Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Jessica Steffens - Teaching Photography With An Olympic Gold Medalist

It was just a little over a week ago and I was teaching at the WPPI show in Las Vegas. I was asked to present at numerous locations, and shoot portraits on the show floor. As part of that, they wanted my sponsors to provide our own model. Well...heck...I don't know models in Las Vegas, but then a thought occurred to me:. I thought "Instead of having another model dressed in a wedding dress or evening gown, why not bring an Olympic athlete?" So I hopped on Facebook to connect with some of my friends from the USA Water Polo team and decided to team up with Jessica Steffens, silver medalist from the Beijing Olympics and gold medalist from London.

I started shooting with a Canon 24-105 lens, shooting some standard images of Jessica in front of a constant light in a soft box to her left.

To demonstrate narrow depth of field, I grabbed a Sigma 85mm 1.4 lens and shot this image wide open at f/1.4, focusing on the gold medal and diffuser Jessica.

During our dinner conversation the evening before the show opened, Jessica was telling me that the medal had "Aquatics, Water Polo, Women" inscribed on the outer edge of the medal. I had never noticed this before, so we made sure to shoot an image showing this inscription.

I wanted to get that iconic shot of Jessica biting her gold medal. If you look closely, you will notice that she is not actually biting the medal. Since she had let so many people touch the medal, she was a little reluctant to bite it, and rightfully so!

After shooting images on the show floor, we both thought it would be fun to shoot images out by the pool at the MGM hotel. I wanted to get some nice images of Jessica that were more in context with water polo. What better than a pool for a background?

We shot images in the area of the pool which were free of people and lane lines. Since we took these at 4pm, the light was not great. But, the hardest part was getting the shots in between all the people curious to meet Jessica and see the gold medal up close. We decided to delay our dinner plans and shoot some more images close to 6pm to get good evening light.

We photographed in several locations around the pool, but I really wanted the sunlight behind Jessica, so we moved to the farthest point of the pool and shot this. I liked this so much that I asked my good friend, Eddie (from Epson) if he could print a bunch for her to sign the next day of the show. Eddie was amazing and printed a whole stack of 8x10s for her to sign and give away. He also printed some large 13x19 images on canvas that were awesome!

Jessica asked me if I could shoot a nice image of the medal in front of the water. I shot all of these images with the Canon 1DX at full resolution. Check out the clarity of the image up close below).

We then took some images of the medal in the Olympic box. I wanted to angle the box towards me, and since we were at the pool, with lots of empty beer bottles, we used one of those to prop up the case. Thank goodness you can not see that in the final image.

One last shot before dinner, as we were leaving the pool area.

The next day, we were back on the show floor shooting more images. I had Jessica sitting on a stool for all of the first day's photos, so we decided to have her standing for the second day.

Again, focusing on the medal to demonstrate wide aperture shooting and focus technique.

I framed this shot so that I would highlight the gold medal in it's case, but also use the USA on Jessica's shirt as my background.

This last shot was taken by Ken Sklute up on the Canon main stage. It was nice to have a photo of Jessica and I. 

This whole event was a win / win for us. She got a bunch of images, we got to know each other better (since I did not have much face time with the team at the Olympics) and we had a blast. Mostly, I was honored to partner up with such a great person. I think we may have to do this again at the Photo Plus Show in New York in October.


Mamita said...

Beautiful photos, Jeff. She is a great subject and so is her medal but you truly captured the spirit!

Best regards,
Peggy Steffens

Jessica said...

This was such a fun weekend, who knew these photographers were so much fun!

I, of course, love hearing our Olympic story from different perspectives. The trials & tribulations Jeff underwent to make MY Olympic experience documented is ridiculous and fun. Sorry, Jeff....no Olympic GOLD for you, not even COACH ADAM gets one!

I must say a HUMONGOUS THANK YOU for all of these GOLD glamour shots! I cannot wait to do some more with Maggie's medal and my Silver!