Thursday, February 17, 2011

Wild Life Photos

I love photographing wildlife. I posted over a Squidoo about this topic which you can read at

On this page I am just going to display some of my animal photos. Enjoy!

These photos and many, many more can be purchased on any of these websites. ;-D

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Level Playing Field


     There is so much neat camera gear! While it is true that I do own more camera gear than I like to carry with me, (or could even physically carry with me) at any one time, I don’t think I will ever get tired of looking at photography items to make my life easier. I have filters to adjust color, polarizing filters, and neutral density filters. I have specialty lenses to capture macro shots, fisheye shots, and a zoom lens to bring ‘dot animals’ into range for identification. I have camera bags and backpacks to shlep it all out to the field and back. I have lens cloths, and a mini survival pack in my camera bag too, with a small first aid kit. I have tripods, a monopod, bean bags to support the camera…. Well, you get the picture, AND my collection of equipment is very modest compared to most photographers.

      My latest discovery is a spirit level that fits into the hot shoe atop of my camera. I was on a photography forum lately, and someone referred to a level on their camera, not one on a tripod. Now I realize that this is not a new idea, in fact, I have a small bubble level mounted on my tripod. I don’t always shoot from a tripod; especially when I turn the camera on its side, I tend to take fast, slightly crooked pictures.  With this little device, I am more likely to shoot straight.

     So I went to that site’s online store, where levels that slipped into a hot shoe mount were listed for $35USD. I was astounded. I didn’t even check on shipping because that seemed so outrageous a price. I looked it up on Amazon and found it there for $3.95, plus $3.11 shipping.  For 20% of the price, I had it in my hand in three days. The company on Amazon was fotodiox. I have never bought from them before, but I am pleased and I will look in their online shop first when I want something photography related again.

     The level slides securely into the mount, and while it can be removed easily, I have no fear that it will fall off as I use my camera. If I am photographing wildlife I might not take the time to check the level carefully, but having it will make me more mindful of keeping my camera level. And if I am shooting landscapes, I will be certain the camera is level even if the ground is not. While many things can be fixed in post processing, it is far simpler to avoid the problem in the first place.

Now, you will have to excuse me. I have to go and check my new level playing field.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Time-Life Photography Series

My good friend Zeba is hosting a giveaway for my artwork on her blog. Please checkout her blog, and I look forward to seeing you all have the opportunity to win.

I have just re found my copy of The time-Life photography series. I have 12 of the books, I don't know how many were in the series. The Camera was published they year I was born, (look it up if you're curious) and of course only refers to the old 35mm film cameras. Since I have decided I need to polish my photography skills, I am going to go back and re-read the series. If I could find my photography text book form college, I would do all the exercises from that again too, but that has been lost to the mists of time. So from time to time, I will be posting about what I am learning.  
Without Editing
And my reason for wanting to do this? I have to confess it is the appeal of HDR photos. High Dynamic Range photography can be overdone, but what technique hasn't been used poorly and made to look cheap? Without knowing what I was doing, I was trying to create HRD photos in Photoshop. I would try to bring out detail from over exposed or underexposed photos all the time. I am very excited to find that other people have been doing this and have much to teach me. And the first requirement for creating the HDR photos I've admired it to shoot bracketed shots with a tripod. When I first read about HDR, I wasn't even sure my Nikon D50 would do bracketed exposures, so I had to look it up. Then I realized I had been relying on the camera far too much and not enough on my own skills. 
Edited with Levels

I also want to begin working on becoming a certified photographer, and have the confidence that comes from knowing that I know the basics of my trade, rather than be the gal who kinda sorta remembers how to do this thingy.... Since I frequently am shooting wildlife, I use Auto quite a bit, and I just don't practice enough with the manual settings. Nothing is wrong with using Auto, but if I want to shoot manual mode, I should be able to do it from my head and not have to pull out the manual. That just doesn't look professional.
And now for something completely different: Why you might ask, am I wearing a veil in this photo? I was at the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Reserve, near Alamosa, Colorado, and the wind was blowing the sand. These veils are far more practical than I would have ever guessed until I spent time in the sand. 

These dunes are the tallest in North America, and formed during the Pleistocene, concurrent with mammoths in the last great Ice Age. This is not the largest dune field in North America, but it looks surprisingly out of place when visitors first find the park.

This is the same photo I use for the blog's background.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Shrine of Art: How We Squash Our Creative Spark

When I first began my art career, before I ever entered school, I had learned about the Shrine of Art. I had learned to think in terms like Great Art, and folk art, and crafts. And I had my biases about each. Great Art adorned churches and palaces, it inspired awe and was beyond my reach. Folk art was within reach, surrounded me, and made life more pleasant, but wasn't awe inspiring. Crafts were what we did in preschool, heck the macaroni  we glued to the paper was called "Kraft". The Shrine of Art said I had to struggle to make art, that it had to be nearly miraculous in the creation of art. And from a young age, I (of course) rebelled against this idea. Or I thought I rebelled. I didn't need to follow instructions, I needed to follow my muse. That was merely embracing the idea of the Shrine of Art more firmly.

My art teachers said I had to follow steps to make art, but I always felt that following steps got in the way of the Creative Spark. I would have a great idea form as they described an assignment, "You will draw a cow skull......" and I was done listening, off looking for a pencil while they droned on and on about doing a series of sketches, then a series of exercises shading the skull with different light sources, then draw the skull upside down........ All I could see was how doing a drawing over and over and over was going to slow me down getting to the drawing I wanted to do, maybe even make me forget the original drawing. So often I would do my drawing, my way and be rudely surprised by the grade. What do you mean I failed the assignment just because I didn't do it your way? Can't you tell Great Art when you see it?

As I've done more in my life, I let go of the idea of the Shrine of Art. I've learned the value in doing a series of sketches before I pull out the big paper. I'm too busy to waste my time doing a wonderful drawing to then stand back and say, "I wish I had positioned it differently on the page before I started." I've learned the value of having a plan. I've even learned that sometimes art has to step back and make room for the mundane. And if I have a series of sketches on an idea, I might just remember the creative spark better when I can get back to it after cooking supper, cleaning house, doing the bills...... the Shrine of Art doesn't leave any room for living a normal life.

I've also learned to keep a portfolio. In school I hated being required to keep a portfolio. I was never satisfied with my own work, and a portfolio reminded me of my failures. I felt like on each work, I had failed to achieve the cool idea I had been inspired by, that my poor muddy attempts had not reached the glory of the vision brought to me by the creative spark. I threw away work, gave it away, or occasionally sold it for a song if someone was so kind as to insist on paying me for a piece. The Shrine said my past work was an indictment of failure. It wasn't as good  as So-and-So's, it wasn't as colorful as His, it wasn't as graceful as Hers, it wasn't as original as Theirs..... Well, you get the drift. And if you are an artist, you might have your own little goblin telling you the same things. The goblin comes from the Shrine of Art, even if you don't know it by that name.

It was digital photography that really helped me get past that mentality. Film photography was Art, and man did it ever have steps to follow, especially in the darkroom. But digital photography was Fun. The film was free, right? And if I didn't get the photo I was looking for, press the button six more times, I might find it yet. Digital photography gave me the gratification of making the image, but it made the sketching process fun, not drudgery. Looking at my pictures on the computer, I could see what had worked, what almost worked and what should be deleted. And I could see where sometimes, I had needed planning if I had wanted the magnificent photo I was looking for. Did I need more light? Planning could have fixed that. Did I need a tripod? Planning could have fixed that. Planning wasn't getting in the way of creativity, it could have, well, enhanced the creativity.

So as I've learned more about art, and learned to let go of the Shrine of Art. I've come to see that my teachers were right. Planning for art allows for better outcomes. But what I was try to rebel against and embracing more and more firmly in my struggles, is this: The Shrine of Art is serious stuff. It is thoughtful, and insightful, it is a stuffed shirt, and it sucks all the fun out of Art, leaving only the struggle. The art I do is fun, I am not driven to do it, I want to do it, I feel good doing it. And I've learned that planning doesn't destroy the ideas.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

    It is terribly cold for Colorado's Front Range, so today I am drinking coffee and doing more business work.
On my list of things to get done is:
Get all the way through doing my business plan workbook, even if I don't finish every item in the workbook. That is why I buy sticky notes.

I need to set up my light box do some product photography.  Then I need to add my photos to my products to enhance my listings.

I need to make sure that I have products listed in all of my storefronts.

I found Etsy first, so it has the most products but they charge me to list each product and take a percentage of the sales. ArtFire and Artistwebsites do not charge me to list, but they take a higher percentage of the sales.

I need to work on Search Engine Optimization on all my listings.

I need to add a sales button to this blog. I need to learn how to add code to a website to do that. So probably need a book.

I need to research free advertising for my sites. I am my only employer, and I don't have even a shoestring budget for advertising.

I need to update my will. If I am squashed by a beaver cutting down a tree on me tomorrow, my family needs to be able to access all my accounts and shut them down in an orderly fashion. That means I need more organization than the wallpapering of sticky notes on my computer hutch with cryptic scribbles that might be passwords or might be usernames, or heck, might be a grocery list.

I need to continue to sort my 45,000 photos to add to my portfolio. I need to tag the photos and make any edits that are needed so they are ready to use when I need them, not after messing with them for half an hour when I really wanted to upload them and go.

And finally, to make it all worthwhile, I need to go out into the cold and mail a package to a nice lady who bought something from me overnight. Waking up to a sale soothes the artist trapped by the mountains of paperwork. Mmmm....