4th of July Parade, Lamoni Iowa

The color guard with the U.S. flag leading the 4th of July parade.

Each year for fun I photograph the 4th of July parade in Lamoni Iowa, and I send photos to the local newspaper. Here are some photos from this year’s parade, along with a few parade photography tips.

Parade camera gear.

This is my parade photography gear. One camera has a 24-105mm lens and the other has a 70-300mm lens.  The small backpack has spare lenses, extra memory cards, and backup batteries.  I put empty memory cards in each camera to minimize the need to change cards mid-parade. I charge all of the batteries the night before the parade.

Several years ago when photographing the Lamoni parade, my 24-105mm lens died. I replaced it with a 17-40mm lens out of the backpack. That means I had a focal length gap from 40 to 70mm but I got by.  Some photos were shot with a wider filed of view  than I prefer (like 40mm instead of 50 or 60mm), but I could crop those photos later on the computer.

Most of the photos taken with the Canon 7D Mark III and the 70-300mm lens.

For those of you who are curious about the numbers, I took 3 photos with my iPhone (which I could post immediately on social media), 52 photos with the camera with a 24–105mm lens, and 83 photos with the camera with a 70-300mm lens, for a total of 138 photos. The screen capture immediately above from Adobe Bridge shows most of the photos taken with one of the cameras. Monday afternoon by the 5 pm deadline, I will send a dozen or so of the best photos to the local, small town newspaper. I never know which photos or how many the paper will use.

Lamoni 4th of July parade.

Why two cameras? Because things happen quickly. If I were using just one camera there isn’t time to change lenses. Why not get a single, do it all, 24-300 mm lens? Because there isn’t a lens that covers that wide a focal length range with the quality I need. A 24-300mm lens would be a little soft at the wide end and much softer at long end. I really need sharpness at the long end. Another reason to have two cameras is in case one camera dies. You keep on shooting with the other camera.  A quality point-and-shoot camera can be your second camera.

When I shoot with two cameras, one camera strap hangs around my neck and the other strap hangs from my right shoulder. That feels most comfortable for me. I can switch between cameras in about 2 seconds. The photos immediately above and below of the same flatbed trailer were taken with two different cameras, the one above with the 70-300mm lens (with less ball players) and the one below with the 24-105mm lens (and more of the ball players).

Lamoni 4th of July parade.

I do not have set focal lengths in mind. I look at the scene, decide how I want to frame it, and choose the lens and camera accordingly. When I looked down the street with the beginning of the parade over a half mile away, I wanted 300mm. With a long trailer right in front of me, I need something wider.

Lamoni 4th of July parade.

Lamoni 4th of July parade.

Shoot a little of everything, with an emphasis on the kind of photos people enjoy looking at. In a small town, people like to see photos of people they know so I include a good mix of group photos with several people.

The Pledge of Allegiance. Lamoni 4th of July parade.

I always shoot the color guard with the U.S. flag (photo at the top). This year the color guard stopped in the middle of downtown and we all did the pledge of allegiance to the flag.

Lamoni 4th of July parade.

Lamoni 4th of July parade.

Look for bold, red, white, and blue colors.

Lamoni 4th of July parade.

Lamoni 4th of July parade.

Keep a sharp eye out for children in patriotic colors. People love those photos.

Lamoni 4th of July parade.

Try to catch some of the action along the sides of the parade route, like these children scrambling for candy.

Lamoni 4th of July parade.

Look for anything different that comes down the street.

Lamoni 4th of July parade.

The Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776

Thomas Jefferson by Rembrandt Peale, 1800Thomas Jefferson by Rembrandt Peale, 1800

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

From the Declaration of Independence, signed July 4, 1776. Written by Thomas Jefferson (1762-1826). 3rd US President (1801-09).

More images (including Thomas Jefferson’s original draft) and the complete text of the declaration are after the break.

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Photo Location: Thorne Swift Nature Preserve in Northern Michigan

Thorne Swift Photo Collage. Click the collage for a larger version.

Thorne Swift Nature Preserve is one of my favorite photo locations in Michigan and it is well worth visiting from spring through fall. It is just 3 1/2 miles north of Harbor Springs in northern Michigan via M-119, the Tunnel of Trees, and Lower Shore Drive. Directions and maps are at the end of this article. It is one of the field trip options for my nature photography workshops in Northern Michigan.

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National Camera Day!

Kodak 126 Instamatic Camera and Kodachrome 64 film cartridge.

I just learned today is National Camera Day. Who knew?

This Kodak 126 Instamatic cartridge camera was my first camera. It was a gift from my parents when I was in high school. I used print film cartridges for about 3 years. It was not until I was in college that I made the switch to slide film cartridges.

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Visiting Classic Photo Locations

Google image search. Just a few of the hundreds of results.

Yesterday I wrote: “There are all kinds of photographers who like to plant their tripods where other photographers have taken famous pictures, like hundreds of photographers who have recreated Ansel Adams’ classic image of the Grand Tetons and Snake River.” I was confident that was not an exaggeration. But I decided to look.

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The Infamous “Road To Roscoe”

The infamous Road to Roscoe. Photo by Dr. John Janovy, Jr. 2015.

It all started October 8, 2022 when John Janovy re-posted a photo of the infamous Road to Roscoe that he had taken in 2015.  I was intrigued by the washboard nature of the road. Not only that, in just 4 days on a trip from Iowa to Colorado, I would be just a few miles from where John took this photo. I met Dr. Janovy when I was a student at the University of Nebraska and he was a parasitologist in the biology department. We both share an interest in photography and the natural world, we occasionally send messages to each other, and we are friends on Facebook.

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How to Protect Your Camera Gear in Hot Weather

Covered camera during a shooting break.

Hot weather is here in most of the country so it is time for a “save your camera gear” reminder. High end professional camera gear has a temperature and humidity rating. A top of the line Canon camera body has a limit of 115°F and 85% or less humidity. A black camera on a hot day can easily exceed that limit. Less expensive cameras of any brand have lower limits so it is important to protect your gear.

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A Custom White Balance Is the Key to Better, More Accurate Colors

Before and After Setting A Custom White Balance

Setting a custom white balance is the key to better, more accurate colors. I took the photo on the left before setting a custom white balance. The lights in the room give everything a slight yellow-green color cast. Your eye-brain compensates for the color cast but your camera does not. I set a custom white balance on my camera and then took the picture on the right. The colors are now accurate and the photo looks much better as a result.

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Video of Ronald Reagan’s Speech On the 40th Anniversary of D-Day

President Reagan’s 13 minute speech at the U.S. Ranger Monument at Pointe du Hoc is considered to be one of the great speeches in American History. In addition to President Reagan, these world leaders were present: Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, Queen Beatrix of The Netherlands, King Olav V of Norway, King Baudouin I of Belgium, Grand Duke Jean of Luxembourg, and Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau of Canada.


The text of Reagan’s D-Day speech at The History Place

Video of Reagan’s D-Day speech at YouTube

The Text of Ronald Reagan’s Speech On the 40th Anniversary of D-Day

Ronald Reagan, 40th Anniversary of D-Day, June 4, 1984.

President Reagan’s 13 minute speech at the U.S. Ranger Monument at Pointe du Hoc is considered to be one of the great speeches in American History. In addition to President Reagan, these world leaders were present: Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, Queen Beatrix of The Netherlands, King Olav V of Norway, King Baudouin I of Belgium, Grand Duke Jean of Luxembourg, and Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau of Canada.

The text of Reagan’s speech follows.

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Video: The Story Behind Robert Capa’s D-Day Photos

John Morris, Capa’s London photo editor, tells the story behind Robert Capa’s D-Day photos, including the terrible darkroom mistake that ruined most of the photos. The high resolution video is best viewed full screen. You can see a contact sheet of the nine surviving negatives (ripped sprocket holes and all), Capa’s photo notes, and hear the story of the rush to get the prints back to the U.S. for publication in Life more. Fascinating imagery.


Robert Capa and D-Day, June 6, 1944

Robert Capa and D-Day, June 6, 1944

Robert Capa: Normandy. June 6th, 1944. Landing of the American troops on Omaha Beach.

Robert Capa: Normandy. June 6th, 1944.

June 6, 1944 was the allied invasion of Normandy, the largest seaborne invasion in history. 24,000 allied troops parachuted into France shorty after midnight. The next morning beginning at 6:30 am over 150,000 American, British, and Canadian troops landed. There were 10,000 casualties and 4,414 confirmed dead.

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Seven Spectacular Southern Utah “Parks” in 46 Hours

Early Morning Snow at Bryce Canyon

Early Morning Snow at Bryce Canyon, April 25, 2001.

When I left home in the Midwest and headed for Northern California I had no intentions of being in Southern Utah. By the time I reached Denver, snow in the forecast for N. Utah, Nevada, and the mountain passes in N. California made a detour much more appealing than fighting snow on I-80, especially since I have never been to the spectacular parks and monuments in Southern Utah.

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Q&A: How To Restore Old, Faded, Original Prints

Old fading wedding photo and digitally corrected version.

I received this question via email from a person worrying about old, fading prints in her scrapbooks:

“I have noticed some of my older photos look like they may be degrading; if I only have the photo itself, what is the best way to restore the print? Do I just take another photo and send it in to reprint? And one other thing, your opinion of Walgreens photo quality?”

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How To Optimize a Photo with Adobe Camera Raw

Soleece, before and after Adobe Camera Raw.

Cameras, no matter how expensive, do not capture “visual reality”.  In other words, what you see with your eyes is not what the camera captures when you click the shutter. The photo on the right is what my eyes saw when I clicked the shutter. The photo on the left is what my camera gave me. I used ACR to turn the camera image on the left into the image on the right. Plus I cropped the final image. The process of turning the camera image into the image you want only takes a minute or two.

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Cemetery, The Presidio. San Francisco. Photo copyright Jim Doty Jr.
Cemetery, The Presidio, San Francisco, California. Photo © Jim Doty, Jr.

Memorial Day began unofficially in a variety of places as people felt the need to recognize those who gave their lives in the Civil War. Memorial Day was officially declared on May 5, 1868, when General John Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic ordered a day of observance when all Union and Confederate Graves at Arlington National Cemetery would be decorated with flowers on May 30, 1868. One state after another adopted May 30 as a Memorial Day observance until all of the Northern states had adopted May 30 by 1890. Many Southern states had picked different days to honor the Confederate dead.

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In Remembrance: A Brief History of Memorial Day

Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Washington D.C.
Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Washington D.C.

Richard Duane Klug (the name just above the rose) was born January 26, 1946. He died in Darlac Province, Vietnam, November 14, 1967 at the age of 21. He is one of over 58,000 American soldiers that died in Vietnam, and one of over 1.1 million American soldiers that have died in all American wars (almost half of them in the Civil War).

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Sometimes You Have to Get Your Tripod Legs Wet

The Maroon Bells and Maroon Lake, Colorado

I wanted to capture the classic view of the Maroon Bells with no photographers in the image. But the shoreline was packed with photographers. No matter where I stood there were at least a few photographers in my image. The only place to get the image I wanted was to stand on a rock out in the lake. But a photographer was already on that rock.

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The Green Towel

Soleece with the green towel at Slip Bluff Lake. May 16, 2024.

If you are a nature, landscape, or outdoor portrait photographer it is a good idea to keep a towel in your car. This green towel lives in the back of my car.  Sometimes I need it if I get caught in the rain or when I wade out into a lake or stream to get a better camera angle.  Sometimes I drape it over my camera (and me) to protect the camera when I shoot in a light drizzle.

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Water Portraits

Soleece, Slip Bluff Lake.

I love water portraits and Soleece does too, so we went out to two of our local lakes. Solace was in the shade for the first two photos so I adjusted the camera’s white balance for the shade.  I used Adobe Camera Raw to tone down the highlights a bit.

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Sun with large sunspots.

The large sunspot conglomeration at the bottom of the sun is the cause of the auroral explosion here on earth. An immense storm 17 times the size of our planet is going on in that sunspot area and a blast of plasma ejected by the storm headed toward earth. When the plasma hit the earth’s magnetosphere is set off the Northern and Southern Lights around the globe. If you have a solar filter for your camera lens you can go out and take pictures of the sunspots. I took this photo this afternoon using a white light solar filter made by Thousand Oaks Optical.