Tuesday, December 29, 2015


This little outdoor session lasted exactly 3 minutes and 34 seconds. I managed 11 images total and then this little guy was done

We had just finished a standard studio session that lasted about 20 minutes. So, I was happy to get anything outdoors! 

This is just one of many reasons why using the subtractive method to control natural light outdoors is so superior to any other method; children won’t wait for you to set-up your “gear”!  While you are messing around with setting-up your speed lights and soft box or even trying to use reflectors, you can easily miss the moment—that very short window of opportunity when the child will work with you.

The other reason is that Subtractive Natural Light can do this…

f4.5 @ 1/200 sec., ISO 400, Lens @ 200mm
This is why I call subtractive natural light, “The Best Light Money Can’t Buy!”

This particular morning, just before Christmas, it was 19ºF with snow on the ground and we had fully overcast sky.  So the light here, in my backyard, was flat and directionless; the worst kind of natural light.  To create direction and give my little subject a shadow side on his face I would usually use a Gobo (a black flat or flag as we called then in the world of cinematography) on one side to block unwanted light. 

There was no time to grab anything but my camera as his mom was helping him into his coat and saying, “Let’s go outside and play in the snow!” Fortunately, we have a porch with a nice overhang just out of our back door that I knew could be my overhead and side gobos to create a directional lighting pattern (even though I had never used my porch for portraits up to this moment!).

All I had to do now was get Beau out of the backyard snow and back on the porch, in the right spot, for a clean background!

Here’s my porch…Complete with the clutter of furniture and my barbeque that I had no time to move, and me taking an incident light meter reading, where I placed him for the portrait.

This was about as simple as it can be when using existing objects to act as gobos to control the light.

If you have questions please don’t hesitate to ask…’Til next week.

Author:  Jerry W. Venz, PPA Master Photographer, Craftsman, Certified
Training site:  http://www.LightAtTheEdge.com

Tuesday, December 22, 2015


Just a short blog this marvelous week to share the look of Christmas at our house.

We got some nice natural flocking on our outside tree a week ago! Then we got rain. May get some more snow Christmas Eve.

Our fireplace mantle with a small portion of my snowman collection.


Hope you enjoyed..May your holiday season be filled with Love and Memories! Kathi and I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Healthy, Happy, New Year! 

’Til next week….

Author:  Jerry W. Venz, PPA Master Photographer, Craftsman, Certified
Training site:  http://www.LightAtTheEdge.com

Tuesday, December 15, 2015


In professional photography we want our light, weather outside or in the studio to have direction. Without direction there are no shadows. Without shadows your subject becomes flat and looses its three dimensionality. In outdoor photography if you want your subject to have drama and power you must bide your time until conditions are right.


So, we do a lot of waiting in nature photography—and it’s the same if we’re photographing a bute or a barn or anything outside.

For the image of this barn I waited for over a year for the proper alignment of conditions. As I saw the image in my head, I wanted a great cloud mass behind the barn when the late setting sun was at the proper angle to give the barn and clouds those shadows.

It took a while for me to get this image because the weather here in Idaho is very volatile. Out clouds can blow in and out of here in minutes taking my light with them or just blowing all the clouds away!

After I got my “master-shot” of the barn as a whole I proceeded, as I usually do, to slice-up my subject into smaller compositions to highlight its details. In the images below I changed my angle on the barn to make the lighting even more dramatic—shooting down its length now.

These barn images are part of my personal project to document the quickly vanishing barns (and farms) in the developing areas around Boise. Two of the four barns near me, here in Meridian, have already been demolished in preparation for more housing developments.

Is there any history that’s worth documenting in your neighborhood?

Have a question…don’t forget to ask…’Til next week…

Author:  Jerry W. Venz, PPA Master Photographer, Craftsman, Certified
Training site:  http://www.LightAtTheEdge.com

Tuesday, December 8, 2015


When photographers, especially professional photographers, talk about action photography we usually refer to the glamorous field of motor sports.  So, forty years ago, living in the region with professional and amateur motor sports happening nearly every weekend, that was my first photographic passion. Just in Northern California I did formula race cars and International Grand Prix motorcycles at Laguna Seca and Sears Point. I also had the opportunity to photograph real legends in International Motocross at Halls Ranch. I had one of the best drag strips in the country in my own backyard—Fremont Drag strip as well as the San Jose Mile and Half-mile dirt track, which was on the AMA Professional (Motorcycle) circuit.  

Now, living in Idaho, there isn’t much of this kind of action to photograph.  However, there is action all around us and as photographic artists it’s our job to find it and share it. The Idaho State Faire is one of my favorite events here in Boise and it’s filled with marvelous photographic opportunities. In this blog I’ll share some images creating action of things that aren’t going anywhere!

One of my favorite sections of our state fair is the antique farm machinery. Many of these are steam powered and still functioning! 

 f11.0 @ 1/30 sec., ISO 400
In the image above I cropped in camera to show more close in detail. I usually don’t show an entire “wheel” (especially when it’s large) anyway, as it’s redundant and compositions are more interesting with a partial wheel. The key in this image was to make the wheel’s spokes transparent, so you can see the machinery behind the wheel.  It turned out that 1/30th sec. was ideal and since I was hand-holding the camera that was good.

f5.0 @ 1/30 sec., ISO 1600
This machine’s wheel is much smaller, so I moved in close and cropped out the sides of the wheel for an unusual vertical composition.  For this one I had to bump my ISO to 1600 (don’t be afraid to use higher ISOs!) to get to a and holdable 1/30th second.

f5.0 @ 1/100 sec., ISO 3200
Hand holding and doing nighttime action photography can be challenging.  I didn’t want to freeze the people whirling around on this ride, but I wanted to stop the big red wheel to show its colorful details. It turned out that ISO 3200 gave me enough shutter speed to do just that.  

So, Action is where you find it—you just have to look around and be creative.

If you have questions or comments don’t forget to leave me a message….’Til next week…

Author:  Jerry W. Venz, PPA Master Photographer, Craftsman, Certified
Training site:  http://www.LightAtTheEdge.com

Tuesday, December 1, 2015


It’s easy creating great artistic images outdoors at the peak of fall or when you get six inches of snow creating a soft blanket that can make a garbage dump look beautiful!  But, when the season is changing, at the very end of fall and the beginning of winter it can look very ugly when you look out the window and, seeing the temperature is 15º F, you say, “Nah, there’s nothing out there to photography—I’ll just stay here where it’s warm!” 

The advice I give my students is to NOT prejudge what’s possible without at least taking a walk outside; the walk will do you do anyway!  And, it’s not a quick look I’m suggesting—Many Photographers Look but Don’t See.  How do you see? I tell my students, especially when conditions outside are not perfect, “You See by Narrowing Your View”.  In other words, when the big view is ugly, crop-in and capture the details—look for smaller compositions.  

So, just make the point I went out in my neighborhood the day after our first snow.  We only got an inch of snow and most of it had already melted away, so I thought this would be challenging—You see, I prejudged my chances too!  I went out at NOON, it was sunny, and the temperature was up to 20º F. I went over to our development’s grassy common area where we have a two foot, galvanized, irrigation drain pipe that dumps into a rocky “french drain”. The rocks in this pond were embedded in a thin layer of ice. It didn’t look too promising from a distance. But, as I got closer and looked down I framed THIS in my viewfinder….
f7.1 @ 1/250 sec., ISO 400
I love that solitary leaf, mostly frozen in the ice, with its stem and a small portion, resting on the rock, in the only sunlight available, as if seeking solace from the advancing winter.

f8.0 @ 1/400 sec., IO 400
Three feet away I saw this marvelous pattern in the ice—a bird “frozen” in flight! I converted it to B&W so the color in the leaves around it would not distract from the illusion.

Here’s the less than idyllic scene of my ice vignettes. The first image was taken not two feet out of the mouth of the drainage pipe.

Next I walked to our other patch of common area, a block away, to check out what was left of the fall colors and that location’s snow…

Pretty sad—not much left from our first wimpy snow! So, armed with my 70-200mm lens (set at 200mm) I zoomed-in looking for details using the backlight from the low winter sun.

f5.0 @ 1/2000 sec., ISO 400
So, there I am on my knees and then on my stomach with this big lens on my camera and several neighbors drove by, slowing down, to see what the nutty photographer is taking pictures in this small, crappy, patch of snow!

 f6.3 # 1/1000 sec., ISO 400
The proof is in my images; you don’t have to travel to some pristine, exotic, location to create great nature images—check to your local area (your neighborhood!) and “Narrow Your View”.

That about wraps-up fall for my part of Idaho. I’m looking forward to more snow and hopefully some nice freezing fog!

“Till next week….make comments or ask me a question or two… look forward to your input…

Author:  Jerry W. Venz, PPA Master Photographer, Craftsman, Certified
Training site:  http://www.LightAtTheEdge.com