12 Portraits of 2018

Like most people, the end of the year is about lists. A list of things like goals that I have for the year, things I need to change or photos I love. Well I thought I would bow to peer pressure and create a list of 12 portraits that I love and had fun creating this year. Now don’t fret, if your session did not appear that doesn’t mean I didn’t like any of the images or enjoy creating it. I just didn’t want to have a list that would go on and on and bore all 5 of my readers.  The reason I chose these images is that I tried something different, it came out great and now I use the set up as part of my other sessions. So here are my favorite 12 portraits in no specific order.

My nephew. Besides being my nephew and good looking, this pose turned out perfect for him. He looks strong and confident looking into the camera lens. I used paramount lighting which I hadn’t been able to do well until I bought a boom light stand. The paramount lighting is dramatic because his face and upper portion is lit creating dramatic shadows that helps him blend slightly into the background. And making this image black and white just adds to the drama.


The next one is my son looking down on the city. The Crow is a character that he wanted to create and be photographed as. A lot of the solitary hero’s seeming to be ones that always perch themselves above the city to look down on it. I wanted to create that with Colin, but I wasn’t 100% that I was going to convincingly pull it off. I first photographed Colin on a bench and lit him in a with a light that would look as if it came from the street. Then I photographed the city scene a few days later. With the two image I combined them into one. I chose a blue, cold look because he is looking down at the city with some contempt and revenge for those who wronged him. After creating this image, I became motivated to create more cosplay like portraits.


Colin and Rose. I had never felt that I had posed couples well but with Colin and Rose I really had an easy and great time creating these. I hate to admit but when it comes to posing, I feel I don’t do this well. Rose and Colin agreed to work with me which opened some new posing ideas to me. There were so many images that I really liked, but this portrait of the two of them was my favorite. A simple pose that has symmetry as well as conveying emotion to the viewer. The bonus of this session it that I was able to work in a park that I had never considered until then. The park has great light at this time as well as spots to use.


Rose. Not only is she pretty, but she is a great model to work with. Again, I struggle to pose people, but Rose posed herself opening the possibilities that I could use with the next person I work with. Not only is this a great pose but I felt that the lighting looks so natural even though I had to use an off-camera flash. With that kind of success, I gain confidence to off camera flash into my kit for outdoor portrait sessions.    


Morgan. I have always wanted to created portraits with a dancer since photographing my first dancing session. This time I got to do this with Morgan and as you can see, we did this outside in nature where, typically, you don’t see. In this spot I wanted to create a portrait that emulates a painting, something you would see in a Rembrandt or Degas and I feel I pulled it off with the lighting, color and the softness of the background. I think this spot would also look great with family and pets, don’t you think?


Jack. My first encounter with Jack is when he was 5 and now here, he is, a senior in high school. I really liked all of his portraits but this one grabbed me. Not only is his pose and expression fit him perfectly but the lighting and his placement on the door works so well. I have used this door before but I finally feel I have discovered the best setup for this particular spot which excites me and want to create this again.


Myles and Anna. I was dreading photographing at this park because it is so popular, but it is a popular place because it is so beautiful. We got a lot of great portraits with bright yellows and oranges of the fall colors, but I wanted to create some drama portraits that didn’t have color. That is when we went down to the beach and used the light and dark of the trees across the river. With the combination of flash and rim lighting of the sun I feel I have created this soft dramatic painted like portrait.


Girl in Blue Dress. I have always loved the Rembrandt light because it has drama built into it. Most of the time when you set up this lighting situation, your subject blends completely or almost blend into the background. The hard part of this lighting is when you try to do this outside a studio an in a person’s home. This particular setting, I had the room to create this portrait and with her expression, background, and dress, it all came together and made an excellent image. Here sister’s portrait created with the same lighting came out just as good.  


John and Family. John is, was a coworker and an all-around good guy. I don’t pose families well but with his group, I got a great group of portraits. This one was done in a wooded area using off camera flash that I believe has a natural light feel to it. Of all the technical aspects of this image, the grouping I am happiest with.


Little Girl. I always love the soft expression over the great big smile that everyone expects. I created this portrait session of a good friend’s daughter. We started out with simple poses and big smiles but before I ended the session, I set up a pose with a soft expression and out of all the images, this was picked as the best by everyone.


Stella. I have a lot of great images of Stella but this one is my favorite of them all. Just the fact I caught her in mid motion catching her tug. It is motion and energy caught in one image which you don’t always get to see.


Triskaideka. I love to photograph this cat. He is expressive and know what I am looking for, and most of all, he is willing to have his photo taken. Not many cats put up with me taking their photos but Triskaideka really enjoys it. I love his expression and the light I caught in this portrait. This image is also my first time I used my new toy, a Nikon D750. All the rest of my images were created with an older Nikon D80 but because it is so old that if it breaks that is it, it is a brick. Now with the new toy I don’t have to worry about renting a camera for a portrait session, I have the D750 for my main camera and the D80 as a backup.


By now you have noticed I don’t have 12 portraits but 13, the last is a bonus portrait I am compelled to add.

My parents. I created this portrait of my parents on their 60th Wedding Anniversary. That is 60 years of life’s ups and down along with three kids. They were loving and supportive of all that we did and gave all that we needed. My parents are why I am who I am and the values I have, without their love and guidance, who knows where I would be. 


It was a great 2018 and I am looking forward to 2019, there are a lot of changes and goals I have made for the new year. One is for this site to hold only my landscape and photographic art while another site will be for my portrait work. I will continue to work on my style of portrait while challenging myself in

Hardest thing to do...

I think the hardest thing is to be honest with yourself. This is something I struggle with every day because I am something of a dreamer. I have dreams of owning my own business and being the boss instead of answering to a boss. I get tired of taking jobs that people tend to look down at you for doing. I shouldn’t let that bother me but it does. And being a boss or owner is not the easiest thing to do because the how well the business preforms is related to the person who is in charge.

So recently I turned 50 and started to think about what I wanted to do with my second half, the better half of life. I set out to see what I could do with my photography and more to the point what I was willing to do with my photography. Much to how this site is set up for now I just don’t see doing portraits anymore. I enjoyed it for the most part but I just can’t give it the attention it deserves and as the market stands, my style is not “in.”

I started to seriously consider doing product and food. I had even tried some lighting techniques and food styling and felt I had a good start. I then explored what I need to learn and how to go about it, the business side of it is my downfall. I come to find there is a lot that I am sure if I was younger, I would jump right in and tackle. But now that I am older and the risks that I need to take are just out of my comfort zone

A few weeks ago, I got excepted to sell my work at the Cedar Rapids Art Museum which is a big honor for me. I feel with the help of my friend Lori I got this opportunity but I must say, as hard as it is, I do feel my work is worthy. But again, it was who I know and that she was my champion for the cause. Trying not to sound conceded. The point is that with this event and the fact now and commercial work is not in my future, it would be best for me to work a fulltime job and create art. Who knows maybe I will create a body of work that people are drawn to and will be willing to purchase so much that I can make a living with it.  

So, over the next few weeks I will be rebuilding this site to highlight my artwork and not my portraits. My goal is to highlight my photography to the regular non-photography people looking for art to hang on the walls of their home and workplaces. As far as other photographers, I hope to inspire them but now this site may not have the details of how I created an image or what I use for gear.

I am going to embrace it. As much as my ego wants to do it all, I can’t, my life is complex and time isn’t completely on my side so do what I can and create images for me. Create for all that find them wonderful, and for those who don’t.

Welcome to my next 50 year journey, I hope you will enjoy it as much as I do.

Triskaideka's Spring Portraits

Today is the first day of spring and what better way to celebrate the season but to take spring photos, Triskaideka’s Spring Portraits. We had an idea of what we wanted but not entirely sure or set on a specific props. Buffey and I felt that the props should be spring like in nature but not Easter specific. We wanted to be able to put the portrait up for longer than a few weeks and if we shot it with Easter baskets or with cute bunny ears then the portraits display life would be short.



So after a cup of coffee we were off to a local craft store. We started off by just walking around to see what was available. We knew that if we started to pick up the first thing we saw then the chance of the portrait being hokey was very likely. Once we took in all the possibilities we started to weed out the trite and home in on the white washed box, plants in the pots and tin vase, and finally the pussy willows.


The setup was simple. We set the box and plants up on a card table that we covered with a piece of white background paper. We set the pussy willows in a five gallon jug setting behind the table. I placed my lights in their spots and after a few test shots we were ready. My wife, Buffey, place Triskaideka in the box and used a feathered toy to get his attention while I took the portraits. It did not take long before we knew that we had a handful of shots that will work.


We placed them into Lightroom and started the process of elimination and soon we narrowed it down to two portraits. I sent one photo to Buffey and the other I worked on. After a few minutes I created this portrait in which I am very happy with.


Triskaideka is so easy to work with because he is our cat and he is in his home. I know that is key to the success of this and other portraits we have done of him and our other cats. Think of how many times you take your dog or cat to the vets or any other place and suddenly they become shy or totally unsociable. Triskaideka becomes withdrawn at the vets believe it or not. This is why I believe it is necessary to have me go to the pet rather than the pet come to me.

Now that we have Triskaideka’s Spring Portraits done we will have to generate ideas for his Summer Portrait Session. Have you had your Pet Portrait Session done? Or having a portrait session of your family being done? Don’t forget to include your pet they are family too.

A Key to Great Portrait Outcomes

Now that the days are going longer photographers all around Iowa, including myself, are gearing up for the outdoor portrait season. With a new group of kids that are becoming Seniors in high school our days from the spring to the fall will be filled with late teens trying to get that portrait that everyone wants. Theses days it seems that Senior Portraits have become a marker or a right of passing from kid to young adult ready to take on the world. With that, my job as a photographer is about creating and capturing that in a small group of images. No pressure, right? So in order to create this situation I need the client just to do one thing, participate.



Imagine if you will that you are an artist and stranger walks up to you, who knows you by your work and says; “ I want you to create a painting for my living room” then walks away. Leaving only their phone number and a time they want the painting done by, they give you very little else to go on. So what do you do? What would you do? Call them and try to see what the space looks like or just create the same thing you always create and hope it works out? This is what I face as a photographer each sitting that the client doesn’t give me the  feedback on what they are looking for in their portraits. Needless to say I don’t feel I have put my best work out for that client that I could have.



Before I book any appointment I like to first meet with my clients and get to know them. This goes for all my portraits sessions and especially when it comes to a session that happens only once in a lifetime like a Senior Session. In this consultation I like to get to know who you are, what kind of things you are into and how we can incorporate that in the creation of your portraits. It’s a time to get comfortable with each other so the final outcome is the best portrait I can deliver to you. I believe that my better portraits I have taken have been the ones with the people I knew well. I understood their humor so laughing and having fun while creating portraits was had during the session. And that is what you want, to be comfortable, having fun which helps create the best portraits of you.



Other things too think about while in this session is what you are wearing for the portraits, what or whom you would like to include in your session. For some Seniors they are into sports, drama or academic activities. For sports I find it easier to book a session while the season is going on. This way if you want to incorporate your sport we have access to the facility before or after practice without making elaborate arrangements with the coaches and school. This same idea can be used with hobbies or activities outside of school.



Locations are another element of what I will bring up. There are many places around the city that some will fit your style and some that won’t. By choosing a location, say a park or more nature in theme, will relay to the your viewer that you are in touch with nature or love the outdoors, right? But if you are a person that will not step foot outside the city, dislikes camping, would rather be inside then outside then a nature like scene most likely not fit you. And the same goes for the nature lover being photographed in the city. Although you may get away with one or two portraits in the city, the rest will seem out of place.



Participation is the key to get your Senior Portrait Session all sorted out. By getting to know you and becoming comfortable with each other together we can create the portraits that are you and not like everyone else’s. And when the day arrives we will have all the logistics worked out so there is no questions on expectations at each place. You will be at ease as well as myself and the fun of the moment will come through. I firmly believe that with your participation we will “Create Your Next Portrait” instead of just shooting it.



I look forward to hearing from you. Feel free to comment or send me an email with your ideas and suggestions or to book your next appointment. Together let’s Create Your Next Portrait.