Friday, May 5, 2017

So Ugly I'm Cute: Eyes Peeled/Cameras Ready!

Birds when first hatched don't rival their parents in the looks department.  With a lot of textured skin, sparse down they are interesting to watch and still adorable photograph.

A few weeks ago, I travelled to Edisto Island, South Carolina.  It was near the state park where I saw an adult Great Horned Owl take flight to search for food during the day.  I noticed a small movement which turned out to be a very young owlet.  (I named him Einstein, pretty original!)
"Einstein" by  Sheen Watkins

Great horned owls though, even in their earliest stages have that look of intellect that has given them their well earned name of "Wise Owl."

Austin, Texas - A Wise One by Sheen Watkins

As we are in the heart of migration and nesting season...keep your eyes peeled and your cameras ready.  Birding is going to be at it's best this time of the year and over the next few weeks.

Happy Shooting!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Etsy? Website? Photo Sharing Sites? Do You Have the Time?

Painted Bunting by Sheen's Nature Photography
With all of the options to share and display your work, it can become a huge time commitment just to keep up with your accounts.  We're artists and we'd much rather be behind our cameras, photo processing software, paint brushes and other creative mediums of choice.

In today's environment, it is almost a must to have web visibility.  And yes, that also means with visibility comes risk.

Risk that you won't get traction.  Risk that you won't get "likes".  Risk that you won't get a return on your time investment.  Risk that you won't make the needed income to support your full time, part time or 'just in it to cover my costs'.

Risk is mitigated by reach and by maximizing your visibility.  Here's a few tips to consider as it is continues a journey.

Schedule - If you maintain multiple social media sites, have a schedule of when you are going to post.  For example - Facebook:  Mondays, Wednesday and Saturdays; Instagram: Tuesdays and Thursdays on occasions. Consider posting different images in a given week as many followers may be following you on both sites.  If they see the same thing multiple times a week, the impact is lost and potentially their interest.  My schedule on my facebook page is fairly consistent.  My Instagram is a work in progress.

Consistency - For those with multiple selling sites with the same offering such as a "nature" web page and a "nature" Etsy Studio, upload your images to each site at the same time.  This makes it easier to keep track of your additions and by doing it at one time, also minimizes rework.  If you're just getting started with Etsy and you already have a website that's loaded, don't worry.  Just start uploading the new mages at the same time. Over the course of time, add your other work you'd like to sell.

Reach - Tag, tag and tag your artwork.  With all of the SEO capabilities embedded into websites, this makes it faster for your work to be identified in a search from a customer looking for something specific.

For illustration I typed in the phrase: Snowy Owl Sheen Watkins.  Click on this link and you'll find pages of listings (some not all good by the way).  This search identified my tagged owl photos, links to websites, my articles for Light Stalking and Loaded Landscapes, my Sheen Watkins website, my older website on Fine Art America that's still open and my new Etsy Studio:  SheenWatkinsStudio.   Tagging definitely works.

Snowy Owl on Etsy by Sheen Watkins Studio

Recently, a fun website dedicated to owls, Owl Stuff posted my snowy owls from Etsy and the overnight traction was significant.  Had my images not been tagged, they would not have been as readily located.

Blog - Blogs do not need to be long to be effective.  Blogs DO need to effectively connect you with your audience.  It may be educational, philosophical, a funny story of how you captured a photo.

Look for an upcoming blog on how I made this photo:

Iced Teeth by Sheen Watkins/Sheen Watkins Studio

Your blog offers insight into the artist behind the work.  Initially I blogged weekly and over time shifted  to random blogging as I started writing for other sites.

Final tip:  Producing and publishing quality work is a must.  Sure, that photo of your dog that's really adorable and funny (and blurred) should be shared.  Fido's perfect place (unless you are a pet photographer) is on your personal Facebook page for your dog lover friends to enjoy.  Keeping your professional photography site stocked with your professional work will never confuse your customer or send the wrong message.

Do you have a tip to share?  Add a comment or two or email me directly at

Thanks for following and happy shooting!

Monday, November 21, 2016

How to Keep a Fresh Photographer's Eye? Play!

Peeking at You by Sheen Watkins
Photographers began their craft being inspired by something.

Many photographers started as artists, using a camera to document their subjects prior to drawing on paper or other art medium of choice. Others were influenced by magazines, such as National Geographic, the Smithsonian and other magazines known for outstanding storytelling and imagery.

Some just knew they wanted a camera.

My introduction to photography was simple.  After I became an official birder, I would always say, "I wish I had a camera" whenever I would focus my binoculars on a beautiful bird.  I guess I said it more than once or twice because my husband surprised me with my first camera.  Since then,  it has been many thousands of photos of birds, flowers, bees, deer, landscapes, black and white, and other various nature images.

Sometimes I do worry about getting stuck in a routine.  Are my photos starting to look the same, am I missing great images because I didn't consider another perspective?

by Sheen Watkins
Over the past year, I've intentionally networked with other photographers.
I've joined the Motor City Camera Club in the Detroit Metropolitan area and have started to occasionally participate in group photo outings.

Even though my best work happens when I'm solo, my photographic and post processing skills have been positively influenced by joining others.

Lines, colors, textures, shapes and structures serve as interesting and colorful subjects.

I'll jump at the chance to photograph city lights, inside and outside of unique architectural buildings and street photography.

by Sheen Watkins

The reverse is also true, I've been able to influence and help others in their nature and bird photography journey.
by Sheen Watkins

There's another benefit ...I have friends that love to 'play' outdoors and talk about f/stops, lenses, settings, camera gear and photography plans.  It's expanded the meaning of one of my favorite phrases of "happy shooting" to "happy shooters!"

Thursday, September 8, 2016

A Photographer's Sight: The Forest or the Trees?

What does a photographer see?  What is it about a subject or moment that one photographer may stop, pause and shoot and another doesn't notice?

Sheen's Nature Photography

How many times have you used the phrase  "you can't see the forest for the trees"?  In the images above and below, I chose to not see either.  Instead, I was moved by the array of green tints and shades,  soft lines and a wash of shapes.  

How this photo was made:  I stood in a shady setting with no sunlight streaming through. When I pressed the shutter, I gently moved the camera vertically while the shutter was open.  A one second shutter speed is optimal when using this technique.  Settings:  1 second shutter speed, f/16, ISO 100
Sheen's Nature Photography

Walk into an art gallery, museum or go to a multitude of artists' websites and you'll see many perspectives of the same subjects.  Some may be an accurate representation of the image itself, others may take creative liberty and add another layer of artistry.

As in the photo below, I applied dramatic post processing adjustments in Lightroom to modify reality.  These adjustments included contrast, clarity and increased hue intensity.

Sheen's Nature Photography
By seeing through the unique eyes of other artists- painting, drawing, photography, dance -  our own eyes can learn new techniques and ideas of communicating our subjects.

Happy Shooting!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

"Songbird Sung Blue"

It's spring time which means the woods and fields are filled with the delightful songs and colors of songbirds.  Birds are flocking together to nest, breed, have chicks and depending on the species, travel south for thousands of miles after their chicks have fledged the nest. 
Lazuli Bunting by Sheen Watkins

It's time to celebrate a few of our magnificent little birds of blue.

The Lazuli Bunting, taken in Arizona could almost be mistaken for a bluebird.  Their white wing bars are an immediate giveaway.  

There's something a little extra special about birds in blue.  

Maybe it's because there are not as many species in this color range. 

They are so striking with their azure plumage.  Their sweet songs carry through the distance with unique and brilliant trills, notes and screeches.

The Indigo Bunting is a common sighting in Michigan and the midwest.  Even though it's a bit more common, that doesn't make it any less special to see....and hear.  The melodious song carries a distance from their high perches.  

This little guy is a regular on the Leelanau Peninsula on a trail managed by the Leelanau Conservancy in Michigan.

Indigo Bunting by Sheen Watkins

What 'blue' posting would be complete without a favorite for many?  The eastern bluebird entertains us by using nesting boxes to build their nest and their family.

Eastern Bluebird by Sheen Watkins
And lastly, the common but yet so striking Blue Jay.  We hear the loud calls when they fly in flocks. We see them visit our feeders.  Their bold crest along with the bright blue patterns make them standout from the rest of their family - the crows.

Blue Jay, a member of the Crow Family by Sheen Watkins
The title of this blog was inspired by Neil Diamond's "Song Sung Blue".  This is the second blog title that he, along with mother nature inspired:  What do Neil Diamond & Northern Michigan Have in Common? Cherry, Cherry!

Happy Shooting!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

A Photographer's View

Moody Morning  by Sheen's Nature Photography
When I became a nature photographer, the world changed.

The big scenes became less important.

The little moments and details took center stage.  Blue skies became boring, clouds and turbulent skies became a welcomed friend.

The morning hours
on the weekend can't get here soon enough.

One of my favorite subjects ~ birds ~ have amazing features.   Their beauty, expressions and movement are a pure joy to observe as a bird watcher and a photographer.

White Wings  by Sheen's Nature Photography

With landscapes, nightscapes and cityscapes, it may be the large scale view, or it may something as simple as reflections at night that make the scene.

River Walk in Winter by Sheen's Nature Photography
Finding your moment is just one look from behind the camera away.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

My Camera Gear & Accessories

Over the past couple of months I've received quite a few emails and messages asking about camera brand, lens choices and accessories.  I  remember asking other photographers the same questions  and I found their insight helpful. Sure, there are some lenses I wish I would have purchased earlier and some later. But regardless of which lens I had or didn't have, I kept shooting.  The best lens is the one that you have in your hands at that moment - you make it work!

A favorite family subject!  by Sheen Watkins
Camera Brand
I use Nikon and have never regretted this path.  Their glass is terrific and I find the cameras to be solid.  I would add that Canon, Sony and other brands are high quality and get the job done.

It's a competitive landscape (pardon the pun) which means reputable camera manufacturers will continue to bypass and catchup quickly on features and functions.   The camera brand is important, but it's the lens selection based on your photography goals that should heavily influence your decision.  Even then - they are all close with a few differences.

Camera Bodies
For birds and wildlife, the Nikon 7100 is my camera body of choice as of today.  The cropped sensor format is ideal for photographing birds and wildlife.   For landscapes, macro, portraits and street photography, I used Nikon's 810.  The bigger sensor renders beautiful details, colors and tones.

For information on cropped versus full framed sensors, check out my Light Stalking article: Cropped vs. Full Frame Sensor

Nikon Lenses - zooms:
14-24mm 2.8 extra wide angle
24-70mm 2.8 mid range zoom
70-200mm 2.8 telephoto
When do I use zoom lenses? Travel photography, when I'm photographing multiple subject types, when I don't know what I'm going to shoot and want flexibility, landscapes, wildlife.

Dania Pier by Sheen's Nature Photography using a 14-24mm wide angle lens

Nikon Macro (Nikon refers to them as Micro)
105mm 2.8

Nikon Lenses - primes:  
28mm 1.8
50mm 1.8
85mm 1.8
When do I use primes?  Walk around photography, out on the town with friends, areas where that focal distance 'works' (i.e. 28 mm for landscapes, 85mm for portraits) nature walks where I have limited time, when I want to act like I have a point & shoot.

A Prime Sunrise by Sheen's Nature Photography using 50mm

Non-Nikon Lens/Tamron: 150-600mm Tamron
Teleconverters:  Nikon 1.4 III
Speedlight:  Nikon 910

Schneider Optics B+W:  Circular Polarizer, Neutral Density Filters - a 6 stop and the Big Stopper
Lee Filter: 150 Extra Wide Filter System for the Nikon 14-24mm

Tripod: Manfrotto mt190cxpro4 Carbon Fiber Tripod
Tripod Head:  Really Right Stuff BH-40-LR
Remote Shutter Release: Promaster

Camera bags:
Golden by Sheen's Nature Photography 70-200 2.8
Tamrac 7X - this isdiscontinued but here is their current model: Tamrac Anvil.  This is a big beast that holds a lot of gear and laptop.  When fully loaded, you'll get a workout as the weight adds up.  I use this bag when traveling on large planes or on a road trip.  This is  partnered with one of the following for travel as this bag is too large for me to hike with.
Lowepro Flipside sport 20"  This is a lean machine.  I typically pack my 810, 14-24mm, 24-70, 70-200 and the needed filters in this streamlined bag.
Tenba Vector Daypack that's no longer produced, limited availability out on the web.    This weighs two pounds, holds a 15" laptop and it's completely customizable inside.  Great for day trips and hiking.  I have two so that when I travel on small planes one goes under the seat and the Lowepro goes in the overhead.

Camera gear is an investment and it is costly.  Initially I started with one camera and two lenses.  Over time my decisions were made using my own research which included feedback that I used and chose not to use from others.

Happy Shooting!