Susan Riley Photography: Blog en-us (C) Susan Riley Photography [email protected] (Susan Riley Photography) Mon, 16 Mar 2020 06:44:00 GMT Mon, 16 Mar 2020 06:44:00 GMT Susan Riley Photography: Blog 91 120 A Miracle This Christmas portrait of a beautiful young mother-to-be came about as I  researched other portraits online. I have had the red fabric in my studio for some time but had not had a special occasion for its use. The model was wrapped in the fabric and a fan created slight movement. As I assessed the photo I had made, it came to me to create more drama and interest with the satin material. The finishing touches applied to the surface of the print suggest a glamour and grace worthy of this beautiful, expecting woman. At one point as we neared the end of the session, she confessed to feeling a little dizzy. She delivered a healthy baby boy two days later.

[email protected] (Susan Riley Photography) Mon, 29 Dec 2014 21:45:38 GMT
Embellished and Adorned Norma TalmadgeNorma TalmadgeNorma Talmadge 1922. This is Norma Talmadge, a beautiful silent film star of the early 20th Century. I found the original black and white had been scanned and posted on the internet as I did research on the project resulting in my 'Vintage Beauty' gallery on this site. I loved the dress and the chair and the pose so set out to color enhance Ms. Talmadge and give her new life. After I printed the image on Velvet Fine Art paper by Epson, I applied tiny light-catching materials to replicate the dress ornamentation as it might have appeared in 1919. The finished piece is 16x20 and joins others in my growing collection of glamorous women of the era. The video helps the viewer to imagine how exciting this piece is in person. What do you think?

[email protected] (Susan Riley Photography) Wed, 29 Jan 2014 05:09:31 GMT
Bayou Sorrel, Louisiana Bayou Sorrel lies in the heart of the Atchafalaya Basin in southern Louisiana. The basin is the largest refuge for wetland birds in the country and home to some spectacular bald cypress trees. On June 24, 2012, my brother and I went with our guide, Dean Wilson into the swamps to experience the beauty and grandeur of this bayou.


No alligators revealed themselves but herons and egrets stood gracefully posing as we slid by in our small boat. Dean is invested in preserving the old cypress trees from poachers who cut them down for mulch. It has become a problem and thanks to people like this who keep public awareness at the forefront of his protective fight, the native stand like the one pictured above will be safe for the future.


When the motor was turned off and we sat drifting, large birds flew in the distance, beyond my lens, seeking a fresh fishing spot or hoping to catch a crawfish for dinner. There were other small craft with people fishing in some of the nearby channels, but Dean called this one a 'natural 'bayou and for whatever reason, we found ourselves alone here. I couldn't have been happier.


The time was too short and the sky free of clouds, a detail I could do nothing about at the time. Others can be content with what they capture at the instant the shutter clicks, but as for me, I refuse to let limitations such as time and nature encircle me. Who knows. On another day at another time, this might be exactly what Bayou Sorrel looks like.

[email protected] (Susan Riley Photography) Sun, 01 Jul 2012 16:30:21 GMT
The Passing Storm As I view this in all its 12 inch glory, I am a little disappointed all the details aren't visible as they appear in the 44 inch width of my original. Oh well, it can't be helped.


The beach at sunrise has become a bit of an obsession for me. The sky is never the same; the ocean, the birds, the sand and the air can vary dramatically. And so on this particular morning as my friend Viktoria and I arrived to take in the early beauty of the beach at Port Aransas, we were met with a spectacular sight. A storm had recently swept through, taking with it the seaweed we were accustomed to seeing and leaving behind a huge bent log, rising up from the sand like a large sea creature. The sky took my breath away!


Normally one can drive on the sandy road that runs beside the dunes separating the water from the homes. What a shock to see no road at all. A layer of water, maybe 3 inches deep was continually supplied by unusual, low waves.


We parked a distance away and walked in the very shallow water to inspect the beached log and to marvel at the inspirational sky. The wind was whipping Vik's orange dress and hair, taking my voice away with it. She could barely hear me calling out to her to move this way and that. Vik is not a professional model but did a masterful job of creating lyrical movement for my camera.


Perhaps the most beautiful feature of this sunrise was the large opening in the clouds which allowed white light to pour onto my subject. I am still awestruck by the fact, and grateful as well, that there are never many people on the beach at sunrise. On this morning, we had it all to ourselves.

[email protected] (Susan Riley Photography) beach Fri, 15 Jun 2012 03:16:56 GMT
Holding the Sun holding the sun How I remember. It was time for sunset and the heavy clouds formed a dark bank all the way to the ocean. This famous beach in Deauville, France, is very wide and my friends and I were enjoying the fact that so few people were at the water's edge. Young Olivia and her brother were playing and running in the shiny, course pebble sand just as the clouds split near the horizon and the sun shone through. I asked Olivia to sit alone for portraits as the vivid pink made a slim line of brilliance behind her.

Her father called out to hold up her hand so the sun would appear to rest in her palm. No! Too high!! No! Too low!! To the left! More to the right! I believe the look on her face is one of concentration as she sought to get it just right.

As quickly as the light came, it was gone with the sinking sun. A little magic later added glow to her hair and hand. Still one of my favorite photos and memories.

[email protected] (Susan Riley Photography) beach Fri, 08 Jun 2012 02:05:36 GMT
Costa Rica I was reflecting this evening with great clarity on the moments leading up to this photograph. Our bus was loaded with members of the mission team from Texas. We pulled up just as the fading light still revealed a handful of surfers. We had spent a week with a church community in a small town, hauling concrete blocks and cement, much like all the trips such as this I had been on. Although my days of getting in a line to be part of a block party were over (this is similar to a bucket brigade), I found plenty to do. Amazingly, the sun came up at 5:30 in Costa Rica at this time of year....was it July? August?  and that spelled the end of my slumber as I quietly gathered my camera equipment and tiptoed past the bodies lost in sleep...out to greet the day. Every day.


On some mission trips, you are surrounded by children, curious about your clothing, your language, your hair. Sometimes you work in heat you could never imagine at 8 in the morning. Often, there is a team member who annoys the hell out of you, countered by a person you discover to be a most excellent friend. My experience was that you lose yourself in the magic of the new culture, whoever you may be in your real world. I usually liked myself better on these trips than at any other time in my life.


But back to the beach photograph. These excursions to help others usually end in a weekend of relaxation in some beautiful place where the worries of the world you just left behind can be put into some perspective before returning home. My first such trip was to Luperon, Dominican Republic. That is for another story but suffice it to say it was with very mixed feelings that we left our new friends and their poor circumstances to go to a resort to unwind. A buffer of sorts.


So, the bus with the team was just pulling into the town of Quepos, I believe and I remembered from a previous trip to this area that the beach was very near. My heart began racing since I knew that if we hurried we could catch a little of the sunset on the beach. The team leader did not want to make the stop as we were all tired but I pressed the issue and we turned up a tiny street. In two blocks we were on the sand!! I raced out and began snapping away. My memory of this is twofold. It is always interesting to me how differently people can respond to the same stimuli. One person will immediately run to the water's edge and begin splashing their bare feet in the cool ocean while another will hang back, almost disinterested. I have little patience for the last sort. The small child that dwells within me comes forth full throttle at such times and it is in these gleeful, joyous moments that I am grateful a camera ever found its way into my hands all those many years ago.


My other memory is the quietness of the ocean itself. The broad expanse of sand, the flatness allowing the waves to flow far onto the beach before retreating, the peaceful quality of the sky. This was not a blazing sunset of startling hues. Maybe we were a little too late for that. How could it even matter. On closer examination all these years later, I see the people in the surf with their boards, seeking their last pleasure before darkness makes it impossible. I wonder about their lives. Are they locals? I like to think they are.


We got back on the bus at last, heading to our hotel. Quite coincidentally, it was the same one I had visited with my cousin, Lisa some 10 years earlier. Upon returning to the States, I found photos from that trip and sent them to the manager, noting how much the trees had grown. Ten years brought a lot of changes to me as well and it was on this trip that I decided it might be best if I did not sleep on the floor of a church or school ever again. But the hammock on the balcony in Manuel Antonio, the cold drink, the twinkling stars all shared in my recovery at this journey's end. And a beautiful photograph to see time and again bring it all back to me.

[email protected] (Susan Riley Photography) Sun, 20 May 2012 05:08:51 GMT
Great Blue Heron

This Great Blue Heron stood on the wall of the ship channel in Port Aransas, Texas, watching a nearby fisherman in hopes that some little bit of fish or bait might be tossed his way. His manner was calm, cool and collected yet his eyes revealed his wariness as I drove my car parallel to him and rolled my window down. For some reason, he lifted off and flew away before I could raise my camera for a shot. I observed that he only went as far as the next person fishing and took up his watch anew. I circled around and moved in again. I exited my car and took several photos of him standing gracefully, looking first to the right, then the left, like any good model posing.

My wish for him to once again fly was granted soon enough and I made several shots as he lazily moved away, this time out of range.

The sun was not particularly bright on that afternoon in late April but I could not have imagined how low the contrast was until I looked at the images on my iPad later that day. The heron was perfect! When I returned to San Antonio and my computer, I was able to crop and change the background from the grey, dull sky to something more majestic for my subject. Nothing was done to the bird at all. The one wing framed his head beautifully, the outstretched  wing below him displayed his span. This graceful moment could not have been more perfect to my eye.

In the second image, the heron is in a new environment altogether, one of my imagining. It reminds me of a scene on a morning two years ago as I sat waiting for the sunrise on a Mexican beach. Walking ever so slowly up the beach to my left was another great blue heron, not noticing me until he was quite close. He froze for a moment, puzzling over what I might be, then taking his time, he stepped out into the surf to skirt my position. I made a short video of that brief episode; now lets see if I can figure out how to upload it.

[email protected] (Susan Riley Photography) heron Thu, 17 May 2012 17:42:55 GMT