Soft Light is Portrait Light

Ava in soft light

Soft light is the most flattering all purpose light for most portraits. It enhances good features and minimizes flaws in the skin. Some of the best soft light is outside on “cloudy bright” days. Those are the days that there is enough cloud cover that you don’t cast a shadow but not so many clouds that it is dark and gloomy. Another test of a good cloudy bright day is to see if you can look at the sky without squinting. If you squint there aren’t enough clouds.

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Beth Presler at Lake LaShane

Beth Presler, Lake LaShane.

Beth and I were on a mission to create fall color water portraits. Shooting at Lake LaShane was not part of the fall color plan. In advance of the day of our shoot I scouted several lakes, steams,and rivers in the area to find the best fall color. Only one location had the kind of fall color by the water that I wanted, Slip Bluff Lake.

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How to Photograph A Recital and Other Stage Performances

Beth Presler, Senior Violin Recital, Shaw Auditorium, Graceland University, Lamoni Iowa

The first thing to do is to ask permission ahead of time. Some places do not allow photography during the performance or they limit the number of photographers. In this case, Beth asked me to photograph her recital and I was the official photographer. One of the keys to photographing an event is not to become a serious distraction from the main event. That means not doing a lot of wandering around, and certainly not getting in front of people who are watching the event. Be as discreet as possible. If you need to move during a performance, if at all possible do it during the applause between numbers.

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The Best National Parks to Photograph in Spring

 Ocotillo. Big Bend National Park. Texas.

Ocotillo. Big Bend National Park, Texas.

Which national parks are at their very best in the spring? If I could go on a fabulous spring photography trip to the national parks of my choice, all expenses paid, which ones would I pick? Here are my choices, grouped by state from west to east. This list includes the favorites I have been to and want to go back to again, plus the ones I haven’t seen and most want to photograph.

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A Guide to Big Bend National Park

Boquillas Canyon, Big Bend National Park, Texas.
Boquillas Canyon, Big Bend National Park, Texas.

Big Bend National Park is one of my favorite places on the planet. My photography guide to Big Bend is here. March and April are good months to go. You will see more flowers in mid to late April but it will also be hotter. Fall is a prime time also. If you don’t mind the chance of a sudden cold spell and maybe some snow, I like winter in Big Bend too, but most people prefer spring and fall. Summer is ungodly hot.

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Sami Lynn, A Valentine Portrait

Sami Lynn with rose petals.
Sami Lynn with rose petals.

It was a week and a half after Valentine’s Day and most of the dozen Valentine’s Day roses in a vase on the dining room table were done and had been thrown away, but a few were still looking good. I asked Sami to lay on the floor, handed her a long stemmed rose, and I carefully arranged her hair. Then I stood up and pulled the best looking petals off of more roses and randomly dropped them on her. Some didn’t land quite right so I re-positioned a couple of them.

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Violinist in the Snow

Beth playing her violin in the snow.

This is one of my all time favorite winter images. On a prior photo shoot, Beth and I went out into the cold and snow to create images. She played her violin while I took pictures. It was her first time shooting in the cold and snow and she was a real trooper. For that shoot she wore her long black concert dress. The snow melted not long after that, but we decide if another day came along with the right conditions we wanted to shoot in the now again.

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Purple Finch

Male Purple Finch

I’ve been waiting for a sunny day for a while to photograph the Purple Finches that started coming to our bird feeders a couple of weeks ago. Yesterday I finally got my chance. This fellow landed on top of our deck umbrella before heading for one of the feeders.

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House Finch in the Snow

House Finch with Sunflower Seed

Thanks to the weather and the recommendations from U.S. medical experts that this is not the time to be traveling, I have been doing much more photography than usual of the birds visiting our bird feeders. This male House Finch had just grabbed a black oil sunflower seed and was getting ready to eat it.

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