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.