Eating Well Thanksgiving

A funny thing about publishing a magazine is that most of the time you’re working a year in advance. That means for the Thanksgiving 2020 issue of Eating Well magazine, I took photos on Thanksgiving 2019.

Eating Well planned a spread of photos from across the United States to show different ways we celebrate Thanksgiving. My assignment was to document the role small farms play in the process while covering the Midwest section of the story.

Liz and Nate Brownlee own and operate Nightfall Farm in Crothersville, Indiana. Here are some images as I follow them around southern Indiana on their distribution day.

Fun Fact: I took the image they published in the first 30 minutes of a 5 hour shoot. You never know which photos are going to be your best until you go through the entire process.

Click on the image below to head to the Eating Well website and see the full story celebrating the diversity of our country on one of our favorite holidays.

As It Lies

I’m not a golfer, so it felt a bit odd to start taking photos of lost golf balls. However, I recently started being drawn to photographing lost golf balls on the course near my house and following that instinct lead to a surprisingly philosophical set of images.

I focus on documenting life as it happens naturally, so when my kids asked me to take them to the creek to find golf balls, I grabbed my camera and followed along. I planned to photograph the kids in their search, but I soon felt pulled to shoot the lost balls as well.

After seeing the resulting images and reflecting on them, some deeper themes emerged…

Whether in sports, business, relationships or creative endeavors, we all know the feeling of taking a big shot and shanking it into the woods. It’s so off-course that it’s not even worth the effort pursue it. 

I like the idea of taking someone’s missed shot and making something beautiful out of it. I like to think that means the things we try and fail at can lead to something good like another’s inspiration and success.

The title of this series, As It Lies, comes from the golf rule that you must play your ball from wherever it lands. This is also an apt description for my approach to these images: I shoot each ball as found. I don’t touch or move the ball, or change the scenery in any way for the photo.

I feel there’s a larger collaboration happening to create these images. It starts with a golfer taking an errant shot. Then nature receives it. The ball is held in place, or moved by wind and water over a period of hours, days, months or even years. Only after all that do I find it and document its existence.

If you enjoy these images, you can follow me on Instagram to see the latest balls I find. Many of these images are available as prints, click here to see the images available in our shop. And if one of these speaks to you specifically but you don’t see it in my shop, shoot me an email & I’ll be happy to make it available for you.

Related Content

This is a crazy time of life & it’s been a great opportunity for interesting photojournalism. Here are links to more of my photo stories that have spawned from these times of social distancing and quarantine.

Bethel Cemetery

indianapolis indiana bethel cemetery civil war reenactors

One of the many reasons I love my work is that I never know what type of shoots are going to come my way.  Documenting the rededication of Bethel Cemetery is definitely a photo story different than any I have done before.

A logistics company called Cardno contacted me in the fall to document the opening of a new/old cemetery. Due to necessary infrastructure improvements, Bethel Cemetery was relocated from its home by the airport to an area within Concordia Cemetery on the south side of Indianapolis. Cardno led the project.

indianapolis indiana bethel cemetery civil war veteran
indianapolis indiana bethel cemetery rededication

Established in 1827, Bethel Cemetery saw its last known burial in 1935. Among the buried are veterans of the War of 1812 and the Civil War.

An initial survey of the site identified over 150 headstones. Throughout the relocation project, 543 individual were discovered. In the process they salvaged, restored and reassembled headstones that had fallen into disrepair. 

indianapolis indiana bethel cemetery civil war reenactors
indianapolis indiana bethel cemetery civil war reenactors

Bethel Cemetery Families

Descendants of some of the Civil War veterans attended the rededication as well as some historically prominent families from the Indianapolis area. As a part of the rededication, reenactors from from the Civil War and War of 1812 along with an Honor Guard from the IN National Guard gave salutes to the veterans.

indianapolis indiana bethel cemetery rededication
indianapolis indiana bethel cemetery rededication

Take the next steps

Since you’ve made it to the end of the story, you’re a good candidate to join us for our weekly-ish newsletter. We share the latest stories before they’re available anywhere else, along with some special offers and other generally interesting info. Click here to subscribe.

If you own your own business or are a marketing pro and you want more info about having me out to do a story, send me an email.

indianapolis indiana bethel cemetery rededication

Related Posts

I do documentary photographer for all sorts of commercial clients. Check out these stories below to see some cool stories.

Indiana City Brewing

Indiana City

Last week I visited Indiana City Brewing on the southeast side of downtown Indianapolis to check out their brewing process. It was fun to watch. The building they’re housed in is super cool and the morning light definitely heightened the scene.

I’ve been doing documentary photography and drinking beer (not at the same time) for nearly two decades, so it’s crazy I hadn’t shot any stories about brewing. Glad to finally end the drought!

Meet the Brew Crew

The Indiana City Brewing team has the flow down, moving quickly between tasks. Nick Shadle (the man in the mask) is Head Brewer. Ryan Oesch (the guy with the overalls who you can just tell has good taste in music) is Production Manager. And finally the dude with the best title of all, Cellarman, Mike Abrego.

So if you stop by the brewery and see them around, tell them you saw their photo on here and Zach says hello.

Indiana City Brewing Taproom

Now that you’ve seen all the photos, check out their site for more info and stop by the taproom soon!

We are partnering with Indiana City Brewing for a giveaway on our Instagram page now through November 22, 2019.

They are having a ticketed release party on November 23 for the beer brewed in this photo story, Cratchit’s Winter Olde Ale.

Related Posts

Artist Aaron Scamihorn does the label art for Indiana City, so check out these posts where he makes an appearance.

aaron scamihorn

Nathaniel Russell

Recently I had the opportunity to photograph artist Nathaniel Russell in his home studio. His work is often humorous, sometimes political and always thoughtful. Nature and animals are frequent themes, along with humans in their odd beauty and beautiful oddness.


It’s great to see a native Hoosier making cool art around the world and still calling Indiana home. Give him a follow on Instagram to see all the rad murals, posters, woodcuts, skateboards, fake fliers, album covers, illustrations and more that he comes up with. You can also purchase editions of his work in his online shop.

The day of my visit, Nat made some prints from a woodcut and numbered some limited edition silk screens of a big blue bird (sorry folks, sold out).


The music is on constant and literal rotation and this day’s selections included indie band Little Wings and country & gospel music artists The Louvin Brothers. In addition to his visual pieces, Nat plays and records his own music.


This last image is of cleanup, but I enjoyed the visual nature of it nonetheless. I didn’t notice until later that the splotches of black ink were covering the government pages in the phone book. I don’t know if this was coincidence, but I don’t care to ask.


Related Posts

If you’re into art and artists, check out these other posts on the topic.

chocolate syrum art

Carmel Indiana Pool Construction

carmel indiana pool open during construction

A Study in Contrasts

Contrasts always catch my eye. Whether it’s contrasts in tone, color or subject matter, I like to find ways to document them with my camera. This post examines the contrasts at a new Carmel, Indiana pool.

Pool Open During Construction

Our neighborhood has a new pool this year and the area around it is still under construction. This gave me a chance to shoot a lot of those contrasts that I like.

There’s the bright blue water and colorful swimsuits next to the expanse of dirt. Another contrast is the smoothness of the water and new concrete against the footprints left by construction equipment. And the most obvious contrast to me is the shiny, sparkling new pool set against the completely raw, unfinished site around it.

carmel indiana pool open during construction
carmel indiana pool open during construction
carmel indiana pool open during construction
carmel indiana pool open during construction
carmel indiana pool open during construction
carmel indiana pool open during construction
carmel indiana pool open during construction

Construction Noise

On this day there’s a hard-to-miss a bulldozer circling the pool. The rumbling of a diesel engine, the crunch of dirt and rock, plus the squeak of the metal tracks provides an interesting contrast against the splashing and yelling of children. Below is a video clip I shot on my iPhone. Turn on the sound to get an idea of what it feels like to be there.

carmel indiana pool open during construction

Related Posts

Thanks for checking out my photos of construction at a Carmel, Indiana pool. Here are some family activity posts you’ll want to check out.

Sidewalk Chalk


Sometimes creation is destruction. That’s definitely the case with this Crayola sidewalk chalk. It tends to happen when the chalk is worn, broken, left in the rain, dried out and then left in the rain again. Or sometimes it happens with a new box. You can never be sure when the urge will strike.

With these photos and video, I look to capture the light-hearted fun, curiosity and experimentation that is happening.


Related Posts

National Donut Day

Today while standing in line to buy donuts at Titus Bakery, I found out it is National Donut Day. It’s not just another Hallmark holiday; it’s a reason to indulge in our unofficial national breakfast treat (as if you need one other than “deliciousness”). So sit back and let me paint (photograph) a picture for you.

national donut day titus bakery westfield indiana
national donut day titus bakery westfield indiana
national donut day titus bakery westfield indiana

Related Posts

Below are more links to food and family posts. You’ll definitely want to see the burgers in the Moonshine Store!


What do you do with those old electronics you have around the house? Recycle them? Sure, but first, use them for a take-apart project.

apple computer take-apart homeschooling unschooling

Kids love to see what’s inside things. The opportunity to crack open an old computer is something they can’t turn down. And whether they’re using a tiny screwdriver to remove intricate pieces or just taking a mallet to the damn thing, it’s all good.

apple computer take-apart homeschooling unschooling

Building, breaking, reading, drawing, painting, tearing, examining, walking, throwing, watching, poking, smashing, running, jumping, climbing, falling, smelling, tasting, touching, hearing, and looking are all a part of learning about the world and how it works. Assigning “value” to one activity over another ignores the unique perspective of the individual.

apple computer take-apart homeschooling unschooling
apple computer take-apart homeschooling unschooling
apple computer take-apart homeschooling unschooling


Before you start a take-apart, make sure to take the batteries out of devices first. Some electronics (like stereos) have capacitors that hold a charge after being unplugged. Typically it’s not more than a day, but double-check these things before you get started.

Also, look for a local electronics recycling site when you’re done. I use the Household Hazardous Waste center in Noblesville, IN. It’s free to county residents. Search your own area to find options nearby.

Related Posts

chocolate syrum art

A Delicious Medium

Today we present a photo story of a young artist discovering a delicious medium. One of the many benefits of working from home when you have four (and soon five) kids who homeschool is witnessing, and subsequently documenting, their shenanigans.

This is what happens when you leave a tempting item on the kitchen counter within reach of a toddler. A new photo story!

chocolate syrup art toddler carmel indiana
chocolate syrup art toddler carmel indiana
chocolate syrup art toddler carmel indiana

It’s All Good

Photo by Courtney McCracken

We believe that children are inherently good. They’re curious about the world around them and are naturally inclined to explore and experiment. When messes happen, we laugh, take some photos and then clean up together.

Related Content

If you like these slice-of-life photo stories, be sure to check us out on Instagram. We also have a new Facebook page.

Also, here are some more stories on family exploration.

Celebrity Cousins

documentary photographer family carmel indiana

A documentary photographer never rests, even on Memorial Day weekend. Indy 500 race day in Indianapolis means family get-togethers and visits with celebrity cousins. Here’s what comedian Jim Gaffigan has to say about these special family members…

“…the ultimate reason for attending family gatherings is for your children to have the time of their lives with their cousins. Little kids love their cousins. I’m not being cute or exaggerating here. Cousins are like celebrities for little kids. If little kids had a People magazine, cousins would be on the cover. Cousins are the barometers of how fun a family get-together will be. Are the cousins going to be there? Fun!”

documentary photographer family carmel indiana
documentary photographer family carmel indiana
documentary photographer family carmel indiana
documentary photographer family carmel indiana
documentary photographer family carmel indiana

A note on approach

If you regularly follow my work and are a photography buff, you might notice these images have more depth of field than what I normally shoot. Many times I like a shallow depth of field to focus the viewer’s eye in a precise spot. Lately, I’ve been shooting more images with increased depth to allow the viewer to take in a scene in more detail.

I like how this works for images like the one above. You can see a number of interactions happening at once while also getting more information about the location for additional context.

Documentary Photographer – Related Posts

If you’re interested in more documentary photography of family-oriented places and events, check these out…

Senator Richard Lugar

Richard Lugar served as United States Senator from Indiana from 1977-2013. He passed away on April 28 at the age of 87. Lugar is known for his international diplomacy, working to greatly reduce the world’s supply of nuclear weapons and helping to pressure the end of apartheid in South Africa.

After his Senate career ended, Lugar created The Lugar Center. The not-for-profit located in Washington, D.C. focuses on international issues and bi-partisan governance.

I had the honor to photograph Richard Lugar in 2011 and 2012 as he ran for his 7th term in the Senate. To me, he seemed the same person in public as in private. He was very warm, friendly, and interested in making real connections with people. I’m glad I met and photographed him, if only for a few days.

US Senator Richard Lugar
US Senator Richard Lugar
US Senator Richard Lugar
US Senator Richard Lugar

Did you know or ever meet Senator Lugar? I’d like to hear what impressions he left on you. If you’re interested in politics, check out my post on Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb.

To learn more about Senator Lugar’s contributions and legacy, read this excellent profile on Time’s website.

Indianapolis Public Schools

This time last year I worked on a project documenting Indianapolis Public Schools. I went to 10 different schools over the course of four days in April & May to photograph students in classes and activities. The images highlight the special programs and opportunities each school has to offer.

Here are some of my favorites. What’s the same and what’s different from when you were in school? Tell us in the comments!

Indianapolis Public Schools
Indianapolis Public Schools
Indianapolis Public Schools
Indianapolis Public Schools
Indianapolis Public Schools
Indianapolis Public Schools
Indianapolis Public Schools
Indianapolis Public Schools
Indianapolis Public Schools
Indianapolis Public Schools
Indianapolis Public Schools
Indianapolis Public Schools
Indianapolis Public Schools

Low Light Photography: Intro

One of the most difficult aspects of photography is shooting in low light. However, with my documentary approach, it’s a skill I need in order to maintain the integrity of the subject material and avoid affecting the end result with my presence. Therefore over the past 15 years I’ve developed a series of practices that allow me to shoot in low light using only available light without compromising image quality. 

Often people will ask me about low light photography situations, so I’ve created a series of three posts shared some tips. OR! You can also get the whole guide now as a PDF by entering your info below.


This first post is about gear.  Subsequent posts address shooting technique and post-production.  While I firmly believe that the gear itself is NOT the most important aspect, I want to address it in the first post so that the technique I describe later will be clearer.


To illustrate these posts, I’m using images from the four years I photographed RIOT LA Alternative Comedy Festival. Recently I was going through some archives and enjoyed revisiting the experience of the great event, invented from the ground up by my extremely talented friend, Abbey Londer. I thought RIOT was the perfect backdrop for a discussion on low light photography.

Shooting exclusively with available light at night and in dark theaters and bars was a fun challenge at the festival and made for some really cool and rewarding images.  Also, I’m a huge comedy fan, so that just made these gigs even sweeter. 

Benefits of Using Available Light  

First and foremost, I prefer using available light because it is significantly less obtrusive.  As a documentary photographer, I want my imprint on the scene to be minimal.  That means two things to me:  First, I don’t want to affect someone’s experience by introducing flash.  Secondly, I want to stay inconspicuous so I can capture authentic moments that are happening in front of me.

Popping a flash or strobe a few times every minute can be very distracting.  I’m not the only one who feels that way.  When photographing Mel Brooks at the festival in 2017, he specifically asked photographers not to use flash around him.  As a result, I would have missed out on being able to take photos of him backstage and behind the scenes if I relied upon a flash.

Similarly, I feel that the ambiance of a scene is lost once artificial light is introduced.  Using available light allows the image to retain the same feel as the original setting.  Richer color, more background detail and softer light are all benefits of shooting with available light in low-light photography situations.  

Some professional photographers use flash to highlight a scene and allow viewers to see into the shadows. I like to portray the scene as I saw it.  Therefore, it’s simply a matter of style and intent.  I think the larger point is to be purposeful in your approach.


Let’s get to it. For the purposes of this discussion, I’m going to talk about gear at the level of an amateur who knows the basics of the technical aspects of photography: aperture, shutter speed and ISO.  I want these posts to be accessible to the widest audience.  If you any questions, whether more basic or advanced, leave them in the comments below and I’ll be sure to answer.


I think the most important piece of gear for low light photography is the lens.  I prefer prime lenses, also referred to as fixed focal length or non-zoom lenses.  This is because of their wider aperture.  The best, most expensive zoom lenses are only going to get you down to f/2.8.  Having a prime lens that is f/2.0 or f/1.4 gives you a significant amount of latitude in low light.  And don’t forget the lower apertures give better bokeh.

(For more on bokeh check out this blog post.)

I also like wide angle lenses to give the viewer a better sense of being in the middle of things.  That’s a stylistic choice.  If you’re looking at one of my images and you feel like you’re standing right next to the subject, that’s because I was standing right next to the subject using a wide-angle lens.  When shooting with two cameras, I typically use 24mm and 50mm lenses.  When I shoot a single camera, I like to use a 35mm lens.  

Keep in mind that if you have a crop sensor camera, you need to account for that when choosing lenses.  For example, my carry-everywhere-with-me camera is a Fujifilm X-T20, which has a 1.5x crop factor.  So, I bought their 23mm lens, which actually has the same field of view as a 35mm lens on a full frame camera.

Mirrorless Cameras

The camera market these days is exploding with mirrorless cameras.  “Mirrorless” refers to the fact that these cameras don’t have the mirror that a DSLR has, which allows the photographer to look into the viewfinder and see physically through the lens.  Mirrorless cameras have electronic viewfinders, which means you’re looking at a tiny LCD screen when you hold it up to your eye, or using the larger LCD screen on the back of the camera.

This has a few benefits that will come into play in the next post when I talk about technique.  Using an LCD viewfinder with exposure preview in low light allows you to see the image as it will appear when you take it.  This can greatly improve exposure accuracy when shooting in low light.

Another benefit of a mirrorless camera is that most of them can be made to shoot completely silently using electronic shutter mode.  While this doesn’t pertain to low-light photography specifically, I have found it extremely beneficial when shooting in very quiet places where I don’t want to draw attention to myself, which coincidentally tend to be places with less available light.

Even though I just laid out a number of benefits for mirrorless cameras like the Fujifilm I use, I do want to point out that for my commissioned work I continue to use Canon DSLRs.  I find that I can work faster and more effectively with Canon, especially in environments like sports.  I’d give Canon the edge in image quality as well, although it may be negligible in most cases. All of the images at RIOT were shot with Canon.


Below are some links to some of the gear I’ve mentioned. You’ll see that prices vary quite a bit, but I made sure to include some “affordable” prime lenses ($500 or less). Prices are as of January 2019. Most larger camera shops have a used department that’s worth checking out as well.

*Denotes some of the gear that I use.

Canon Lenses

35mm f/1.4 – $1700
35mm f/2.0 – $549
*24mm f/1.4 – $1549
50mm f/1.8 – $125
*50mm f/1.4 – $349
*50mm f/1.2 – $1350

Nikon Lenses

35mm f/1.4 – $1697
35mm f/1.8 – $527
24mm f/1.4 – $1997
50mm f/1.8 – $217
50mm f/1.4 – $447

Fujifilm Gear

*X-T20 Mirrorless Camera – $700
23mm f/1.4 – $900
*23mm f/2.0 – $450


I regularly rent gear from BorrowLenses. This is a great way to try something out before you buy it or rent a specialty item for a specific shoot. Use my affiliate link below. They have discounts for first-time users.

Check out BorrowLenses!

Wrap Up

This wraps up my post on gear for low light photography.  Please check out the the next two posts on technique and post-production. If you’ve enjoyed this post/series on shooting in low light, please share it! You can also have the whole series now, in a really fancy full color PDF download.

and post production. If you’ve enjoyed this post/series on shooting in low light, please share it! You can also have the whole series now, in a really fancy full color PDF download.


Thanks for reading! If you take any images using these techniques, tag the photos with #ZDPphototips. I look forward to seeing what you make!


Viva Nashvegas

Hats, boots (buy one get two free) and neon signs.  This was my initial impression walking through downtown Nashville, Tennessee, known by locals as “Nashvegas” (thanks for the insider info, Val).

The images in this post offer a QUICK glance of Nashville.  We spent one night and approximately 20 hours in town.  With four young kids in tow, you won’t see the inside of a bunch of honky-tonks, but you will see what we saw: the outside of a bunch of honky-tonks, lots of boots (buy one get two free), street artists and giant wings.

Nashville was dubbed the “Athens of the South” in the 1850’s due to the high number of educational institutions and its arts scene.  So, naturally, it only made sense to build a full-size replica of the Parthenon for its Centennial Exposition in 1897.

I like to think the Parthenon of Ancient Greece had vendor tents outside selling gyros and wine.  Prove me wrong.

The scene outside the Nashville Parthenon.

The full scale replica of Athena in Nashville, TN.

Sun Diner is a Sun Records-themed breakfast joint in the heart of downtown Nashville, Tennessee.  Good food.  Good atmosphere.  Open 24 hours.

“What Lifts You” by local artist Kelsey Montague in the trendy area of Nashville known as The Gulch, is a ready-made Instagrammable spot for tourists to get dolled up and look like their cutest sightseeing outfits have sprouted wings.  Or, if you’re me, get dolled up and take photos of people taking photos of people sprouting wings.

So that’s that!  Go see Nashville.  It’s pretty cool.  I should mention, even if you’re traveling with young kids like we do, you can hear plenty of great music from the street (above, left) and there are a number of kid-friendly music venues like Wildhorse Saloon (above, right).  Oh and don’t forget to buy some boots (buy one get two free).

If you’re interested in licensing for these or any other images from Zach Dobson Photography, please contact us. And be sure to subscribe to see our latest content as it’s released as well as get some cool extras we offer only to our closest allies.

Kids. Just being.

I had a co-op day recently at my kids’ preschool and thought I’d take a few photos.  It’s a kind and loving environment where kids can explore their own interests in their own ways.  They spend time outside every day, including in the rain and snow.

Scroll through the gallery below to see what it’s like on a typical fall day with a group of three and four-year-olds.  You’ll see them playing with some kindergarteners on the playground, too.


This past weekend was the grand opening of the Carmel Christkindlmarkt.  I stopped by on Sunday evening to check out the scene.  It’s a beautiful setup with the Palladium in the background.  The iceskating is affordable, and there are special deals on Wednesday and Thursday, so be sure to check out the website for details:

Here a few shots from my brief visit.  I’ll be back soon to do a full shoot for Hamilton County Tourism, so I’ll be sure share those later this winter.

The woodworker is Christian Werner, a master craftsman from the small town of Seiffen, Germany. He travelled to Carmel for the opening weekend in 2017 to demonstrate how he creates animal figurines.

Carmel Indiana Christkindlmarkt Ice Skating

If you’re looking for more recent images from Carmel Christkindlmarkt, you’ll want to join our mailing list because we shared an exclusive view of the gorgeous Glühwein Pyramid, added in 2018, and a mouth watering image of a Raclette with our newsletter and we’ll be sure to let you know when those images go live in the future.

2018 Holiday Events

As legendary Hoosier Michael Jackson once said, “Don’t stop ’til you get enough.”  So by all means, please enjoy our other Indianapolis holiday events posts from 2018.  Click the image below.

indianapolis holiday photography

Refugees in Indiana

Like many people, the images I’ve seen in the news lately of refugees fleeing violence and war have affected me deeply.  Parents are going through extraordinary lengths to protect their children, risking their lives seeking safety and stability.

America is a country founded and built by refugees and immigrants with these same basic goals.  That’s why this spring I began documenting refugees in Indiana.  My goal with this series is to show people living in local communities who embody what it means to be Hoosiers and Americans.

Rana and Reem Okar, 35, are twin sisters from Syria.  They lived in Damascus for 30 years, and although smoke rising from bomb blasts in the distance had become regular occurrences and work commutes were lengthened by checkpoints, they felt safe in their city. They lived in a tight-knit community where eveyone knew each other and they would spend hours after work most days talking with friends and family at restaurants and hookah bars.

They came to the United States in late 2012 to visit family and by late 2013 decided to seek refugee status, as they were concerned about the escalating discord in their home country.

After few years of working various part time jobs in retail, both Rana and Reem were able to find regular full time employment that they enjoy.  Reem works with the program and camping department  of the Boy Scouts and Rana works as a team leader for Engaging Solutions, providing call center operations for health care providers.

Currently they live in the Southport area of Indianapolis with two of their sisters, but are looking to purchase a home on the north side.  On weekends and during vacations they like to travel around the state seeing sights like Brown County State Park and Cataract Falls or shopping in towns like Nashville and Zionsville.

  • Rana (left) and Reem Okar are twin sisters from Syria who have been living in Indiana for the past 5 years as refugees.