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WPPI Grand Award Winner: Portrait, Teenager | Rangefinder

Two weeks ago, our WPPI conference and trade show took place in Las Vegas, culminating in a dazzling awards show which celebrated the winners of this year’s 16 x 20 Print, Album and Filmmaking Competition. All week long, we will be featuring the Grand Award winners’ work here. Today, we feature Rocco Ancora, who won in the Portrait Division: Teenager, and shares his approach and concept with us. (See a full list of the winners online; and look for the printed gallery in our April issue.)

This image is part of a series on vintage portraits that I’m working on, it wasn’t created just for competition. I wanted the images from this series to not only have the classic portrait lighting style of a bygone era; the styling also had to be on point. The subject in the photograph, Domenic, is my nephew. He just started his training at flight school and commissioned me to do a portrait that reflected his passion for flying. A lot of pre-planning went into the aviator portrait of him. I spent months sourcing the outfit and finally found what I was looking for at a place that specializes in motion-picture costuming. I was thrilled when I found an authentic World War II aviator outfit. But the styling didn’t end there—I personally created and painted the backdrop, wanting the image to look even more authentic, and I used colors and tones to complement the subject.

The image was shot on a Nikon D850 with a NIKKOR 105mm f/1.4 lens, and two Nikon SB-5000 speedlights were used to create the light. One was modified with a 70cm softbox (as the main light) and the second was on the background, modified with a MagMod grid and diffuser. The exposure parameters were ISO 100, 1/125th of a second and f/2. The post-production was minimal, as most of the work was done in the styling and capture. I used Photoshop to dodge and burn, and color toning completed the vintage look. The final image was printed on Canson Edition Etching with an Epson SC9000 series printer.

Winning a Grand Award in the Portrait Division at WPPI is such a difficult feat, and it was the first time I entered anything in portrait. The work in all of the Portrait categories was exceptional once again this year. I feel honored and extremely grateful that the judges understood the image and awarded it the Grand amongst some pretty amazing portraits. —Rocco Ancora

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