Tuesday, November 12, 2019


We are fortunate here in our part of Idaho (Meridian, Boise, Eagle) to have many pet friendly parks with great trees and features where we can pose family groups, and then it just gets better when fall arrives!  Unfortunately, every other photographer in the valley knows this and if our clients insist on a weekend session our parks can become so crowded that it can spoil the experience for all of us.  However, since I’m so picky about when and where I do our outdoor portraits our only real problem at say Kathryn Albertson Park on a Saturday is finding a place to park.  So, to reduce these problems I try to book most outdoor sessions during the work week, avoiding the weekend, at about two hours before sunset.  

The first part of this planning is obvious, avoid the crowds, but the second part, two hours before sunset, is tactical and technical. Most outdoor photographers think that they must be out there at the so called Magic Hour and so they go out later than I do—which is fine by me—because then I’m leaving the park when they’re arriving! That’s the tactical part, but the important technical part is that the sun in Idaho never gets very high in the sky and at two-hours before sunset it’s plenty low enough to get me the backlight I want to create a fall like look even in the summer. I’ve found that if I’m out there during the last hour of light I can get sun flare in my lens while trying to get backlight behind my subjects. Unlike some trendy photographers I hate flare in my images; lens flare equals soft, fuzzy, portraits and a loss of color density—my clients want great fall colors!

Here’s what I’m talking about….
f6.3 @ 1/200 sec., ISO 800; Lens @ 105mm
Because I have my lighting taken care of and know how it will look at all my favorite spots, for any time of the year, in my favorite parks (this is Kathryn Albertson Park in Boise, Idaho) all I have to concentrate on are my clients, and in this case, their dogs as well.

Once we do a family pose and the kids we ask about special poses.  They requested individuals of the kids with their favorite dog. So, we used the log to the left of the tree…

f6.3 @ 1/160 sec., Iso 800; Lens @ 200mm
We like to use a seated pose of individuals with their pets to get their heads closer together in the portrait.  Then, in this case, I’m on my knees to bring her head in alignment with that nice glow in the background. In addition, I zoom in to 200mm to knock the background out-of-focus.

f6.3 @ 1/60 sec., ISO 800; Lens @ 135mm
Using the same basic set-up with the boy we managed to get their big black lab on the log next to the boy. It took several attempts, but with my wife’s use of our squeaker toy, we managed to get the dog’s curious attention!

Moving to a different spot to give the clients at least one other family portrait look…

 f5.6 @ 1/160 sec., ISO 800; Lens @ 135mm
This spot peaked in its fall look in the mid-week sessions we did here; by the following weekend it was all on the ground.

Even at 1 1/2 to 2 hours before sunset I still had to bump my ISO up to 800 in order to get the f-stop for adequate depth-of-fleld. If I tried to use the last hour of light my ISO would have to be pushed to at least 1600—not my favorite thing to do with family portraits!

’Til next week…

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

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