Tuesday, July 30, 2019


Here at TheStorytellers in Meridian, Idaho, we try to do more than just a smile at the camera portrait that so many parents are trained to want.  Often a person’s personality is more apparent in their eyes than in their mouth. In addition, when many people smile broadly their eyes close-up and we lose that all important glimpse into what has been called “the window to the soul”…the eyes.

The hard part in our profession is getting our subjects to relax enough in front of our camera to really show us who they are. This is always more difficult in the studio and especially so with children!  I think this session went so well because these are returning happy clients. We have been doing their portraits since their daughter was an infant.  If the parents are nervous or anxious their children will pick-up on that energy. These parents trust us and are very comfortable bringing their children to us.

After we do some smiles the storytelling begins…
f11.0 @ 1/160 sec., ISO 200; Lens @ 140mm
I call this one the Future Executive Portrait!  Not many photographers would put a child into what we call a “power pose”, but this little guy fell into it like a pro. I like his intensity! That’s why I converted this to black and white.

Moving on to some literal storytelling…
 f11.0 @ 1/160 sec., ISO 200; Lens @ 102mm
We started doing family reading time when the daughter was a toddler, so it was a natural to do reading time showing their children enjoying this family tradition. You can tell they really enjoy doing this together. Some of the best storytelling is when NOBODY is looking at the camera!  

Moving on to the daughter….
f11.0 @ 1/160 sec., ISO 200; Lens @ 100mm
Their daughter is now a little more reserved in front of us, so we didn’t push her too much—and she did have a nice easy smile.  I converted this to black and white to show how it simplifies the image when you eliminate the bright colors.

And back to little brother…
f11.0 @ 1/160 sec., ISO 200; Lens @ 200mm
That impish smile tells it all! We took our time, didn’t rush anyone, and everybody had fun. We let our dog, Gadget, run around—she’s our studio mascot—and everybody loves our super friendly little dog!  

Have questions?  Don’t hesitate to ask…’Til next week…

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

Tuesday, July 23, 2019


I don’t particularly love taking images of flowers, unlike so many amateur photographers, so the only time I’m interested in photographing a flower is when the light makes it a compelling subject.  

You see, as a professional photographer and artist, I’m drawn to light and its interplay with the world around me. Maybe that’s why I’ve photographed so many different things over my 40+ year career. I’ve always found it strange to see photographers and artists make a career of doing one type of subject—like flowers or just landscapes or horses.  

I think that’s why I’ve never lost interest in the art of photography. Because I follow the light in its random trace across everything around me I’m always finding new things to photograph.

I’m fascinated by how light reacts when it hits a subject and how the subject reacts to being illuminated by that light. I may go so far as to say that the light is more important than the subject! To quote a great photographer Gary Winogrand: 

“Photography is not about the thing photographed. It is about how that thing looks photographed.”  

That’s why I will usually pass on a great potential subject if the light is not dramatic. I’ll note the subject and plan to return when the light is ideal for that subject.

The light that I’m look for….
 f22.0 @ 1/125 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 145mm
This is what I’m talking about; I’m photographing The Light and it’s Effect on the surface of the flower. This is late morning light after a rain shower, so we have back light making the interior of the flower glow and nice skimming light dancing through the water droplets and revealing the texture on the petals’ surfaces.

It’s all about the direction of the light relative to camera position…
f14.0 @ 1/125 sec.,, ISO 800; Lens @ 200mm
Here we have nice directional light form the setting sun filtered through the petals of the daisy creating drama in a simple subject. This image, I think, illustrates the philosophy I share with photographer Gary Winogrand when he said, 

“…the photograph has to be more dramatic or beautiful or interesting than the thing photographed otherwise what’s the point of the photograph?”

Another with back and top light….
f7.1 @ 1/160 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 200mm
I was doing a family portrait session when these things lit-up from the setting sun behind the family.  I would never have photographed these flowers if the lighting was flat and directionless (Like most amateurs usually do).

Another quote, on point; 

“Light makes photography. Embrace light. Admire Light. Love it. But, above all, Know Light. Know it for all you are worth, and you will know the key to photography.”  George Eastman

How are you using the light?  Until next week…

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

Tuesday, July 16, 2019


When I inherited my grandmother’s antique mantle clock a couple of years ago I opened the back and immediately knew I wanted to photograph its’ clock works. The clock is a Seth Thomas “Sucile” red adamantine, No. 765, mantle clock made between 1904 and 1913. It has a marvelous brass movement with a wonderfully funky gong mechanism that looks hand made! I put it aside not knowing how I wanted to photograph the interior of the clock. After some research, finding that it really didn’t have much value, I dismantled the left hand side and found a nice opening through which I could light its interior. So, this became a perfect “Light-Painting” subject!

All my other light painting subjects have needed LED flash lights with at least a 7-LED head and on some subjects I used a 24-LED array (a wand) in close and that was usually at 3200 ISO for 30 seconds @ f2.8. For this clock’s interior I didn’t have room for my larger flash lights—the back’s opening is only about 6 inches square—since the tripod mounted camera occupied most of that opening. So, I started my exposure test using my smallest LED flashlight with only a single LED.  It turned out to be more than adequate….
f20.0 @ 30 sec., ISO 800; Lens: 15mm Fisheye
In fact I had to keep lowering my ISO and stopping down because the metal clock work is so reflective. But that was a good thing because with my camera in so close I needed as much Depth-of-Field as I could get. And, since I was focusing at the minimum distance my lens would allow (on the gong's coil on the right) I needed the f20.0 for good depth-of-field.

In this image you can see my main lighting movements through the opening on the left. Here’s my light painting sequence….
Sequence 1
I gave the clock works about 15 seconds through that opening on the left.  Then moving to the right side….

Sequence 2
I’m now real close to the camera putting light on the gong mechanism for about 7 seconds.  Next I aimed under the camera….
Sequence 3
For the remaining 8 seconds I put some light on the old feather that I found inside the clock. 

Here is the final image with retouching….
Final Image
After a lot of interior touch-up and cropping the image to a square I closed-up the left side opening by burning-in and vignetting the image. I don’t know which image I like best—either the first version in this blog or this last one.  

Anybody out there have an opinion?  Let me know…’til next week with something new.

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

Tuesday, July 9, 2019


We revisited Silver City on Father’s Day exactly 5 years to the day from when I photographed this iconic Idaho “ghost town” for the first time.  My goal was to revisit some of my favorite subjects—this time using my Pro-DSLR for larger, higher quality images and to find some new features. But, mostly, I wanted to find the old rusting car that I photographed 5 years ago. 

People and nature conspired to deny my attempts to redo some of my favorite subjects. In the hotel where the neat old telegraph office resides they have blocked access to it with furniture and old equipment in addition to added inappropriate clutter on its counters.

Nature has a nasty habit of making changes; things grow, things die, all just plots to mess up our compositions!  It reminds me of the complaints of today’s photographers wanting to do images from where Ansel Adams photographed his famous image of the Tetons and the Snake River only to find that his view in 1942, with the Snake River’s nice “s” curves clearly seen in the foreground, is all but gone; obstructed by the growth of those pesky trees!

Thus, stymied at a couple outdoors redos, I was even more determined to find my favorite old car that I knew was up in the rocky hills overlooking the town’s Main Street. After 45 minutes of hiking—30 minutes in the wrong direction—I found it! 

So, here’s my new version of its suicide doors….
f11.0 @ 1/400 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 140mm
I think this old car is the best piece of three dimensional art in Silver City. This view and crop has the anthropomorphic, face-like, effect I was looking for—complete with those sad eyes and the drooping door handles.

Moving on to the other side of the car…
f9.0 @ 1/800 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 102mm
This is the original, unedited, version. I don’t like the big steel grate (covering the mine pit) on the left hand side of the image, but I really like the rocks above that area the I wanted to maintain the negative space on that side so I did some edits…
After a Lot of Edits
After a lot of Photoshop using the spot healing brush to remove that steel grate (and then touch-up to remove obvious clones!) and remove the piece of chrome sticking out of the rear side window I put the image into NIK’s Color Efex and used the Indian summer preset to create a burnt fall look in the bushes. I think all that greenery was too happy and didn’t match or support the mood I want here!

Speaking of cars in the dirt…
Here's our Jeep...
Here’s our Jeep Cherokee after the long drive up the rutted, bumpy, rocky, “road” to Silver City. I had almost as much fun off-roading to Silver City as I did doing photography there! It’s an interesting contrast to see the old mining town buildings with solar panels on their roofs. If it wasn’t for that technology Silver City would probably be a true ghost town. I did find some new subjects….
f9.0 @ 1/800 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 200mm
What photographer can resist peeling paint on old wood. What caught my eye though were those colorful power line insulators in the window.  Sometimes even I do pretty pictures….
f10.0 @ 1/500 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 85mm
Everybody up there has an outhouse…This one is a 5-star accommodation!

What was your “Father’s Day” adventure…’Til next week…

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

Tuesday, July 2, 2019


I’ve been creating black and white images for over 40 years, and like photographers of my age, I started with processing my own film and hand printing B&W on a variety of the classic papers by Kodak, Ilford, and my favorite Agfa—like Portriga Rapid.

This blog is about “converting” to B&W so, of course I’m talking about the digital process since back in my film days there was NO converting. We decided in advance, based on our subject, wether we were going to use color or B&W film and then printed them on their like media. I had criteria for the use of B&W and color films. And today I have exactly the same criteria for when to use B&W in digital as I did for film.

The Best B&W images have:
  1. Directional light (that means shadows)
  2. Good Blacks and Whites
  3. Texture and/or detail
  4. A strong center of interest
So, let’s start with something old…
Monument Valley Cloud Burst
It’s a nice scene, but it was clearly beyond the dynamic range, as you can see in the color image below, of what Kodachrome 64 could record. I don’t have dramatic shadows here and some of the clouds are already overexposed. Since I don’t have a high-end film scanner I used, at the time, my best DSLR—my canon 5D Mk II with a canon 100mm, f2.8, Macro lens and photographed a bunch of my favorite slides, from 40 years ago, on a light table.  (If your interested in just how I did this I will put a link at the end of this blog to my YouTube channel with a how to video.) They turned out nice and I produced RAW files of on average 22MB and Jpgs with on average 12MB to work with in post. 

Here’s the original color image….
Kodachrome 64 Original
Post processing to a B&W conversion…
  • Used NIK’s HDR Efex single image tone mapping (deep 1) to pull out the sun rays and the cloud burst on the right hand side of the image; this also helped cloud detail.
  • Used NIK’s Silver Efex Pro-2 for B&W; used the Full dynamic harsh preset modified to my taste.
  • Used NIK’s Define 2 for noise reduction.
  • Cropped off some of the bottom and burned that in as well.
It turned out pretty well. I got the drama I wanted by pulling out the details that were barely visible in the color slide and by deepening the darks in the image it brought a three dimensional quality to the scene that did not show in the color version.

Moving on to a digital color image I think the following image illustrates how color, as eye candy, has impact, but does not always hold your interest for long….
 f11.0 @ 1/350 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 26mm
This image, after the initial impact, has little to offer; it’s really, quite literally, flat! Not only is the subject flat, but so its the lighting.. So, looking at the vertical stains on the locomotive’s sides I knew that was something I could enhance with tone mapping….
B&W with HDR Efex
Now we have texture and Lots of Detail all over the image creating the Illusion of depth where the color version had none. 

Post Processing the Image…

NIK’s HDR Efex, single image Tone Mapping, using the Deep 1 preset with tweaks, to bring out the blacks.
B&W conversion using ACR (Adobe Camera Raw) grayscale. Tweaked the yellow, orange, and red sliders to further enhance details.

These are just two of the many ways to create B&W images from your color originals. If you want more complicated methods they’re easy to find, with a search, but you won’t necessarily get better results. It depends on a lot on the quality of the color image you start with.

As promised, here is the link to my YouTube video on slide duplication with a DSLR:  

’Til next week…

Author: Jerry W Venz, PPA Master Photographer, Craftsman