Natasha D’Schommer

Posted in Guest BloggerPhotography on Jul 30, 2010


natasha d'schommer

The last full month of summer has arrived, as always, far too quickly. In an effort to maximize summer’s long days and gorgeous light, I turned to the incredibly talented photographer Natasha D’Schommer (whose images are poetic) to guest blog about how we can all use the August light artfully to transform our photos into sublime photo essays…even with a point-and-shoot. She offers the most useful and unique tips – I LOVE what she says about re-thinking the “family portrait.”

Natasha not only shoots stunning landscapes, botanicals and weddings, but she was also handpicked to photograph the Scheide Library which The New York Times called a “private jewel box of a library at Princeton University.” The library holds some of the world’s rarest books and musical scores including the Gutenberg Bible, Beethoven’s sketch books and Emily Dickinson’s chocolate recipe. Natasha’s photographs became the transcendent book Biblio.

You can see more of Natasha’s work at her website, or get a piece of her art in the form of cards, books or photographs at Amazon or in the Twin Cities at Gallery 360, Three Rooms (Galleria) or Zachary Ltd (IMS.)

Have fun creating your August photo essays!
- lm

by Natasha D’Schommer (guest blogger)

Photographs are summer’s best souvenir, here are a few guides to help get your stories on paper. Using the right daylight for the right project can make your personal photos pop.

In August, the 7’s are the golden hours — 7am and 7pm
These are considered the best times for achieving a summer glow in your photographs. Photograph your garden, water on the lake, dappled light through a window, exterior architecture.

The evening is a good time for casual, summertime portraits with sunlight. If you are getting lens flare (that’s when direct or reflected light glares inside your camera lens creating yellow streaks, multicolored dots, or a bright haze that diminishes your photo’s contrast), you can  prevent the lens flare by using your hand as a makeshift lens hood to block the light from your camera. If you can’t see your hand in the lens and the flare is gone, you are doing it right and your subject will have more color and detail.

Mid-morning  is a good time to go to  the shade for portraits. If you are shooting a head-and-shoulders shot, have your subject sit down so they look natural and relaxed.  Portraits, especially head-and-shoulder type, are lovely, dark and deep if you take them in total shade.  Vivid colors and textures show up best in a balanced shady area ( no dappled light. ) Better yet, an overcast morning or late afternoon really is the best time to take digital portraits with your SLR or point-and-shoot set on the auto settings.

Sun Prints

High noon is the most unflattering hour for photography, but it’s a great time to make sun prints. Sun prints or Cyanotypes are made by exposing objects to sunlight on top of a piece of paper that has been treated with potassium ferricyanide and ferric ammonium.  The process is clean and simple, the paper is pretreated and  dry. Make sun prints when  the sun is high and hot. The less breeze, the better. Sun prints are cheap and fun with results that are witty and personal. Paper comes with a black plastic (light proof)  bag so you can roll it up and take it with you on a hike or to the beach. Wash your prints in water and hang them to dry. The entire process takes about 4 minutes plus drying time. (more info on creating these cool images here)

Develop a collection of photographs with a theme
Menu boards and restaurant’s views are a favorite of mine, they create a sense of place and the menus are evocative to read. Give yourself time on developing your collection, it is a scavenger hunt that takes years to complete, if ever.

Hand over the camera
Give your kids their own camera with their own memory card on summer trips — it opens worlds of observation to them. There are very inexpensive digital cameras (in the $25 range) that take perfectly fun photos. (see under $25 cameras for young kids here, here and here; for older kids the options are vast.)

Keep your camera with you and use it!
A camera that is too precious isn’t pulling its weight. Crumpler makes an extensive series of camera bags that keep your camera safe from summer heat, sand and salt and look good.

Re-thinking the “Family Portrait”

Expand your view of a family portrait by photographing some of your belongings, journals, messy calendars, children’s artwork or fabric details from favorite clothes. Still life photographs like these are best taken indoors with bright, balanced natural light or outdoors with an absence of shadows.

Proust Questionnaire for Natasha:

My favorite snack is:  small and to the point.

Don’t ask me to:  fix your car.

I would put into a time capsule my:  time with Beethoven’s sketchbooks.

My favorite place is:  West Sussex, England.

When I have a creative block I:  survive it.

My favorite mantra is:  more light!

  • 7 responses to "Natasha D’Schommer"

  • Kate
    7th August 2010 at 20:34

    Great advice Natasha! I can’t wait to try the sun prints.

    And what a good idea to hand over the camera to your children from time to time — or give them their own.

    Can you imagine if every little kid had a digital camera? We parents spend so much time wondering what our children are seeing and thinking about. Maybe it would be easier if they could just show us?!?

  • Daniele
    3rd August 2010 at 19:46

    Gorgeous work! Thanks for sharing! xo

  • Lea
    2nd August 2010 at 12:08

    Love this, Lenore! Thank you for bringing Natasha to us. I’m already planning my next photo session with the girls… new swingset in a lovely, shady part of the yard!

  • lenore
    30th July 2010 at 12:48

    you’ve got one talented 4 year old, anna!

  • Anna
    30th July 2010 at 12:18

    Great tips! I love the idea of taking photos of special belongings, etc for a new kind of family portrait. I also love the idea of giving kids their own cameras. I have been letting my boys take pics for a while. In fact, my 4 year old takes almost all of the photos for my blog, Motherly Law. I love the creative shots he takes!

    Thanks, Anna from Motherly Law

  • Lenore
    30th July 2010 at 10:53

    Glad you find it helpful, Mark! I can’t wait to try out the sun prints, as well as start filling my photo albums with new kinds of “family portraits.”

  • Mark Melendy
    30th July 2010 at 9:51

    Very interesting article and well worth reading for the budding photographer!