Skip to main content

Viewfinder: Julie Zahn

Jan 14, 2013 10:15AM ● Published by Emma Dittmann

Gallery: Viewfinder: Julie Zahn [8 Images] Click any image to expand.

Julie ZahnBy: Julie Zahn

My journey as a photographer began in 1990 when my parents bought me my first Single Lens Reflex (SLR) film camera.  It was a Nikon FE2 accompanied by a bag of lenses, filters and numerous other goodies, all of which I experimented with while teaching myself the basics of photography.  It did not take long for me to fall in love.  Today I proudly live and work in Beaver Dam with my husband Jonas and two beautiful little girls, Lillian and Cecelia.  As a stay-at-home Mom, my family is my life, while photography is my passion.

Diversity is the spice of life.  I have been asked if I ever get burned out or tired of shooting the same things over and over again.  My answer is always, "Never."  I genuinely enjoy people and especially in the case of weddings always feel privileged to be part of one of the most important days of a couple's life.  I also try to diversify my shooting repertoire as much as possible to avoid getting stale and burned out.  In one week this past summer, I photographed a newborn, a family, a commercial property, a wedding and, last but not least, my own children.  Each of these sessions demanded a different photography skill set and persona.  Newborn sessions require enormous patience, but not much personality.  Weddings, on the other hand, demand intense focus, quick thinking and lots of personality.  My personal challenge as a photographer is to make each session unique to the subject so they are never left feeling like the dough in my cookie cutter.  

A Spiritual Session

A Spiritual Session

Photos are taken for many reasons; some are purely pragmatic while others are more emotional.  Commercial work, such as photographing a product or property, tends to fall on the more predictable end of this scale.  Weddings and portraits, on the other hand, are usually a pleasant mix of both anticipated and unexpected emotional moments.  My session with Margaret topped out my scale at the emotional end and was definitely atypical.  

Margaret is a strong spirit and confidently wears her spirituality like an elegant evening gown.  She came to me asking for a portrait unlike any I had ever done.  A few days earlier, Margaret was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer.  She had started making her final arrangements and wanted a unique portrait taken in the cemetery where she wished to be buried.  She wanted to dance, laugh, and spiritually connect with the special place where her body would forever remain at rest.  We made plans, and the next day I was standing in a rural cemetery under a gorgeous autumn sky taking pictures of a lovely woman dancing around in her nightgown amid a grassy sea of ancient tombstones.  It was wonderfully surreal and a session I will remember forever.  

Context is Key

Context is Key

Candid photography can be a challenge to even the most experienced photographer.  Most candid photographs require the right amount of context to tell the story.  With too little or too much context, the meaning can be lost or misinterpreted.  This photograph, from a commercial shoot of a local carpenter in his shop, would not have had the same meaning had I left out the walls of antique tools on either side of him.  Had I shown more of the shop, he might have been lost in the clutter.  As it is, the viewer’s eyes go right to him.  He is clearly a carpenter who prefers doing things the old-fashioned way.

When in Doubt, Improvise

When in Doubt Improvise

This session required a little bit of everything from my bag of tricks.  These adorable brothers were very active and I quickly realized that getting them to sit still together for a traditional portrait was not going to happen.  The idea came to me to have them do what every kid loves to do in the fall - play in the leaves.  Problem solved.  They had a great time and I got exactly what I wanted.

Finding Beauty in the Unexpected.  As a photographer, I think I view the visual world around me differently.  I see patterns, color, textures, and most importantly - light and shadows.  When others see a dark room lit only by a single window, I see dramatic lighting and great potential for a striking black and white image.  Where others see a dirty brick wall in desperate need of tuck-pointing and paint, I see a fantastic backdrop full of interesting texture and color.  This is exactly the case in my favorite old brick alley in downtown Beaver Dam.  At the right time of day, it erupts with gorgeous light that would make even the most finicky photographer giddy.  This senior portrait of lovely Abby was shot late in the morning when the alley was evenly lit from both ends, making for ideal ambient lighting conditions that did not require any help from artificial flashes.  

Ready, Set, Sleep

Ready Set Sleep

Babies are a ton of fun to photograph.  They start out so tiny and tired, and before you know it, they are running around the room quicker than you can keep up with even the fastest lens.  I prefer to photograph infants in their own homes where they feel comfortable and I am most likely to capture their true personalities.  This image was taken in baby Melanie's room only one week after she was born.  The cradle is a family heirloom that has been passed down through several generations and is very dear to Melanie's mother thus making the photograph even more meaningful.

The Big Day

The Big DayThe Big Day

Wedding days are a unique challenge for a photographer.  Every big day is different, and though some of the moments are predictable, none are ever the same.  The couple, their families, the venue, the time of day, the weather, and unanticipated extenuating circumstances make each wedding unique.  I can photograph two weddings on back to back weekends at the same time of day in the same venue and guarantee that they will be completely different, each with their own special set of memories.  For nine to twelve physically grueling hours, I have to remain focused, yet fun and creative.  In general, people tend to reflect back to you what you throw at them, so a fun and animated photographer will get better shots at a wedding than a dull and bored one.

photography family weddings julie zahn january february 2013
  • Tour de Marsh

    11/24/2017
    07:00AM — 10:00AM

    It is time to shake the cobwebs out of the Tour de Marsh kick-off ride and make it relevant for t...


  • FAMILY EVENT: Holiday Crafting

    11/24/2017
    10:00AM — 03:00PM

    Hop the Downtown Holiday Trolley and head to DreamBank with the family for free hot cocoa, a holi...


  • FAMILY EVENT: Pictures with Santa

    11/24/2017
    10:00AM — 02:00PM

    Hop the Downtown Holiday Trolley and head to DreamBank with the family for free hot cocoa, a holi...


  • Live Music at The Open Door Coffeehouse

    11/24/2017
    06:00PM — 08:00PM

    Lizzy puts on an amazing show and you won't want to miss it! Stop in for a rest after your Tur...


  • Tour de Marsh

    11/25/2017
    07:00AM — 10:00AM

    It is time to shake the cobwebs out of the Tour de Marsh kick-off ride and make it relevant for t...


  • FAMILY EVENT: Pictures with Santa

    11/25/2017
    10:00AM — 02:00PM

    Hop the Downtown Holiday Trolley and head to DreamBank with the family for free hot cocoa, a holi...


  • FAMILY EVENT: Holiday Crafting

    11/25/2017
    10:00AM — 03:00PM

    Hop the Downtown Holiday Trolley and head to DreamBank with the family for free hot cocoa, a holi...


  • 15th Annual Festival of Trees

    11/25/2017
    05:00PM — 10:00PM

    Get ready for the holidays with an evening fulled with music, great food and the opportunity to b...


  • Tour de Marsh

    11/26/2017
    07:00AM — 10:00AM

    It is time to shake the cobwebs out of the Tour de Marsh kick-off ride and make it relevant for t...


  • Tour de Marsh

    11/27/2017
    07:00AM — 10:00AM

    It is time to shake the cobwebs out of the Tour de Marsh kick-off ride and make it relevant for t...


  • Tour de Marsh

    11/28/2017
    07:00AM — 10:00AM

    It is time to shake the cobwebs out of the Tour de Marsh kick-off ride and make it relevant for t...


  • WINTER BREAK DREAMS RETREAT: Holiday Read-In

    11/28/2017
    09:00AM — 12:00PM

    Come spend a cozy morning at DreamBank! Stay in your PJs, pack a blanket and a pillow along with ...


  • Mom's Unite Evening Meet Up

    11/28/2017
    06:00PM — 07:00PM

    Join us for a Mom's Group! Bring your kids or bring yourself! The choice is yours! Our Mom's g...


  • Tour de Marsh

    11/29/2017
    07:00AM — 10:00AM

    It is time to shake the cobwebs out of the Tour de Marsh kick-off ride and make it relevant for t...


  • BDCH Robotic Surgery open house

    11/29/2017
    04:00PM — 07:00PM

    Robotic Surgery Open House 4:00 PM Wednesday, November 29th, 2017 707 S. University Ave., Beave...


  • Tour de Marsh

    11/30/2017
    07:00AM — 10:00AM

    It is time to shake the cobwebs out of the Tour de Marsh kick-off ride and make it relevant for t...


  • FAMILY EVENT: Morning Play Date

    11/30/2017
    10:00AM — 11:00AM

    Spend a morning meeting new friends at DreamBank! While the kids enjoy interactive story time and...


  • 15th Annual Festival of Trees

    11/25/2017
    05:00PM — 10:00PM

    Get ready for the holidays with an evening fulled with music, great food and the opportunity to b...


  • Crochet Basics

    12/01/2017
    06:00PM — 08:00PM

    Have you always wanted to learn how to crochet? This is your chance to learn basic techniques of ...


  • It's a Wonderful Life

    12/01/2017
    07:30PM — 09:00PM

    This beloved American holiday classic comes to captivating life as a live 1940s radio broadcast. ...


  • FAMILY EVENT: Pictures with Santa

    12/02/2017
    10:00AM — 01:00PM

    Hop the Downtown Holiday Trolley and head to DreamBank with the family for free hot cocoa, a holi...


  • Story Saturday

    12/02/2017
    11:00AM — 12:00PM

    The first Saturday of each month is Story Saturday at the Wisconsin Historical Museum! The FREE p...


  • The downtown merchants will decorate their windows to the theme "Light Up the Holidays." Windows...


  • Midwest Cream Cheese Competition

    12/02/2017
    01:00PM — 05:00PM

    Philadelphia Brand Cream Cheese processing plants in the nation. Our dairy pride takes center...


  • Experience a Scandinavian Yuletide through the magnificent voices heard from the combined women’s...


  • Art on the Town Paint Night Event

    12/07/2017
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    Join Art on the Town Wisconsin in this holiday paint party fundraiser at Chapel of the Archangels...


  • Books & Beer with Author Amanda Zieba

    12/07/2017
    07:00PM — 08:00PM

    Join us as we talk with author Amanda Zieba about her sweet story "Champion Chocolatier" and her ...


  • BDACT'S TALK, COMEDY and VARIETY SHOW hosted by JUDY HEIN.  SHOW DATES: December 7, 8 & 9 at 7:3...


  • BDACT'S TALK, COMEDY and VARIETY SHOW hosted by JUDY HEIN.  SHOW DATES: December 7, 8 & 9 at 7:3...


  • BDACT'S TALK, COMEDY and VARIETY SHOW hosted by JUDY HEIN.  SHOW DATES: December 7, 8 & 9 at 7:3...


  • Christmas at Marsh Haven

    12/10/2017
    10:00AM — 03:00PM

    Christmas at Marsh Haven & Holiday Nature Craft Show. 10 am to 3 pm. Spend some family time and e...


  • Beaver Dam Area Orchestra

    12/16/2017
    05:30PM

    The Beaver Dam Area Orchestra's annual holiday concert tradition. Two performances at 5:30 and ...


  • Healthy Holiday Cooking Demonstration

    12/19/2017
    06:00PM — 08:00PM

    Are you looking for holiday recipes that won’t hurt your good habits you’ve worked so hard to est...


  • Winter Break Creation Stations

    12/27/2017
    11:00AM — 02:00PM

    From glittery snow globes to sugar painted snowflakes, there’s an interactive and educational art...


  • Winter Break Creation Stations

    12/28/2017
    11:00AM — 02:00PM

    From glittery snow globes to sugar painted snowflakes, there’s an interactive and educational art...


  • Winter Break Creation Stations

    12/29/2017
    11:00AM — 02:00PM

    From glittery snow globes to sugar painted snowflakes, there’s an interactive and educational art...


  • Winter Break Creation Stations

    12/30/2017
    11:00AM — 02:00PM

    From glittery snow globes to sugar painted snowflakes, there’s an interactive and educational art...



High School Sports
Weekly Recipes