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Shadow Portraits

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It’s sunny 300+ days a year here in Colorado.

When my husband and I moved to this state in January of 1999, we covered our eyes and begged the locals to explain to us what this massive, bright ball in the sky was. I mean, it couldn’t be the sun! This was JANUARY. We’d just battled a blizzard and trekked across the plains, leaving the gray, sunless skies of a Typical Midwestern Winter to start our new lives in Colorado.

But, it was the sun. The locals thought this much sun was normal, even in winter. Clearly, we’d moved to a magical land.  (The above photo was taken in January 2009, ten years later.)

Whenever I admit out loud that I actually like a cloudy day every now and then, I get strange looks. Yes, most everyone in Colorado thinks I’m crazy. The residents of Denver go a bit stir-crazy after a few hours of gloom, but I know better. I know that the sun will come out again. I know that we won’t be stuck for months without a glimmer of hope. If you wait just a minute, it will be sunny in Denver. It almost always is.

Well, I’ve never been one to let things go to waste, so we try to put all this sunshine to good use. One of the things we like to do with the sun is take shadow portraits. My husband and I have been doing this for as long as I remember. Some of my favorite ones are from when it was just the two of us in our little family.

Self Portrait in a KivaOur shadows stood
still while
the whispers
of the Ancients
in Mesa Verde
around us.

When we added Claire to the mix, our portraits expanded to fit three shadows. It’s because of her that we started saying, “Cheese!” just before we snap the shot. See? Even with the snow, there is sun. Colorado is amazing.

Snow Shadow Portrait

Most recently, while on vacation, we sought out locations to do shadow portraits, and we were pleasantly surprised at the results. Shadow portraits allowed even the anonymous in our family to be part of a family portrait I could share on the Internet.

Shadow Portraits Grand CanyonThe Grand
Canyon has
never looked
with our
on the evergreen trees…

Shadow Portrait in the Grand Canyon…and
our shadows
had fun
way too close
to the

Ocean Shadow PortraitThe sand
and surf
with the
shadows and
to make the
perfect shadow portrait on
the beach in California.

So, how do you take a shadow portrait? It’s easy, and you don’t need to be a professional photographer or have a fancy camera to play. I don’t have any particular skill when it comes to photography. (There are some Mile High Mamas, like Aimee and Gretchen, that are awesome photographers.) I use my BlackBerry or my little Canon, both set on automatic, to capture the shot. I don’t use a fancy photo-editing program. I crop and resize, and that’s about it.

Trike Shadow PortraitAll you need to get a good shadow portrait is a backdrop and the sun. If you’re planning a shadow portrait, the tricky part is finding just the right scenery when the sun is in the proper place.  If you’re not planning a shadow portrait, they will pop up on you when you least expect them.

I will warn you: once you start taking shadow portraits, it will be hard to stop. Every time the sun warms my back, I look at the scene in front of me and wonder how it would look in a shadow portrait.

And, in Colorado, that happens almost every day.

What about you? Have you ever taken Shadow Portraits? Share them with us!

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  • comment avatar Aimee Greeblemonkey November 4, 2009

    Here is one that I love that I got with my iPhone!

  • comment avatar JoAnn November 4, 2009

    Aimee, that’s an awesome shadow portrait! LOVE it!

  • comment avatar Amber Johnson November 4, 2009

    The second-to-last one is my favorite. Honestly, we’ve never done Shadow Portraits but you have just inspired me to try!

  • comment avatar JoAnn November 4, 2009

    Amber, I can’t wait to see yours!

  • comment avatar Lori November 4, 2009

    I’m a long time fan of your shadow portraits!

    And of Colorado’s sunny days.

  • comment avatar Susan November 4, 2009

    I love shadow pics! The Colorado sun does make it easy to snap them too. I really like the one of you and your family on the canyon wall. It makes a really cool and unique header on your blog too.

  • comment avatar Jenna Hallock November 4, 2009

    I’m also a long time fan of shadow pics. And every now and then I get the urge to have a rainy, cloudy day as an excuse to cuddle on the couch with the kids, JoAnn! I feel you.

    I also love to do body part pictures too (check out my current FB profile pic) – hands and feet in particular. I figure it’s a safer bet than a face that may or may not capture the expression you were hoping for. Much like shadows, hands and feet won’t have a lazy eye or crooked smile! Ha!

  • comment avatar Kim November 5, 2009

    I had not thought of shadow portraits before. What a beautiful perspective! Thank you for sharing this.

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