Behind the Scenes With the Davis Family

Davis family portrait.

Early this spring I got a message from Judy Davis about photographing her extended family. She’d purchased a certificate at the Lighthouse Mission auction and wondered whether I’d be available on Mother’s Day or Father’s Day to create their portrait. We settled on Mother’s Day afternoon when their whole family would be together at their place outside Snohomish.

As I do for all my family portrait customers, I discussed clothing choices, whether we needed to schedule around nap times, and locations for the session. I stopped by their home outside Snohomish for a site visit on my way to another event east of the mountains. Judy’s husband, Bruce, was home that day and showed me around. We picked a place in their backyard with trees in the background that would have the sun behind everyone when we set up the portrait. We talked about having the grass mowed a few days ahead, as well as where we’d place their horse-drawn carriages. Did I mention that this portrait would include 19 people ages 3 to 93, a dog, and four Clydesdale horses?

With a plan in place, I arrived at the appointed time on Mother’s Day afternoon. It was a little chaotic with so many people in the house, but everyone was either dressed for their portrait or finishing getting ready. I set up my light, put my camera on my tripod, and made a few test shots with a volunteer family member. Then we herded everyone out of the house.

With large multi-generation families I like to group each individual family together so I asked all the kids to stand with their parents. That way I could see who went with whom. I began setting up the shot by seating the great-grandparents in the middle. Then I arranged each family around them, with some on the carriages and some on the ground, looking for nice comfortable individual family groupings that also had a good visual rhythm as a whole. I photographed a version without the horses first, just in case they didn’t cooperate.

Then Judy and her designated horse handlers brought the Clydesdales up from the barn and we arranged them behind the people, with one person holding the reins of each horse. I now had 24 pair of eyes to get looking at the camera at the same time! The horses needed to have their ears forward, showing attention, too.

I never count to three and have people say “cheese” because that produces fake smiles (and doesn’t work for horses anyway). I’m lively and animated behind the camera. Since I use a tripod and no one is moving, I can look people in the eye as I talk, make silly noises, and throw my magic hat in the air. For the horses, I have an app on my phone that plays horse sounds and almost always gets their ears up. Kids of all ages seem to get a smile with the horse sounds, too.

Davis grandparents and grandchildren

Once I finished with the large group, I set about photographing individual families and other groups on Judy’s shot list. As I worked, Bruce came over and pointed out that rain was on the way. Fast. We sent everyone back in the house, I stashed my camera and light under dry cover, and we developed Plan B. I suggested the barn and walked down to take a look. Judy was skeptical since it wasn’t spotlessly clean, but I convinced her that portraits there would look great. I carried my gear down and set up, then started bringing groups down for their portraits. When she saw the finished portraits she was pleasantly surprised how good her barn looked.

Davis grandchildren in the barn

With everyone photographed, I packed up my gear. Then they invited me in for a snack and a beverage before I headed home. I don’t expect that from my clients, but am always grateful when it happens.

A few weeks later Judy came to the studio for her viewing and purchasing appointment. She ended up placing a nice order, including a 20” x 40” Signature Canvas portrait that will go on the wall in the room where Bruce and Judy spend most of their time. It will be a constant reminder of the love shared among all the members of their extended family. I’m honored to have been trusted with the Davis family memories.

Mountains for the Hilltop

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A few months ago my friend Tom Kilpatrick, who owns the Hilltop Restaurant on Guide Meridian just south of Axton Road, called me to inquire about a couple of new pieces of mountain art for the restaurant. I prepared a preview gallery and Tom picked a couple of favorite photos. I snapped pictures of the walls in the restaurant so I could show him how his choices would look and to help decide on the right size. We came to agreement on the size and price and I got printed ordered.

Today I took two beautiful canvas prints out to the Hilltop with my tools and got them on the walls.

Hilltop Restaurant, Bellingham, WA. © 2017 Mark Turner


At the back of the restaurant, where you can enjoy it from the moment you walk in the door until you leave, is a photo of Mt. Baker I made at sunset. It’s a panoramic image, shot on film with my Fuji GX617 camera almost 20 years ago. The finished print is 28″ tall and 80″ wide. Continue reading

Wildflower Road Trip Madness

Brittlebush and More
Brittlebush, Fremont Pincushion, Desert Dandelions, Burrobush, Ocotillo early morning in Coyote Canyon, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California.

I’m sure you’ve seen the bumper sticker, “I Brake For Flowers.” Well, I don’t just brake for them — when conditions are right I’ll drive thousands of miles for wildflowers. That’s just what I did in mid-March when I confirmed that the predicted “superbloom” at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in southern California was actually happening.

A little back story: most of the wildflowers in the desert are annuals. Their seeds remain dormant until conditions are just right. When there’s enough rain at the right time during the winter and temperatures warm up not too fast then the desert can burst into spectacular masses of flowers. Most years only a few flowers bloom, but in 2017 conditions were just right for a massive bloom, which lasts for only a couple of weeks at peak. I couldn’t stay home. Continue reading

Look Twice

APLD_Spring2017_cover
As photographers we can easily fall into a rut of always seeing and photographing our world just one way. We find something that works and repeat. There’s not necessarily anything wrong with that, and done well it can be an important aspect of your style. But if you’re always photographing from eye level with a 50mm lens you’re missing out on alternative ways to tell visual stories.

The spring 2017 issue of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers (APLD) magazine, The Designer, features examples of my photography that show alternate views of the same garden. The story was written by Katie Elzer-Peters, a garden writer colleague I’ve known for several years. Continue reading

A Little Cleanup




Before you press your shutter release, take a good look at what’s in your frame. Pause a moment and take care of any little details you see that might detract from your photo.

In this pair of photos of the daylilies growing by our back door, in the first frame you see all the spent blossoms. That might be OK if the story you’re trying to tell is that daylily blossoms don’t last long and they linger on the stems until they dry up and fall off. But if what you’re after is a nice photo of daylilies blooming, then I think the photo looks a lot better with the spent blossoms removed.

It’s always easier to clean up details like this before capturing the image. Imagine how much time it would have taken in an image editing program like Photoshop to remove the spent blossoms and replace them with plausible background material.

I apply the same principle when photographing people. Let’s get that cat hair off your jacket before I trip the shutter.