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Connecting With Nature

 

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There is something magical about connecting with a nature being. I like human beings too don’t get me wrong…but I feel privileged when a nature being lets me into their world. It’s as if they are saying to me: “you are trustworthy”.

 

I recently shot some photos of a couple of fawns in our yard and didn’t realize that our neighbor was watching the process at the time. I saw him a month or so later and he said something to the effect of “ How did you get so close? They run away when they see me”. I guess my answer would be I go into my Dr. Dolittle mode. It’s a sort of communication mode I suppose where I gently talk to them as if they can understand me and perhaps they can who knows? Maybe it’s not even so much about what I’m saying but rather the intent behind what I’m saying. Animals can sense your energy or vibe. That’s why an animal like a horse with attitude will buck you right off its back if it senses you are afraid and not in charge.

 

When I get overly excited about shooting a nature being weather it’s a butterfly or a deer or even a bear and I have more of a stalking energy about me I generally do NOT get a shot. They sense that they are being stalked even if it is only camera that is being used for the “hunting”. I’ve had quite a bit of luck when I ask them “ can I take your picture?” as well. As crazy as that sounds it really does work! And don’t forget to say thank you when they let you get a shot.

 

Do you have to be in that calm happy place to photograph nature beings? I don’t think so… because even if you are super stressed out, if you have the time, it’s a great time to go for a nature walk which in itself will often set you on the path to calmness and that oneness with nature feeling. Once there, shoot away! It’s a special feeling when you reach that still calm place and you will know when you do because that is when nature beings begin to trust you and let you photograph them.

 

Happy shooting everyone. 🙂

 

 

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I have always loved wildflowers. I love just about all flowers except for skunk cabbage (but that’s another blog post story all together). Roses are beautiful as are tulips and daffodils and all the other hybrid beauties that can be found in the garden but there is a simple pure beauty in a wildflower that  despite all their vibrant colors and flashiness, a hybrid just can’t compete with.  Another admirable quality about wildflowers is their tenacity. Many of them don’t seem as fussy about care and for the most part take care of themselves. I found these lovely bloodroot flowers literally on the roadside one year. They come back faithfully every year and poke up through the gravel and leaves.

People must think I’m crazy when they drive by to see somebody crouching on the roadside with a camera pointed at the ground trying to capture their fleeting blossoms. These pure white early spring flowers have easily become my favorite Virginia wildflower.

There were so many of them that I carefully dug up one small one and put it in my pocket for the rest of my walk. When I got home to our property on the mountainside I planted it in a shady moist spot where a spring runs when it rains really hard. On the way home from work today I stopped to see how it was doing after a day and so far so good. The leaves looked happy and were not wilted at all so I’m hoping it will take hold. I planted it next to our driveway so it should be at home on a roadside again. Maybe if I’m lucky one day it will spread and I will have my own little wildflower garden next to our driveway.

Perhaps this will be the beginning of more wildflower gardens on our property. I can not claim credit for this idea to start cultivating wildflowers however.  My mom is the inspiration. Years ago she planted trilliums on their property in Oregon and although my Mom isn’t around to admire their beauty anymore, the trilliums are thriving and are still there for my Dad to admire and remember some of her beauty that she left behind.

So as I set out on my walk to see if the bloodroot flowers were blooming yet I was on a mission not just to capture some photos but to also bring one home to spread their beauty to our part of the mountain. Maybe one day when I’m not around anymore the flowers I planted will bring  joy to somebody else like these little wildflowers bring to me.

Hopefully this will be just the first addition to my wildflower garden. I’d also like to add Virginia Blue Bells and maybe some milkweed for the monarch butterflies too. Stay tuned 🙂

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When I am starting to feel like I’m in a rut with my photography it seems to help to just put my camera around my neck and head out for a walk. Whether it is a walk through the forest around our house or just down the road it can reawaken something inside me that has been sleeping. That sleeping something is a connection to the natural world.

That connection seems to come from tuning out and tuning in i.e.tuning out of the digital world and into the natural world (the real world). The older I get, the more I’m starting to realize that although there is a place for connecting with friends and family on the internet or watching an entertaining TV program, it is far more rewarding to see those people in person and far more rewarding to be a part of nature rather than just seeing it on TV. Breathing fresh air and hearing the sounds of birds or the rushing of the wind through the trees fills a part of my soul and restores me like nothing else can.

It can be a rather noisy place inside my head and sometimes I just need to find a still quiet place where my head can be still and quiet and take a break from all those busy thoughts that it thinks are so important. Going for a nature walk alone helps to bring me back to that centered place but my camera adds to that as well by bringing me even more into the now.

When I’m walking and see a sight or a scene that inspires me, I want to share that with my viewers through my photos and hopefully instill that same feeling I felt at the time I saw that scene or sight. Sometimes I miss the mark and sometimes I hit it. It’s those moments that I hit it that keeps me going and makes me want to photograph more and share more.

If you are stopping by to read my blog, I hope my photos from yesterday’s walk bring you the reader a sense of peace like the peace I felt when attempting to capture these moments in time.

If you would like to see more of my work, please visit my website

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog.

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If you are going to be addicted to something I supposed it’s better to be addicted to photography than a drug.  Although not harmful to the body like a drug addiction would be it can be a pretty spendy habit! Luckily I do have self control with my photography habit and it is a self sustaining habit.

I like to think of this point in my photography journey as the building phase. I’m slowly but surely acquiring new equipment and tools funded by the photography itself. I have a little fund dedicated to photography purchases and every time I sell a photo or do a small photo shoot I put that money into the fund. So far I’ve gotten a 70-200 2.8 lens and a 1.7 teleconverter and an SB 800 flash from my fund. The going has been slow though and on average it takes me about 1 to two years to save for an item. I’m hoping as more people find me on the web I will start to sell more and eventually make a profit over the portion that goes to the “habit fund”.

I’m drawn to the macro world at this point so I’m now saving for a 105 mm 2.8 lens. One of the photos in this post I shot with my little point and shoot Canon and the other I used my 70-200 lens with the teleconverter but it would be great to have a lens dedicated to macro where I could really get down and get close to the object like a little wildflower on the forest floor. The point and shoot did pretty good on the macro setting but I don’t care for the bokeh. The 70-200 does pretty well and really like the bokeh I get with that lens but it’s pretty bulky and heavy to be hauling around on forest/mountain treks.

I love the small world probably in part because I am height challenged at only 5′ 3″ and I tend to see things on the ground because I am close to the ground :-). In the Spring one of my favorite things to do is to hike in the forest looking for little wildflowers to shoot. The problem with my big lens however is that the focusing distance is a whopping 6′! At 6 feet there are often too many things blocking my view of the wildflower and a shot is close to impossible. I’m also ready for a new direction to spark my creativity. You can only shoot so many pictures of a pretty view before you start to get bored with it. I’m ready to explore the new tiny universe of flowers and insects and little creatures. I’m pretty close to my goal of acquiring the lens right now so hopefully things will align in time for spring and a few more sales will come my way.

If you want to help me on my quest for a new lens and a new direction by purchasing a print, canvas or greeting card my website can be found Here

Happy Shooting 🙂

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It always seems like February and March is the hardest time for me. I really miss color. Growing up on the Oregon coast  where there was always green…even in the winter when the sky was  gray, some color was a normal part of winter.  Here in the blue ridge mountains however, color is very much lacking in winter. Don’t get me wrong I love a peaceful walk in the snow where the only sound you hear is the squeaking snow beneath each footstep but this has been a strange season  with very little snow except for the unusual recent march snow storm that brought 15″ to our part of the mountain. When the snow is gone it seems the valley is left with a muted palette of grays, browns and tans. Here on the East coast in Virginia we get 4 seasons which are wonderful but the waiting for the change from winter to Spring always seems to be endless. Two days ago however, I finally got a tease of color when our crocuses decided to brave the cold and poke their heads up through the soil in search of a warm ray of sunshine. It’s left me hungry for more…  I know it won’t be long though and it will be an awaking for me like the flowers and leaf buds. When Spring color really returns I always feel like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz in that scene after her house has landed in Oz and she opens the door and steps out of her black and white world into a new vibrantly colored world. I’ve got a bit of photographers block with my photography right now… but hopefully color will be around the corner to bring back inspiration into my world. I just have to hold on for a few weeks more and I know  it will finally be here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve always been awed and inspired by those top-notch bird photos that you see in popular bird magazines. Many of these photographers use lenses that cost thousands of dollars and being that I am not independently wealthy, this was not an option for me so I had to devise a way to try to achieve high quality bird photos on a budget. Here are some tips for achieving some great bird photos like the pros but on a non-pro budget.

First get the best DSLR camera you can afford with the following features:

  1. A high mega pixel count of at least 12 mega pixels (helpful to maintain detail when cropping a photo in post processing)
  1. Good noise reduction (helpful for using a higher ISO to get a faster shutter speed which will mean it’s more likely you get a clear sharp bird than a soft blurry one. Keep in mind though it’s ideal to use the lowest ISO that you can because noise reduction doesn’t do away with noise completely)
  1. The ability to shoot raw (helpful so you can make changes to things like white balance, slight exposure adjustments and sharpness in post processing if you didn’t get it quite right the first time when you shot the photo)
  1. The ability so shoot in burst mode (birds move a lot and you may not click in time to get the bird when it’s not moving. A series of shots 5 shots from a burst may get you 4 blurry ones but chances are one of those 5 shots will be sharp and a keeper)

Second get the best glass you can afford with the most reach. I saved for two years to get a 70-200 2.8 lens. Although more reach would have been better the fact that it is a 2.8 lens give me faster shutter speeds than say a lens that is 5.6 when zoomed out to its highest length. This higher quality lens also gives me more detail, which again allows me to crop in closer without as much detail loss in post processing. It is true when it comes to lenses that you get what you pay for so you still want to get the best you can afford. Although you may find a 400 mm zoom lens that is less expensive than a 2.8 200mm lens, the 200mm 2.8 lens is most likely a better buy considering you will only be able to use that cheaper lens in bright light situations due to slower shutter speeds.  A great feature that I now consider a must in a lens is image stabilization. This allows you to shoot without a tripod in instances where you could not with a non-stabilized lens. I was skeptical at first about how well this would work but I’ve found it really does work and is comparable to a tripod down to a about shutter speed 1/30. When following a bird I find it cumbersome to use a tripod because it’s hard to think of focus, composition and two or 3 knobs on my tripod while composing a shot and it often causes me to miss a shot.

Third bring the birds to you and set up your “bird studio”. You don’t have to be a wild bird tracker to get great bird shots. In fact, you can get them right in your very own back yard. All you have to do is set up some feeders for them and some perching areas for photos near the feeders. See photo below for a look at my “bird studio”.  It’s important to have a place in your bird studio where you can shoot without disturbing them. I shoot out my bathroom window with the window down just enough so that I can get my lens out the window. They seem to know I’m there but they would not come as close if I were shooting right out in the open.

Fourth consider what you are focusing on when shooting your photo. It’s easy to get caught up in the heat of the moment and just aim for the bird and hope for the best. However, if you look at great bird photos in magazines and on the web they all have one thing in common. The eye is in sharp focus. Even if you are using a shallow f-stop, if the eye and most of the head are in focus it will still give you a much more acceptable shot than if say the tail is in sharp focus but the eye and head are blurred. By focusing on the eye/ head this gives the viewer a more intimate portrait of your bird subject.

Photography is a learning experience. As I learn more tips and tricks I’ll be sharing them so check back to see if anything new has been posted. I hope this blog has been helpful to someone.

If you’d like to see more of my bird photography it can be viewed at this link 

Thanks again for stopping by to read my evolving blog.

 

What the Frack!?

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I checked my email yesterday and decided to look in my junk box since sometimes email is placed in there by my email filters that I don’t want to be in there and sure enough I found a VERY important email. It was a request to sign a letter to the George Washington National Forest Service imploring them to ban ALL fracking in the G.W. National Forest. I am strongly opposed to fracking. After seeing over the years what the oil & gas industry has done to our environment such as the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the B.P. Gulf of Mexico oil spill and more I have a healthy distrust of the oil & gas industries. When they tell us “oh it’s safe” I have a hard time believing this.

The email  basically stated that the good news is that horizontal fracking has been banned in the George Washington National Forest but the bad news is that the door is still open to vertical fracking which although is not as damaging as horizontal fracking is still not free from accidents and things that can go wrong which as we’ve seen over and over with the oil and gas industry inevitably will go wrong at some point.

Although I oppose fracking the possibility of fracking in the George Washington National Forest is particularly disturbing to me because the G.W. National Forest practically borders our property and is above us on the mountain where we live. We do not live in the town nearby so we get our water from a well and the thought of being able to light the water on fire that flows from our faucet just isn’t appealing to me. Nor is the thought of getting cancer from our drinking water appealing or me either!

It continues to baffle me why we humans are smart enough to explore outer space and put a man on the moon but not smart enough to come up with viable energy sources that don’t kill us in the process of getting them. Perhaps if those in control of our country i.e. politicians and corporations could see past greed these things would be possible but that is another blog altogether.

If you are reading my blog and you are as concerned about the protection of our environment and clean drinking water for all as I am, please take a moment to sign this letter to the George Washington National Forest imploring them to ban ALL fracking in the George Washington National Forest. The deadline for the time period when the National Forest will be taking comments on this in this Monday on 10-17-11.

Here is a great song about fracking that I wanted to pass along too.

Thanks again for reading my blog and signing the letter!

Art Prints

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Every summer my husband & I try to get in as much beach time as we can on Assateague Island. I like to go for two reasons.  One is for the beach of course and the other is for the amazing wildlife . Assateague Island is a unique beach destination. Because of the nature of Assateague Island and the fact that it is a designated National Wildlfie refuge it draws  people there who are not there just for the beach but to see the wild ponies and diverse wildlife as well. Assateague Island is a haven for nature lovers, birders & photographers alike.  There are no hotels or resorts on the Island since it it is a National Wildlife refuge. Visitors to the refuge generallly stay on the Island of Chincoteague which is a small island so it does not bring the large crowds to the beach that a typical Eastern Seaboard beach would have.  There is only one road to the beach and two parking lots that seem to shrink a little each year as they rebuild them every year when the winter storms wash them away. Although Assateague has grown over the years and is busier than it used to be it is still a slower pace than the other beaches which makes it one of my favorite places to visit in the summer. It is a great place to photograph, egrets, herons, sand pipers, sika deer, wildflowers, dragonflies and the list goes on and on.  The photos pictured above were taken on the last trip we took in July which was made even more special when a great blue heron decided to pose a while for me before he flew off in search of fish.

I love just about all creatures but if I had to pick a favorite I think it would have to be the hummingbird. I have been fascinated with these amazing little creatures with wings that beat so fast that they are a blur, and with a flight pattern unlike that of any other bird. These amazing little creatures can fly backwards and hover in space!  They are truly amazing! I’m not sure how or why I got the idea…perhaps I was bored as a teenager as many teenagers are.

Growing up on a lake outside of a small coastal Oregon town, there really wasn’t a lot “going on” in the mind of a teenager so I had to find ways to entertain myself.  One summer I decided I was going to make friends with my favorite bird.

We had a hummingbird feeder hanging on our deck where I loved to watch the hummingbirds. One day I stood on a chair near the hummingbird feeder with my face a few inches from the feeder. I stood there & stood there and stood there… for a very very long time. The little hummingbird was cautious but eventually decided it was safe to drink next to the human’s face. I could feel the air from its tiny beating wings on my cheeks, like a little fan. I was delighted!  But why stop there? I decided I was going to get one to perch on my finger. More time…more patience…more holding really really still but eventually the patience paid off and one landed on my finger! It was so tiny I could barely feel the weight of it on my fingers. I felt like this was a major life accomplishment.

Fast forward from a teenager to 20 plus years later and I still love my little hummingbird friends as much as I did all those years ago. The flowers in my yard are not there by accident. Nearly all of them are selected because they are flowers that the hummingbirds like. I’m always sad to see them go in the fall when they return to their wintering grounds to the south but every year I count the days until their arrival in the Spring being sure to mark the first sighting on my calendar so I’ll know when to put their feeders out the next year.

This last spring, not long after they had begun to arrive on a nice warm day, we had left the door open in our living room that leads out onto our deck. All of the sudden there was this loud buzzing in the living room! It was a wayward hummer that had strayed from the outside deck into our living room. He instinctually flew towards the bright windows on the other side of the living room. I ran for my cat and locked him in the bathroom and then quickly returned to the window, cupped my hands around the distressed little hummingbird and caught him like a little moth. He was chattering at me once I had him in my hands but I quickly took him out the door and opened my hands and away he flew.

At the time I thought it was just a simple bird rescue but it has proven to be more than that. It was the beginning of a special friendship. This little guy seems to know that after I rescued him that I won’t harm him and he seems to trust me like no other hummingbird has done before.

We live in the mountains and share the mountain with all kinds of wildlife like bears and raccoons so over the years we have learned after replacing a few crunched feeders that it’s a good idea to bring all our birdfeeders in every night. Part of my morning routine besides making coffee and feeding my kitties is hanging the bird feeders. Every morning like clockwork my new little friend now greets me and before I can even hang the feeder on the hook he has landed on the feeder while it is still in my hand! I patiently wait for him to finish and then I hang the feeder. Often I’ll come out on the deck and greet all the birdies and tell them it’s breakfast time and now he even seems to know my voice!

The other day the honeybees also discovered my hummingbird feeder so I decided to move the feeder to a new location. I told my little friend I was moving it. I couldn’t see him but he must have been watching and listening to me because when I went to the hang the feeder on the tomato cage, he again landed on it before I could even get it hung. Later in the day the bees disappeared so I moved it back  to where it was and again my little friend followed me! Before he flew to the feeder though he flew to me and hovered in front of me for a second as if to say “thanks!” and then flew on to his feeder. We have other hummingbirds too but they are more skittish and none of them seem to have the trust and the friendship that this little guy and I share. Perhaps he remembers the day I rescued him from the confines of our house.

Whatever the reason is that this little guy trusts me, I consider myself very lucky and I’m glad to have friends or rather “a friend” in high places.  🙂

Art Prints

The Universe is a Mirror

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The Universe/Life is a mirror, reflect unhappiness and that is what you get…reflect joy and joy comes back to you. It sounds simple but it’s easy to forget.

Sometimes when we find ourselves stuck in a rut, maybe the question to ask instead of “why does this keep happening to me?” would be instead “how am I treating others around me?” Or “what are the thoughts  in my brain saying?”.

Have you ever noticed that when you are happy the people around you are happy too? Or have you ever noticed that smiling is contagious? And laughter is especially contagious! I believe contagious laughter is a prime example of the Universe is a mirror effect in action.

But I recently forgot this again and have been feeling rather stuck.

I seem to be learning the lesson that I thought I had learned about 6 months ago again but I will say that I did catch on quicker this time around!

About a year ago I got up the courage to leave a job that was not making me happy anymore. In fact it felt like my job was ruling my life. So I asked the Universe/God to “Please Get Me Out Of This Job!!”  I gave notice a couple days later even though I didn’t have a new job to go to yet. I started applying for jobs and within less than two weeks from when I had given my two weeks notice I got a job offer to work at the local hospital in admissions. I decided to take it.

I worked there for about 6 months and really liked it and felt like I was where I should be…at first. But as time went on things got stranger and stranger. I had apparently pointed something out to the President that I shouldn’t have and for whatever other reason my new boss did not like me and for the first time in my 42 years on this earth I got fired from a job!

All the sudden I was left jobless, floating aimlessly in the void, scared and not knowing what was next. I immediately went into “Oh No what am I going to do now mode!” I then had to file for unemployment (also a first for me). This seemed difficult and scary to me too. I felt like I was accused of a crime (being fired) and had to defend myself and prove why I should get unemployment. I wrote a letter to the unemployment office explaining my circumstances, filed all the paperwork, and participated in the phone hearing and finally one day the ordeal was over and was approved to receive my benefit!

In the midst of the unemployment ordeal though, I had begun to remind myself that the attitude you put out there is what you will get back. I was following a program from an old book that I had called The Abundance Book by John Randolph Price and I was also listening to my Kelly Howell Positive thinking CD . Both were very helpful to get me back on track.  First the unemployment check showed up. Then about a month later I got a response from one of my work searches and they hired me! I couldn’t believe I got a job in this economy! The work I did retrained my brain to see things in a positive light and when I exuded that the Universe/God reflected that back to me.

So fast forward 6 months of bliss working at a job that I really really liked a lot and the company I worked for Callao Coffee sadly was also hit by the economy and the rising prices of coffee beans and they had to lay me off.

So again I found myself floating in the void, jobless and not knowing what was coming next. I found myself drifting into that sad and familiar place of depression where the thoughts you hear in your head are just plain negative. I was somehow thinking that if I could just get a job that would fix everything but I live in an economically depressed rural area with a VERY high unemployment rate and that might not happen for a while. It just might be a better idea to make the most of what I do have rather than worrying about what I don’t. 

Aha! Then the light bulb went on again and I heard “you’ve been here before, you know how to get out of this place!”. And I do, it’s just that I forgot for a bit again.  It’s all in how you look at things.

I’ve started listening to my positive thinking CD again and the Universe/ God has brought me to a couple of wonderful websites where I have made some wonderful friends already. The first one I found myself on was Fine Art America. The people in the forums are so wonderfully encouraging, kind hearted and giving. No wonder I’ve always loved artists. After only two weeks I even sold a print! And the other site I found is A New Gaia, which is also filled with encouraging, giving, kind hearted people. After only two days of  I’ve being a member there, they have already featured my blog and my cardinal photo. Also I reconnected with my friend Victoria Pendragon on A New Gaia who asked if I was still doing the Dream magic work when she saw that I was struggling a bit and indeed I had stopped doing this a while ago. So I will happily be starting that again too.

It seems if you just take one step in the right direction and trust in the Universe/God,  that you will be guided where you need to go. So it’s back to reflecting good vibes into the Universe again for me!  Time to move away from the “life is hard & difficult & I’m feeling sorry for myself mode”!  🙂