Eyes like Exotic Insects

A neighbor’s niece was visiting from out of town.
We were introduced.
Hello.
Hi.
Your eyes, I said.
Yeah, I know, she replied.
They’re amazing.
Yeah, I know.
Confidence, you got to love it.
Can I take your picture, I asked.
Yeah.
Great.
In the shade of our backyard,
She sat in front of the side of our house,
Which was brightly illuminated behind her.
I went high key with the 85mm
And got lots of fun-interesting shots in minutes,
Like this one, slightly playful…

Portrait photographer in bay area captures playful eyes

…and this one, brightly astonished…

Portrait photographer in bay area captures astonished eyes

…and then this one, exotic eyes edged with reptilian intensity.

Portrait photographer in bay area captures exotic eyes

Notice how the taupe background on the left
And the green background on the right
Pool in her irises like an estuary,
Where a brown river meets an emerald sea.
Love it when that happens.

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Quarry

Landscape photography at Rancho San Antonio in Cupertino while in hot pursuit of a coyote but cornering yellow flowers instead

Camera in hand,
I chased a coyote through dry brush,
Over two ridge lines
And into a valley,
Where she lost me for good.
In a sweat,
I plopped down, frustrated.
I complained to myself.
At last, I looked up
In a field of yellow wild flowers,
Sagely nodding in the breeze.
I chuckled.
Lesson learned,
I gathered them up in a single frame
And returned home.

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Mirror, Mirror

Say hello to Giovanna.
Or Gio for short.
Gio’s a mom and a marketer to boot.
She’s into healthy eating, weight training, and silly humor.
Emphasis on all three parts in equal measure.
I’ve known Gio a long time, before the Age of Children.
And now our girls are classmates and friends.
They’re good buds.
And Gio and I are good buds, too.
Luckily for me, she’s up for photo shoots at the end of a long week.
We practice lighting and posing for candid profile pictures,
Like this one minus the sepia treatment.

Portrait photography creative business headshot woman smile

Recently, we pushed ourselves beyond our customary limits.
And we explored shadow and light, hair and eyes.

Portrait photography black and white woman eyes shoulders hair intensity

We explored clavicles, lips, and the spine.

We explored strength and toughness…

Portrait photography black and white woman eyes shoulders hair clavicle

…and shoulders…

black and white portrait woman eyes shoulders hair

…and the assurance that comes from being the boss lady of one’s own life.

Portrait photography black and white woman eyes shoulders hair arms intensity

We shot for over an hour,
Using a 50mm f/1.8 at ISO 200,
With only a reflector and a white backdrop.
My favorite image from the session is this one, hands down.

Portrait photography fine art black and white mirror back eyes

It’s not an original concept.
Not by any means.
But it is the first time I’ve ever executed on the idea.
And I’m pleased with how it turned out—
A frame within a frame, capturing almost every feature we sought to explore.

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Details in a Country Vineyard

Outside of Healdsburg, CA, deep in a maze of unimproved dirt roads, there’s a country vineyard called TEN Springs Ranch.

It’s a steep, wild, and beautiful place.

I was there with family and friends for an annual celebration.

When I had my fill of conversation, I struck out alone to capture details that often go unnoticed. Tendrils and spears of grass, grain and mortar, trellis and wire tighteners, and other small things just waiting to be discovered.

 

Details are huge. When you add them up—poor, humble, and unknown as they are—you get amazing places. Like vineyards or churchyards or schoolyards or even backyards.

As I pondered a square bolt, one of my favorite Details in the world startled me.

Dad, she said, brightly. Look what I caught.

Turning round, I looked very carefully. There they were, five little fingers holding one bigger finger, an iridescent blue throat gulping air, and a smile as broad as the Russian River.

family portrait girl lizard bokeh

Now that’s a scene worth capturing.

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Photography as Rorschach Test?

Photography is influenced by psychology in a big way.
Take a look at these images,
Which I created over the last four years.

From image to image, the similarities are striking, right?
One person, not two—or more.
Face and eyes are largely hidden from view.
Shoulders or backsides get a lot of play.
Ratio of subject to negative space is fairly consistent,
With negative space predominating in the scene.
And of course, we’re outside, where wilderness abounds:
Sky, mountains, ocean, lakes, fields, trails, vistas, trees, and so on.
If photographs are inkblots, and they are—always!—
What do these images reveal about my beliefs and preoccupations?
And what do they reveal about your worldview, as you engage and react to them?

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Climb On

outdoor portrait boy blue sky

When I pack my camera, Gavin says, Leave it behind.
But I don’t.
When I pull it out like a rabbit from a hat, Gavin says, Put it away.
But I ignore him.
I don’t photograph him because that would be annoying.
But once in a while, Gavin will say, Hey, dad, take a picture of me,
As he did here, having climbed to the top of a large rock formation,
Between Lovers and Divorce beaches in Cabo.
I said, Smile.
And I said it again and then once more because all good things comes in threes.
Wisely, he decided to look indifferent and accomplished.
And I didn’t throw away my shot.

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Shoot, My Finger Said

Portrait photography young woman BW old-school

“What could be more simple and more complex, more obvious and more profound than a portrait.” That’s Charles Baudelaire, a French poet and an art critic, on the mysteries of portraiture. And I think he’s right.

There are a million ways to botch a portrait, even in the best conditions. In my experience, admittedly limited, a good portrait is a minor miracle. You’re not really responsible for it, neither you nor the subject. It just sort of happens, unplanned, unbidden. At best, you hope it happens. And you practice and prepare to help the moment along when it does.

Take this young lady, for instance. She was sitting near a fire in a room surrounded by windows, overlooking Donner Lake. The light in the room was perfect. And the light on her face and shoulders was even better.

Can I photograph you, I asked.

Yeah, sure, she said, a little surprised.

So I went to work with an 85mm shooting wide open, gathering as much light as possible for a high-key portrait with a studio feel, even though we were in a public space.

Most of the time, she looked off lens, this way and that, musing on snow, wind and mountains.

Then it happened.

She bore down on the lens in a way to make a cyclops freeze. She held her gaze fast, serene and confident.

A little brain in my finger said, Shoot. And my finger obliged, thankfully, because Something ageless was born in that moment.

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