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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

The Universe is a Mirror

 Sell Art Online

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”!  🙂

The Illusive Red Bird

 

 

 

 

 

After years of being unsuccessful at getting a decent shot of a “redbird” (Northern Cardinal), I finally got one!! Every time I’d see one and run for my camera the bird would either be gone when I had camera in hand or he would fly away before I could focus my camera. I had so many blurry shots of these guys it’s not even funny!

No matter how bad I wanted it or how hard I tried, I just couldn’t get one. I’d kind of resigned for a while and thought “I’ll just shoot easier subjects that don’t fly away from me like flowers & landscapes since I seem to get better results with those”.

But my luck was about to change…a couple of days ago we were at our little beach trailer near Chincoteague, VA and I was feeling a little blue. I guess I’m still trying to find my way since I lost my day job. I decided that maybe I would feel better if I just went outside and sat on our little deck behind the trailer near the bird feeder with my camera. I had seen a red headed woodpecker in the woods and a flicker too so I thought maybe I’d get lucky and get a shot of one of those.

There were a couple of male cardinals around and a female too but I figured they’d be too scared of the human with the big black camera to come anywhere near me. But to my surprise I was wrong! Sometimes I think wildlife senses when we humans need a little cheering up and this was one of those instances. Both male cardinals showed up and the female too! I took shot after shot after shot hoping that I’d get at least one good shot & much to my surprise I did!

Life is funny like that. Sometimes when we push against the flow of life trying to “make” things happen they don’t budge but when we relax into the flow and just go with where life takes us things flow as they should and even surprise us sometimes too!

How have so many of us humans lost our connection with Mother Earth? Sometimes I find myself wondering what it would be like to be a member of one of those last remaining tribes in the Amazon forest, living completely and totally in harmony with nature. A world with no high speed Internet, no cell phones or TV or any of the conveniences that are so ingrained into our lives.

What if we all lived in this way…a way of living with nature as part of nature rather than “conquering & ruling over” nature? If we all lived like this would global warming & pollution be the issue that it is today?

I’m only 41 years old but in my 41 years I’ve witnessed abuses against nature that have broken my heart such as the deforestation of many old growth forests in the Pacific Northwest, the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the horrendous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, and now the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Many of these tribal cultures including the Native Americans realized that they are a part of nature and that to support & care for nature is to support and care for one’s self. Perhaps these cultures shouldn’t have been “civilized” but rather learned from. But sadly many of these cultures have been squashed due to “civilization”.

How did we get here? I believe it’s a combination of things that have brought us to this point as a planet. We have created societies that are addicted to comfort (myself included typing away on my net book). We need electricity to power our computers, keep our food preserved until we want to eat it, cook our food, heat our water, heat our homes, cool our homes, give us light after dark, power our TV’s & electronic gadgets and even to keep people alive in hospitals. And lets not forget about fuel for our cars… how could we live without our vehicles to take us to the grocery store or anywhere else that we feel the need to go? Unless you are a part of an indigenous tribe living off the land in a forest, you are more than likely part of this power hungry equation.

However, another part of the equation that sometimes makes me feel helpless to do anything about is the attitudes of those who control and dole out the electricity & fuel. Those who control the price of electricity & fuel have a HUGE amount of control over the economy & even the environment. For example, the price of gas goes up, so does the price of just about everything else from food to shipping a package to air travel. I’m sure that most people if they could afford it would go with solar panels or wind power but the key is affordable which they are not to the average person barely scraping by in this economy. Sadly the oil companies even control the price of solar panels as they have bought out many of the patents on solar panels thus keeping solar panels out of reach and keeping us dependent on their  dirty oil and dirty electricity from coal & nuclear and natural gas (muchly derived from Fracking).   Unfortunately the actions of the people in power that control energy seem to show that they have a very shortsighted vision of what is important. They don’t seem to care about what is left of the earth (our home) for their children & grandchildren but rather are more concerned about what seems to be a  drug that is more addictive than crack or heroin to them…money.

But if we continue on this path, perhaps Mother Earth will change even the greedy. When she wipes out their castles with floods & earthquakes, tornadoes or hurricane’s, Mother Earth just may make us all equal again and money won’t mean a thing anymore.  And those tribes who have been living in harmony with her all along will have knowledge for the rest of us that will be indispensable.

A New Forest Friend

Every once in a while nature gives us a gift. Today was such a day. We are in the middle of a heat wave with temps in the 90’s and humidity. Since we do not have AC, my husband & I sought refuge in a favorite little spot of ours in the mountains where there is a cool rushing steam and an nice little rocky pool that is deep enough to get in and cool off in.  Besides being a peaceful beautiful spot, it also is seems to be a butterfly haven.

 Usually shooting butterflies if pretty challenging as they are constantly fluttering about but today an Eastern yellow tiger swallowtail landed near me and held perfectly still for me. It was like it was posing for me. I took picture after picture after picture and it didn’t seem to mind at all. Then it even flew closer to me and I got some more shots.

After I was statisfied with my shots, I decided, just for the goof…I’d try to coax it onto my hand since it was so calm and to my surprise I made a new friend!  It happily moved onto my hand and stayed on my hand for the longest time.  My husband took this shot of my new forest friend & I used in today’s blog post. He finally flew away but I’ll never forget the day I got to be friends with a butterfly and hold  beauty in the palm of my hand!

And Then There Were Two

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This is the result of artistic collaboration! The painting turned out wonderful!  I have no regrets about giving Lyn Deutsch   permission to paint from my original photo.  Thank you Lyn! I learned as child that sharing is good. “Give and ye shall receive” is a good motto to live by. If I never  gave her permission to use my photo for a reference,  there would only be one piece of art inspired by a scene but now there are two!

I saw this beautiful scene on  a wonderful vacation visiting my Dad in Oregon & we shared this special  moment in time together. It brought us joy at the time so why not share the joy with not only the people who view my photo but also all the people who will view Lyn’s painting?

Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the “I have to look out for number one” state of mind but when you look out for number two and three and more wonderful things can happen. I think it starts with letting go of fear, fear of “what if this or that happens?”  but sometimes when we really examine our fears we realize that even if the “this” or “that” happens it’s really not that bad and often “this” or “that” doesn’t even happen!

 I’ve found in my life over the years that even when things seem like they are not going the way I want them to be going , that things always turn out in the end. There is a lot of truth to the phrase “Let Go And Let God”. In other words, just live your life with the ups and downs and realize that it will all turn out ok in the end because it always does and remember to stop spending your time worrying and instead spend your time sharing, giving & helping others where you can!  God/ the Universe/ Your higher power will take care of the rest. 🙂

Photography Prints

I recently responded to a forum post in Fine Art America where artist Lyn Deutsch was inquiring if any of the photographers in Fine Art America would be interested in allowing her to use one of their photos for a painting reference. I immediately responded with a YES!  Not long after I d she asked if she could use the above photo.  I’m very honored & flattered that an artist would want to paint one of my images. 

The forum generated a very lively conversation amongst the members ranging from “Sure! Please do!” to “I wouldn’t be comfortable with someone using my work for reference since it is my work & vision and not theirs”.  I find myself on the end of the spectrum of seeing this a compliment from a fellow artist and as long as I am given a photo credit for this it is also a great way to get more exposure for my photography (pun intended Lol).

 I’ve always been envious of people who have the talent & ability to draw and paint what they see  but I am not one of those people who can draw or paint much more than a happy face or a stick figure! So I have found myself in the world of photography, capturing beauty in nature and candid cherished moments of friends & family.  So when an artist wants to paint one of my photos it’s almost like they are saying ” you have created a beautiful piece art & I want to create from your creation” which makes me feel good about my art.

She may be painting  the same scene but it will be a different interpretation. The paint and texture & colors she uses will create a whole new dimension to the same scene. It is kind of  like one piece of music that can have many different arrangements.  Or even a snippet from a song that has been re-mixed into another song.  Or it could be like a flower that goes to seed and creates more flowers. The original flower is a perfect picture of  beauty but why stop there? If you let it go to seed it could one day create a whole field of flowers! 🙂