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Natural Light Photography – A guest blog with TJ Drysdale


by Dave Mobbs – October 29th, 2015

We’re always looking for talented people with stories to tell for our guest blogs, so it’s a pleasure to work with natural light photographer TJ Drysdale as he explains a bit more about what he does, and how he does it.

A New York City native, TJ Drysdale is a professional portrait, fine art, and fashion photographer based in Tampa, Florida. TJ approaches photography using natural light to create ethereal images that are reminiscent of fairy tales. His creative style strives to showcase a moment frozen in time where the subject is searching for something, be it psychical, spiritual, or mental.


Natural Light Photography – A guest blog with TJ Drysdale

I am excited to be joining the X-Rite blogging community and sharing my first blog post with you. I am a natural light photographer living in Land O’ Lakes, Florida. I shoot using my Sony A99 camera and use a variety of lenses. My work generally portrays people in nature searching for something, whether it is inner peace, a direction in life, or whatever the viewer sees, especially where light is let in.

Many photographers plan out their photoshoots in advance, with a chosen location, model, outfit, etc. This was a luxury I could not afford as I was traveling to three unknown countries with one model, and three dresses.

“Highlands” shot in Howth, Ireland


I had Victoria walk about 30 feet in front of me, I felt bad because she was barefoot and the rocks were jagged, but like the trooper she is she battled through. Once in position, I knew I wanted to make her prominent in the image, but also not so prominent that the beautiful scenery would be lost. The sun was filtered by clouds most of our hike, I wasn’t too sure what I would do regarding my ISO. But as we neared shooting time, the sun was starting to become more visible, so I felt 200 ISO would be a good starting point and then adjust if need be.

I knew I wanted all of the images from this set to have a warm inviting feel, regardless if it were cloudy or not, therefore I set my camera to 6300k. I don’t think I adjusted it the entire day. It did the landscape such justice. Highlands was taken with my 85mm lens. I originally wanted to use my 70-200mm, just to capture a tad more scenery, but the sun broke for an instant and my bag was too far away. The lighting, her pose, everything was just too perfect to pass up. The wind gusted and away my shutter went. The first few pictures were set at F 8.0 but felt like that was just adding a little too much depth, so I quickly adjusted to F 4.0 and started snapping again. Thankfully the wind held up or else this image wouldn’t have been possible.

“Breathless” shot in Bray, Ireland


Bray, Ireland was quite the adventure. We were on a trail and saw rocks below that we thought were easily accessible, but we were wrong, oh we were so wrong. We headed back down the path, and came to a pebble filled beach.  The rocks were a lot further than we anticipated, but that didn’t stop us. We trekked about 1,000 feet in the frigid water to get to this location. Upon arrival we took our time and tried to figure out exactly what we wanted to do. The rocks were covered in algae and were very slippery, Victoria’s health was my main concern. We finally found a good rock for her to stand on, and were all set to begin.

We did a set of test images, just to get acclimated to the location, but that’s when we realized how fast the tide was rising. Time was really of the essence! I knew from the beginning that I wanted to create a cold/bleak feel to the images because it was a very overcast day. I set my camera to 5300k, grabbed my 50mm lens and began shooting rapidly. With the limited time we had, I felt it was best to focus more on the scenery and get all I could get with that, rather than get close ups.

My aperture was set to 2.8. There were lots more rocks in the distance, but unfortunately the angle I was at didn’t allow me to see that far. The rocks were far to slippery to stand on for me to comfortably shoot. Had I been able to I would have probably shot at around 5.6-8.0. But like I said previously, time really was of the essence. We shot in total for probably around 15 minutes, and decided it was probably best we head back. When we walked to the location, we were about ankle deep in the water, but in that short time, the water rose to about thigh deep. The water was just as cold if not colder, it was quite the experience.

‘Daydreamer’ shot in Florence, Italy. 


This was shot in Florence, Italy in the Boboli Gardens. It was a beautiful sunny day, so we made sure to get the gardens around sunset, which is my favorite time of day to shoot. I got back to my roots a little more when shooting that day. It felt like a more typical setting for me as opposed to Ireland and France, where there was lots and lots of scenery. The background wasn’t as important, and I wanted to create soft, light filled portraits. I used my 50mm lens and shot at aperture 1.4. It’s always risky shooting at that low of an F-stop, especially when taking the photo from far away, but I think it definitely helped to achieve the look I was going for.

“Windswept Wanderer” shot in the French Alps


‘Windswept wanderer’ was taken right at the foot of a raging waterfall (right, not pictured) and the entire area was surrounded by high cliffs so not much light shone through. It was an amazing setting. The lack of bright sun and the mist from the waterfall created lovely muted tones. The wind was very strong, and I was instantly attracted to the trees (top left) and how beautiful they looked swaying back and forth, with the sun and mist highlighting them. That was something that I had to capture, So I grabbed my 35mm lens, set my aperture to 5.6, laid on my back and snapped away.  I felt 5.6 was a good happy medium for me to capture the scenery and Victoria. After this set of pictures was done, I tried lowering my aperture to 1.4, but the effect just wasn’t the same.  Seeing the slight details in the landscape is what feel brings the image to life.

Take Flight” shot in the French Alps


We had finished shooting at the waterfall, and went back to our hotel to rest for a while. We were only in Modane for one full day, so we knew we wanted to go out and get more photos of the beautiful scenery. It was nearing sunset and the high mountain tops were illuminated, while the valley we were in was shrouded in shade. I was imaging bright, beautiful sunlight for this set of images, but with this being our first time in this town we misjudged the time of day we should have gotten out there.

We weren’t too concerned though, we just had to make the best out of the conditions we were dealt.  There was a slight chill in the air and the wind was gusting, Victoria stood in place as I turned and walked a few feet back to see what I was working with. When I turned around, she looked like something straight out of a movie. The dress, her hair, everything was perfect. I had my 50mm on my camera and set it to aperture 1.7. This was the first time I had scenery in the background and decided to not focus too much on it. Victoria was the most prominent part of this setting, and I didn’t want to take anything away from that.

Since coming back from Europe, Victoria and I have created our own Instagram account to chronicle our travels together (@followmeaway).

The landscapes I saw and portraits I took while in Europe for the first time is a memory that will stay with me forever.

TJ Drysdale

Learn more at www.tjdrysdale.com

TJ uses X-Rite Color Management Solutions to control color in his workflow and view his images with accurate color, including the X-Rite i1Display to calibrate his monitors.

Screen Shot 2015-06-23 at 16.24.08

Categories: Color Management, Guest Blog, i1Display Pro, Lighting, Monitor Calibration | Tags: , , ,

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