dreamlike feeling and makes it more universal in the idea; not quite so personal about her. The concept can apply to any kind of growth or change in someone’s life, not just high school graduation.

I was very happy with all the final select images we made, but these two shots in particular were the ones that really grabbed me, completing the concept for this portrait.


You can learn more about Bobbi Lane’s work on her site and Flickr.


All images and quotes in this post are used with permission and ©Bobbi Lane, all rights reserved; story is ©PocketWizard. Please respect and support photographers’ rights. Feel free to link to this blog post, but please do not replicate or repost elsewhere without written permission.

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