Monday, December 30, 2013

Is it a Resolution or a Delightful Journey?

We've all done it.   The same year-after-year resolution on December 31 that somehow gets lost by January 15. Or the new resolution that never happens.  We commit to do something, for the moment, with good intentions.  It may be losing weight, changing our diet, exercise, finances, starting a new hobby. But why can't we make it stick?

Therapy: Watching the Female Cardinal in the Southern Winter Sunshine
First, I'm a nature photographer and not a psychologist.  Like everyone, I have a need for some type of therapy.  My therapy just happens to be in the fields, flowers and hanging out with the birds with cameras and lenses in tow.

Here's a few questions to consider.

What is the motivation behind the resolution?  Is it positive?  Does the thought of taking action bring a smile to your face or the dreadful sigh?

One of the most common resolutions I hear is "I am going to exercise so I can lose weight." Chances are, this one will not be sustained even though you know its needed.  Where's the positive?  Where's the fun?  Where's the traction?

Turn this around a bit.  What would encourage you to do an activity and stay with it?  What happens when this resolution is achieved?  Is it a one-shot deal or is it a lifestyle/hobby that you incorporate into who you are?  Can it be shared with a spouse, significant other, or friends?

For years, I wanted a camera but never purchased one.  I had resolved for years to get one and take pictures.  In retrospect, I didn't have a plan or motivation to take action on my resolution.

Create the Plan, Enjoy the Journey
My husband encouraged me by surprising me with a Nikon for Christmas two years ago.  I didn't take it out of the box and really use it until a few months later.  

It was a trip to the south with a personal commitment to learn the camera and how to capture images of what I really enjoyed, birding and nature.  I previewed my first images and the passion began.

It's not about 'having' to go out with the camera.  It's about making sure I take the time doing what I enjoy.  Nature photography is typically part of my weekend and if I'm lucky, sometimes part of my week. And yes, I have photography resolutions for 2014, and that's for another blog.

So 2014 is here.  What do you want to do this year that you haven't accomplished yet? What's the positive motivation behind it?  Remember, if you can't answer that question, it probably won't happen.  Then tell someone, involve a friend/partner and take action. Your next 'passion' may be waiting!
Happy Shooting!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

If You Could Wrap an Image of From Your Past & Put It Under the Tree, What Would it Be?

The throes of the holidays are upon us.  Schedules remain filled with tying up loose ends at work.  There's limited time to take care of planning meals, parties, shopping, wrapping gifts and heading off to visit family.

Slow down the madness for a just a moment.  Savor the ability to reflect.

Holiday Reflection by ©Sheen's Nature Photography

More than likely we can immediately recall the time we received a gift from the heart, someone's personal talent shared. The gift of that sweater 'we had to have' from our favorite store?  It may be one of our favorites, or, it may not even be remembered.

Sweet Face by ©Sheen's Nature Photography
Case in point?  Your favorite teacher.  They had the talent for encouraging you to think differently about something.  To this day when someone asks you "Who was your most influential teacher?", their name and memory erupts before even thinking about it.  Their ability to inspire was a gift.

Another may be a relative, a family friend, who spent their time with you, doing what you wanted to do instead of taking care of their own to-do list.  They were sharing a piece of themselves, their natural gift of story-telling, listening, teaching a hobby.

As photographers and those who enjoy photography, we share our images via websites, Facebook and other social media. This global reach provides many with views of the world that the majority will never see. Folks who may be housebound have brief escapes into beautiful places local and far away.

Many photographers offer the gift of knowledge and encouragement of our craft with our kids, neighbors' kids or local youth centers.

Your images of sports, nature, people are personal.

Because you take it personally, you may inspire others to reach within themselves to find their own talent and interests.   Your innate passion, time and talent can't be bought, but it can be shared.

And it can be one of the best gifts of their life time…and yours.

Happy Shooting and Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Hidden Gems….Polish them with Edits

It's a winter wonderland.  It's a beautiful sunrise.  Spring color rises from the abyss of winter.  Fall foliage or spring flowers radiate colors that would make Monet smile.

A Lovely Fall Day, simple RAW edits
Nikon 600, 14-24mm lens

There are times when you get home after a photography shoot that you load your files and what you thought was going to be great, wasn't.

It happens to everyone.
Sly Eyes, RAW Edits with Sepia effect
Nikon 5100, 55-300mm

Sure, our first reaction may be to ditch and delete.  We've done it many times.

Enter the world of creative edits!

A raining day?  Pull out some old images.

Not able to get out and go shoot due to your work schedule?  Take a break and review some prior images you haven't looked at in months.

Sitting on the couch watching football on a team you don't really care about?  Find those 'almost had what you were looking for.'

Lightroom and other image processing software offer many creative editing tools that can turn what you were going to ditch into interesting and quite usable works of art.

Recently we visited the The Outer Banks.  I had been picturing, non pun intended, in my mind wide-angel images of piers I wanted to capture with my new Nikon 14-24mm Landscape lens.

As a bird and flower photographer, most of my work has been with either the Sigma 150-500 or Nikon 105mm macro and a few other lenses.  Landscape photography presents a new horizon of learning (see my recent blog The Checklist….It's Not About What I'm Packing).  So when I returned from my first shoot on the pier, I was disappointed.  The weather was colorless and flat.  Winds whipped at 25 miles per hour.  My limited perspectives captured didn't leave a lot to work with.

Or did it?

A photographer in The Outer BanksDan Waters, that I had the pleasure of working with while there shared many professional tips and tricks.  One of which is that has a series of modules to assist in various types of targeted editing.

A Light Hits the Gloom on the Gray
Nikon 600, 14-24mm
The pier image mentioned earlier evolved in depth and emotional perspective with a few simple edits using Lightroom and  Nik Software Silver Efex Pro.

Here's to Happy Shooting!  If you can't get out today or tomorrow - then, Happy Editing!


Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Checklist - It's Not about What I'm Packing

When planning our excursions  many of us create a checklist to ensure we don't forget the important items.

Cameras, lenses, remote, cleaners, spare batteries and filters.  Check.
Gloves, hat, sunglasses, snacks ((Erg Bar for long term energy), smart phone.  Check.

There's another checklist that I've found that I need to make.  It's the tactics checklist of what to remember when 'caught up in the moment' of your subject.

Underneath the Outer Banks Fishing Pier at Sunrise
Nikon 600, 14-24mm, f/16, ISO 100, 6 sec

On a recent trip, I had the privilege of shooting above and under piers in the the Outer Banks in North Carolina.  When processing the images in Lightroom,  there were specific shooting areas where I noticed a fundamental issue.  

I hadn't moved my perspective!  

Sure, different f/stops were used along with focal length adjustments.  But the perspective was from one location.   Almost all of the upper level pier shots had the same look and feel including horizon points.  This left very little to work with when back in Lightroom.  

What happened?

Fundamentally, I am a bird and nature photographer.  Because my subjects move, I constantly have to as well.  'Moving' around to the right, left, on the ground is the norm.  

When the objects became stationary, my tendency was to remain in one spot.  The outcome?  A lot of images that looked the same and there was not a lot to choose from.

Bodie Lighthouse after Sunset
Nikon 600,  14-24mm, f/8, ISO 50, 30 sec

Viewing images from the pier and lighthouses with limited perspectives generated the need for a mental  'in the moment'  tactics checklist.  This includes: 
  • Multiple f/stops
  • Multiple focal lengths
  • Multiple steps to the right and left from the initial shooting point
  • Taken from close to ground level
  • Taken from a higher point
  • Use of different lenses on the same subject when possible

Batteries are charged, camera gear and backpack is ready.  Mental list?  Check!


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Is there such a thing as the "Affordable Photographers' Equipment Act?"

A common misnomer is that photography is a very expensive hobby.  There are many camera promotions today that make it easy to get started and grow with a modest investment.
Pure Sugar
Nikon 600, 70-300mm lens

Camera manufacturers, particularly during the holidays, offer special bundles.   Some of these include two lenses, camera bags, filters, flash units and a tripod.  Different retailers including local, national chains and online have different bundles so you'll want to do a little research. A kit that has a general purpose lens and a telephoto lens is highly encouraged.

Delicate Details of a Rose April 2012
Nikon 5100,  general purpose kit lens
My first camera was the Nikon 5100 and it's still in my toolkit.  The newer Nikon 5200 has a big sensor and more megapixels.  These bundle kits sell for around $1000.  Also note that Nikon's image processing software is included.  While I am a Nikon user, Canon also offers bundles.  Bundles will provide the fun, creativity and diversity needed by most recreational and family photographers.

The 1st Weekend of Camera Ownership April 2012
Nikon 5100, 55-300mm lens
To pursue photography beyond recreational usage, it will require additional investments.  "Great Glass'  otherwise known as a great lens does come at a price.  Macro, landscape and big telephotos can broaden your reach but as you'll read many times over, an expensive lens does not guarantee great images.  With the right composition, lighting, tools and techniques professional quality images are within your reach.

The other periphery expenses as you expand include higher powered image processing software such as Lightroom by Adobe and a relatively current PC.

The good news is that you can rent lenses before you buy and add at your own speed based on your interest and where you want to take your photography.

Happy Shooting!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Photo Shoot? I Don't Have a Thing to Wear!

It's early, and the sun will be creeping over the horizon soon. The mid-fall chill creates a smokey cast on Quarton Lake, in Birmingham, Michigan.  Wet leaves of speckled yellow, burnt orange, red and umber will present a kaleidoscope for the nature photographer.

A perfect day for kneeling in soggy trails, walking in shallow streams, while balancing a tripod along with camera equipment.

What to wear and not feel like I look like a Jane Hathaway wanna-be?  No offense Ms. Jane, I loved your character on the Beverly Hillbillies but most of us are not that retro.

Looking to the Golden Sky
Nikon 600, 14-24mm, f/7.1, ISO 80, 1/320 sec
As I was passing through the airport recently, the duty free shop had a commercial of a lovely young lady wearing wedge high heels, flowing slacks, and beautifully dressed to the nines. Springing out of the cab with her camera in Paris, she makes a quick turn, followed by an immediate shutter snap.  A twirl, then snap. A delightful distraction into another world.

There was no camera bag, shoulder strap, or heaven forbid a case for at least another lens.
In real life, nature photography brings back your childhood of navigating the elements while not worrying about your play clothes.

Magical Moment of Blue and Gold on Quarton Lake,  Birmingham, Michigan
Nikon 600, 14-24mm, f/16, ISO 250, 1/50 sec
Outdoor clothing for women nature photographers can be be a bit colorless and just plain boring.  What options are out there particularly as we head in to the colder seasons?  Definitely not jeans that get wet and stay that way.

Let's start with our feet.  If they are cold, wet, our time in the field may be cut short. A hardy choice, Hunter Boots deliver dry feet whether in a shallow stream or at the water's edge on the beach.

Silver Sunset Stroll on the Beach
Nikon 7100, f/9, Sigma 150-500, ISO 250, 1/200 sec
Completely rubber, no seams and the ability to line them with a comfy fleece boot sock or a shearling insole this boot provides year round versatility. They come in a rainbow of colors from the basic neutrals to the vibrant brights.  Hose them down and toss them over jeans when you want to hit your local food haunt.

Since we are bending, hiking and kneeling in earthy and wet conditions, running pants can handle wear and tear, they wick moisture well and are comfortable.  Brooks' Thermal Pant provides a work-horse black bottom that's warm on chilly days and not bulky. I've Googled gardening pants online and some may have potential, particularly with the ability to insert a knee pad, waterproof knees and seat.  However, a lot of these had the Ms. Jane appearance at first glance.

For tops, jackets, sweaters the spectrum is broad across many local and online retailers.  Athleta specializes in attractive, well-constructed women's outdoor and athletic wear. While they market to specific sports such as yoga, running, hiking, their designs are functionally fashionable. They use fabrics and designs that lend well to outdoor photography.

Lastly, our head.  We lose a significant amount of body heat through our head for the simple fact that the rest of our body is covered, our head is not.  For years, I resisted the use of hats.  A personal favorite in terms of durability, looks and warmth is Smartwool.  They also have a clothing line and their running, hiking and knee-high socks are the best I've come across.

The weekend and chilly conditions are on the way, what will you be wearing?  HAPPY SHOOTING!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Mother Nature Meets the "Yard-tist"

The Linden Park Nature Trail  between Lincoln and Maple roads, one of several in-town trails in  Birmingham, Michigan, has two very special artists.  The first artist of course is Mother Nature.

A Gift of Color from Mother Nature on Lincoln Trail, Birmingham, Michigan
Nikon 600, 24-85mm, f/16,  ISO 80, 1/6 sec 
This year, Mother Nature's artwork has gifted us with a fall that glows and burns from sunrise to sunset.  Even in moonlight, leaves continue to faintly illuminate our evening dog walks with auras of autumn.

Autumn, Courtesy of Mother Nature
Nikon 600, f/16, ISO 80, 1/13 sec

The Linden Park Nature Trail which runs along the Rouge River Watershed serves as a local four season favorite for runners, walkers and their four-legged kids and families.

While capturing images of our vibrant fall hues of reds, golds, oranges and browns, I saw her on the trail.  By 'her', I am referring to our trails's secret artist.

My husband has named her the "Yard-tist" as she brings touches from her own yard to create artwork using Mother Nature's tools.

She swiftly, secretively and creatively places flowers, rocks, stems, twigs in unusual patterns along the trail using natures tools as frames.  The artwork is earthy and primitive.  Creations range from the complex using many tools, to the simple using a single flower against a rock.

Along the Path, Linden Park Trail
Creation by the Yard-tist, Image by ©Sheen's Nature Photography

On this particular day, when I saw our Yard-tist at work I think she saw me too as she paused briefly.  She was delightful to watch.  As people approached her, in some instances she moved away from her work, other times she darted off the trail almost as if not wanting to be seen.

Some of her work is right beside the trail.  Other creations peek at you from behind thickets and tree stumps.

Simple Display Along the Trail Woods, A Flower and a Rock
Creation by the Yard-tist,  Image by ©Sheen's Nature Photography

When she had left, I shifted my focus from taking images along the river to that of her work to share with others who have not had the fortune to visit Linden Park Nature Trail.  

Here's a Bit of Yellow by the Rouge River on Linden Park Trail
Creation by the Yard-tist, Image by ©Sheen's Nature Photography

Passersby stopped to chat.   Many either inquired if I knew her.  Others shared their own enjoyment of her special touches along the trail for almost five years.

A Shock of Color in the Woods
Creation by the Yard-tist, Image by ©Sheen's Nature Photography
Whoever our Yard-tist is, we appreciate her care and creativity in making our nature trail even more special.

Happy Shooting!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Up Close & Personal with Nature...Locally

Chestnut-sided Warbler, Northport, MI
Image was taken on a nature trail excursion
For bird and nature photographers to capture images that meet personal 'perfection' criteria, it takes the three "P's":  practice, persistence and patience.

Before the three P's can take hold, the photographer must have the right lighting, location, camera settings and a bit of luck in finding their subjects.

When subjects are spotted, that's when patience and persistence takes hold. Our little birds typically pose for a few seconds before darting off to another branch.

To be able to track your subject, select your camera settings, focus on the eye, it takes many snaps to get your desired image.

Where to practice?  Many towns have individuals, groups or even centers that's mission is to rescue injured wildlife and rehabilitate back to the wild when possible.   I have seen a few that work with photographers creating a win environment for both.

Barred Owl, The Howell Nature and Conference Center
A perfect poser in Steve Gettle's workshop
The Howell Nature and Conference Center offers many education forums for the Southeast Michigan region.

Steve Gettle, a widely published professional nature photographer conducts photography workshops at the center on a regular basis.  In October, he led Photography Workshop: Lighting and Composition.  There is a fee for the workshop that goes directly to the center in support of their mission.

This workshop offers students the privilege to photograph wildlife in a beautiful, natural setting with a lot of attention to the details.  A picture-perfect place to practice!

Another group in the Midwest is Back to the Wild in Castalia, Ohio. This group centers on rehabilitating and returning animals back to the wild.  They offer educational programs, share progress updates and rely on donations for support of their efforts.

Each spring during the The Biggest Week in American Birding they bring their birds of prey for demonstration and education that cannot be returned to the wild to Magee Marsh at Crane Creek near Oregon, Ohio.  Photographers can get within a close range as these birds are accustomed to seeing people and will give a pose or two.  A practice haven.  While not required, they accept donations during the demonstrations and online too.

Peregrin Falcon, a poser from Back to the Wild
Image taken in May 2013 during The Biggest Week in American Birding
By researching local non-profit wildlife groups you can take part in helping their cause and potentially get some 'practice makes perfect' time.  Happy Shooting!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Behind Every Nature Photographer....

November Berries from Stoney Creek Metropark
Nikon 7000, 105mm, ISO 320, f/5.6, 1/320 sec
Whether a professional or passionate about the hobby, we have or have had a support system that allows us to grow and improve each time we're behind the lens.

This support system can include the influencer, the mentors, the camera experts, the photography buddies, and of course, your partner.

Surround yourself with people that feed your addiction!

The influencer - who do you know that is active in photography?  The friend that has a camera with them always - either a smart phone or actual camera.  You watch them taking pictures while standing beside them thinking, "I wish I had a camera".  If this is you, let the influencer do their job.  Either pull out that camera sitting in the box out or go buy one!

The mentors - in today's social media world, there are many fantastic photographers networking on Facebook pages, Google pages, Twitter and other platforms.  There are also social media pages that share other artists works.  A few of these Facebook sites include:  MegashotSoulful NatureNature Photography Wildlife Photography, and Audubon Magazine.  On google pages, just find your communities of interest. The Birds 4 All community on Google+ as an example is dedicated to bird photography.

Mary artists on these pages are forthcoming with their settings, lenses used and general tips.  Just ask!

Early Fall Sunshine
Nikon 5100, 105mm, ISO 320, f/14, 1/6 sec
The camera experts - your camera's website is the most accurate place to go for the latest specs.  Our web hosts many technical reviewers, sources and materials.  Even with all the great information on the web, the best advice may come from your local camera dealer.  Talk to their experts, show them your work, ask for feedback - you'll get invaluable tips and ideas. In southeast Michigan, it's Woodward Camera.

Photography mentoring buddies - similar to the influencer and the mentor, you'll find a few go-to mentoring buddies that are great to go out in the field with and observe their perspective on subjects.  I have a few that I haven't met face to face but if I need help, they serve as a faithful 'how-to' lifelines.  These are photographers who share subject interests. They reciprocate feedback and conversation.  Check out their talented, varied nature photography work on Facebook:  Bruce Leonhardt PhotographyCraig Sterken PhotographyNathaniel Smiley PhotographyRose Marie's Pictures.  There are photography couples that share the passion side-by-side - 2 Browns Photography and Birgit and Juergen Pictures.

Your partner - you've been in the cold, the wet, the hot, the dry.  All the while, your partner showed patience until the bitter end when you've become a bit snap-happy.  Our partners show intense interest in our work, witness our progress and serve as a tie-breaker when deciding which image to use.

Starting the Day with a Song
Nikon 5100, 70-300 mm, ISO 320, f/9, 1/1000 sec
You - you are the artist behind the camera.  That image was not a result of 'having a camera that takes good pictures'.  Your images are personal, they share with others your eye of your subject.  They are a result of your work, study, patience and perseverance.


Monday, September 30, 2013

You Can Capture the Moon....

Midnight Delight
Nikon 600, 24- 85mm, ISO 80, f/5.6, 20 sec, Lightroom

Simple sounds

Gentle light

The moon

The stars......

Even before photography, we've all experienced nightfalls that encouraged us to pause to mindlessly gaze at the moon and the stars.  Velvety hues of midnight blues fading to ebony illicit moods from romance to melancholy.  During the October timeframe, giggles of chilly delight emerge as children and adults participate in the Halloween season.

It's not every day we see the night in deep splendor.  When we photograph sunrises and sunsets, we typically research weather and sun patterns.  Moon photography requires the same intentional planning.

In the midwest, northern Michigan's Leelanau County and Northport, MI near the 45th Parallel has lingering summer days and short summer nights.  The land distance on the north end of the Leelanau Peninsula between Lake Michigan and Grand Traverse Bay is just a few miles.  You can start and end your day with an array of rose and blue topaz tinted skies that fade into diverse moonscape views.

Moon photography captures the simple essence of bright and dark, texture and the lack thereof.  As a new photographer, it's a playground to test what you know.  It's also helpful to do research beforehand.

Nikon offers how-to tutorial articles.  Their  Photographing the Night Sky is filled with idea generating images along with artistic tips and camera settings.    Google searches of How to Shoot the Moon will provide you with a host of sites with tips, whether it is just a full moon or a desired moonscape image you are shooting for.

Midnight Moon
Nikon 7100, Sigma 150-500, f/6.3, 1/125 sec, Lightroom

Moon views and evenings are meant to be shared, so bring your partner or a friend.  A glass of wine to celebrate the evening before returning home to process your work is highly recommended.

Happy Shooting!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Greener Grasses....

In nature photography the grass is greener right where you are and on the other side of the fence.  Planning our next photography adventure whether it's a destination location or a local favorite spot always gives us something to look forward to.

Sunset Surprise
Nikon 5100,  55-300mm, ISO 200, f/10, 1/500 sec
Cities like San Francisco with Golden Gate Park on the west side and Sonoma Valley in the heart of the wine country are gorgeous hot spots - whether you are a photographer or a tourist.

Interestingly, a couple of my favorite early images as a photographer happened nearby these locations where I was just savoring the moment of being away on vacation.  

This sunset image was taken from the north side of a beach parking lot northwest of Golden Gate Park as we were watching the ocean.  

I had read Jim Harmer's Improve Your Photography: How Budding Photographers Can Get Pro Results on the airplane the day before. A focal point just like he described in the fourth chapter popped in front of me as I strolled up the incline. Nature's bare branches framed the rosy sunset and sapphire blue ocean.

The Love Button
Nikon 5100, 18-55mm, ISO 200, f/5.3, 1/250 sec
On the backend of our trip, we were in Sonoma Valley for a couple of days. Loaded with beautiful landscapes, wonderful birds, hills of many colors and many wines, it was a street side garden near a park that all but smiled to passersby.

We were birding in Larson Park viewing western tanagers, phoebes and scrub jays to name a few.

This garden yellow flower shouted happiness from across the street that needed to be captured and shared.

Recently, on a local natural beauty road near Springdale Golf Course in Birmingham, MI, I had every intention of capturing multiple perspectives of periwinkle-blue chicory flowers.

Soft, early morning sun with no breeze, tripod set low to the ground, several minutes were filled with many snaps shooting images of one of my favorite flowers.

Bleu Backlit Beauty
Nikon 600, 105mm, ISO 250, f/9, 1/400 sec

But then I stood up to stretch - a must in photography.  Across the road the dew sparkled like diamonds on a long, green, multi-acre lawn.  The next 20 minutes were spent horizontal in wet grass completely mesmerized by nature's liquid crystals.

The Greenest Grasses Reside Within Us
Nikon 600, 105mm, ISO 250, f/8 1/800 sec
Afterwards the clothes were a bit soggy, but the images were worth every chill bump.

Enjoy your next destination and don't forget to stop, stretch and find that your greener grass exists right where you are standing.  Happy Shooting!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Time - Life Lesson from Behind the Lens

Our personal interests can teach many life lessons.  Nature photography is no different.  Some lessons in photography are probably obvious, such as looking at your image as well as business challenges from multiple perspectives.

However some lessons are not so apparent, until you see them taking hold in both your photography and your approach to life.   One lesson is the use of time, it's definition quite elusive depending on your perspective.  It's the one thing that cannot be bought, shortened, or extended.  A precious, precious commodity.

In nature photography, each day has a limited amount of time that maximizes the quality of a given type of image we are shooting for.

The minutes before and after a sunrise where the soft rich rose hues cascade across our landscape.

The World Awaits by ©Sheen's Nature Photography

The early to mid-morning time frame where bees, other insects and birds start off by moving slowly before elevating to a darting, rapid pace.

Oh What a Beautiful Morning! ©Sheen's Nature Photography

The midday sun where direct overhead light can be made to work for areas where you don't want shadows.

Don't Forget the Sunscreen.... ©Sheen's Nature Photography

And then sunset, where glowing red to amethyst skies sweep in before nightfall.

So Long, Farewell Until Tomorrow.....©Sheen's Nature Photography

Nature Photography awakened the need to be more aware and in some cases, a bit selfish with time.  Family, fur-children will always take priority.

All aspects of nature - birds, foliage, landscapes, nightscapes - have their individual peaks in each of the four seasons.  These peaks become guideposts as to how and where we will spend our personal time.

The result?  Wonderful memories in the mind, the heart and forever on digital that serve as visible reminders of time joyously spent.

How will you spend your free time today?  Happy Shooting!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

It's Not Just About Our Back Yard

Summer highways, fields and forests are filled with brilliant yellows, pinks and blues. Gardens ebb and flow with color as perennials peak and give way to the next round in the blooming season.  A host of songbirds, butterflies, bees and insects take delight in savoring their region's balanced food chain.  

Black-eyed Susans at Quarton Lake
Nikon 600, 105mm, ISO 250, f/5, 1/60 sec

Sustaining our beautiful, colorful native plants is easy.  Talk to your local nursery, ask them to carry native plants and plant them in your backyard.  Just as important, asking your local communities, city parks and business parks to plant native versus ornamentals also can make a difference. Many of these groups are already headed this direction.

Avoiding and eliminating invasive plants is crucial to maintaining a healthy food chain. The newsletter "Why Should I Care About Invasive Plants?" provides a brief, descriptive review of invasive plants and species.

Butterfly Savoring Breakfast at Quarton Lake
Nikon 600, 105mm, ISO 250, f/6.3, 1/640 sec
Not all non-native plants are harmful. Roses, tulips and many garden favorites are safe for your garden and the environment.  

"Invasive" represents those aggressive plant species that grow and reproduce rapidly and causing disruptive, major changes to the areas they start to take over.  

In my hometown, Birmingham, Michigan's City Government has taken a very active role in eliminating invasive plants.  They use native plants in restoration projects and new developments, educate the community and provide tips on their website about being environmentally savvy. 

Whether in a large metropolitan area, small community or rural environment, planting native plants makes a difference.  Native plants save water and prevent high maintenance costs caused by invasive plants. 

Check your local area website to see what's been accomplished and what's planned. You may find that you can positively impact both your local community and local environment.

 Happy Shooting!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Your Camera is not Exercise Equipment

What does exercise equipment such as a treadmill have to do with a camera?  How many treadmills are either gathering dust or being used as a great place to hang clothes? 

Kestrel's Poised Pose
Nikon 7100,  Nikon 70 - 300mm, IS) 400, f/8, 1/640 sec
Many of us have had or have intentions of getting in to photography.  We think about it, talk about it and buy our first 'real' camera.  The cameras that have dials, buttons, lots of features and capabilities.  

We take it out of the box and start reading the manual.  

Impatient to get through the details, we grab the camera, go outside and start taking pictures.  One of a squirrel, a couple of the kids, the dog and maybe a flower or two.  

We go back inside to find that the picture on the screen looks so....tiny, blurred, washed out, etc.  Definitely not the vision of what we thought our work would look like. 

This is it!  This is where many cameras are gently tossed back to their box to be used another day.  Instead, it gathers dust and takes up precious closet space.  

Why?  Pick one or all of the following or add your own to the list: 

Summer's Color
Nikon 5100, Nikon 105mm, ISO 250, f/5, 1/200 sec  
Not enough reading.  

Not as easy as we thought it would be.  

Not enough time.

No one to ask questions.

No plan.

Here are some simple recommendations to getting started and progressing as a photographer:
  1. Talk to another photographer or your local camera dealer to understand the time commitment, what it takes to learn what you want to do.  It could be a simple as an hour or two.  Or depending of your goals, could require extensive practice.
  2. Have a general idea of what you'll enjoy taking pictures of behind the camera before you make your purchase.
  3. Buy a good camera (I use Nikon) from your local camera dealer and take it out of the box. 
  4. Commit to a few hours of reading the manual, a how-to-use the camera book and an easy to follow photography book.  Refer to blog "Finding the Photographer Within Us" for examples of each.
  5. Explore other's images on Google, Facebook (Facebook page example: Sheen's Nature Photography), Flickr, etc. to inspire your own style.
  6. Get out there and take many pictures. Close up, far away, looking down, looking up, different settings.
  7. Google 'how to' photography tips for your specific interest
  8. Recognize that you will only really be thrilled with a small percentage of your images - that's normal.  
  9. Don't take yourself too seriously. You will evolve with experience. If you're having fun, it will be reflected in your work.

Egret in Reflection
Nikon 7100, Nikon 70 - 300mm, ISO 320, f/6.3, 1/1000 sec

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Kiss the Day Goodbye

The light of day fades slowly as we begin to wind down for the evening.  The "Magic Hour or Golden Hour" approaches.  

In the deep south, folks sip mint juleps on the front porch.  The west coast signifies back-to-back cars driving home in thick traffic with sapphire blue views of the Pacific coast.  In west Texas' Big country, an evening horse ride under a rose-hued sky can gently close out the day.  In the Great Lakes Region, couples sit on the beach staring into periwinkle skies that melt into deep aqua water.

Softly Fading Sunset on the Leelanau Peninsula on Lake Michigan
Nikon 600, 24 - 85mm, ISO 50, 6/10 sec

The "Golden Hour" hues create magical moments for the photographer.  Harnessing the light and color correctly is part artistry and part skill.  A photographer who creates amazing magic with light is global photographer Richard Bernabe.  His recent image posting from Iceland "Picture yourself in a boat on a river....." on his Facebook page inspired me to buy his book Essential Light: Photography's Lifeblood.  

Rich in content along with camera settings used to capture specific images, the Essential Light eBook is  filled with facts that we know and facts that we 'forget' in the moment of the shoot.

Last Flight of the of my 1st sunset images.  ©Sheen's Nature Photography
Nikon 5100, 55 - 300mm, ISO 200, f/9, 1/800sec

Landscape, sunrise and sunset images can be readily captured with the Nikon or Canon lens that's bundled with the camera. For wider angle shots, wide angle lenses reign in big images that can surround the viewer.   Both Nikon landscape lenses (as well as Canon wide-angle lenses, other manufacturer's) offer multiple, diverse wide-angle options.  My personal next-to-buy item is either the AF-S Zoom-Nikkor 17-35mm f/2.8D IF-ED or the AF-S-NIKKOR-14-24mm2.8G-ED.

Whether you are new or seasoned in photography, a sense of humor in exploring different settings, angles and lenses fosters an open mind to the possibilities you can take from real life to image.

The Sun's Evening Kiss by ©2013 Sheen's Nature Photography
Nikon 600, 24 - 85mm, f/29, 1/10 sec
There are so many sunset horizons to view, many evening moments in nature to share with others.  So little time.

Photographers not only chase the light.  Photographers practice creating images with the light and the focal points they been given with every press of the shutter.  Happy Shooting!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Finding The Photographer Within Us...

How many times have you said, "I wish I had a camera" or "I want to start taking pictures?"

What do you love to spend free time doing?  What energizes you to wake up early?  Stay longer than planned?  Answer these questions and you may find your inspiration.

Yellow Male Warbler "Hide & Seek"
Nikon 5100, 70-300mm f/6.3, ISO 500 1/1000th sec
For years I've studied birds through binoculars to get  close-up views of these spritely, colorful beauties.  On a few excursions, a friend brought her camera. Each time she did, I mumbled "I wish I had a camera."

It was Christmas 2011 when my husband surprised me with a Nikon kit that had 2 lenses.  I must have looked at him funny because he smiled and said, "You've been wanting a camera for years."  I was thrilled!

And yet, it sat in a box for three weeks.  In early 2012, I pulled my camera out and took five pictures of a chickadee.  It looked like a tiny bird on a branch.  Back in the box, it wasn't used it again for a few months.

So what in the heck was my problem?  A bird lover and nature enthusiast, I had always wanted a camera.

The reality was I didn't want to start at the beginning.  I wanted to capture bird images that reflected their details, their expressions.  Details of flowers, brilliant color hues, soft backgrounds were desired state.  The term 'depth of  field' was foreign but I wanted that soft, 'blurred look" complementing the focal point.

Chicory Flower
Nikon 600, 105mm, f/16, ISO 250, 1/50 sec
I started with Google Images by typing in bird species such as bluebirds, mockingbirds, warblers to see what other photographer's images looked like.  Then Google Images took me to tulips, roses, wildflowers.  Google Images continues to be a great place to see the possibilities.

A spring Easter trip to sunny Arkansas was a week away.  A trip to California was close behind.  Time to take out the manual to learn the camera.

The manual, while thorough in learning the buttons and menus, was still a manual.  Off to Amazon to see what ebooks were out there that would explain the features and when to use them.  Nikon for Dummies sounded just right even though I would have preferred that the title read Nikon for Smart, Impatient People.

Eastern Screech Owl
Nikon 5100, 55-300mm, f/8, ISO 320, 1/320
Now that I understood how to operate the camera, I needed to understand how to artistically capture the image.  Short, 'how-to photograph' eBooks. They're easy, quick to the points and inexpensive.

The eBook that was instrumental in putting it all together was Jim Harmer's 60-page book Improve Your Photography: How Budding Photographers Can Get Pro Results.

At the end of chapter two, I understood how to use my camera as a photographer.  By chapter five, I was engaged in wildlife photography.  And by chapter six?  Hello RAW, bye-bye JPEG.  Chapter ten, composition.

These thirteen game-changing chapters inspired me to dive in.  Instead of five images, I take many using different settings and angles.  Some subjects can easily consume one hundred plus presses of the shutter.  To draw out what captivated you to take the picture requires many shutter snaps from multiple perspectives.  Thank goodness for digital and a bit of evolving patience!

Northern Mockingbird April 2012, one of my first images as a photographer
Nikon 5100,  55-300mm,  f/5.6, ISO 500, 1/1000 sec

Since then, I've downloaded more ebooks, talked to other photographers, linked to photographer's Facebook pages and talked extensively with my local camera guys.   Dennis, Rick and Roy at Woodward Camera get involved with where I am at skill-wise and offer insight into decisions.  When your camera experts understand you, their suggestions and questions drive better outcomes.

Hint:  while there's a time to shop online as there are many diverse resources available, there's definitely a time to shop locally.  You are investing in more than a camera, you are investing in you!

Sunset in San Francisco, 2012
Nikon 5100, f/10, ISO 200, 1/320 sec 
Photograph what you love and you'll find the photographer within.  Happy Shooting!