Thursday, January 30, 2014

Why Re-Create the Wheel: Your Photography Website Made Easy

When you think of photographers, what do you see?

Typically, it's someone with their arms held close to their chest, camera pressed against half their face as they focus and snap, followed by more focusing and snapping.

They are in studios with lights, equipment, models and backdrops.  They are outdoors behind their tripod collecting images of sunsets, landscapes, colorful birds and wildlife.

It's not a vision of the 'not-so-glamorous' hours spent finding or creating websites to showcase their work. This side of the business may appear complicated and a bit prickly.  It doesn't have to be.

Prickly Porcupine by ©Sheen's Nature Photography
Nikon 5100, 55-300mm
There are many free or low cost options you can use to create your own website and sell your artwork. They take care of the image printing, framing, shipping and collecting payment.  They pay you a commission while providing you with access to a network of fellow artists and potential customers.

Barred Owl Beauty
Nikon 600, 70-300mm
Today I have a website that you can access 2 ways:

The engine is  It took about 10 minutes to get started.  The investment over time has been adding images and customizing my page as I acquired this option for $30.00 per year.  In short, it was easy.

Another site that I recently joined is  Targeted to photographers, it's a rich inspirational community.  You can sell prints here too.  I haven't enabled this option as the pricing is different from my website and that could confuse my customers. Another site made simple.

There are other powerful blogging and website tools such as Wordpress.  I haven't had the time to do a deeper dive into the higher level customization that's required. Today, photography is not my full-time day-job.

There are many beautiful sites using this engine and third party templates such as Photocrati.

In addition to a website, there are social media, marketing and official paper-proecssing steps needed to validate the business reflecting your hard, creative work.

These too can be made simple and we'll cover those in my next blog.

Busy Bee at Work by ©Sheen's Nature Photography
Nikon 600, 105mm


Monday, January 20, 2014

It's Time….

A few weeks ago, I wrote "Is it a Resolution or a Delightful Journey?"   The intent was to describe many of our experiences in making resolutions happen.   It's past mid January. It's time to assess if our 2014 Resolution has taken hold.

After that article, I received questions in my Facebook page Sheen's Nature Photography. They centered on my 'what my resolutions are for this year' and my favorite, 'did I have and complete my resolutions for 2013?'

Let's start with the latter question as my 2013 goal was broad with a few specifics.

The overarching desire was to grow as a photographer as I had started in the spring of 2012.  I also wanted to capture images of various wildlife.  One in particular, the Snowy Owl.

Tundra's Ghost, the Snowy Owl by Sheen's Nature Photography
Nikon 5100, 55-300mm

On a snowy, very cold wintry day, I along with some dear friends went out in the Northern Michigan elements to capture this ethereal, ghostly and magnificent owl.

We weren't lucky by chance, we made luck happen.  I live by the rule, "I'm a great believer in luck and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it." (quote by Thomas Jefferson)  We had a plan, did our research, drove hours to our destination and worked the area.  A resolution accomplished.

The Ethereal, Ghost Owl by Sheen's Nature Photography
Nikon 600, 70-300mm

Growth came by reading ebooks (see list below), linking up with Facebook photography pages and reading blogs from photographers.

A local nature photography workshop offered new tips and contacts.  A vacation in Nags Head, North Carolina created an opportunity to work with a local, professional landscape photographer Dan Waters. 

Nags Head Pier at Sunrise
Nikon 600, 14 - 24mm
The outcome is the personal satisfaction of seeing my photography evolve.

What's on the horizon for 2014?

  • Travels to new locations:  Smokey Mountains, Tennessee and working on Costa Rica
  • Capturing images of 'life birds':  Snow Bunting and the Lapland Longspur, next weekend
  • Adventures to specific locations for new subjects:  Austin, TX for bluebonnets in the spring
  • Establishing relationships with local businesses?  February, more to follow
  • Making the business official:  Yes in January! Thanks to Legal Zoom my official LLC paperwork is due to arrive this week.  

There are many articles, theories that indicate that it takes 21 days to make a habit. However, it doesn't matter what the articles say.  What matters is what we really want to do and if we choose to make it happen.

Happy Shooting!

Books:  (available through Amazon or the artists websites)
Improve Your Wildlife Photography, Jim Harmer
Better Birds: A Photographer's Guide, Steve Dimock
How to Photography Landscapes Like a Pro, Steve Rutherford
Mastering Exposure in Digital Photography, Stephen Hockman
8 Types of Natural Light, Anne McKinnell
Creative Photography Techniques, 20 Tips for Stronger Images, Dan Bailey
Earth and Light Digital Media books by Richard Bernabe available through his site

Monday, January 13, 2014

Tomorrow Isn't Just Another Day

Another Michigan wintry weekend of unpredictable lighting conditions created havoc on 'what to photograph.'  Or did it?

Instead of being frustrated in the field, yesterday's gray, non-existent lighting made it easy to stay inside and update my website

Sweet, hungry Titmouse
Nikon 7100, Sigma 150-500, f/8, ISO 250 1/640 sec
What-to-do in bad lighting advice came from a nature photography workshop led by Steve Gettle.   I used the time to update watermarks on 80% of my images in the site.

Today presented wonderful lighting on the melting snow with a pale blue canopy overhead.

Unfortunately, nothing extraordinary was captured. Nothing had inspired me.

The icy path at Cranbrook Academy's campus was treacherous.  A nearby trail that I enjoy photographing had icy brown patches, no luck there.  Thankfully, the the Lloyd A. Stage Nature Center in Troy, Michigan provided some feisty bird activity on their feeders.  

Still, this was not how I envisioned the day.  The reality was I had no vision for the day and that was the problem!  I wasted precious photography time.

Baby It's Cold Outside
Nikon 7100, 150-500 f/8 ISO 250 1/100 sec
When I consider my most fruitful adventures in the field, they are the ones I had mentally pictured prior to the actual day.  Nothing time consuming other than internally composing the subjects, image, the look and the feel I wanted to capture.

Knowing the weather conditions, the timing, location of the sun and moonrise is also important.  It takes about 30 seconds to view both apps: Yahoo Weather  and The Photographer's Ephemeris.

A  basic plan and the right tools can make a difference in your creativity, productivity and emotional satisfaction.  Then any deviation from that plan is based on unplanned, awesome photographic opportunities.

And when the conditions aren't optimal?  Use this time to work on your websites, overdue edits and most important, creating a mental plan for your next journey.

Happy Shooting!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

'Endeering' & Enduring Moments

What did your work day look like on the second Tuesday in December?  Do you remember who you met with and what was discussed?

When was the last time you were out in the field with your camera or just out on a hike?  Do you remember who joined you?  Did you experience a natural 'chill pill'?

A Deer Moment by Sheen's Nature Photography
Nikon 7100, 150-500 Sigma,  ISO 250, f/9, 1/160 sec
More than likely you could clearly recall the second set of questions versus the first. It is important to make sure we spend our precious free time engaged with what we hold dear.

As a nature photographer, time spent amongst nature and behind the camera is not only enjoyable but grounding.  When looking at wildlife, birds, flowers and fauna for extended periods of time, our normal daily grind fades into a different world.  This world is filled with sounds, colors and emotions that bring reality to our souls.

In most areas, even large cities, four season nature photography escapes are not that far away.  Within a few miles of my home town of Birmingham, Michigan, nature centers, metro parks and nature trails with abundance of wildlife are within driving distance.

Deer Friends by Sheen's Nature Photography
Lloyd A. Stage Nature Center in Troy has multiple hiking trails providing up close viewing of deer, over 200 species of birds, streams with fish and woodlands.

A bit further east you'll find Stony Creek Metropark.  Diverse in it's offerings, you can golf, run, bike and fish.  Additionally, this park hosts nature trails that meander through woods, fields, across streams and around lakes.  Wildlife viewing, birdwatching (they just had their first eaglet born to a Bald Eagle family this past summer) and wildflowers are just a 'wait and see' moment away.

To the west is Kensington Metro Park  which has sprawling acres of wooded, hilly terrain that surrounds Kent Lake.  Wildlife and waterfowl are anything but scarce.

Deer Conversing with Nature by Sheen's Nature Photography
All deer images captured at the Lloyd A. Stage Nature Center
To find local parks and wildlife viewing go to your favorite browser and type in Wildlife Viewing near your town.  Then after a little planning,  grab your gear and go.

The next time you've had a "Worked Hard for the Money" day or week, don't let a "Baby It's Cold Outside" mindset stop you.  Reality, enduring memories and mother nature await.  HAPPY SHOOTING!