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Epic Portrait \ Actress Mariska Hargitay

epic portrait mariska hargitay dc photographer sam hurd

Mariska Hargitay – March 13th 2013

The Gear

Lens: Nikor 58mm f/1.2

Camera: Nikon D800

Light Sources: 1 Einstein 640 WS by Paul C. Buff

Light Modifiers: Paul C Buff Parabolic Light Modifier

Technique: 3 Shot Brenizer Method

The Goal

Create a tasteful portrait while being stuck between a rock and a harder rock.

The Vision

I had a plan. That plan was immediately foiled. Sometimes when it’s the size of the room versus the number of people in it… the people win. I had no space. I would have more space once the VIP reception ended, but not enough time to move much of my stuff. My initial spot was immediately taken over and I had to improvise. Thus, my vision was reduced to doing the best I could with the situation I was handed.

The Story

To start, Mariska Hargitay is one of the kindest and friendliest people I’ve come across in a long while. She definitely keeps her emotions on the surface and has the personality that just makes people gravitate to her. Here is the video recording of her touching speech, which was wrapped with a standing ovation.

On this particular day at the NPC it was incredibly crowded. There were several events going on at the same time and the VIP reception w/ Mariska was held in a fairly small room. I forgot to take a photo of the room and my setup because my sister was visitng with me…. she’s a big fan of Law and Order!

So, as I said this photo is from a completely different time and setup, but I wanted to show you the corner I was working in. I’ve actually worked in this exact corner before… it’s where I made my portrait of Ron Paul. Anyway… imagine the space without the chairs and video camera and all that mess. Still, it’s not a great spot for a last minute setup.

I used a completely different light setup than when I photographed Ron Paul. The more I’ve been doing this series the more I’ve tried to simplify everything I do. No more 9 image brenizer methods, no more gridded multiple light setups. I’ll probably work towards those approaches again someday, but I’ve really enjoyed the simple beauty of a huge silver parabolic light modifier. It’s so soft yet contrasty. Painterly and subtle… things pop and become dynamic.

I did have a quick moment to photograph another area photographer Noel St. John who was kind enough to step in so I could make sure my exposure was okay and that I was killing the nasty florecent ambient light enough that it wouldn’t show up in my shots.

The Lesson

Not everything’s a lesson… sometimes you just get the job done and do the best you can!

Here is an iPhone photo by my sister Kate of me in “action.”



Leave a Comment

  • Back to basics is always a good idea

  • That’s a very nice portrait, Sam. Dreamy and direct all at once.

  • […] and as luck would have it I was stuck in this boring room again (same room that I photographed Mariska Hargitay and Ron Paul). Thankfully there were no chairs in the room this time… this is just an old […]

  • nice.. realy “epic” 🙂

  • […] and as luck would have it I was stuck in this boring room again (same room that I photographed Mariska Hargitay and Ron Paul). Thankfully there were no chairs in the room this time… this is just an old photo […]

  • Glenn Edgar

    A made a dumb comment with Typos no less. Sorry. I though I saw Sam saying he doesn’t compress his RAW files. Lossy compression or a RAW file is rediculous, but There is also a “lossless compression mode”, for RAW files. Lossless just means that in post, you’ll get the exact same RAW file back, as if you didn’t mess with any compression options. So “lossless compression” can dramatically reduce the output file size, and in post you can get back the original uncompressed RAW file, so I can’t imaging not using it. I’m a math/Electrical Engineering person. The math is easy. BUT…

    SAM IS A GOD. I have little experience. Is there something I’m missing here Sam? I’d love to hear your comment. If there is a subtlety, I want to know, and if I gave Sam Hurd information he wasn’t taking advantage of, I would die of pleasure. Your pictures are great Sam. Thanks.