I received some excellent feedback on my photography issues so I thought I'd share those as well as a couple of other remarks. I'm glad you all liked the pictures and clothes! I'm not used to modelling so it's a bit of a stretch for me. I appreciate the positive feedback very much.
Mary commented: "I think the key might be morning or evening light with an artificial fill light off to the side."
Believe it or not, that was morning light! It gets bright quickly here, probably because we have a 10,000 foot tall mountain on the east side of town. Once the sun peeks over, it's pretty high in the sky already. It stays very bright into the evening since there are no mountains to the immediate west. I'm not sure what to use for fill light, will need to give that some thought.
By the way, the new header photo was taken between 6:00 and 7:00 yesterday morning. It's now 7:05 AM here and the sun is fully up and bright. No soft shadows.
Anonymous suggested: "Try opening the fstop by 1/2 to 1 more stop. That will give you more detail in the foreground (you) and wash out the background a little. Backlighting calls for a little more aperture."
I use a Samsung TL220, which is a great little 12 megapixel point-and-shoot. So I'm limited in those types of adjustments, I think. Something to consider with the next upgrade, however.
I also received a suggestion via e-mail about working with my computer's photo software. Great suggestion, and why didn't I think of that? Thanks, iPhoto has great capabilities in this regard. I've already played around with some samples and they're much better.
SewingLibrarian commented about the backdrop.
The backdrop is in my backyard, which was landscaped last fall, reusing mature xeriscape plants we already had. The posts and bench you see in the photos are part of an existing structure (ramada? lanai?) that shades the patio.
gwensews asked about the weather: "I wonder how does one survive the climate of NM? I am dying here in MI with this miserable summer!"
As the saying goes, "It's a dry heat." We've been ranging from the low 60's to the mid 90's recently, so we do get a break at night. In addition, the low humidity means we don't feel the heat like in more "temperate" (ha!) regions. We do experience the sun's rays a lot, but what we don't get is the stickiness of high humidity. And if all else fails, everyone has either a swamp cooler or refrigerated air to cool off inside. We typically use it from mid-May until late September. I grew up in Louisville, so I understand that Midwestern summer heat. Yuck!