So What Makes A Good Photograph? We Ask Dawn Kish…

Arizona Highways is known for our photography … so, from time to time, I like to chat up our photographers about their work … you know, get the inside scoop from them about a particular photo shoot or subject. In this case, I hit up Dawn Kish and talked to her about her March 2012 shoot involving Fred Phillips. Phillips helped transform some 400 acres of riverfront land in Yuma from an invasive tangle of non-native vegetation to a vibrant wetlands area.

So what makes Dawn’s eye so unique? According to our photo editor Jeff Kida, “It’s her unique way of seeing and compositionally putting things together within a scene. Sometimes it’s a different angle of view and sometimes it’s what she chooses to include or exclude.”

Below, Dawn spills the beans about her watery photo shoot and shares some behind-the-scenes photos from her trip to Yuma and the Colorado River:

This looks like a fun shoot… How did the concept evolve?
When I received the assignment, the first thing I do is read the article. I like to get as much information about my subject before the shoot as possible. I like to get ideas flowing and I even went on Fred’s website and Googled him for hours. Sort of like a like a stalker … Fred Phillips has been working on wetland projects along the Colorado River for over 15 years. He must like to get his hands and feet wet. My first gut feeling was a portrait IN the water. So, I proposed the idea and emailed him a photo I did of a woman in the Colorado River, fully clothed and soaked to the bone.

Dawn at work

How did you get your subject to play ball in the water… Was he expecting this?
Fred was game from the start. He emails me back with a list of clothing options and possible places to shoot. Obviously, he can see the fun and creative shot that can happen. I think it helps when your are in the river too.

What challenges did you run into and how did you over come them?
I never know what the location looks like until I get there, so it is always a challenge. I like to scout the place first. I want to know where the light is going. You can set up a time and place, but on the hour of the shoot, the light might be drab or the weather might be cold. A freezing subject is not a happy one.

Fred is soaked, I can see his body shiver and his body is stiff. So, I make him swim (fully clothed) up river against the current. It worked. He can move now and be a little more comfortable during the rest of the time — about a half-an-hour — in the water.

Dawn loving her day job.

Top 3 do’s or don’t’s for a water shoot?
DO wear your bathing suit and water shoes and make sure your team has the same. DO carry waterproof bags to put your gear in. DO bring extra clothes to change into after — for everyone — because you WILL get cold. Towels too.

DON’T dunk your flash into the river. It will never work again. Really! My lovely assistant somehow lost the flash into the river. KurrrPlunk. Now, I’m hoping a new NIkon SB-900 Flash will appear in my mailbox. Ha Ha!

Dawn is back at it... working to get just the right shot.

What did you love most about the final product?
They look GREAT! I had a great subject and couldn’t go wrong. I’m so delighted because Fred was really into it. To have a subject willing to go along with your creative [flow] is the best.

When you go into any shoot, how do you prepare?
I make sure I double check everything the day before. Make sure all your batteries are charged. Your digital flash cards are empty, formated and ready to go. The gear bag needs to have all the flashes, AA batteries, tripods, stands, tape, clamps, drop cloth, zip ties, etc.

What kind of camera did you use?
Nikon.

What time of day was this?
Sunset! The best time to shoot anything, anywhere. It’s the magic light.

Want to learn more about Dawn? Check out her blog.

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Filed under Photography, Q&A

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