Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Costa Rica Gone "Wild"

As I continue the series on my recent travels to the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica, a highlight was a few, unexpected surprises.  One of our side trips was a venture back to the old gold mine town of Puerto Jimenez, the largest town in the Osa Peninsula.  This is where we flew in to the airstrip from San Jose, Costa Rica a few days prior.

The Caiman crocodile was just plain cool to see.  I named him "Smiley" for his pearly whites.  This was taken with my Tamron 150-600mm from a getaway quick distance if needed as I totally respected his space.  

These guys can move when they want too with a land speed of over 11 miles per hour.

Caiman Crocodile "Smiley" by Sheen's Nature Photography

Later that night, we went frog hunting with our knowledgeable guide. The night has all sorts of slithery creatures.  The red-eyed green tree frog all but glowed in the dark rainforest.  His chartreuse skin and crimson eyes lit up the night.  

Red-eyed Green Tree Frog by Sheen's Nature Photography
The same night we photographed the curious little fruit bat.  They could be seen during the day as they would cluster together in the heavy, long leaves that made a perfect shady home during daylight.  At night, they flew out as groups and some solo operators remained behind for a little extra rest time before taking off to join the rest of the bats.

Fruit Bat Stare-down, Sheen's Nature Photography

Both the tree-frog and the fruit bat were taken using a Nikon 70-200 2.8mm along with a speedlight in order to bring out the details.

Along the way we did a few stops to see the Scarlet McCaw and the Tropical Screech owl that were along the dirt, well-bumped road (it's Costa Rica, rough roads are part of the charm) and streams.  Stay tuned for the Costa Rican bird blog coming soon.

Happy Shooting!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Traveling to Costa Rica: Lush Lands & Magnificent Wildlife

Capuchin Cutie by Sheen's Nature Photography
Nikon 7100, Tamron 150-600mm
Costa Rica.  Just saying those two little words a country filled with tremendous beauty immediately comes to mind.

During December 2014, I traveled there for a week that passed too quickly.

From people with quick smiles and delightful hellos, to foods that enticed the pallet (would love to have some yucca chips right now!) to nature's diversity, I will return to the Osa Peninsula for another sojourn.

Until then, I'll share images throughout the next few months that share the country's love of nature and color.

The first sounds I heard when arriving at the eco lodge of Bosque Del Cabo Rainforest Lodge were dogs barking.  Or so I thought.  Instead it was Howler monkeys rapidly on the move in rainforest.

My next monkey sighting was the Capuchins.  So expressive and so cute because of their ever changing faces.

One moment the monkeys are there, the next moment they disappear deep into the forest.

The Toucan's with their vibrant lime greens, lemon yellows and scarlet reds against a cape of black feathers and chestnut colored mandible, were the first birds to make their appearance.

Toucan Man by Sheen's Nature Photography
Nikon 7100, Tamron 150-600mm
While these funny faces were visible all week long, I never tired of photographing them.  Whether eating, basking in the sun or watching their photographer of the moment, seeing them in the wild was a wonderful gift.

Stay tuned for more images and writings illustrating Costa Rica's diversity and beauty.

Happy Shooting!


Sunday, October 5, 2014

Photographing Magical, Misty Moments

Mornings mean the start of a new day, a new beginning.  For photographers, it means being up before the crack of dawn to take on whatever light, color and elements mother nature decides to bestow upon us.
This Magic Moment, by Sheen's Nature Photography
Nikon 600, 50mm 1.8G

Some of the most magical moments occur when the earth is blanketed with a light, misty fog.  As the sun rises, the delicate haze floats upward before evaporating right before our very eyes when the sun reaches the tree line.

Misty Sunshine, by Sheen's Nature Photography

Left behind are colors that appear more vivid, as the sun brings out the greenest of greens and blue, blue skies.
The Morning Evolves, by Sheen's Nature Photography
Nikon 600, 14-24mm
Since the foggy mornings are fleeting, always pack the right lenses as a just-in-case. You'll never regret being prepared.  This could include a wide angle, a kit lens or fast prime and a circular polarizing filter.  I always keep my Nikon 50mm 1.8G on hand with a B&W Circular Polarizing filter.    

Bring on the day!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

What do Neil Diamond & Northern Michigan Have in Common? Cherry, Cherry!

It's an early, sunny morning in Leelanau County, Michigan and the camera and tripod are in tow.  Temperatures are a cool sixty degrees.  The fields are filled with flowers and a light, fading fog continues to disappear along the drive to my destination.

The orchard awaits.

Brimming with Cherries by Sheen's Nature Photography

Brimming with beautiful, ripe fruit the orchard shimmers in the sun.  A multitude of sparrows, blue jays and robins all sing overhead.

Sweet Treat by Sheen's Nature Photography

Yet, the song that I keep hearing is a childhood favorite, "Cherry, Cherry" by Neil Diamond.

Cherry Baby!
Standing in the middle of a cherry orchard among the cheeriest of cherry red fruits definitely "Move's Me, Baby" and inspires an extra sense of happiness into my work.

So while I'll probably never meet Neil, his song added a little extra joy as I photographed and yes, tasted some of the juiciest cherries I've ever experienced.

And if he ever makes it to Leelanau County in August, I hope he gets to indulge in one of Michigan's purest treats.

Who knows, it may inspire another great song!

Happy Shooting (and singing)!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Sunflower Field - A Photographer's Playground

It's August in Michigan.  Cherry's have been harvested, apples are expanding every day and in the near future pumpkins will be glowing orange in the fields.

Sunflower Row - Sheen's Nature Photography
This is the time of year when many farmers have dedicated acres of their farms to sunflowers.  Rows and rows of vibrant yellow faces are loaded with pollen for the bees and seeds for the birds.

"Blues Skies Shining on Me" - Sheen's Nature Photography

Bee's Breakfast - Sheen Watkins
Sunflowers with their happy, yellow petals and intricate, kaleidoscope patterns of seeds are simply a joy to photograph.

What lenses to use?

Because of their photogenic nature, portrait, macro and wide angle lenses allow the photographer to 'play' in the field. The "Sunflower Row" image was taken using my 50mm 1.8G lens on a full frame camera (Nikon 600).

The "Bee's Breakfast" macro image to the right was captured with a 105mm Macro lens.

These images were taken last weekend just north of the little quaint town of Pinckney, Michigan. I spent two hours 'playing' photographer in sunflower rows on this multi-acre sunflower farm.

There were still many petal-posers in full bloom even though I was two weeks behind the peak blooming time for this particular patch.

When in the field, it's easy to lose track of time.  But that's ok when surrounded with subjects that shout 'sunshine and happiness'.

Happy Shooting!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Gear Review: Nikon's 50mm 1.8G Lens is a Fast Friend

How clearly I remember the day when my first 'surprise' camera with a Nikon 55-300mm telephoto lens arrived.  As someone who's primary subject was to going be birds and wildlife, I seriously thought this was the only lens I'd ever need.

First and foremost I am a bird photographer.  Birding was the passion that stirred the interest in photography.  Over time, the passion for birds has not changed.  Instead, a passion for photography expanded my horizons of what images I capture.

After investing in a bigger telephoto lens (150-500) and a Nikon 105mm macro lens, I started playing around with the 24-85mm lens that came with one of my cameras. The world of landscapes emerged as subjects.  A landscape lens was then added to the growing collection.

Along the way I heard many photographers talk about how they enjoyed 'walk around' prime lenses.  I received another 'surprise' gift.  A 50mm 1.8G lens.

A big hello to world of exploring things outside of macro, telephoto and landscape.  

Airport Wait - 50mm, f/4, ISO 250, 1/80sec

The 50mm 1.8G is fast, lightweight, sharp prime lens (fixed focal length) with a beautiful bokeh.  The 50mm is easy to take on a walk in a garden, the woods, and even use in the airport for something to do while waiting for the flight.

A prime lens encourages and forces the photographer to consider different perspectives and composition. 

Night Moves - Nikon 600, 50mm,  ISO 2500,  f/1.8 1/60sec

The Night Moves image above was captured in my hometown, Birmingham, Michigan around ten at night.  Using a big aperture (f/1.8), the shallow depth of field, bokeh and desired sharpness all came together.  No flash or tripod needed.

The flowers below would have been only a close up with my Macro.  I intentionally left it at home because it would have been faster to gravitate to the macro comfort zone.  With the 50mm, the composition brought in more of the surroundings and better reflected the cheerful sunny day.

Cheerful Flowers, Sunshiny Day - Nikon 600, 50mm, B+W Circular Polarizing Filter

We are all in different mindsets with our photography and subjects.  As someone who waited too long to add the 50mm to their arsenal, I would easily recommend this as a must-have lens sooner versus later.

The 50mm is a photographer's friend, offering speed, fun, creativity and awesome quality images. 

At the very reasonable price point of $219.95 on the Nikon site and $216.95 on Amazon and B&H Photo, it's a relatively painless addition from a cost standpoint.

Happy Shooting!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Uncommon Beauty in a Common Bird

So many places and wildlife faces to see.  Traveling to a new destination where  exploration is all that is on the agenda energizes the soul and creative spirit.

However, we can have the eyes of a tourist or explorer in our own backyards and surrounding locations without even trying too hard.  All it takes is a willing spirit and a personal commitment to get-up-and-go to a local place.  It may be a park, trail, area of town that you don't visit often, if at all.  Or, it may be a place you've thought about but the drive is a bit of a hassle.

Whether you're a photographer or have an interest in a hobby or activity, taking on a local adventure that falls in to your domain of interest may be the ticket to turning a routine Saturday into a real 'weekend' of fun.

Bye, Bye Blackbird - Sheen's Nature Photography
Using the red-winged blackbird as an example, they are quite common.  They arrive in the spring, mate, have babies and fly south again after the family has fledged.  It would be easy to discount a bird that 'I see all the time, just about all my life'.

A recent hike revealed a vocal male, singing in the bright sunshine along the reeds.  He stood in the same place for at least 30 seconds.

The inky black feathers accessorized with fire-engine red wing patches, his fashion statement makes a fashionista green with envy.  And his song, as shrill and bright as it is, is much preferable to any tune on the radio.

Have a great week and it's time to start planning your 'weekend'.

Happy Shooting!

Friday, July 25, 2014

It's a Beautiful Day....

Mornings, for most of us start with a cup of coffee.  For some, the alarm clock or smartphone receives a snooze button tap a few times.   It's that reflective time when yesterday's concerns may not seem quite as bad.  The morning quickly enfolds into our work tasks and personal plans for the day.

For photographers with a sunrise photography plan, it starts with an early alarm along with grabbing a cup of joe and camera gear.

Why do we rush out the door?  To experience the best part of the day!  The silence. The solitude. The think time. And, the simple beauty of watching an every-changing sky draped in painterly hues.

"Morning In Blue" by ©Sheen's Nature Photography

The Morning in Blue image was captured using long exposure (125 sec)  just before sunrise using Nikon 600 using an 85mm 1.8 lens and a B+W neutral density filter.

Let peace, a warm breeze and gentle waters stir the soul.

Happy Shooting!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Sandhill Surprise....A Walk in the Woods

Weekend walks in the woods bring wonderful sights and surprises.  Whether it's birds, wildlife, flowers, insects or foliage, some of my best grounding moments have been on hikes carrying my camera.

This particular day in July was no exception.  At a Detroit area metropolitan park, Kensington Metropark near Milford, Michigan, nature lovers, cycling and running enthusiasts have options to choose from.  An eight mile running and cycling trail circles Lake Kensington while other off-road  mountain cycling trails touch Island Lake.  

Woodland Walk - ©Sheen's Nature Photography
A nature center along with nature trails also meander through woods, marshy areas and an open lake.  Birds, deer and other wildlife can be seen while strolling through trails and sometimes, if lucky, even in the parking lot early in the morning.

This particular Saturday, Sandhill Cranes were actively feeding and visible on the shaded woodland trail.  Another pair casually grazed on the grounds not to far away from the parking lot.  
"Please Take My Picture" - ©Sheen's Nature Photography
As the parking lot "Hollywood Posing Pair" was used to people, they were not camera shy.  In fact one followed me around for several minutes,  gracing me with a close-up of the vibrant, bright orange eye.

A good morning indeed!

Happy Shooting!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Date Night....Friday Evening with a 'Walk-Around" Lens

What we do early Friday evening after work many times sets the stage for the rest of the weekend.     

Sunset Stroll by ©Sheen's Nature Photography
My photography passion centers on birds, flowers and nature.  Typically, my gear includes two cameras, a long lens, macro lens and tripod.  

Not really conducive for a relaxing neighborhood stroll.

Recently, I added a Nikon 50mm 1.8 lens to my arsenal for my Nikon 600 (full frame).   Along with the lens was an internal commitment to be intentional about walking around to find different inspiration.  

Early Friday evenings are now date night walks with my camera and walk-around lens (husband included!). 

The outcome, while still in nature, has been new perspectives.  These came from using a 50mm eye versus my telephoto or macro mindset.

Take a stroll, enjoy the sites along the journey.  And, if a creative moment emerges, snap away!

Happy Shooting!


Monday, July 14, 2014

Proper Preening....Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Crane Preens by Sheen's Nature Photography
The sights of summer are in full glory. Flowers are in bloom, the heat has finally arrived for a few days here in Michigan.  Trail hikes occur almost every weekend.

A highlight of this state is our Sandhill Cranes. Flocks of thousands congregate in open fields and
marshy woodland areas.

While photographing a Sandhill, a heavy beating noise whooshed in from behind.  The pounding sounded like deer running through the forest.  It was the wingbeats of another Sandhill as he flew in to greet the two walking on the trail.

This past Saturday a preening Sandhill enjoyed the early morning sunshine.   He (or she) will be heading south for the winter in late fall.

Until then, another a forty five minute drive for a hike in the woods to see this huge, majestic bird again is on the horizon.

Happy Shooting!


Thursday, July 10, 2014

Woodland Flowers: A Portrait

Woodland flowers.  The sounds of walking in the woods, branches creaking as the warm breeze creates gentle movement.  Sunbeams cast gentle shadows and backlights for flowers and foliage.

A Spring Portrait, by Sheen's Nature Photography
The white wonders gently glowed as the sun cast a soft bokeh to compliment bright white petals.  

This image was captured using a Nikon 85mm Prime lens.  My first instinct was to use my macro.  For fun, I thought I would try creating a portrait of a living, woodland bouquet instead with a portrait lens.  

My 85mm prime is becoming a fast favorite lens for nature photography.  

Happy Shooting!


Thursday, July 3, 2014

Mother Nature's Toasting Glass

One of the best things about being an outdoor nature photographer is that it's easy to stop and smell the roses.  Or in this case, stop and observe the details that wouldn't normally be seen when strolling through a garden taking in the sights.

The late afternoon light created a silver aura that reminded me of a lightly frosted champagne glass.

A Toast to Mother Nature - ©Sheen's Nature Photography
Nikon 600, 105mm 
A beautiful day and evening awaits.....

Happy Toasting & Happy Shooting!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Morning Stroll for the Soul....

It's summer, it's a beautiful day.   Blue skies and a host of fluffy clouds' reflection brings back childhood memories.  Remember playing outside, all day and having to be called back inside for dinner?

The idea of being inside glued to technology (if available back then) indoors versus playing outside in fun reckless abandonment....which on would you choose?

Grab you camera, smartphone or favorite friend and head outside.  A wonderful world awaits!
Stroll for the Soul, Nikon 600, 85mm 1.8 using a B+W Circular Polarizing Filter

Happy Summer & Happy Shooting!


Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Biggest Week in American Birding....Coming Soon!

The Biggest Week In American Birding is coming upon us beginning May 6, 2014.  It is the time of year when birders and nature photographers from the Midwest and around the world congregate in a tiny area in Northwestern, Ohio called Magee Marsh.  The other name for Magee Marsh is "The Warbler Capital of the World!"

Why?  Well, for starters, take a look at a few of the warbler images throughout this article that were  captured last year on the Crane Creek boardwalk trail within the park!

Hooded Warbler on the Crane Creek Trail - Sheen's Nature Photography
Magee Marsh is right next to Lake Erie and is a significant stopping and resting spot for migrating birds.

How easy is it to see the warblers and other birds on the trail?
At the visitor center, swallows are very people-friendly with nests right above the entrance door.  Purple martins abound in their houses along with other migrating birds on the visitor center trail.

 Official Greeter at the Visitor Center - ©Sheen's Nature Photography
On the Crane Creek trail it is very easy to see the warblers and other migrating bird species.  Of course, birds fly, dart quickly and can be elusive.

On the trail there are guides that are happy to assist in pointing out and identifying birds.  There are also many avid birders who graciously share their passion and knowledge when a bird is spotted.  

Just in the parking lot alone last year I saw chestnut sided, bay, yellow and black-throated green warblers.  This was in addition to seeing the scarlet tanager and northern oriole.  Then the trail walk began!

Photographers:  Heads Up!
Photography opportunities exist throughout Magee Marsh.  The visitor center, in the parking lot alongside the woods, the trail and along the water ways and Lake Erie all offer easy access to bird viewing.  On the boardwalk trail, it is very crowded so if you need a tripod with the big lens, you may want to use a monopod or go with a 300mm.  In the parking lot and other trails, the tripod works well.  The boardwalk can be very shady in spots so a speed light can make a difference.

When is the best time to go?
We try to arrive around 7:30 - 8:00 a.m. as that's about the time the birds start getting active.  My personal observation is that they sleep in a little longer here since it is such a great little haven.

If you can go during the week, it's highly suggested as it can get congested on the weekends.  But don't let that stop you from going on a Saturday or Sunday.  More people means more bird spotters.

Playful Yellow Warbler - ©Sheen's Nature Photography

Activities during The Biggest Week In American Birding:
Here is a link to the guide of activities during the week.  Additionally, there are numerous sponsors that donate resources and time to this event.  Exhibition booths are at both Crane Creek and the visitor center.

Some of the biggest names in birding will be there including Kenn Kaufman and his wife Kimberly.  Along the trail, experts come in all ages and sizes.  It's energizing to see our youth tackle this hobby as well as the seasoned veterans.

Another terrific participant is the non-profit wildlife rescue group Back to the Wild, One Rescue at a Time.  In past years they have brought rescued raptors, eagles and owls for educational purposes.  If you have an opportunity to be there the day they are, please give a donation.  They do great work!

Prairie Falcon Courtesy of Back to the Wild, One Rescue at a Time
©Sheen's Nature Photography

What to wear?
Be prepared for anything.  It could be rain, chilly, windy to warm and pleasant, and that's just within a 30 minute window.  I recommend a lightweight rain poncho just in case.  It's right on Lake Erie so the temperature is always a bit cooler.

May is a huge bird migration month, so even if you can't make it to Magee Marsh, nothing's stopping you from taking your binoculars, camera and going for a hike in your local nature areas.


All images were captured using:  Nikon 5100, Nikon 7100,  Nikon 70-300mm and Sigma 150-500 lenses.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Go West....to the Real, Old West

Raw, dusty and rock laden terrain points toward blue skies that stretch as far as the eye can see.  Muted shades of many colors roll across flat lands that quickly enfold into mountainous ranges and ancient limestone canyons.

Vermillion in Full Sun
Nikon 7100, Sigma 150-500, ISO 160, f/8, 1/250
Big Bend National Park rests in far west Texas alongside the Rio Grande river. Quietly, she waits to share desert delights of blooming cacti, hundreds of bird species and onyx nights filled with diamonds in the sky.

She surprises with pockets of riparian habitats offering close ups views of many wildlife species. The Cottonwood CampgroundRio Grande Village and the Chisos Basin are the three largest primary riparian areas within the park.

Our first stop in the park was Cottonwood Campground.  The reward? Vermillion flycatchers that zipped from campsites, to barbed wire fences to low hanging branches.

My first step was to observe their flight patterns and poses.  From there, I determined my plan of locations, camera settings, lighting and lens.  As I had recently added a Nikon 910 Speedlight to my arsenal, it was a well appreciated tool in the shady Cottonwoods.

While photographing birds, I almost always use Aperture Priority mode.  Given the shady conditions in the campgrounds, the best images came from those with f/stops that ranged from f/7.1 to f/10.

The lower the f/stop number means a larger amount of light coming through the lens.  The more light, the faster the shutter speed.  With more light, the depth of field is more shallow which means your foreground is sharp and the background is blurred.

The male vermillion below was captured using an Aperture of f/7.1.  The bird is in focus and the leaves and branches are very soft and blurred.  The female was captured using an Aperture of f/9.  You'll see a bit more branch detail behind her but with some blurring.  It was very windy and I wanted to capture the surroundings to share her delicate strength as she gripped the branch.  The Nikon 910 Speedlight was used in these two images to get more detail of the feathers.
Nothing Boring about the "Bird on the Stick," Vermillion Flycatcher
Nikon 7100, Sigma 150-500mm, ISO 250, f/7.1, 1/250 sec

Female Vermillion hangs on in the West Texas Breeze
Nikon 7100, Sigma 150-500mm, ISO 250, f/9, 1/640 sec
Our next morning was spent at Rio Grande Village searching out the Common Black Hawk nesting in the Cottonwoods.  Even though the Vermillion flycatchers danced to my right, left and overhead, I only had eyes for the black hawk sitting in a cluster of branches.  As a birder, it was a first time sighting.

As a photographer, it was a rare gift to capture and now share.

Black Hawk Preening for its Mate
Nikon 7100, Sigma 150-500mm, ISO 250, f/7.1, 1/200 sec

That afternoon was spent in the Chisos Basin where a winding, steep downhill led to nesting pairs of Mexican Jay's.  These jays can be found in oak woodlands in Western Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.  Always sassy and full of spunk, the Mexican Jay's vibrancy glows against the desert background.

Mexican Jay peering around an oak
Nikon 7100, Sigma150-500mm, ISO 250, f/9, 1/250 sec 
From sunrise to sunset, Big Bend National Park is a bird and nature photographer's delight and escape.  To get there, be prepared for a journey.  It's a solid seven hour drive from San Antonio or a four hour drive from El Paso.  Everything is bigger in Texas, including the drive.  But the roads travel fast as it's legal to go 80 miles per hour along I-10.

Since it is remote and vast in scope, planning in advance is highly recommended. We stayed at the Big Bend Casitas at Far Flung which is just outside the park in Terlingua, Texas.  The cozy casitas (cabins) were well appointed with small kitchens and very clean.  The grounds observed the 'no lights outside' so you could rock the time away gazing at the stars from your private porch, relaxing in a rocking chair.  

The real west awaits....

Happy Trails and Happy Shooting!

Monday, March 24, 2014

March Madness: Nature Photography

Collegiate basketball fans unite once again in front of their high definition TV's and in sports bars cheering on their teams and players.  Pre-game predictions, post-game analysis, office squares and water cooler verbal volleys resonate everywhere you turn.

In Michigan, it's really heating up indoors now that Michigan and Michigan State are in the Sweet Sixteen.  And that's about the only place you'll find heat in Michigan this year.  Our chilly, snow-laden winter has extended from November through today. March 23 was a not-so-sweet sixteen degrees this morning.

There are advantages to a late winter thaw in March.

Red-neck Grebe has a Catch
Nikon 7100, 150-500mm, f/9, 1/500 sec, ISO 250
Last week at Stoney Creek Metro Park, it was another bitingly cold morning.   A Red-necked Grebe delighted in frolicking and fishing in icy waters for his morning breakfast. As much of the lake was frozen, this pushed a diving duck into closer photography proximity.  A major score as a photographer and a new addition to my birding life list.

The teams that make it so the Sweet Sixteen don't get there with luck.  There are countless hours studying game plays, listening to the coach as he lays out the strategy, watching tapes of their opponent, athletic conditioning drills and time on the floor.  The players spend many hours training with their teammates and many hours individually honing their skills.

As evolving photographers, we commit to hours of studying, practice, time in the field and then back in front of our computers reviewing our game day in the field.  We play in conditions that sometimes other seriously think we have achieved our own level of  'madness.'

In the serious cold, our field time may be a little bit shorter.  This can be readily be replaced by reviewing 'game tapes' that can improve our editing skills.  We spent a lot of time snapping nature, let's ensure we bring out the beauty that captured our eye in the field.

Easy to find post processing tips can be accessed on You Tube.  Type in your topic and a whole host of videos will emerge.

Additionally, as a Lightroom 5 user, I recently discovered from another photographer friend, informative, easy to understand videos that have quickly enhanced my post-processing skills.  The George Jardine video tutorials contain 23 different segments concentrating on the tools in the Lightroom 5 Develop module.  You can easily select which one you want to review or playback again at any given time.  Time spent with these videos can help you produce a game winning image.

Female Wood Duck
Nikon 7100, Sigma 150-500mm, f/9, ISO 250, 1/800 sec
Today I drove back to Stoney Creek Metro Park only to find that the thaw had started from warmer temperatures this past week.  The Grebe moved on.

Initially, I planned to head back home.  If I had succumbed to my inner voice of "it's too cold to be out here,"  I would have missed another wonderful March Madness nature moment.

My game strategy for the day needed be altered.

I executed a course correction and headed to Paint Creek Trail in Rochester, Michigan.  Hoop there it was!  Moving among many mallards, was a sweet and beautiful female wood duck.  The equivalent of a three-point shot.

Happy Shooting and enjoy March Madness!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

'Rose-Colored' Lenses

The white snowy sights of winter fade away.  Snow piles melt into puddles, rooftops dribble with melting icicles and the soft, wet earth squishes underneath our feet. Overhead, blackbirds and robins begin cackling for spring mating partners.

Yes, I am ready for spring to burst on the scene.  Yesterday would not be fast enough as we just experienced another eight inch snowfall this week.  The frightful weather looks like we should be asking "how many days until Christmas" instead of "when is spring going to get here?"

As in previous winters, we plan to venture to El Dorado, Arkansas, a small, vibrant, historic oil boomtown, to visit my family.

A dose of Arkansas, The Natural State's sunshine, flowers, bluebirds await our return. Southern gardens any time of year are always awash with a variety of vibrant colors and textures.

But for a photographer, their spring time offers that little something extra.


Prissy-Pink Rose
Nikon 600, 105mm, f/9, ISO 160, 1/500

Roses of prissy-pink, scarlet and coral shout "come photograph me",  as almost any angle can offer delicious shades and tints.

It was this time of year, two years ago that I started photography.  And some of the first images were roses.

Do you need a macro lens to capture close-up details?  While I never leave home without my Nikon 105mm macro for close up work, I continue to produce colorful garden eye-candy images with my standard 24-85mm kit lens.

So how do you photograph a rose?

Mom's Coral Rose in the Secret Garden
Nikon 5100, 55mm,  f/8, 1/60sec

Come Photograph Me
Nikon 5100, 105mm, f/18, ISO 400, 1/30 sec
  1. From directly above, from a forty-five degree angle looking down, straight on the side and from underneath looking up a bit.  And then any other angle you want to try.  Get close, step back.  Capture a portion of the rose, the whole flower and then broaden the range to include multiple roses.  This is a playground, enjoy
  2. Using Aperture Priority mode, use multiple f/stops at each of the angles mentioned in #1.  The lower the f/stop number, the shallower the depth of field.  At an f/stop of 3.5, the tip of the petal or the center is in focus and the rest is softly muted.  At an f/stop of 16, more of the flower will be in focus, including some of the background.  Note to self:  always check for dead leaves, brown spots and other distractions before you start capturing images.  
  3. The Rule of Thirds may or may not be applied.  While it is a good guide, each rose and how you capture the image will determine the final product.
  4. Processing.  You've captured many roses.  The ones you know don't like, delete right away.  No reason to clutter memory.  Then take a another close look at your work.  Which ones do you want to process?  Select a few and start making your adjustments.  Lightroom 5  and other post processing software tools (including those provided with your camera) can bring your roses to life as you observed in the field or create dramatic art using your image as the base.

Spring is fast approaching.  Are you ready to see the world of roses through your lenses?  

Happy Shooting!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Photography "Therapy"

Yes, I've been one of those who needed 'retail therapy' from time to time. Those mindless moments where you escape deadlines and stress factors at work.  My need for 'retail' therapy whether in a mall or online has forever been replaced.

What has taken its place?  Photography Therapy!

"After the Meeting Walk"
Nikon 600, 105mm

This is probably not a new phrase, and I'm sure other photographers feel the same way.  Picture this, (no pun intended).  A prolonged week of meetings continues with direct reports assisting in presentations, proposals and personnel discussions. This is capped off with yet one more Friday afternoon conference call at 4:00 p.m.  Many of these discussions are held in a square, non-descript beige work cube, conference room or if we are lucky, an office with a view of other concrete buildings.

Sunrise, Before the Meetings Begin"
Nikon 600, 14-24mm

Don't get me wrong, I love my career.  However, I believe in working to live. Part of living is not thinking about work when you're not working.  That can be a bit difficult for many of us, particularly if we do not find and pursue our own interests and passions.

Weekend "Work"
Nikon 5100, Signa 150-500mm
Photography therapy launches me into the outdoors and mother nature's emotional whim.  Downtime is spent with azure waters absorbing sunset, sunrise landscapes and wildlife in the woods.  Or the essence of time is lost while capturing flowers and foliage with hues, shades and textures that make Sherwin Williams and Benjamin Moore Paints wince with envy.  

So how can you find your photography therapy?  

The answer is quite simple.  What do you like to do with your spare time?  

Do you enjoy cars, travel, your kids' sports, pets, fashion, cooking, gardening, baseball cards, fishing, or collecting?  If you answered yes to any of these and have considered 'photography' as something to do, you may have picked the place to get started.  

Borrow, rent or purchase a camera and start here.   Take many, many images looking up, down and straight on with your identified subject.  Download to your computer and see what you've created.  

Your therapy may have just begun.

And for those who still hunger for a bit of retail therapy.  No problem.  There are plenty of cameras (Nikon), bags (TenbaTamrac), lenses (Sigma LensesNikon lenses), tools (Lightroom 5, Nik Software), and how-to books available to shop for online (Amazon) and in local stores (Woodward Camera in Birmingham, MI, and a local retailer near you).


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Travel & Photography: What Do I Bring?

Seriously?  Anhinga in St. Petersburg
Nikon 5100, Sigma 150-500mm
An upcoming business trip to a location serving sunshine and eighty degrees is on the horizon.  It's
our biannual global meeting.  Many hours will be spent in a low-lit conference facility absorbing crucial facts, figures and plans while fighting air conditioning.

I get to leave Michigan's tundra to only to experience Florida's artificial chill.  Seriously? Pack a sweater?

All is not lost.

During the week, there will be moments of downtime.  Early morning will share rose-tinted sunrises, a walk through an aqua blue harbor complimented with sea-faring birds cackling in the breeze.

It's decision time.  The majority of us tend to stress over 'what to wear to the meeting' and other work events.

Photographers also have to balance, "What camera and lenses do I bring?"

Balance is Never Over-Rated, Willet on Jacksonville Beach, FL
Nikon 7100, Sigma 150-500
For me, checking lenses and cameras is simply out of the question.  Over a million miles of travel have reinforced the guideline of 'if it matters, don't check it or don't take it.'

There's the challenge of managing carry on size as only two items are allowed.  Weight from a personal injury standpoint is always a consideration.

For bird photography,  it's easy.  I'll need my Nikon 7100 DSLR and two lenses:  Nikon 70-300mm and my Sigma 150-500mm.  That's about eight pounds.

Do I really need both?  Yes.

While fellow business partners are still sleeping, I'll be wandering the harbor chasing sunrises.  For those, I prefer to use my full frame camera (Nikon 600).

Another decision point.  I can only take two more lenses, with four to choose from.  The process of elimination?  My 24-85mm lens would serve well as getting some wide angle images and also act as a general purpose lens - done.  The last lens is my 105mm macro, never travel without it.  The wide angle and portrait lenses will sadly remain resting at home.

Sunscreen Needed, white Ibis near St. Petersburg Pier
Nikon 5100, Sigma 150-500mm

Knowing the size of your plane is important.  It's an important guide in organizing and packing your carry-on.  How I pack for small regional planes versus jets are a bit different.

Regional carriers:  A small backpack and another small carry on bag.  Under-the-seat storage is small and the overhead storage space allows for small-to-midsize messenger or computer bags.  If you have a 20" or larger roller, it's getting checked at the gate.

I've recently discovered the Tenba Vector Backpack.  At two pounds, it'll hold a camera, laptop if needed, my small purse and a few lenses.  Everything inside is flexible and attaches with velcro.  Sensible, easy and the cadmium red is a nice change from the black bag.

My second, over the shoulder carry-on will hold my other camera and my large lens in their stock storage cases. Tenba's light weight collections of Vector Daypacks and the Discovery Daypacks come in weights of 1.8 to two pounds.

Their Discovery Daypacks are on my watch list.

Watch List....  yellow-crowned Heron in St. Petersburg Pier, Florida
Nikon 7100, 70-300mm
Jet carriers:  Like the regional carriers, I always wear a lightweight backpack because I'll need it when I'm going out to shoot.  However, with jets I can take a few more lenses.  My Tamrac Expedition bag is huge, and holds most of my gear.  Fully loaded it's a hefty thirty pounds.  When my husband travels with me, this bag is going with us.  It's perfect for road photography trips.  At home this bag keeps my gear safely stored and organized.

When I'm solo, I use the Tenba Vector Backpack and pack the heavy lenses, cameras in storage cases inside a 21" Samsonite lightweight spinner.

What about work attire?  Not a lot of decisions needed and definitely not as much fun to pack.

Happy Shooting!


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Good to Be Gray: Winter Nature Photography

Another week of snow. Another week of sub-freezing temperatures with many inches of snow and ice on the ground.  I could have sipped my green tea and fumed over the fact that my MacBook was being repaired while I sat indoors with rare, idle time.

If the birds can tolerate the cold, so can we.  Clean the lenses, clear the memory cards, time to go out.

While it's great to have a goal for your shoot, photography is a form of art.  To capture art, it's important to take in all the elements.  If you're too focused on one mission a magical photo opportunity may be missed.

Each season brings its own charm. Winters in Michigan with its bitter cold and isolating gray is no exception.  Farmland and rolling hills are framed with icy, barren trees. Memories of time gone by ignite when I happened upon abandoned farm equipment on one of my winter shoots last year.

Of Time Gone By
Nikon 5100, 55-300mm, f/10, ISO 250, 1/400 sec
In February, there are a few wintry weeks left before the Snowy Owls head farther north. With location tips from fellow birders, knowledge of their habitat, time to create my own luck. 

Before leaving to go back home on a winter shoot, we drove one last time through the route. The Snowy Owl appeared.  Our magnificent Ghost Owl.  He was probably there all along, watching as we drove through our version of the tundra searching for him for a couple of hours. 

He was quite stoic, perched patiently atop an old telephone pole as I put my camera on the tripod.  He then scratched, moved his head 270 degrees a few times. 

Snowy Owl Watching
Nikon 7100, Sigma 150-500mm, ISO 250 f/9, 1/640 sec

He posed graciously for many snaps until we both were startled by a child coming out of nowhere shrieking, "What are you taking a picture of?" 

Yes, he flew away. While he flew, we both silently stared as his casper-like wings moved softly in silent flight.  A treasure to observe.

When I showed the young girl the many owl images in my camera, she became genuinely inquistive in the owl, about birds and photography. 

Hmmmm.  A potential convert.  It's good to be outside in winter.



Thursday, February 20, 2014

Social Media & Photography - Can it Make Cents?

Blue Petals
Nikon 600, 105mm lens
It's relatively easy to create awareness of your nature photography using social media. Generating an income however, requires engagement with your audience and a commitment of time.

Digital photography has made it easier for people to find their talent versus back in the days of film.  The outcome is many levels of photographers, more competition online and in the traditional retail space.

Let's face it, when you think of famous photographers, everyone is quick to say "Ansel Adams" or "Art Wolfe" and from there it can be a fairly short list.

So how do you create awareness?

Personal facebook page - use your personal page to introduce your friends to your work.  Post a couple of images at a time a few days apart for 2-3 weeks to see what generates interest (aka 'likes').  Your friends are your first real fans, and your fans 'likes' will help you decide what has broader appeal.

Duckling's Bubble Bath
Nikon 7100, Sigma 150 - 500 lens

Next, create your Facebook photography business page.  If you know the name of your business already, use it here.  It's very helpful if your business name reflects you and your type of photography.  This is the beginning of building your personal brand.  Don't underestimate the name, it's how others find your work.

When you create your page and make it public, initially fill the page with your images, interesting information about you and relevant links.  Immediately invite your friends to like your page!  This is where your audience begins.

Add one maybe two images per week to your page.  Adding many images at a time doesn't do your work justice. The attention span of the viewer is seconds, they won't look past the first few images.

Including an article, bloglink or other posting occasionally that is interesting and reflective of your brand can engage viewers. When your friends 'like' and share your postings, more people will see and 'like' your page.  Here is the link to get started: Creating Your Facebook Business Page

Cherry Blossoms, Nikon 600, 105mm

Network, network, network!  Find other Facebook photography pages and interact with other photographers. 'Like' their work (from your personal page so it will count on their 'like' counter) and if inclined from your own Photography Page too.  Photographers are not only helpful but their work can inspire you in taking yours to another level.

You'll find that there are sites whose mission is to share others work.  This may be in a given category, theme of the day, or hosting regular contests. (see a small list below).  These sites may share your work, the link to your page.  From there, their fans can 'like' your work and your page. 

If 'Likes' created revenue, that would be great.  But they don't.  'Likes' can validate what images have broader appeal and get your work more visiblity as their friends see what they 'liked'. 

Have I generated sales as a result of social media? Yes, which leads to my final tip for this blog. 

Create your website (see Why Re-create the Wheel? Your Photography Website Made Easy). After creating your site, embed your link on your Facebook page.  Announce that you have a website to your photography page audience and your friends a few times a year.

As you progress, you'll find other social media and photography sharing sites to use as well.

It takes time to get traction, but you have to take the first steps!


Megashot on Facebook
Soulful Nature on Facebook
Camera Cruise with K on Facebook
Nature Photography | Wildlife Photography
Nature Photography on Facebook