Shelby Rhodes

_DX_6095There are a few people that everyone has pass through their lives that no matter how short the time is, they seem to leave a lifelong impression. Shelby is one of those people. To me, she is the perfect expression of the modern Southern Belle. Not just pretty, but a “Southern Pretty” is probably the first thing anyone notices, but after spending a some time with her this year, we’ve seen so much more than what meets the eye. Besides the obvious beauty, there is a huge heart which is always evident to me in the love she shows for her little sister, family and her friends. There is also a talented dancer there. I loved watching and photographing her this year during the halftime performances. Definately a southern belle and you can look to her mother to see where she gets it from.

The first shoot that we did was at her Great-Grandparents old vintage leather shop. She wanted to shoot there as a sort of tribute to her family and it was a very touching shoot. We shot in and around the leather shop and the old barn as well. Doesn’t matter where you put Shelby, the photo will always look great. Below is a couple of photos from that first shoot. Val and I were both touched by this shoot and Shelby wanting to honor her family.


_DX_6048The next shoot was at a creek on their property at daylight. Yes, that’s right, daylight. Not many girls are willing to get up before the sun, get ready and then get into a creek and let you take pictures of them. But she was! God supplied us with awesome light and a perfect setting, Shelby supplied us with the “Pretty” and the shoot was one of the best I’ve ever been involved in. Her mother, little sister, and Tank, her dog were all there as well. Every shot from this session is my favorite but here are a few of those. Nobody can rock a hat like Shelby.

One of my favorite shots from the entire year is this one from that session. It’s the photo at the top of this post. As a photographer, I don’t know that I could have ever been presented with a better opportunity for a great shot than this. I loved that shot then and it has remained one of my favorites all year. It’s hanging in the studio now and probably always will be.

We had a couple more shoots during the year and below are a few from those shoots. Each of the shots tells a story and has meaning to her and her family. The flag and tank pay homage to her family members who have served, and the houndstooth hat honors another.


I know I’ve said it before but it really was special for Val and me to get to work with Shelby and we’re thankful for that time with her. We’ll miss her dancing at halftime shows during the football games and seeing her at the different events. Our time with her was truly special.

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Danna Brewer


One of those girls that was at the top of our list of hopefuls to work with this year was Danna. During the year, she’s become pretty special to Val and me and I have to admit, we’ve become pretty “stinkin” attached to her. We’re really, really, going to miss having her around.

_DX_3036Danna is one of the most beautiful young women we know and we describe her as a classic beauty. By that I mean she’s the type of young women that would have been beautiful 100 years ago, she’s georgeous now and will still be considered beautiful 100 years in the future. Mix that sort of pretty with her compassion, and almost fiery drive, and it’s hard to imagine any type of scenario where she won’t be successful.

There is such a range in Danna. We’ve seen the Danna who lays it all out on the basketball court, the Danna who is so compassionate with her friends when they need her, and the softer side of Danna during those quiet “in-between” moments. I think it’s that “completeness” that gives her such a special quality and character and draws people to her.

The first shoot of the year was at an old house that had been in her family and it was the perfect setting for Danna’s “Southern Beauty” as we call it. She had some awesome boots and a couple of outfits that really helped showcase her style. To me, the outfit couldn’t describe Danna any better.  The “Country” of the cowboy boots, along with the awesome white dress, and the antique chair & old house, was a perfect description of her. Beautiful, Southern, Respectful.

The adjacent shots are a few from that first session. We had a great time in the shoot and were really happy with the photos from that day.


The next shoot was one in the studio that we shot a few outfits as well as her Drape and cap and gown. I loved this session because of my ability to control the setting since it was in the studio. Danna’s eyes are beautiful and this gave me the opportunity to try and do them justice with good lighting.

Danna Studio Session-097-Edit

The next session was in the creek and on an old dirt road. Danna in the creek with her boots and dress were once again incredible. I love her reflection in the water at the creek. Val and I are suckers for reflections. From there we flew to find a spot on a old dirt road at sunset and came upon this winding section of road near Waterloo. As you can see in these photos, once again, she’s awesome and still has that Southern Charm.

_DX_3178-Edit_DX_3305-EditWe still have one shoot coming that we’ve had planned the whole year but haven’t been able to get yet due to schedules and mother nature but I’m determined to get it and I’ll probably write a blog on that shoot alone when it happens so stay tuned for that.

I’m going to miss Danna, she was one of the ones I went to when I needed help putting something together or getting help from the seniors. There is just something special about her that’s hard for me to put into words. Not a lot of girls can take a charge on the basketball court, encourage a friend who’s down, get a personal foul in the Powder-Puff football game and still look incredible in boots and jeans like she can. Hopefully we’ll get to see her at UNA because we’re really going to miss her.

Marena Caddell

If you made me declare right now where my favorite place on earth was, I would probably answer “Waterloo” I spend a huge amount of my youth there fishing and camping and still find myself there most weekends photographing wildlife and visiting those areas that I grew up in.  I practically wore out a canoe in the back of second creek.  My mother went to school at Waterloo as well, and it just sort of feels like coming home whenever I’m there. I am able to find some quite peace and prayer time there that seems harder to get elsewhere.

When I got the call from Melanie, Rena’s mother, she goes by “Rena” by the way, I was really excited.  After brainstorming about ideas for a few days I came up with one that I was really pumped up about.  However, I have to admit, I may have been a little too pumped up.  I quickly found out from my wife that you can’t ask a high school senior girl to show up on the river bank at daylight…  My bad, but too late for Val, HA!, I’d already scheduled the first session… I wanted to have her on the river bank with the mist rising from the cooling fall waters of second creek with the sunrise just peaking over the hills behind her.  I knew exactly what I wanted but it only happens for a very few minutes and only at daylight, so the timing was going to be critical.

We set out from our home in Colbert Heights and arrived at Waterloo about an hour before sunrise to make sure that everything was just as we wanted it.  When Rena arrived with her family, yep, that’s right she actually showed up… at daylight… we got right to work.  She was awesome in the early morning light.  We worked for a few hours that morning in different settings and got what I thought were some really special shots and we had a blast as well._DX_2769If I had to describe Rena in just a few words, I’d have to say beautiful (obviously), fun, talented and focused. Let me start by saying we always had fun during the shooting.  We laughed as much as we shot it seemed, and the shots came so easy with her. She has the kind of personality that makes everyone want to be around her.  Fun is a good one-word description of Rena.

As far as talent goes, I’m not sure there is anything she can’t do well.  Volleyball, Cheer, Softball…. It’s not often you see a catcher who can stand their ground on a hard play at home plate, and then get 1st place in the beauty pageant like she did this year.  Heck, I hear she can even catch fish now… She just might be the perfect girl guys! While there certainly is a lot of natural talent in Rena, a good measure of her success this year comes from her focus.  As someone who relies on a lot of hard work so succeed, I’m always appreciative of those who share that trait like she does.  Her successes this year were largely due to her talent, but there was a lot of hard work put in as well.


One of the next shoot that we planned was a cotton field shoot at sunset. Again, she was georgeous and I love the look rena has when she smiles with just her eyes.  I’m not really sure how to describe it without showing it so here is a photo from that shoot.  It just make you smile when you see her smile that way.


The photo above is one of my favorites taken in the studio.  I love her eyes in this shot.  She has some of the prettiest eyes of anyone I’ve ever worked with. There always seems to be a sparkle there.

We worked in the studio a few times this year in her softball and cheer uniforms. We captured several shots that we really liked but the one in the catchers helmet to me describes her perfectly.  There is the athleticism and toughness portrayed by the battle scars and dirt on the helmet, but the incredibly beautiful young women behind the facemask with those pretty focused eyes shows the contrast and range of who she is.  To me, this photo best describes Marena.

_DX_0493There are a couple of other photos that stand out in my mind as being some of the most special of the year.  The first is a photo of her in a barn that belongs to her grandmother, Susie. (Who is also someone who I think an awful lot of by the way).  Her mother grew up around that barn, so there was some history to this setting.  I love photographs that tell a story so this was a perfect venue to work in. Here is one of my favorites from that day.  I really, really like this shot.

In some of the packages that we offer, we are able to sort of follow them through their year.  We try and make things like games and other events such as Rena’s beauty pageant. I think those are a HUGE part of their senior year and in a couple of our packages we are able to spend the time to be there for them and document these. In this photo below, there was a candid moment when her mother Melanie was helping Rena with her dress.  It was a quiet, unscripted moment that seemed to be a snapshot of the love and support a mother shows her daughter during this year of her life.  Val and I both love the shot and Val says it’s her favorite of the entire year.

I’m lucky to have gotten the chance to work with Rena and her family this year.  It’s truly been a blessing for me.  We’re shooting one more time later this week and while I’m looking forward to it, I’m already missing her a little….


2015 Seniors Cheerleaders, Emma McFall


Emma and that beautiful warm smile

As I start to look back at 2015 and the seniors that we were blessed to work with, I have to admit that I’m already missing these young men and women so I wanted to post a few of my thoughts about them and the photos we were able to capture as well as a little of the background behind some of the photos. We worked with several seniors this year, too many to post in a single blog, so I thought I’d split them up into groups and a few individuals that we spent more time with, to make it a little easier to read. I’ll be writing these posts over the days to come.  I’m thinking of it somewhat as “Therapy” to get me through the sadness of knowing they’re moving on into bigger and better things… without me…

I’d like to start with one of the cheerleaders. Since we also shoot sports, I get to spend a lot of time with the cheerleaders and get really attached to them. I still maintain the position that Cheerleaders may be the best athletes in sports.  Certainly some of the hardest working.

We LOVED just being around Emma. Oh, sweet Emma.  She’s the prototypical All-American Cheerleader, always got a smile, sweet southern girl that every mother wants her son to marry and everyone wants to have as a best friend. There’s an inner warmth in Emma that comes through her personality and spreads comfort to those around her.  As I grow older and “hopefully” wiser, I value these “compassionate” people more and more. They are the most special people on earth.

From a photographers perspective, I wanted to make sure that I was able to bring out those traits that are so special about Emma but I also wanted to make sure that I could show a little of that side that isn’t always so apparent. The “softer” side.  I began to think and plan for the shoots, but I have to admit, working with Emma was so much fun that we did a lot of improvising and some of those are my favorite shots.

Emma on Train

The shot above is one of my favorites from the year. The warm light of a beautiful sunset on the old Marine Corps train reminds me of the sacrifices that were made for us in war so that the rest could be free to grow up, raise families and continue their American dreams and traditions. That history is the supporting backdrop for Emma who in this photo seems to glow and clearly outshine even that beautiful sunset, with the red and white stripes in the shirt paying tribute to the Flag. Being ex-military myself, when I look at this photo I know when those who made those sacrifices might have looked down and saw her in this setting, they would tell us, this is why we did what we did.


Some of Emma’s early life photos were in Spring Park so we decided to shoot a few senior portraits there as well.  The Carousel was the perfect prop for her in this beautiful dress.


The idea for the above photo was Emma’s, I can’t take any credit for that.  It was fun but let’s face it, seeing me leaning out precariously from a ladder directly over you is a scary proposition. I love the photo, still that signature Emma smile…

Val and I are REALLY going to miss Emma. We’re blessed to have been a small part of her senior year.  It’s going to be hard to replace that beautiful smile. I’ll sure miss it…

To see more of Emma’s Gallery:  Emma McFall

Taylor Creasy

My last cheerleader that I want to talk about, is Taylor. I’m going to miss all of these girls by the way. There is an awesome group of Senior Cheerleaders again this year and I hope I get to work with all of them. Maybe that will help me get over missing the girls from last year.

Working with Taylor was a lot of fun. She has an infectious enthusiasm that spreads quickly. She’s incredibly beautiful when she dresses up but when we see her, she’s usually in a uniform or outdoor gear. It often catches me off guard when I see her in settings like the beauty pageant, which she did very well in by the way, or before the prom. I get so used to seeing her in competitive situations, when I see her in those other situations, its always a “Wow” moment for me.

_DX_5065We shot in the woods, near the water, on the field and in the studio. She was pretty much game for whatever we wanted to do. The first shoot was in a venue that allowed us to show her outdoor side. Taylor loves hiking and being outside so it seemed like the perfect place to start. Good news: Perfect setting for Taylor and she looked great… Bad news: 137° Temperature and 318% Humidity…. But she was awesome even in the heat. I guess all of those hours in the sun and the hot cheer shop had her more conditioned for it than we were. She started the shoot in an orange dress that was a perfect contrast the the greens and browns of the mossy rocks and natural hues. The shots below are some of my favorites from that shoot.

Next we shot one evening at the football field. Emma and Taylor both wanted to shoot a few things and they brought Haleigh Brewer along with them for help. We LOVE Haleigh so that was a special treat for us. Haleigh has a smile that spreads to everyone around her so we always like having her around and we’re really looking forward to her cheering again this year. They did some jumps and a few other things that turned out great but the shot at the top of the page is one of my favorite shots of the whole year. How does anyone get their hair to look that good in mid-air?


Taylor Studio Session-081-EditIn our last shoot, I wanted to move into the studio. I wanted to shoot her in the cheer and softball uniforms but I wanted to control the enviroment so that we could really showcase her beauty as well. The shots below are from that shoot. We had a great time in the studio. It was probably my favorite session.

It goes without saying that we’ll miss Taylor and the signs each week during football season. but with her great work ethic, talent and drive, something tells me, we’ll be hearing from her again.

To more of her senior photos, click on the links below.

God Bless,

Maggie Pace

Let me start my look back at working with Maggie by saying that she was one of the most pleasant surprises of the entire year. I’d been around Maggie for a few years as she cheered at the different sports we shoot, and while we’d spoken briefly during some of these events, we’d never really spent any time together.  As a result of this, I didn’t really know what to expect when working with her.  Working with Maggie turned out to be one of highlights of my entire year.  It seemed that each time I put the camera up to take her photo, there was always a “wow” moment.  Truthfully, I found myself thinking, “OK, she’s perfect, don’t screw this up with the camera…” The quiet and shy girl I’d seen turned out to be one of the most beautiful, polite and respectful people that I’ve ever worked with.

Her beauty is obvious, anyone can see that, however as I got to know her, there were somethings I learned about her that weren’t so obvious.  There is a determined resolve and fight inside her that exists in contrast to the beauty and softness. Being a childhood cancer survivor probably has something to do with this but the same qualities are also evident in her mother, Michelle, so it’s probably a combination of both. The “drive” inside her assures me that she will be successful in life no matter what obstacles she faces.

Photographing her at first seemed very easy.  Beautiful girl, hard to mess up, right?.  Seemed that way at first to me but I quickly began to realize that at times I could see a glimpses of something that was even more beautiful.  There was a sort of “light” that shown at times and I wanted to make sure that I could catch it in the photos.  The photo below is one of this moments from the very first session. There’s just something special about Maggie and you can see it in this photo. I’ve had a hard time describing that light and where it is most evident.  At times I would think it came through in the eyes, however after working with her all year, I think now, it’s more than the eyes.  The light seems to almost come from the soul. As a photographer, it just doesn’t get much better than this._DX_1532_DX_1555

As a side note, the first few times we worked together, it seemed that I was always getting wet. The first couple of shoots were around water and it seemed the best angle was always from the “wet side” of the scene.  However every shot turned out to be more than worth getting wet and I enjoyed every minute of it.  This shot is one of my absolute favorites from the entire year.  Val and I are suckers for reflections, especially when they are as beautiful as this. Water was a little cold though….

One of the other qualities I discovered in Maggie was her appreciation for respect, honor and traditions as well as a kindness toward both those who deserve it and those who need it.  What I mean by that is, she has a deep respect for those who have served honorably in places such as the military, public offices and her teachers and coaches.  She was always very respectful every time I was around her.  But the other thing we saw was the need to reach out to others who might be hurting. In several situations we saw throughout the year she gave them that same respect and comfort. I think it’s this trait that’s driving her to pursue a career in somehow helping other children who are fighting cancer as she did. In one of the last shoots we did, she decided that she wanted to shoot in a dress that was her grandmothers, or it may have been her great-grandmothers. She also wanted to have a flag in order to pay tribute to the military members of her family and the families who supported them, represented somewhat by the dress.  We shot this on a white background so that there were no distractions in the photos, only the beautiful Maggie and her tribute. Here are a couple from that shoot.  They were all great but there were a couple that are my favorites.


_DX_9559-EditThe photo above is another of those moments when Maggie seems to have that inner glow about her and I love this photo.  In the other photo she struck a pose that reminds me of some of the vintage shots from that same era.  This one is probably my favorite.

The photo below is one from the Canola fields in the fall. This may be there very first frame we shot. It was again, one of those “wow” moments for me and I think we could have ended the shoot then. We shot till the sun had set and were blessed with an incredible sunset. Apparently, she’s beautiful in every setting…

It wouldn’t be right to show photos of Maggie without showing one of the photos in uniform since it’s where we got to know her and how we’re used to seeing her.  A cheerleader in every sense of the word, not just for the school and teams, but for others in life as well.  We’ll miss her but we have no doubt that she’ll be successful, we just hope we still get to see her now and then….


Senior Athletic Portraiture – Why we love it…

Kasi 5

Most everyone who is familiar with our work knows us for our wildlife photography, but we also have a profound love for shooting sports.  Actually it’s the athletes that we come to know that makes it a “profound” love of shooting sports.  We see them work hard, aspiring to get better, the preparation, the games and the emotions of both their successes and defeats makes it impossible to maintain a “distant” relationship with them.  We really care about these athletes and feel the joys of their success and share the pain of their losses. Last year we decided that we would do some athletic portraiture for a few of the athletes that we’ve come to know and have shot action for. We felt like after seeing them throughout the season, we had some insight into what would make the best portraits for these particular athletes.  The other advantage I felt we had was that as we shot the young men and women throughout the year there are what I call “moments of inspiration” where we would notice something an athlete does or says and think, “you know, a shot like…. would be really cool.” So I make a note of it and begin to plan for the shot.  I think the better you know the athlete, the better your chances of “revealing” who that person is through a image, are greatly improved. So Val and I decided to only shoot a very few athletes this past year so that we would be able to devote appropriate time to each athlete. Below are a few of my favorite images from some of those athletes along with a little bit of the stories that make those images and the people special to us.


Kasi II

Val and I have been drawn to Kasi since we met her a few years ago as a cheelearder at Central. If I had to describe her in a short sentence, I have to say “vibrant, caring and fun”. I can’t imaging anyone knowing Kasi without loving her.  Her infectious smile and personality always leave you feeling like you just spent a moment with that best friend that you don’t get to see as much as you’d like. Some of my favorite candid shots from the last few years at Central have been of Kasi.  Moments ranging from quite and thoughtful to a beautiful kind of silly. I was thrilled to be asked to shoot her portraits by her mother Nikki.  I thought, “There is no way anyone can take a bad shot of her, even I can’t screw this up!”  As it turns out, I was right.  Every shot of Kasi was beautiful. My challenge was showing the side of her that we knew through these portraits. I wanted to show no only the fun side of Kasi but I also wanted to make sure that I could capture the more quiet and thoughtful side of her that we’d seen at times when she didn’t know we were watching. Getting past her natural smile that always seems to come around people, and easing into those quite moments was a challenge I knew we’d have but she made it as “easy as pie”.  Kasi is a beautiful girl inside and out. We will miss as she moves on to bigger and better things. We feel blessed to have crossed paths with her and her family.

The Journey Continues…

The Journey Continues…

The image of Kasi on the dirt road above in her Cheerleader uniform is one that I had planned for months.  I wanted an image that represented her moving from this phase of her life into the next.  Looking back at the camera in her uniform on a long dirt road would be perfect if I could get the right conditions and if I could jump through a few technical hurdles like balancing lighting with the ambient light in the last few minutes before dark.  We met late in the afternoon and shot some images in a field of yellow flowers. When the sky started to turn overcast we were almost done in the fields and at first I was a little disappointed in how the grey light was changing the scene. But I recognized that because of the clouds and their posistion in the sky, there was the possibility of a really spectacular sunset. We had the shots we wanted and the sun was setting quickly, so we jumped in the cars and flew to the next spot. We only had moments to pull this off so I drove pretty fast with Nikki and Kasi following behind.  I don’t know how fast we were going on that bumpy gravel road but somehow Kasi managed to change into her cheerleader uniform while bouncing around in the back of their vehicle.  We arrived at the spot I’d planned to shoot at just as the sky started to show some color.  We jumped out, set up and began to shoot.  Just 7 minutes later, the beautiful sky was gone. The image above is one of the shots we got.  A few people have commented to us, and to them, that they like the “photoshopped” sky.  They’re wrong, the sky was God’s work, we were just blessed to be there with Kasi and Nikki when it happened.

Kasi 3

More images of Kasi:


Bailey is without question one of my favorite athletes at any level.  If I was picking a team for any sport, men or women, I would pick her without question.  I know that at some point in the game, any game, she will make an impact and make you regret not having her on your team.  She’s like a Coach/Quarterback/Go-To-Player all in one and beautiful to boot! Never quits, works hard, plays hard, dives for EVERY ball and does it with the attitude that every coach wants. She’s definitely one of my favorite athletes to ever come through high school sports. We’ve seen some remarkable things from this young woman but there is no doubt that the best is yet to come from her.  She’s signed with UNA softball and I’m thankful that I’ll be able to keep shooting her as she continues there as part of our work with UNA athletics.

When her mother Michelle asked us to do her Senior portraits, we were pretty excited.  It was late in the year and I’d hoped to be able to shoot her portraits and had a lot of ideas already in my sketchbook. It was really a lot of fun to shoot and the images came easy and turned out every bit as good as we’d hoped.  Actually, they were better than we hoped, but I attribute that to Bailey and not our cameras. One of the things that I’d noticed about Bailey throughout the year was her drive to compete and it was always evident in her eyes.  It reminded me of the same gaze that an eagle has. Calculated and purposeful, oblivious to obstacles or excuses, determining the best way to take advantage of an opponent’s weakness and use it to beat them. We thought it was critical to show this and I believe we succeeded in some of the images, I really think it’s represented well in her eyes in the image above.

Bailey 2

The other side of Bailey that we wanted to show was her softer side.  I have to admit, we were both a little surprised at just how beautiful she really was.  We usually saw her in a dusty softball uniform or running up and down the basketball court. We were very familiar with the athletic Bailey, but the softer side of Bailey was incredibly beautiful.  The eyes that reflected so much determination and drive in competition were a stunning beautiful blue in her portraiture. As we shot that afternoon, we were continuously amazed at the beautiful side of Bailey. We worked with Bailey and her mother Michelle for a little more than 5 hours that afternoon and time flew by, feeling more like an hour than an afternoon.

Bailey 3

More images of Bailey are at:


Next Challenge

Next Challenge

When we were asked to shoot a short session with Nic by his mother Brayde, we were excited but a little apprehensive at first. The apprehension wasn’t about Nic, but more about making sure we could deliver images that were reflective of who he is.  Nic ran cross country which we weren’t able to shoot because of football commitments at Central and UNA, so we missed that season completely.  He’s a great baseball player, but we missed the early part of that season as well, so we didn’t have a lot of opportunity with him there either.  However, after getting to shoot a few games and spending a little time with him, it was easy to develop a plan for the shoot. Nic is also one of those type of athletes that you want to make sure is on your team.  He received several awards at Central this year and was very deserving of each of those. “Clutch” is probably the best way to describe him. Nic is one of those players that keeps himself and others focused on what matters and pushes everyone toward the goal of getting better and winning. Probably the best baseball play I saw all year was a play where Nic dove for a hard hit ball at second base, fielded the ball and made a rocket throw to first from his knees while falling away.  Great play, no showboating, business as usual. He expected to make the play, made the play, next play…. My challenge was going to be how to show this “Business as usual, great future, exceptional ability and leadership, personality in an image.  I thought, “you know, a shot on the field in a suit with a baseball bat and helmet, blue sky, baseball field and a driven stare, that’s what I want to show”.  When you look at the image above, I hope you can see not only the athlete in the image but the certainty of a successful future because of what, we who know him, know he’ll do to secure it.

Nick Kayaking The image above shows Nic in one of his favorite pastimes, Kayaking.  This shot was a challenge since it involved shooting and setting up lights all waist deep in Cypress Creek.  It was somewhat risky to set up in the creek, since camera equipment doesn’t react well to being wet, but I believe the image was well worth the effort. More images are at:


Colby 1

We’d not spent a lot of time with Colby before our first shoot but we’d been around him enough to know that we really liked him.  A very polite and respectful young man who is well thought of by his coaches and peers, he’s easy to like.  He reminds me a lot of myself when I was young in that he loves hunting, fishing and the outdoors like I did.  Colby’s an excellent cross country and baseball athlete but his true love seemed to be the outdoors.  So that’s where we started. We spent an afternoon at their family cabin on a small lake.  The skies were extremely overcast and what had been warm weather for several days, turned cold and windy.  The cloudy skies yielded a nice sunset with just enough subtle color to add some drama to a few shots just before dark.  His graduation gift from his parents was a new Ford F150 of which he is proud of.  We moved it into a field and began to shoot just as the light began to fade.  Above is one of my favorite images of that shoot. The shot below is also one of my favorites.  I love Golden Retrievers and they have one that seemed to enjoy being in the spotlight.  This is a candid shot that the dog decided to photo-bomb but it turned out to be one of my favorites of the day.

Colby 2

We still have another session scheduled to complete the session when our schedules will accomodate each other.  We’re looking forward to it a lot. More images of Colby:


Evan is one of those athletes that you hated to play against. He’s the guy on the other team that just keeps pounding you until you begin to question your own resolve. After you begin to tire and let up just a little, he takes advantage of it and makes you pay. Evan is a tough, very hard working and smart young man with an extremely bright future ahead of him. An excellent Football and Tennis player, Evan is one of those kind of athletes that could compete at any sport he wanted to. We’d been around Evan a lot but it had always been under game circumstances so we didn’t know a lot about his interests outside of sports and school.  Turns out, he’s a lot of fun to be around and we were able to identify with him pretty quickly. One of the images that I had in mind for Evan was a locker room shot that would reflect the toughness and grit that he played with.  Those images were where we started the shoot and my favorite of those is the images are above. Another is the image below.  Note the sandals in the image.  I like the sandals because even though Evan is a really tough competitor, he also has a very easy-going casual side and likes to play as hard as he works. To me, and I think to all of the folks that know Evan, the sandals remind us of that and make sense in the images.

Evan 1

One of the other shots we wanted to capture was a nice sunset image.  After the success we had with Kasi’s sunset image, I was eager to get another.  Having said that, it’s much harder to pull off that you might think and of course you need to start with of course… a great sunset.  So we set up a shoot a couple of days after the locker room shoot and headed out to shoot some images late in the afternoon with one eye on the sky watching for that great sunset.  As it got late, there were only a very few clouds in the sky but incredibly, they were in a position where the sun would set behind them.  We scrambled to get into posistion and set up.  It couldn’t have been better.  For the last few minutes before dark we were blessed with the best outdoor backdrops that you could possibly ask for.  Below are a couple of images from those few minutes.

Evan Sunset

My other favorite image is the shot that I like to do that illustrates their leaving one period in their life and moving toward the next.  However, I have to give most of the credit to Evan himself on this shot.  During the few moments of the sunset, he swung around on the rail with his back toward me and facing into the sunset.  I thought that was a perfect image so I adjusted and shot it.  The shot below is the result and one of my favorite images of the year.

Evan 4

Evan has more images available in his gallery but there are still a few more to be posted as well:

As we prepare for the year to come, I’m excited about some of the athletes that have already asked to work with us and there a more that I hope to work with. If you’re interested in working with us this year, please let me know as quickly as you can. The sooner I know, the more brainstorming I can do to plan the shoots and I don’t want to commit to too many athletes and get spread too thin. I’d also like to know who we’re shooting senior portraits for early so that we can keep one-eye on them during the different events and catch some of those special moments that might go unnoticed otherwise.  I’m working on pricing for this year and hope to have it finalized this week.  I’ll post it here when I do.  We’re preparing to purchase a new printer and as soon as I have those costs figured in, I can set up a new fee schedule.  If you’re interested in working with us for portraiture, or for action, send me an email at: Thank you, Joe

••• UPDATE •••
Val and I have finally come up with some pricing for the Senior photos.  The order for the new printer has been placed and we have a pretty good idea of what we’d like to do for the athletes this year.  We’ve decided to break-up everything into 3 different options.

Package 1: $250 ($100 Print/Media Credit included):.  This package consists of a single session, usually two hours or so depending on the light.  I’m not a stickler for time as I’m usually the one who wants to keep shooting until everything is just right.  But usually this session lasts a couple of hours or so, there are no other limitations with this package. As many locations, changes or poses as we can get done in that time.

Package 2: $400 ($150 Print/Media Credit included): This package usually consists of 2, 2 hour sessions or a long afternoon (4-5 hours).  No limit on locations, outfits or poses.

Package 3: $650 ($250 Print/Media Credit included): This is what I think of as our “Adoption” package and the one I prefer to do.  It includes multiple shoots throughout the year as good photo opportunities arise. It also includes a CD at the end of the year with any action photos that we may have taken during the year.  (UNA and Central have already filled our football schedule for 2014/2015 unless there is an open week or if you have a Thurs/Sat game) but if your athlete doesn’t play at one of those schools, let us know and I’ll try to make a game or two of their games if at all possible.  I like to do that anyway as it helps me figure out shots that I think work well for them.

Package 4: Well there really is no package 4 but if you need something that doesn’t fit into one of these other categories, please ask.  I don’t want anyone who wants to work with us to be left out.  If you want to work with us, I want to work with you.  We’ll figure the rest out later.

All packages include professional retouching.  I’ve been doing professional retouching and color correction for about 25 years now and insist on doing it myself.  I also print my own prints on a the highest quality available Canon professional large format printer.  I’m extremely picky about my images and prints and would never deliver anything that I’m not proud of.

Thanks and please let me know if you have any questions.

Spring Is Here!



Spring in Northwest Alabama and the surrounding areas is a truly remarkable time for those of us that love nature and especially nature photography. Mother nature has inspired all of her creatures to come out of their winter hold-up and put on their best dress.

Birds are at their most photogenic during this early spring season. The breeding colors and displays give the nature photographer some of the best opportunities of the year. Not only are they at their best, but generally, they are more sociable and gather in larger numbers making them easier to find and to photograph. Oh, and did I mention that nesting season results in lots of cute little baby birds to photograph? We’re blessed here with lots of great places to observe and photograph different rookeries. One of the best is Jackson Island just below Wilson Dam. There are literally hundreds of birds nesting below the dam. Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, Cormorants, Little Green Herons and several other species call this area home during the breading season. With good binoculars or a long lens for your camera, these birds are easily observed from the Rockpile Recreation area. There are other birds to be seen in this area as well that might not be nesting, but still frequent the area. Bald Eagles, Black Crowned Night Herons, Snowy Egrets and Pelicans also can be seen in the area below the Dam. There are similar opportunities below Wheeler Dam as well. Both sites are great this time of year.

SP_baby herons

Great Blue Heron chicks in a nest on Jackson Island below Wilson Dam

There are now several Bald Eagle nests in the area. While I love shooting eagles with my camera, I beg everyone to treat them with a lot of respect. I only approach eagles that are somewhat acclimated to humans and even then I maintain a very safe distance from the nest. A good rule to follow is: if the animal changes it’s behavior, then you’re too close. Also understand that not all folks will have the birds best interests in mind so be very careful who you share nesting locations with. There are several instances that come to mind illustrating this point. Last year Val and I arrived to a nesting site that has become somewhat popular for observers and photographers over the last year. A man and women were almost directly underneath the nest and didn’t see us approach. There was an adult and three young eaglets in the nest. The man began to clap loudly in order to get the eagle to fly so that he could get a photo of the eagle in flight. Startling the birds in the nest could very easily have resulted in one or more of the chicks falling from the nest. They almost never survive this type of fall. This pair of eagles has been nesting there for several years now but the few of us that knew about it kept if quiet for just this type of reason. On one warm day early last summer, I was told several people with Picnic blankets and chairs set up very close to the nest tree. The eagles did not return to the nest all day with food for the chicks because of the amount of people in the area. Food is the only source of water that the chicks have and without the parents bringing in food on a warm day, the chicks will dehydrate.


A Bald Eagle feeds a young eaglet near Waterloo

Another example is at a nest near Waterloo, Val and I had gone in to an nesting area before daylight so that when it began to get light, the birds wouldn’t notice us. We were 75 yards away, in camo and completely still. By doing this, we were able to observe this pair for 2 years with completely natural behaviour. However, on one day, a young man came up through the woods, began to try to shake the tree, and bent down to pick up a rock. Presumably to try and knock the young eaglet from the nest. Why I have no idea what he thought he would do with it. However, we had began to come out of hiding now and when he looked up he saw us and left the area pretty quickly. I did post his picture in a nearby store for everyone to see…. Sorry I know I got off on a rant but protecting the animals is something I’m very passionate about. 95% of the nesting pair we know of, we’re decided are unapproachable so we don’t even attempt to photograph them during nesting season and I encourage everyone else to make this commitment as well.

SP_proud parents_k8f5859

A pair of Bald Eagles welcome a new addition to the family

Another area that is great to photograph in the spring is Rock Spring along the Natchez Trace. Commercial photography is prohibited however personal photography is encouraged. There are lots of beautiful songbirds frequenting the area. Muskrats and Nutria call the pond area home now. I believe the beavers may have moved to another den but could return at any time. There are a pair of kingfishers that I believe are nesting here. Turtles, frogs, snakes and lizards are also here in abundance if you like reptiles. There is also a myriad of beautiful spring wildflowers to photograph as well. It’s only a short hike from the parking lot and well worth the work if you’re in the area. I strongly encourage you to visit Rock Spring if you haven’t already.


A Muskrat floats on the surface of Pickwick Lake

The Waterloo area is one of my favorite places on earth and has been since I was a small child. Eagles and ospreys are nesting here and can be seen from the roads as they fish to provide food for their young. The older the chicks get, the more food they need so activity becomes more frequent as the spring progresses. Pelicans and ducks are also seen here in numbers. This winter, there was a group of 10 Trumpeter Swans that spent the winter here. Loons seem to grow in number here each year and there are several there now that can usually be seen from the bridge if there isn’t too much bridge traffic. The loop around second creek is a good place to see whitetail deer and wild turkeys as well. I’ve seen very large groups of turkeys in the area behind the creek. Beavers, muskrats, nutria and Otters are also residents of the waterloo area, though not as frequently seen. The Waterloo Market is a great place to get information on what’s happening in the area. Neil and Pam are always friendly and Pam makes a great hamburger. Val and I call it the “Pamburger”. Mustard, ketchup and pickles, hard to beat.


An Osprey returns to a nest on Pickwick Lake near Florence

A couple of great places to photograph eagles that are acclimated to humans are The Guntersville Dam area and Shiloh Military Park in Savannah, TN. Both require a little bit of a drive, not too bad, but are well worth it if you don’t want to, or can’t, walk a long way. One of the great upsides to these sites are that they are generally gathering points for other nature photographers who are often happy to share information and techniques. If you’re new to nature photography and want to talk to other experience nature photographers, I highly recommend these sites.


A Pair of Loons on Second Creek

We here in north Alabama are truly blessed to live in an area full of natural beauty and a plethora of wildlife. As a wildlife photographer, it’s hard to imaging living anywhere else. Get out and enjoy what we have, but please remember that the animals well-being should come first.



Otters! Finally!

At First Light on a Foggy Creek

At First Light on a Foggy Creek

Just a few years ago, I’d become a little burnt-out on competitive fishing, which I took up to relax because I’d become burnt-out on competitive golf, so I decided to buy a camera and just get out and enjoy nature.  This seemed like a good way for me to relax without any schedules or competition or anything else that might introduce stress. So I bought a digital camera and headed out.

One of the animals that I had pictured in my head that I wanted to photograph was the Northern River Otter.  I’d seen a few, very few, of these while fishing and thought to myself, “that can’t be too hard, I see them now when I’m not even looking for them.  I couldn’t have been any more wrong…

Fast forward 5 years… to March of 2014 to when I’ve finally found a female otter and her den. Yep, it took me 5 years to find a single otter, and it appears that that was the easy part! As of this writing, I have about 40 hours invested in this female and her den for a grand total of 14 minutes of her being visible…  About 21 of those hours came over 2 days sitting in the mud, cold water and briars that appear to have been growing since prehistoric times. I knew that I would have long waits but had never imagined that it would be like this. When I initially found what I believed to be a den, I was elated.  There was a lot of tracks from a large otter with the signature den complex next to a great food source and a lot of otter poop. However I didn’t actually see an otter so I couldn’t be 100% sure that the den was being used and not just visited.

The den area just before dawn

The den area just before dawn

So I did what any other responsible adult who was obsessed with otters would do, I played “Hookie”. I took a day off work to photograph the den. Everyone knew what I was doing and probably realize that it’s and undeniable urge so they very gracefully obliged.  It’s a long hike to the den with a couple of creek crossings and a lot of mud, underbrush and briars. I wanted to be setup and ready before the sun started to come up, so I left the house around 3:30 in the morning. There are a couple of other problems I should mention at this point… The area is an incredible area for wildlife because it receives so little human traffic.  In fact it’s full of everything from Cottonmouths to wild pigs.  REALLY BIG WILD PIGS! Fortunately for me, the weather is still a little cold for the snakes but I jumped two groups of pigs on the day that I found the Otter den and found dozens of pig dens as well as a set of tracks for one huge pig.  The place that I had intended to set up was only a few feet from one of the dens so I knew I needed to be careful and allow plenty of time to get there. I should also mention that the entire hike in would be done entirely in the darkness before dawn and my backpack weighs 84lbs.

Wood Ducks

A pair of Wood Ducks cautiously investigate one of the water level openings to the den complex. Cautious, because Duck is certainly on the otter’s menu.

I hiked into the area and set up on the spot I wanted without incident and felt pretty good about it all. The air was cool and there was a nice whispy fog coming off of the water as the dawn started to brighten the sky enough to examine the area. After only a few minutes I saw a small shape emerge from the den in the darkness and saunter up the bank. Up until that moment, I really hadn’t been sure that the den was occupied so I felt vindicated that my tracking skills had not let me down.  The otter moved around the immediate area of the den “marking her territory” and then disappeared for about an hour.  I felt as though I could now sit there patiently all day without the ugly “doubt” monster persuading me leave.  The otter had only been visible for a few seconds and the photos were far from the great photography that I’d envisioned in the previous days, but I had some visual evidence that I’d finally found an otter and it’s den.

Marking Territory

Marking her territory seemed to be a high-priority chore early in the morning.

When she arrived back at the den she came in via the water and quickly disappeared into the den via a water-level entrance. This second encounter has lasted only a few seconds again and I didn’t get much in the way of photos this time either.  But…. I’m still happy with it all and patting myself on the back for finding the den.  Again, after about an hour or so, the otter reemerged from the den and marked the territory once again, only this time, I got better opportunities to shoot and was able to identify that this otter was probably a female.  I’d thought that that was probably the case since female otters become solitary when it becomes time to birth the kits.  This meant that not only would I be able to, hopefully, get some shots of the young otter kits as the emerge, but also, it meant that she would stay in the area because of that.  After the kits are old enough to leave the den, the family becomes somewhat nomadic and develops a territory and may only return to any particular area in the territory every 5 days or so.

Peeking out from yet another hidden entrance to the den.

Peeking out from yet another hidden entrance to the den.

After about 3 minutes or so, she was gone again.  As I examined the photos, I’d just taken, Panic began to set in. In one of the slightly out of focus photos, she appeared to have something in her mouth.  The “Doubt Monster” quickly tried to convince me that she had discovered me and was moving the kits to another den. I quickly ran through my checklist of things I did/didn’t do right.  I set up down-wind from her, I was completely covered in camouflage, including the camera, with no skin or metal showing. The camera was set to “Silent Shutter” mode and I hadn’t moved or made a sound when she was visible. I hadn’t even clicked the shutter when she was still enough to here me. I didn’t see any way I might have been “busted”.  However the “Doubt Monster” maintained that I’d made a mistake somewhere and that the “jig was up”,  I might as well go home now.  “Probably ought to go on in to work and save half of a vacation day.  She won’t come back now, heck probably won’t come back ever”.  By the way, I hate that guy but it appears he travels with me wherever I go.

Something In Mouth

The camera had trouble locking focus through the underbrush but she appears to be carrying something in her mouth.  An otter kit maybe?

The time of her last sighting and the possible relocating of the kits was 8:03.  There was no sign of her again for the next 7 hours.  The voices in my head were now in complete control and feeling pretty smug.  Doubt had walked in, slammed the door and pulled up a chair next to me. It was a looooonnnng 7 hours but I refused to give in and stuck it out.

At a few minutes after 4, she emerged from one of the many entrances of the beaver den that she’d claimed for her home and began to sit and groom herself for the next 10 minutes.  There was scratching, yawning, rolling around and all sorts of wonderfully exciting photo opportunities during this time.  In case I forgot to mention it. I’d been sitting alone for the last seven hours afraid to move and nothing to keep me occupied except doubt and disappointment. This new spectacle of grooming was pretty exciting to me by now! After a few minutes of this she slipped off into the water and out of sight none the wiser that I’d ever been there.

After a long mid-day nap, she grooms herself in the sun before heading off to forage.

After a long mid-day nap, she grooms herself in the sun before heading off to forage.

Once I was convinced that she was far enough away as to not see me, I used to opportunity to pack up and leave the area undiscovered. It was still a long hike back to the truck and I was happy to leave the otter not knowing that I’d ever been there.

Off to forage at the end of the day

Off to forage at the end of the day

After getting back to my study at home, unpacking and cleaning the gear, I downloaded the images and began to make my notes about the day.  I have to admit, though I was very tired, I was no less excited than the day before.  I’d spent a little less than 14 hours on the project that day and according to the EXIF data from the camera, the otter had only been visible for about 14 minutes.  That’s right, about 1 minute per hour invested.

UPDATE!!!! I’ve now made a second trip to the den complex, after a couple of weeks, in hopes of seeing the otter kits emerge from the den to play.  I used the same tactics as last time, very low to the ground, full camo and a very slow, methodical and quiet approach. There were lots of signs of Mama in the area, fresh tracks, and Otter Poop, along with some new scratchings, so I was very optimistic about the day.  However, after a full day with just my thoughts…. I left the area without her ever emerging from the den.  The day was the first sunny day after a front moved through and the other animals we watched on the previous day were all hunting relentlessly, so I have to believe that she’d done the same and didn’t need to on this day.  The weather was very mild as well.  I’m confident that she’s still there and hopefully the otter kits are doing well.  I’ll only be visiting every two or three weeks so that the chances of disturbing her are minimalized.  I’d rather stay away so she remains safe than to subject her to stress just to get a few shots. Otter first, photography second.

SO…. the average now is 1 minute of action, for every two hours invested… I’ll keep you posted….