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Michael Thompson silhouette
During my early
years in photography,
most portraits
were made
in the studio. Today with medium
format cameras and efficient,
portable monolight and
battery-operated strobes, it is
practical for photographers to
go to most any location and
make portraits. People like portraits
that tell a story about their
lifestyle or work. I have specialized
in location portraiture for
over twenty years and find it
challenging, artistically satisfying,
and a lot of fun.
Photographing people in all
types of work and life situations
requires a variety of portable
strobes, cameras, lenses, ladders,
tripods, and other photographic
I use the Mamiya RZ67
camera with the 37mm fisheye,
50mm, 65mm, 90mm, 140mm,
RB 150mm soft focus, and
180mm lenses. I carry eight
Calumet Travelite 750 monolights
and two Lumedyne battery
I also use a Gitzo G1349
carbon tripod with the Gitzo
G1378M ball-joint head (which
will reach almost six feet), a
Gitzo G525 tripod (which will
reach about seven feet), and an
old Davis & Sanford (which will
reach to ten feet). I use the carbon
tripod for my outdoor sittings,
unless I need the height of
the G525 or the Davis & Sanford.
I have used the Gitzo tripods
for over thirty years. My
work takes me into the ocean
surf, sand dunes, and just about
anywhere you can imagine a
portrait being made, so I need a
tripod that will withstand a lot
of heavy treatment.
The film I use, depending
on the subject matter, is Fuji
NPS 160, the new NPH 400,
FACING PAGE—Al Doumar’s uncle invented the ice cream cone at the St. Louis Exposition in 1904. The Doumar name is a
legend and has been in the restaurant business about 99 years now. I have known Al all my life and wanted to make a
portrait to show him at work. Al arranged for three convertibles to come and pose for a night portrait at his drive-in
restaurant in Norfolk, Virginia. Long extension cords were run from the restaurant to five strobes. The strobes I use on
location, when battery strobes are not practical, are Calumet Travelite 750-watt monolights. The main light was a 31-
inch umbrella placed 45 degrees to Al’s left. The fill light was a similar strobe, back and a little to the left of the camera.
A strobe with a 7-inch reflector and barn doorswas placed about 90 degrees to the right, lighting the two people
to Al's left, and a similar strobewas placed farther to the right, lighting the car behind them. The fifth strobewas placed
at the far left rear to light the cars in front of Al. I had to use Fuji NPS 160 film because, at the time,