Tuesday, June 25, 2019


Like many professional photographers I prefer to use tried and true outdoor locations where I know I can get the best possible portraits of my clients every time. To do that I want to book my sessions at the time of day when I have the best light for both my subjects and backgrounds on each location. You see, in my style of portraiture, unlike many photographers, I build my portrait settings (wether it’s in the studio or outdoors) from the background forward.   I don’t like, dull, dead backgrounds—I want some visual interest and light in my backgrounds; I’m also a Bokeh lover!

My ideal location for portraits has the setting sun creating backlight in my background at a spot that also has open skylight striking my subject(s) from ONE side; on the other side I want trees or bushes creating shadows for the Subtractive Lighting I prefer for natural looking three dimensionality on my subjects.

So, when we booked this particular session at 6pm, on June 5th, at Kathryn Albertson Park (in Boise, ID) I knew it was going to be challenging. First, the sun sets at 9:25pm in early June here, so 6pm is a little early; I’d prefer 7:30pm as a start time.  Second, when we got there I noticed immediately that the sun was in the wrong spot to be of use in most of my favorite locations!

After trying one of our usual spots with some success my wife suggested we go deeper into the park—maybe try the big Sequoia tree display by the wedding gazebo. I was not thrilled with that spot because the light there was always blocked-up; just flat light. But at this time of day (6:30pm) and this month it was different….
f4.5 @ 1/250 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 170mm
I instantly saw we had a nice warm glow on the left hand side of the big log and when we placed this young lady in front of that background we got a nice kicker light on her face giving me the three dimensionality I wanted in this otherwise flat lighting location. Nice!

Here’s a backed-off view of the set-up….
 f4.5 @ 1/250 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 142mm
The lighting and the environment was so nice we put her brother into the scene as well.  As you can see the “kicker light” is being created by the logs on camera left acting as reflectors.  By now it’s about 7pm and I found a nice spot where the setting sun is creating my ideal lighting scenario….
f5.0 @ 1/160 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 200mm
We have a really nice background glow with backlight that’s also giving us some hair light. Just as important there’s a big patch of clear blue sky, on camera right, giving us soft directional light while on camera left a subtractive lighting effect, created by trees blocking the sky, is providing the shadows on their faces for a nice three dimensional lighting pattern.

It was challenging, but rewarding going out to my favorite park at the wrong time of day of a so-so month. I was forced to look for the light and found some nice new areas for portraits!  I like it that my wife pushes me out of my comfort zone and I find something great!

Until next week….

Author: Jerry W. Venz, PPA Master Photographer, Craftsman

Tuesday, June 18, 2019


As a professional photographer I don’t do tours through iconic locations like those whirl-wind bus tours (“If it’s Tuesday it must be Belgium”, yeah, that movie!). If I’ve targeted a great subject area I want to hang around for at least two or three days to check angles and lighting. One of the most important things I must know is if a particular subject is going to be best at Sunrise or Sunset. So, I’ll usually plan to photograph the subject at both sunrise and sunset and then return again to photograph it at the best time. This is simply what I call “good coverage” of a subject. 

So, when we went to the Isle of Capri, Italy, I did my research and picked a hotel on the Mediterranean side of the island so our view would be of the famous Faraglioni Rocks and the sea. That put me in the position to easily capture this famous view at any time of the day. 

Here’s my first version of the rocks…
f22.0 @ 1/250 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 42mm
This was done about a half-hour after sunrise on May 5th. During the week we were there it rained only at night giving us nice clouds and blue sky in the mornings; perfect photography weather!

I liked this image, but it wasn’t what I was looking for. I wanted something more dramatic; more like a sunset in look. But, of course, an actual sunset wasn’t going to happen on theses rocks because the sun was setting behind me on the other side of the island. 

After our excursions to the other side of the island the next day I made a point of getting some images of the rocks at a different time of day.

Here’s a bigger view…
f16.0 @ 1/125 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 19mm
The weather was marvelous and kept producing terrific clouds, so I went vertical to capture those cloud layers. I converted the image to B&W with a little tone mapping for cloud enhancement.

A few days later we took a shuttle to Annacapri, the big side of the island, and did the chair lift ride to the highest point on the island, Mt. Solaro, at 1932 feet. With the clear atmosphere we had a great view and I got the Faraglioni rocks again in a really big view.
f19.0 @ 1/180 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 19mm
It seemed that almost everywhere we went there was another view of the rocks!  On our fifth day on Capri we booked a jet boat to shuttle us to Sorento for the train ride to Pompeii, so I got up early for another Sunrise attempt of the Faraglioni rocks….
 f16.0 @ 1/125 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 24mm
This time I got up a half hour earlier than the first time (five days ago) and I went up to the roof of our hotel for a higher perspective. This time I captured the “Sunset Glow” I was looking for!  It was a great start to what was to be a fabulous day of photography in a place I’ve always dreamed about documenting in an artistic way—the doomed city of Pompeii. But that is another story…

’Til next week…

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

Tuesday, June 11, 2019


As a professional photographer, I’ve never been anything but disappointed and frustrated with my results when doing animal photography at a zoo. My goal has always been to create animal images that could pass for photos taken in the wild. I had heard great praise about the San Diego Zoo and its enclosures, but when I visited their zoo back in 1995 I found that I could not get images of the animals with clean or natural looking back grounds.  It wasn’t until we moved to Idaho in 2009 and got involved with Zoo Boise, by donating to their silent auction fundraising event called Zoobilee, that I again entertained the idea of animal photography at a zoo. Still it wasn’t until 2017 that, wanting to try out a new camera for action photography, I attended the free vendor appreciation day at Zoo Boise to try to achieve my goal of natural looking wild animal photography in a serious way. 

I already knew that I wasn’t going to be doing any images of animals showing any landscapes, so I went with my 70-200mm zoom as my main mounted lens. 

Isolation of my subjects was paramount….
f6.3 @ 1/1250 sec., ISO 800; Lens @ 200mm
What further isolated the giraffes was the very directional light of the setting sun (it was about an hour before sunset). So, with the direct sun on them and not on the background my exposure on them made the background go very dark, which pretty much eliminated their enclosure as a background. The biggest challenge here was capturing them as they ran, at top speed, back and forth the length of their enclosure and then paused briefly to frolic, like necking teenagers, then separated again and ran off! I had to go to 800 ISO to get to a shutter speed (1/1250 sec.) that could stop their exploits as I hand held my camera and panned with the action.

When they calmed down….
f6.3 @ 1/2000 sec., ISO 800; Lens @ 200mm
I did get a nice portrait of one of them against a colorful background in lieu of the enclosure.

Then onto the lions den….
f5.0 @ 1/160 sec., ISO 1600; Lens @ 200mm
This was taken THROUGH the large window overlooking the lion’s enclosure. Usually, a polarizing filter would be needed here, but since the window here was fully covered (top and sides) with a structure that shaded the glass there were few reflections for me to worry about. With a much lower level of light here I went to 1600 ISO and still got great results from my new camera.  This was an easy capture; the only thing I had to watch for was the lion’s OPEN eyes, so I could get that nice catch light in the eye.

Late light and the zebras….
f5.0 @ 1/160 sec., ISO 3200; Lens @ 200mm
Now it’s only a half-hour before sunset and these zebras are in full shade and I’m composing through the leaves of some trees next to the fence that separates us.  I’m now at 3200 ISO and their images still looked really good. I just converted these to B&W because my subjects were….Black & White!

I’m really happy with my results at the Boise Zoo. It’s a nice little zoo with decent looking open enclosures in the giraffe area and the animals looked good.

Looking back on my early attempts at zoo photography I must say that the problem was not that those other zoos were so bad in 1995, I just wasn’t ready. This photographer has learned a lot about how to photograph difficult subjects in challenging situations over these past 24 years, which make it possible to photograph my vision!

Challenge yourself….try photographing in your local zoo and have some fun.  ’Til next week…

Author: Jerry W. Venz, PPA Master Photographer, Craftsman

Tuesday, June 4, 2019


The Ritz Carlton in Half Moon Bay, California is still my favorite hotel for weddings. Part of it is being located on the cliffs overlooking the gorgeous California coastline with beach access. But, it’s not just its location that makes this hotel so nice; it’s the style and service they provide the bride and groom that always impressed me. They take care of and look out for their clients by qualifying the vendors that provide wedding services at the hotel. As preferred vendors we were required to attend their orientation class and agree to the Hotel’s rules of etiquette. There is nothing onerous about it they just expect the wedding vendors to be professionals. That means that they have insurance (1-million dollars liability) and that they dress professionally and respect the facilities. These are things we always did at all of our wedding locations, rules or not. As full time professional photographers we wanted to return to all of the great locations that our clients choose for their events and be welcomed by the management and staff; that’s just good business practice. 

Some favorite images….
f4.5 @ 1/1150 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 112mm
The Wedding party and family flew in from Texas and checked into the hotel a week before the wedding so we had the opportunity to do some bridals early in a relaxed and un-rushed environment three days before the wedding.  This enabled me to pick the time and location for her bridals. We did this image one hour before sunset for this nice directional light. The only thing missing here was her bouquet so we dug up a rose for her to hold…

 f4.0 @ 1/800 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 80mm
Then we went inside the hotel…
f4.0 @ 1/30 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 50mm
She wanted some high fashion inside the Ritz and changed into her “guest clothes”.

The wedding day….
f2.8 @ 1/80 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 50mm
Another reason we like doing Ritz Carlton weddings: the table settings and decor are a pleasure to photograph!

f2.8 @ 1/30 sec., Iso 400; Lens @ 27mm
Then there’s the view…
f6.7 @ 1/180 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 24mm
This is the outdoor reception area which in this wedding was the spill-over area from their ballroom.

Meanwhile during the reception..
f5.6 @ 1/1250 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 200mm
Taking the bride and groom down to the beach is a Must-Do when we go to this hotel! It’s only possible because the hotel provides golf carts to transport all of us down to the beach; it’s about a half mile on a steep paved path.  We usually spend about a half-hour on the beach getting some fun, romantic images and then it’s back to the reception for the rest of their events. 

Should you have questions…don’t hesitate to ask…’Til next week…

Author: Jerry W. Venz, PPA Master Photographer, Craftsman