Photographing a Photographer

Creating storytelling portraits plus editorial photography has been my longtime passion. I like the kind pictures that tell a story without needing a caption. And my preference is always to capture the moment between posed moments, when my client is less unaware of the camera. Making storytelling portraits for Lee Ann Bartran was a blast – my favorite client photo-shoot of the month.

Denver editorial portrait in B&W


Of course I’ve loved working with all my clients this month. It’s hard to put one photo-shoot above the rest. When an art lover raves about a painting, the painter feel good. But when the same art lover buys the painting and then raves about it around town, the artist knows the compliment was genuine. Work done pro bono for friends and family is rarely appreciated as much. 
When Lee Ann first contacted me, we talked about making storytelling portraits and editorial photographs for her enterprises. Lee Ann is the US Executive Director and Founder for An Orphans Wish, a non-profit that operated a medical care unit China for medically frail children from Chinese orphanages. She’s also a writer and a photographer. 
Our photo-shoot started at her home where we did professional  head-shots and lifestyle photography.  I knew from the outset the session would yield good results. First, Lee Ann has an interesting looking face. More importantly, she has a big heart – warmth and friendliness flow through her gentle smile and soft gaze. As I set up lights, I was introduced to two of her daughters both originally from China.
Now here’s a small-world connection. Lee Ann’s youngest daughter attends the same school as my son and in fact were even in a class together. Likely, they’re the only two kids at the school who wear some sort of prosthetic.
The light softened as the afternoon sun moved west. We headed downtown for some photojournalism fun. Walking and talking for several hours, we found the good light and interesting lines in the architecture. The subject-photographer bought the other photographer dinner and then we shot some more.
Story telling portraits Denver
Now as you look through these images you’ll (hopefully) see a balanced collection of editorial action shots and story telling portraits. Of course, Lee Ann was aware of my camera and I did give direction. But the shots still have an unposed feel. The goal was to create active profile photography. And I believe we achieved that.
  unposed portrait in black and white Story telling portrait photography Denver Unposed people photography Action portrait photograph
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Dabbling In Action Polo Photography

polo photography

Polo photography of Matise training young horse in the coral.


This polo photography project came around the corner. I was actually commissioned to shoot an industrial operation near Houston Texas. Capturing the hard sweat of workers in the south Texas heat for four days was a fun gig. I waited for the perfect dusk light, woke up early for industrial dawn photography, and stayed up late for night shots under the moon.

Then, on the fifth day, my industrial client asked if I would photograph their neighbor – the polo club. They wanted to do something nice as compensation for the inconvenience and noise. My images of polo photography were a gift to The Spencer Farm from Triangle Resources.

Now this was off-season for Texas polo photography. There were no guests at the polo club farm. But the manager and summer caretaker Matise and I quickly developed a friendship. The pictures posted here are of Matise and one of the young horses he was training.

Polo photography at training.


In case readers of this blog haven’t noticed, stories posted here are designed to increase web traffic. That’s why they’re so dull. Each blog post, includes a certain key-word-phrase which is used repeatedly. The technique is part of an endeavor called “search engine optimization”  or SEO.

The result of writing for SEO is twofold:

Jamming in a key word over and over makes the writing sound forced and stilted. In this post, the key word is … (you guessed it) – polo photography. And my task is to repeat “polo photography” often enough that bots and crawlers catch the phrase polo photography. Then, when someone somewhere types “polo photography” in the search box, my site might pop up on the first page – polo photography, polo photography, polo photography.

The other goal in a blog story is content. The writer should demonstrate knowledgeability about the subject while simultaneously creating an interesting article.


Well the truth is that I know very little about polo photography. The chance of getting any work in polo photography is remote. Plus, I’m too lazy to research it right now. So instead, I’ll tell readers two horse stories from my youth.

I learned to ride horses on my aunt’s farm in Montana. First on sneaky Queenie who knew how to get rid of city-kid riders with sharp turns. And later with Ronnie’s appaloosa – Scooter. One summer I rode Scooter so many times that I thought he was mine. I’d always ride the same course along the irrigation ditch to the end of the alfalfa field. Then galloping through trees making the same close cut turns each time. Our ride ended with a gallop back to the farm house.

On the last summer day before I had to go home I took Scooter out for a ride. We rode with no saddle as usual and this time we rode with no bridle either – no saddle, no bridle, not even a halter. And for some reason I decided to kick off my boots.

Scooter amazed me but I wasn’t surprised at all. He rode the course just as we had done so many times before. Running at full speed, I felt Scooter’s legs under my body …as if his legs were my own.



Action polo photography


This is the spot where I was introduced to chigger bugs. Lying on my belly for polo photography, I was an easy target. The nasty larva bite human tissue leaving behind itching welts that last for weeks.


My second horse-love was Annie. In my 19th year, hitchhiking my way to Australia, I wound up in Spokane, Washington instead. The job I landed that summer was running a horse riding stable on the outskirts of town. With the World Expo happening in Spokane, there was no shortage of tourists who wanted to ride the rim rock and get a taste of the old west.

Now Annie was not the kind of horse you’d expect to find at a renting stable. Wherever Annie went, she pranced like she was leading a parade. A big bay mare, (maybe 16 hands), she was always a little spooked. I was Annie’s only rider that summer as we both enjoyed giving a show for the tourists. I’d start one group on the trail, then race back to the stable at full speed through the trees. Zigzagging as we came down the hill, Annie would stop on a dime in front of the new group. I’d spread my legs wide as I jumped over her head, land on my feet (most of the time) and say “Now who’s next?”

Our little circus act always caught the tourists off guard, but they liked it. A few times we were even applauded.

  Action polo photography

Here’s a polo photography image that shows the close proximity of the industrial drilling rig adjacent to the Spencer Farms Polo Club in Texas.

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Portrait Photography for Colorado Family 

Time moves fast. Photography freezes it. Of course, the Colorado family portrait photography session for the Dodge-Gepners didn’t freeze time. It just slowed time down long enough for us to look at it.


A few years ago, when my son was just 6 or 7, I tried to explain to him how fast time goes. We talked in great detail about recent history and major world events. I pointed out that WWII happened just over a decade before I was born. And “9/11” was just two years before he was born. We rehashed the chronology of recent US Presidents, then he paused and said: “Yeah papa, I see what you mean. time does go really fast – except when your right in the middle of it.”

family outdoor color portrait

Emily and Bart wanted a large canvas portrait made for their bedroom. They selected this Colorado family portrait photography image and I created a 40″x40″ canvas.



In Colorado, family portrait photography has mostly been relegated to clever phones and electronic viewing. But Emily Gepner wanted something more than that. She wanted the kind of professional photography that not only looks great, but lives beyond our own lives. I was recommended to Emily by a previous commercial client Keri Blair. Emily needed executive portraits of herself and the AECOM corporation. We both loved the results from the business photo-shoot. Soon thereafter, Emily booked me for a Colorado family portrait photography session at her home.


The family photo-shoot was extensive starting about noon. While make-up artist Kaylija Rain worked her craft on the ladies, Emily’s husband Bart and I scouted potential locations for Colorado family portrait photography.  Now Emily is a tough woman. It was only until later that I learned Emily was experiencing excruciating foot pain that would eventually need surgery. In spite of the Emily’s hardship, we all had a great time creating the images you see here. And we were all please with the results.

Emily and Bart moved to Colorado from Idaho. They’re daughters, Maylee and Anya hail from China. Together with their friendly canine companion Katie, the family now resides in a beautiful spacious home near open space south of Denver.


Colorado family portrait photography



The Dodge Gepner Colorado family portrait photography including canine Katie.

photography of girls playing

As I was busy looking at potential locations for Colorado family portrait photography, Emily tipped me off to what the girls were doing. It turned into a trio of 20x 30″ prints that hang in the living room. Editorial-portrait photography is fun to capture, and it’s the most archival.



Portrait photography of girls in Colorado Couple with adopted Chinese girls portrait



Colorado Family Portrait Photography

Assisting for the photo-shoot was the talented make-up artist Kalyja Rain. A beautiful young woman with a huge heart,  Kalyja is also a photography student and a professional musician.  As we worked together scouting out various location ideas during the half-day Colorado family portrait photography session, I was visited by a preying Mantis. He probably jumped on my shoulder when I was lying on the ground. “Mantis” seemed to like me and stayed perched on my shoulder for many minutes. I handed a camera to Kalyja to shoot Mantis on my shirt. And when Mantis climbed onto her hand, I captured the image below.

Preying mantis on Denver photographer

They say that Preying Mantis visits are good luck. 


Preying mantis at Denver portrait photo-shoot



A friend’s passing drives gnawing pain to the gut while it rekindles the mind’s memories. We’re here together for a lifetime – a short time.

And then …. poof.

This post is about Colorado family portrait photography for Emily Gepner. She shares through her photographer’s thoughts, the life celebration of another Emily. Emily Busch passed suddenly in February.





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Photo-shoot for Oil and Gas Investor Magazine

by Edward C. De Croce

This winter, I was commissioned by Oil and Gas Investor Magazine for a cover story on Colorado Industrial photography and Petroleum.

I’m glad the editors thought highly of my work. In the age of clever-phone-cameras, magazine photography feeds starving pro photographers.

Oh, it’s not that I’ve given up on consumer photography. In fact, my next blog post will feature fabulous family photography created during autumn’s warm-light bath. But of all the photography projects I do, Colorado industrial photography is one of the most fascinating.


Colorado oil and gas flare stack at drilling site.

A flare stack at a drilling site in the D-J basin makes for a dramatic image. During post production, I first thought the worker might be out of focus. But the heat waves from the flare is what creates the blur.

Colorado industry photography - ice and truck at drilling rig.

This low angle photography of an oil drilling site was a favorite with the art directors at Oil and Gas Investor Magazine. They used it as the opening two-page spread of the story. For this shot, I used the Nikon D750 and its live-view monitor. In the old days, I would have had to lie on the cold ice to get the shot. And for the duration of the photo-shoot, I would have been a lot chillier. 




Colorado Industrial photography

and energy photography is as interesting as it is challenging. I draw from past experiences as a pro photographer. Quick visualization mixed with conceptual ideas lead to compelling images (hopefully). For projects on Colorado Industry photography, I rely on levels of skills acquired from many photography categories. Here are three:

  1. Photojournalism skills learned under the tutelage of Gunnison newspaper editor Joanne Williams.
  2. Fine art landscape photography honed while guiding whitewater river expeditions.
  3. Business photography Denver. The stuff I do every week.


Oil and Gas Investor Magazine is a Hart Energy publication and is published in Houston TX. The story, written by Chris Sheehan centers on lucrative investment opportunities in the Niobrara within the Denver Julesburg (D-J) basin.

The Niobrara is a North American geologic formation that was deposited between 87 and 82 million years ago. Fossil fuels can be found in Niobrara shale. Geologists look between a chalk member overlying a limestone member – at depths of 3,000 to 14,000 feet. Images in this post came from a drilling site near Platteville Colorado operated by Synergy Resourses. Now I have to say, the folks from Synergy were as hospitable and friendly as can be. Foreman Kenny gave me the freedom I needed while keeping me safe.


 January’s coldest temps (minus 28°F) were just two days previous, and the brisk wind numbed my distal ends. Working with gloves could have helped, but I’m to stubborn to wear them. The cold front hung over the foothills blocking long views of white peaks, so I revisited the area the following week to capture dawn shots.



After the Colorado industrial photography shoot was finished I received some rave reviews from the magazine:

“I’d like to start off with saying the photography has been a hot topic of discussion around here and it has been VERY well received by many around here.”

“Wow, these are fantastic. You managed to capture everything I’m looking to illustrate in this cover article. Really great work.”

                                                                                                                ……………..Robert D. Avila – Art Director – Oil and Gas Investor

art landscape photo

Dawn frost on winter grass offsets Platte River scene in Colorado landscape image.

Fossile fuel wells in Colorado

Weld County in northeastern Colorado is the heart of the D-J basin with over 4000 wells.

Colorado Petroleum photography

Left image is the cover of March’s O&G Investor. While the gloves image at right would have been a great back-cover, it was used as a full page spread within the article.

Oil and gas workers photo

worker and sound wall

The structure behind this worker is part of a “sound wall” created to disperse sound and appease neighbors of oil drilling operations.

woman at oil well Denver pro photography - frost on winter grass.

Women Colorado industrial photography workers.

It’s no longer unusual to see women at oil and gas drilling sites.

morning at drilling rig

Colorado industrial photography meets Colorado agriculture. Although this shot was not used in the article, it was one of my favorite images. Dawn breaks on dormant irrigation system near petroleum drilling site.

In the rural plains of Colorado – melding agriculture and petroleum.




Photographers, writers and artists often look at the world differently from others. They concentrate on the minutest of details while simultaneously seeing a larger view. Their job, after all, is to record humanity’s travel trough time. And time takes on new meaning to a photographer who is well beyond fifty years old – it shrinks. Suddenly 150 years doesn’t seem like a large block of time. A century and a half of history is not actually a big leap for our minds to grasp. Looking backward in time or projecting into the future 150 years is like gazing at the stars. It gives us perspective.


I retrace my mind’s meanderings of that frigid morning when I study the last picture of this post. This is not a particularly interesting image without the following observation. What did the landscape look like in 1867 – before industry? And what will the same spot be in 2167?


At first glance, the photograph is a depiction of rural Colorado – a melding of agriculture and the petroleum industry. But what about the elements we take for granted? Dividing the composition in half are giant timbers built to carry our communication wires. How much longer will those be necessary? On the left we see that familiar two lane blacktop as it reaches over the near horizon. Of course roads have existed since the invention of the wheel. But how relevant will roads be to future human travel?


The right side of the composition is reason for my making the photograph. Derricks exist for an extremely short time – just a few months. How many years will the resulting well pump crude? And the biggest question: How much longer can humans’ rapid consumption of fossil fuel be maintained?


Climate Science, Economics and Politics


In the big view of human existence, could it be that we are living at the apex of civilization? During this 150 year span – since 1867, a planetary virus we call Homo sapiens has expanded to every edge of the globe.  Humanity now possesses the means by which its very existence could be terminated. Here are three ways:

Human population growth is a runaway train. At the current rate of one billion added bodies every 12 years, Earth would be home to 20 people billion by 2167.

Nuclear Annihilation is not only possible, it’s probable. How much longer can the nuclear arsenal club of nine nations remain fixed? And the bigger question: How much longer can the nine nations control their own governments?

Climate Change is curious. While the rate of warming is fast by scientific standards, it’s slow enough to lull humans to inaction. Decades of discussion have lead to a general agreement – the planet is warming. But powerful elements of political persuasion deny human culpability.


The political divide impacting our little world-view in 2017 seems irreparable. In the USA, the political divisions are so acute that people have stopped exchanging thoughts with those who are not like minded. Take this post for example… Right wing readers won’t like it because of the section on climate change while progressive friends condemn using my talent for the O&G Colorado industrial photography project.


Opinions shaped by economics have been outdone only by opinions created by the alternative-fact driven world. Does it seem odd that the same scientific methods used to create industry are being ignored by climate deniers?  Anti-science thought reigns in 2017. The current administration’s focus is clearly on bolstering a sagging industrial economy.  It may indeed lead to a stronger US economy for a short term, but at what cost? Integrity, empathy and the environment, (not to mention America’s reputation) might prove difficult to restore. If we ignore science do we become ignorant?


But hypocrisy thrives on all sides of the political spectrum. I saw a “Stop Climate Change” bumper sticker on an SUV toting a trailer of high powered ski-mobiles as it raced up a mountain road in a lower gear at 85 mph. At times, educated lefties seem to be clueless about what fuels their lives of relative ease. On the other hand, factions under the category “urban elite” cannot fathom the global economic chaos caused by sudden reversal of oil consumption.


It has often been said that people are sheep. Imagining humanity as a single organism, this statement rings true. If opposing ideologies suddenly arrived at the agreement that human activity is the catapult of global warming, a step would be taken. But can enough individuals truly alter their daily habits to reverse climate change ? Without concerted cooperation between governments, industry and the ruling 1%, ordinary climate activism amounts to nothing more than a mosquito pissing in the ocean.


Ironically, an irreparable political divide might be precisely what saves humanity. The trajectory of action set in motion by the 2016 election in the USA, is designed to rip apart long trusted alliances and dismantle institutions. The very institutions that serve to stave off catastrophe are being abolished or minimized.  A new order exists in the vacuum – one of unshackled industrial growth. If this course results in environmental catastrophe, as those on the left believe, it could be the silver lining of an ominous cloud. Perhaps catastrophe is the only impetus strong enough to reshape destiny. In this scenario, floods, super storms, and fires from drought lead to famine which in turn lead to war, creating a shift in human thought and subsequently. . . human evolution.






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Business Portraits – Denver High Finance at Tokken

I enjoy making business portraits for Denver executives. Every week, I create profile pictures and business portraits. Some of my business photography projects are for magazine stories, but most are done for company websites. Whatever the project is, I design executive portraits that are uncommon. My aim is to create the kind of business portrait that lives its own life – one that is both a reflection of and a window into the personality of the person in my viewfinder.


To that end, I try to photograph each client outside the norms. I want them to express a persona in photography that exceeds preconceived stereotypes. Lawyers and executives in banking are often conventional. After all, their jobs demand polish. Bankers especially can be stiff. So when I got a call from a banking firm named Tokken, I expected suits in a glassy tower.
But just moments into our initial conversation, I knew this would be a fun photo-shoot. First, I was intrigued with the unique niche – a banking system designed for the cannabis industry. And second, the folks at Tokken were open to my ideas.

Lamine Zarrad, Tokken CEO and his wife and business partner Jenaya McGowan Zarrad, told me they scoured the internet searching for the right photographer. That they chose DeCroce Photography was not only an honor, but their confidence in me provided the right ambience for me create interesting works. Here are a few of the results

Available window light is as beautiful as it is problematic. The depth of field in this low angle portrait of Lamine was so shallow that I melded two shots together – one for a face in focus and one for a sharp hand. As a federal banking regulator, Lamine Zarrad understood the complexities of marijuana dispensaries when he created Tokken in 2016.


Executive portrait against red wall

The shared office space at The Shift provided lots of interesting backgrounds. Janaya Zarrad is photographed here against a red wall adjacent to the board room at The Shift.


Denver business portrait photographers and business photographers in Denver are constantly being introduced to niches they never knew existed. In the world of banking, Tokken is certainly on the cutting edge. And Tokken’s banking innovations for pot dispensaries have garnered an abundance of headlines for the young start-up.

Just a few weeks ago (February 7), Westword writer Kate Mckee Simmons penned an interesting story detailing Zarrad’s company.

Tokken, an app for both customers and dispensaries that was recently named a finalist for the 2017 SXSW Interactive Innovation Award.”


Tokken’s new website (with my photography) will be live next week. But their current site displays a long list of publications that have taken note of Tokken innovations. The New York Times, InvestopediaForbes, The Boston Globe and many others have written articles about Tokken.


To explain the Tokken story, I’ve relied on excerpts from a New York Times story (February 16 2016)  on Tokken.

As Marijuana Sales Grow, Start-Ups Step In for Wary Banks


When Lamine Zarrad was not at his job as a federal banking regulator in recent months, he was spending a lot of time at Denver’s marijuana dispensaries.


As a federal employee, he could not partake of the pot.


He was there, instead, to pitch the shops on a start-up he has been working on in his free time and is making official this week after quitting his job as a bank examiner at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, a division of the Treasury Department.


Mr. Zarrad’s start-up, Tokken (pronounced token), is one of several recently created companies looking to solve one of the most vexing problems facing marijuana businesses in Colorado and several other states: the endless flow of dirty, dangerous, hard-to-track cash.


The State of Colorado legalized marijuana for recreational use in 2014, joining several other states where the drug has been decriminalized in some form, but Visa and MasterCard will not process transactions for pot dispensaries and most banks will not open accounts for the businesses — leaving dispensaries dealing with a constant influx of cash, and nowhere good to put it.


Tokken and others start-ups, with names like Hypur and Kind Financial, have been putting together software that helps banks and dispensaries monitor and record transactions, with the long-term goal of moving transactions away from cash.

variations in lighting techniques

After a conversation the other day with iconic Denver photographer Nicholas DeSciose, I chose to create compositions with distal ends (toes) leading out of the frame. These two business portraits also represent a difference in in lighting technique. The image of Lamine on the left was done with only available light while the photograph of Jenaya in a man pose was lit with a single strobe and soft-box.




Business portraits

I love this composition. Of course, the natural beauty of the subject – Sonya – is what makes this image shine.

business portraits

With the Tokken portrait project, my aim was to create true-to-life business portraits of Denver executives. And I encouraged the executives to have a conversation with “Harvey” off camera. But I also wanted variety in the images. My hope was to make photographs as individual as the personalities being portrayed. This portrait of Israel was made with existing office light mixed with window light.

Denver business portraits

When creating interesting business portraits, one light is sometimes more interesting than two. The trick is to fill the shadows with either reflector light or available light.


Business portrait Denver

The giant TV screen on the wall made for an interesting reflection in this business portrait.——————————— Shift Workspaces in Denver offered a wide pallet of background choices for interesting business portraits. But as I view the collection together, I feel that I might have relied to heavily on this cool wall. ———————-

Denver business portrait

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  • Mary pencheff - Really really nice work! Beautiful lighting and composition, great conceptual portraits.ReplyCancel

    • Edward DeCroce - Thank you Mary. And you have beautiful work! Wouldn’t it be fun to photograph each other sometime?ReplyCancel

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