Master Class
New Horizons

Instinct Then, Practice Now
I made this portrait 25 years ago by placing Fred under the eaves of a barn, cutting off the light from above. I turned him to have the light cross over his body. I did it then by instinct. I'm doing it now because it works every time.
Photos © 2003, Monte Zucker, All Rights Reserved

Each year around this time I wonder what the next year will bring. Not this year! I'm planning ahead and making decisions here and now to make 2004 the beginning of another exciting new era of my life.

First of all, I'm moving from Florida to Palm Springs, California. Not a small decision, but one that I'm looking forward to with great anticipation. As long as I'm near my cameras and computers, and a couple of airports, I'll continue publishing, teaching, and lecturing. Only now, I'm planning to take a little more time for myself and enjoy the fruits of having spent over five decades in professional photography.

A Few Golden Oldies
These photographs were made over 20 years ago and to me have stood the test of time. These portraits were created with my head and heart. Posing and lighting take a back seat to emotion and impact. A list of those photographers who inspired me to create these images would be endless. Suffice it to say, I learned from the best!

Life has been good to me. My children, Sherri and Tammi, are grown and doing well. My grandchildren, Sara and Evan, have also matured and are now starting their own lifetime careers. I've had the good fortune of having had two lifetime partners, Sondra and Fred, both of whom have brought love and understanding into my life and who have helped me through the rough spots and shared with me some of the finest moments a person can have.

I've had a photographic mentor, Joe Zeltsman, who not only taught me photography, but also a way of maintaining a professional career with an eye and a heart open to change, progress, and a desire to share my knowledge with any and all who would want to learn from me.

In my later years I've been fortunate enough to have several incredible sponsors. They have believed in me and I have believed in them 100 percent! When I talk and write about them it is with a full heart. I know that they would treat each and every buyer of their product and/or services with the same care that they have shown me.
So, why am I making changes this late in my lifetime? Because, for me, it's never too late to change. For me not to risk change is to fall into a pattern of complacency--something that I've dreaded throughout my lifetime.

Keep On Growing
Those of you who really know me and who have followed my photographic career are aware that I have always attempted to continually mature as a portrait photographer. Photographs that I make today have the background of posing and lighting that have been the solid foundation that I learned years ago. But my new images also have been influenced by photographers who have challenged tradition (and me) and gotten away with it...beautifully.

I am the product of many who have gone before me, as well as many who are adventuring ahead of me. So, why am I going on like this? Partly because I want to share my excitement of being a photographer who is still in love with his profession. And partly because I want to help shake up some of you who may be falling out of love with photography and who do it just because, "It's a living!"

A Treasury Of Tradition
Here are some portraits (below) that were created in more recent years. The photographs were inspired by my lifetime experiences, loves, and relationships. For me, tradition will always be in style as long as people give their hearts to one another--openly, shamelessly, and unmistakably.

More Than Just A Living
For me it's more than "just a living." It's an opportunity to explore life and to share my vision with countless others who sometimes let life pass them by and thereby miss out on some of the most wonderful moments that life has to offer. And what about those who will come after us? What will they see? What will they know about those who shared this earth before them? How will they feel about their lives, loves, and legacy?

I'm hoping that some of you also feel like the beginning of a new year is an opportunity--no, a necessity--to move on with your lives and your work in order to challenge yourselves to be a "new you" and to create images that you never before believed possible.

I'm going to be doing just that next year and, hopefully, in the many years that follow. It's not going to be easy, but it is going to be exciting. And that's what I intend to do for myself and for keep the excitement going and to do the same for as many others who care to come along with me.

My slogan for 2004: Treasure the past. Use it wisely to build a pathway to your future!

With that in mind I'd like to share some photographs with you; some from recent times and some from my past.

Change everything? I don't think so. Change a bit? Change a little at a time? Oh yes, and without any compromising.

Share the excitement of the coming year with me. Stretch your imagination and keep excited with your photography. That's what's ahead for me in 2004. Hopefully, for you, too!

A Stretch Of My Comfort Zone
Yes, an old dog can learn new tricks. This one shows a fill light from below. I was using two softboxes by Westcott ( The main light was placed overhead, almost frontal. The fill light was the same intensity as the main, but directed toward the legs of the subject. Only the light radiating over the top edge of the softbox actually got to the face. A hairlight and background light matched the f/stop of the main light.

I shot with a Canon 10D and Canon's 135mm soft focus lens, used at its middle setting. The power of the lights was cut down by placing a three-stop neutral density acetate over all four lights, allowing me to shoot at f/5.6. An Elinchrom wind machine from Bogen ( supplied the finishing touch on some of these. The clothing contradicts everything that I felt wouldn't work! Bottom line: If you've taken the time to develop good judgment, then, if you really like it, can it be that wrong?