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

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