In 2013, I saw a lot of extreme weather, most of it packed into less than three weeks during my annual whirlwind tour of Tornado Alley. Yet I still curse myself for not being in better position on some of the storms I saw and for missing others. Such is always the way of the perfectionist; that drive is a blessing and a curse, since perfection is never possible, except, perhaps, in the sweeping curves of a supercell at sunset. I’ll leave perfection to nature and post my imperfections right here.
The blue moon – the full moon on August 20 – was a magical photographic opportunity for me. I was able to shoot a lightning storm with the full moon overhead, from the beautiful vantage point of Cocoa, Florida, looking east over the Indian River Lagoon. I’ve photographed not-so-great shots of the moon with a thunderstorm before, but nothing like this. Better yet, there were multiple shots, though the one shown here is definitely my favorite.
I was lucky to get invited to an Independence Day party on a top floor of a condo overlooking the Indian River Lagoon and Cocoa, Florida’s excellent fireworks display on Thursday. Shooting fireworks is a lot like shooting lightning – you need a tripod and a camera you can put in manual mode so you can hold the shutter open for several seconds. But at least you know approximately where the fireworks are going to be.
Want to see more? Here’s a slide show. Prints are available.
This year was a year of subtleties for me when it came to storm and sky photography. A late storm-chasing season meant less time in Tornado Alley than I would have liked. I saw only one “good” tornado, and my video of it was better than my stills. Lightning wasn’t so great this summer in Florida, either. But I still managed to see a variety of atmospheric spectacles, and I’ve put together several photos in a slide show that looks back on the year. You can find it here.
Let me put on my photographer’s hat for a moment – it’s time to think about getting the family photos in order for this year’s holiday cards. To me, cards are more fun and personal when I can see the smiling faces of friends and family. Can I help you get the photos you want for your cards this year? For $95, you’ll get an hourlong photo session in a pretty location of your choice; an online gallery where you can order prints; and a CD so you can do whatever you wish with the photos. Typically, these sessions yield 25 to 30 diverse, nicely edited photos. The session will be casual and fun, and feel free to include pets — I love taking their photos, too! Even if you don’t want to use the photos for cards, the images will be perfect to share and treasure. Contact me to schedule a session. For ideas, see the galleries from other portrait sessions.
If you need a portrait of yourself or publicity photos, I’ll shoot an hourlong session with you for the same price through Dec. 31. Contact me if you’d like to give a portrait session as a gift certificate.
I recently took a week to visit family and shoot portrait sessions in Pennsylvania. A wonderful bonus was a road trip through west-central Pennsylvania in quest of covered bridges, many of which I saw in Somerset County. It’s funny, the romantic notions we have of covered bridges, but this was no Bridges of Somerset County romance novel. Many of the bridges are no longer in regular use; they sit parallel to the main road’s bridges, or are even blocked off in historical parks. But with a little imagination, you can frame them nicely and transport yourself in time. So much of photography is illusion – or call it artistic choice, if you like. I chose to go for a saturated look that brought out the middling fall colors. I love catching the flashy foliage as the trees throw their annual party before going to sleep for the winter, as much as I love coming home to the perpetual green of Florida.
I also took a few shots of a sunflower field in Lancaster County – home of so many Amish buggies, rolling farms, and fruit stands overflowing with pumpkins. Sunflowers always make me think of Kansas, now that storm chasing is in my blood. Seeing them in full bloom in Kansas is something I haven’t yet experienced, since I live in Florida; that’s a trip I look forward to. See more covered bridges and sunflowers here.
It’s so nice to get back into nature and do a little shooting for pleasure. At Viera Wetlands on Thursday, I used my still camera as well as a new video camera I’m trying out to capture a few images of the birds and alligators that flock to this area in our Florida “winter.” I was especially amused by a cranky great blue heron who wouldn’t let another heron anywhere near a nest, from which babies occasionally poked their fuzzy heads.
See the photo gallery, or check out a short video, below. Make sure you choose 720HD from the settings menu on the video (the gear- or flower-shaped symbol) to get the best quality.
“Casual portrait” sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it? “Portrait” makes one think of posing in front of a mottled blue cloth, perhaps at a department store, and gazing into the flat, bright lights of the studio. And the blue cloth certainly has its place, sometimes – I was window-shopping for one recently myself. But I much prefer to take photos of people outdoors, when the light is good, and when the setting has a chance to become part of the photos. The beach has endless appeal in this area, but recently, I visited Pennsylvania and had the opportunity to do portrait shoots in park settings. The flowers were gorgeous, and the grass and trees were lush and green. With the sun low in the sky, the light was divine. One of the shoots was with members of my family, and as they started to relax and have fun, the pictures reflected their mood. I especially like the shots of my dad playing with my nephew; it was so nice to see such rare happiness. Little kids have a lot to do with that! The pictures of my brother’s family came out well, too. It was as if summer added its glow to the scene.
Are you getting portraits taken of your family for a special occasion, or maybe for holiday cards? Or maybe you’re just overdue. I recommend having a photographer do a portrait session in a beautiful place, or a place with texture and interest, or a place that means something to you. Prepare to spend some time. Coordinate your clothes, but you don’t all have to wear the same thing. (Though jeans and white or pastel shirts can be very effective!) Avoid brand names and logos on the kids’ shirts, for a more timeless look. And play. A good photographer will play with you, and you’ll get joyous, spontaneous and even some “formal” informal portraits to treasure.
See more photos from these sessions and others in my photo galleries.