I love the results from this recent executive portrait photo-shoot. So does my client – Emily Gepner.

Being a professional people photographer, I often make portraits for top executives whose careers and whose companies were unknown to me before the photo-shoot. And I see a glimpse into the fascinating world of people like Emily Gepner. As a high-level executive for AECOM, Emily spans the globe coordinating complex projects in human infrastructure. It’s easier to ask what AECOM does not do rather than what projects it manages. As one of Fortune magazine’s most admired companies of 2015, AECOM made 19 Billion in the first half of 2015.

Emily’s financial wizardry together with her global network of top professionals “develop innovative solutions to the planet’s most complex challenges.” During the portrait photo-session, she mentioned world projects in transportation, healthcare, nuclear power-plants and city structures like sports stadia. Emily’s traveling schedule was so jammed that landing a day for a professional photo-shoot was tough. We finally settled on a Saturday afternoon.


Executive portrait head-shot of Emily Gepner looks like it was done in studio, it was actually a location photo-shoot. The blue background was a frosted glass room divider.

AECOM is in the process of moving their office in the Denver Tech Center area so we worked in their old site. When I arrived, make-up artist Kalyja Rain was already at work as I scouted various locations for the business head-shot portraits. We shot indoor executive portraits and we worked outside as the sun began to set. Now, looking at these portraits of Emily, anyone can see that she’s a delightful attractive executive. But accolades go out to Kalyja Rain who stepped in and did a wonderful job with make up. And Emily liked the results so much that we did a family portrait session a few weeks later.

Perusing the website of AECOM, I have to say, it’s one of the finest corporate websites I’ve seen. Their design and professional photography choices are impeccable and clean. And even a first time visitor can see that this company makes brilliant choices. I have to throw it out there that I’d be honored to do more photography for AECOM. I’m hoping that they’ll commission me for exciting architectural, industrial and people photography photo-shoots. A two week long photo-shoot in an exotic warm weather location during the month of February would prompt me lower my photography day rate from $8k to just 4k (plus expenses of course).



My idea to shoot between the chairs in the boardroom paid off with this uncommon portrait.

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Pro-photography portraits of executives and dignitaries, are exciting and challenging. But there are times when I’m asked not to show the glorious results on my websites. I can’t show the creative, stunning, superlative, once-in-a-lifetime work from a recent executive-portrait photo-shoot.  I mustn’t even mention the name of my client. This may be my magnum opus of a lifetime of professional photo-shoots and I can’t show it. Okay, maybe the phrase magnum opus (from the Latin meaning “great work”,[1] refers to the largest, and perhaps the best, greatest, most popular, or most renowned achievement of an artist.) is a bit of an exaggeration, but I really do like the proofs.


What is allowed to post here are the results from the scouting trip of the executive portrait photo-shoot which was done a week prior. Now, the term executive portrait photo-shoot is probably misleading. If one thinks about the three branches of government, my client would be found under one of the two branches that is NOT the executive branch – I didn’t get the plumb assignment of photographing President Obama. The term executive portrait photography is for for SEO purposes. No one ever googles legislative portrait photography or judicial portrait photography. But I’ve been delighted to learn that many of my clients found me by googling executive portraits or CEO portrait photographers.


From the first meeting with my client, I was made to feel at ease and natural in my client’s awesome work environment. With a persona of quiet confidence, and insightful wit, I felt as if I were in the company of Henry David Thoreau or Thomas Jefferson. When the topic our conversation drifted to what is currently a hot national debate and the Colorado interpretation of it, my client nonchalantly said, “oh yes, I wrote that.”


Readers might wonder why in the world I’d write about a non-executive portrait photo-shoot of a client who can’t shown or named. I’ve got eight months of material from cool aviation photo-shoots, executive portraits, (of course), editorial photo-shoots and family portraits on location. So why did I choose to write about my secret client?  Well… I really like these shots from the scout.

My intent with this post is to show the importance of location. As some other photographers may have learned, finding a dynamic location and then finding the background inside the location is as important as lighting, composition or expression.


Denver-AppelateCourt-Steps Stunning-Architectural-Photo-Technique





Although we all agreed that the Greek/Roman architecture is stunning in photography, my client opted for the modern contrast of light and shadow as represented here.

Although we agreed that the Greek/Roman architecture is stunning in photography, my client opted for the modern contrast of light and shadow as represented here.

Here are a few of previous portraits I did of my clients colleagues.

Here are a few of previous portraits I did of my client’s colleagues. I didn’t do the painted portraits (bottom right).


Make-up artist Suzanne Blons at work.

Make-up artist Suzanne Blons at work.

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While scouting photography locations for an upcoming corporate photography photo-shoot in downtown Denver today, I couldn’t help but chuckle at the cyclical nature of my career in photography.  My meeting with Sheryl Anderson of Wells Anderson & Race – a Denver law firm, was productive. We evaluated some fantastic locations for the group portrait photography session later this month as we talked about logistics and details. On a side note, I entitled the folder for this mini project “WAR_Scout” (a shortened version of Wells Anderson & Race_Scouting pics). 




This shot is almost exactly the one I made 30 years ago - the day I purchased a 40mm Hassleblad lens.

This shot is almost exactly like the one I made 30 years ago – the day I purchased a 40mm Hassleblad lens.  I was so excited when I left Werner’s Mile High Camera shop on 17th, that I stood in the middle of Broadway (oblivious to honks) to make the predecessor of this image.  As pro photographers might know, a medium format 40mm lens is roughly comparable to a 20mm lens in the 35 mm format.

Earlier this morning my new 20 mm lens arrived. So when I headed downtown to determine the best locations for the corporate group photography portrait, I opted to bring the new wide glass. Now here’s the serendipitous part.  Back in my old photo-jornalism days, the 20 was my go-to lens. I remember like it’s yesterday the photo-spreads I did for The Crested Butte Pilot, The Gunnison Country Times, and Colorado Homes & Lifestyle Magazine. The 20 was always a big part of those photo-shoots. And although I consciously tried not to lean too heavily on my favorite workhorse, the best shots were often made with the 20.

I lost that lens 20 years ago in a rapid with no name on the Green River through Split mountain Canyon. It was the summer of 1995 and I was doing some action shots for Adventure Bound River Expeditions – the same company with whom I spent my college summers as a river guide. It was the last day of a four day river trip and I was exhausted from paddling that inflatable kayak in circles. My job was to find the optimum vantage point for the action-photos of the other rafts and kayaks as they pounded the white-water. Plus, I was trying to impress my sweetie Brenda who was my sole passenger.  We snaked into the last swift water and I remembered that if I hugged the cliff on the right side, there was always a nice sized wave – even in low water. But I made a lazy lazy mistake – a stupid 2nd year boatman mistake. As I always tell my pre-teen son, look out for the second-year river guide. The first-year boatman is too timid to make daring mistakes and third (or more)-year guides are savvy enough to know how to find maximum experience without endangering their cargo.

My 20mm lens along with all my other 35mm gear rests under that no-name rapid still today. As we entered that wee bit of white-water, my kraft was under inflated. Like I said, it was an unnamed nothing rapid at the very end of a taxing trip. Of course the little wave was actually not so little. We flipped. Now here’s the Really stupid unforgivable lazy thing I did that day. My beautiful Pelican equipment case was lashed down properly, but there was NO lashing through the latch of the case – nothing to keep the case from bouncing open when we capsized. With adrenaline strength I grabbed the back of Brenda’s lifejacket with one fist and the kayak with the other. I was shocked that I could stand on a submersed rock against the rushing water long enough to contain the damage. But the damage was done. I saw both sides of my Pelican face down and floating canisters of recorded film bobbing in the waves. During my river days I was known as a low key soft spoken guide. But on this day my voice echoed far into the labyrinth… “SON-OF-A-BITCH”.  With my head hung low I gathered up as many film canisters as I could reach before they floated away.

Funny how a lens can conjure old stories. But camera gear to a professional photographer sometimes has its own life. Like an old favorite shoe, we feel lost without its companionship.  But in the 90s, I shot almost entirely with medium format – my other friend. In fact, I loved my Hassleblad gear and used it far more than the 35 mm Nikon gear. Then, the digital revolution came, and the new trend was zoom lenses. My workhorse lens was the 17-55mm zoom. Now full circle, my (one day old) 20mm buddy and I are looking to make a whole new portfolio of images.





  • Sheri Small - I enjoy reading your blogs Ed! You are quite the writer. Great combination with your photographs, are you published anywhere? As always thank you for sharing your talent, I look forward to reading more of your writing. SheriReplyCancel

    • Edward DeCroce - Wow Sheri, a big thanks goes out to YOU.
      Writing doesn’t come naturally to me. In fact, I struggle just to write this reply to your generous compliment. My only real goal is to avoid overused cliches. So I alter the phrase that jumps into my mind “with an adrenaline rush” to “with adrenaline strength”. And I rely heavily on spell-sheck:-)
      With your encouragement I vow to write more now. And when my novel is tops on the NY Times best seller list we’ll know that I owe it to Sheri Small!

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Septuagenerian Sister Rides Rockies

Sandee and Tom Swanson nearing The Royal Gorge in 2015 Ride The Rockies.

Pair of low angle bike riding infrared photos from 2015 RTR.

When we caught up with Sandee and Tom on the Royal Gorge Bridge, our cool morning had already morphed into perfect summer day – comfortably hot.  It was June 18, the sixth day of a grueling bike ride that took 2000 riders from Grand Junction to Westcliff.  My traveling companion – eleven year old Levi, and I had already had a brisk hike along the rim trail before we settled on the south side. We waited as we watched riders huff up the final incline to the Royal Gorge.

Now I thought that this sixth day was one of the easier rides in the Denver Post sponsored 2015 Ride-The-Rockies. And much of their 45 mile morning ride from Salida was a gentle downhill. But then I learned about “the wall’ – a two mile stretch so steep it looks like this /.  In fact “the wall” is twelve % grade leading to the South side of the Royal Gorge. Riders were so exhausted that more than one just collapsed when they reached the shady spot we shared with resting riders. And then Levi spotted his Aunt Sandee. As it turns out, my super sister Sandee and her heroic husband pedaled the wall without a single stop.

Tom and Sandee Swanson on Royal Gorge Bridge – 2015 Ride The Rockies.

Levi and I hiked the rim trail at the Royal Gorge before meeting up with Sandee and Tom.


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