The Infamous Pelicans

For the last 9 years, I have heard and seen these infamous pelicans as they stop for a very short while on their migration journey. Every year they take over the University Lakes at LSU for about a week or so, some days with way more than others. In the past, I would see them while driving down the interstate and when I would finally get a day to go over there, they would be gone.

This year I made it happen. It was a Tuesday morning and I was working from home. Around 9am I saw a fellow LPS member had made a Facebook post that they were out. I immediately grabbed my cameras and headed for the lakes. I had not showered, I was only wearing jeans and a tee, no makeup or anything (I know that doesn’t sound important but it will become slightly more important later in the story).

I got out there and stopped at the location I knew best, as I am not very familiar with that area and for whatever reason, it confuses me. There were several other people out there and they were flying everywhere.

I start snapping immediately and quickly become mesmerized with how many of them there were. Hundreds of giant white birds just soaring over one small lake. COnstantly taking off and landing at another spot in the lake, even watching us as we all just stood there with our jaws open.

Shortly after I took these first few photos I was watching a group of them flying above. Honestly, I didn’t think they were straight over me, but I quickly learned they were. I felt something wet hit my head. I reached up and touched my head immediately knowing I get pooped on (this was not the first time a bird bombed me in the head). I touched and touched but never did find any bird crap, so I thought to myself, “well they are wet maybe it was just some water falling from them”. Sounded reasonable at the time. So I keep watching and kept shooting until all of a sudden I noticed they hit the camera. 20171026_102336-01.jpeg

Gross… I know right…so what did I do, I let it dry then used my tee to rub it off. No joke, that’s what I did. I have been waiting 9 years to catch these birds on camera, I wasn’t stopping now.

After about 30 minutes at that one spot, I decided to drive around the lake a little and see what other angles I could capture them at. I got back in my truck to drive around and noticed in the mirror that they did indeed bomb my head, and white bird crap in black hair…well it stands out. But it had already dried so I grabbed my comb out of my purse and brush it out the best I could because again, not stopping me now.

At the next spot I stopped at, there was a large group of them all huddled together just resting and I was standing behind some beautiful fall foliage. It was here that I capture my favorite shot of the day.

 

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My favorite shot of the day.

 

At this point, I decided to leave and head downtown to see if there were any possibly hanging out at the lakes by the state capitol. As I was headed that way I came across one last spot where the pelicans were right at the coast. I stop and sat out on the ground and watched them and snapped as many photos as I could.

There I was, face buried in my camera, not showered, no makeup, jeans and a tee with bird poop on my camera, in my hair and now, on my shirt. When I catch a glimpse of a woman with a microphone and a video camera. Sure enough, the news ahd caught me out there as they were interviewing everyone sitting in that particular spot. The woman was very sweet and asked if she could interview me. Even after telling her that I had been crapped on, and was ditching work to do this, she still made me the center of her new clip. Thankfully, looking slightly better than I felt and not showing the bird crap. Below was the news clip. The poop, the ditching work, getting caught on the news unshowered and gross, well worth it. Even if I didn’t have a way to catch a single photo of this day, it was well worth it all. So beautiful.

WBRZ – Pelican Migration News Report

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Solar Eclipse 2017

First, let me start by saying that I, in no real way knew what the heck I was doing. I was not at all prepared for the eclipse like any passionate photographer should have been. That being said, I had so much fun with the photography adventure that my unprepared self created.

For starters, I did not take in to consideration the eclipse when I booked our vacation to Panama City, FL, so we were driving back from Florida as the eclipse was taking place. I was smart enough to make sure my camera was with me in the backseat and easily accessible, but that was as prepared as I was. I didn’t google anything, I didn’t even read the article that a fellow Louisiana Photographic Society member was kind enough to send out to us all. I was on vacation, I was relaxing, I wasn’t at all thinking.

So after a 2 hour nap in the backseat I woke up and realized we should be able to start seeing it. At first the sun was completely covered by clouds and then we hit a storm so I was really starting to think I wouldn’t be able to see it at all. On one hand I was ok with that but on the other hand I was disappointed. Not too long after the storm broke our friend who was with us was able to see that the eclipse had started to crest using his sunglasses (none of us had eclipse glasses). So I pulled out my Sony a6000 and thought surely I had to be able to make this work. I put the zoom lens on it (210mm) and set all my settings to make it as dark as possible. Total failure. The below is the best that I could get.

So then I thought, lets try putting a sunglass lens over the lens of my camera and see what happens. Made for a cool photo but still a failure.

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I don’t know how, but the smarty pants, creative side immediately came out in me and I remembered that if you take a piece of paper and punch a tiny needle hole in it you can view it in a way that reduces the harmful effects on your eyes. It’s also a trick for people who wear glasses (such as myself) to help them see in a pinch because the tiny hole forces the light to focus more. So then I thought what if I put that on the end of the lens. But I’m just in the backseat of a pickup truck, how on earth am I going to figure this out. I saw the 8.5 x 11 piece of paper that they printed our hotel receipt on, then I saw the hair tie around my wrist and finally I remembered that in one of the bags sitting next to me, I had earrings. So I ripped the receipt in half, punched a hole in the middle of it with the earring and then used the hair tie to attach the paper to the lens of the camera.20170821_133222-01

The Sony a6000 has a digital viewfinder so I was not afraid to look through it straight at the sun. I took a few shots and I could finally see the crest. It wasn’t perfect but I was getting somewhere.

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I finally decided to add the sunglasses back to the top of the paper and see if that helped with the last little glare any. That made for my final solar eclipse set up.

And what would you know….it worked. I actually got photos of the eclipse!!!

Because of the direction and when we were driving this is the most we were able to see, it never even got dark on us. I seriously enjoyed my little backseat adventure jerry-rigging my camera to photograph the Solar Eclipse of 2017. Got a few shots to remember it by and made for a very fun memory and story to share!

Christmas Adventures

This year for Christmas we went on a road trip to visit my family. I hadn’t been home for Christmas in about 5 maybe even 6 years. During our trip home we went to an event at The Henry Ford called Holiday Nights. This was something my mom had been planning on for weeks before we got there. We had to buy tickets in advance as they sell out.

Growing up just down the street from The Henry Ford, visiting the village and museum was something we did regularly and loved it. But none of us had ever been to holiday nights, so this was a first for us all.

We had decided ahead of time that Wednesday, December 26th would be the best day to go and my mom bought tickets.

Something you can not plan for ahead of time…weather. Our entire trip we were experiencing below normal cold temperatures. it had been in the single digits as the high all week, of course with Wednesday being the coldest. If I remember correctly it was -2 degrees when we were out there.

The night before, I had asked my dad to help me prepare my cameras for the cold. You see, earlier in our trip, my cameras had been exposed to below freezing temperatures and my Canon shut down and would not work again for 24 hours. According to an article I read, cameras can withstand temperature well below 0 but only if they have been constantly and properly exposed to it. And let’s face it, my cameras live in Louisiana so they hadn’t. My dad and I decided to make some camera sweaters out of old socks. We made sure everything I would need access to was exposed and kept everything else covered. In theory, it sounded great!

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All day Wednesday we tossed back and forth on whether we were going to go or not. We finally decided that we would bundle up the best we could and we would go until any 1 of us couldn’t stand it anymore. So that’s exactly what we did. We bundled up like 4 Randy’s in a Christmas Story, I personally had 2 pairs of pants, 3 long sleeved shirts, 2 pairs of thermal socks, ear muffs, a hat, a winter jacket, a scarf that covered my face and of course winter boots (which happened to be mine from like 15 years ago that my mom still had because they were perfectly good. Thank goodness for moms). That is right around how all 4 of us were dressed that night. We got there right at opening, as we figured that it would be “warmer” at 6:30 rather than fireworks at 10pm.

Totally random side note, we didn’t stay to watch the fireworks, but my parents live just down the street so you could see them and hear them from their house. The sound of fireworks on a -2 degree night is very different than the sound on 4th of July. It was very interesting.

So anyway, back to holiday nights. There was really so much more to do than what we did or saw but we were so clod we rushed through it.

My canon, even covered, completely crapped out on me the very first photo I tried to take. Apparently, that poor old Canon just cannot handle it. My Sony a6000 however, impressed me. I wound up having to take the socks off of it because the socks were covering the light sensor and whenever I tried to manually adjust my settings it would go haywire. I’m still not 100% sure why, but it did. So I decided to take a chance on it and took the socks off. And what do you know, it stayed up and worked the whole time we were out there.

We lasted longer than any of us thought we would, about 2 hours, and I actually managed to get some very neat photos that embrace how cold it was and the unique holiday spirit that Holiday Nights was. I would love to go back again one year when it’s not so crazy cold. Until then, these are the shots I ended up with.

 

 

 

Louisiana Sneaux Day

As you know, snow in the south is an unusual thing. I have only seen it snow 1 other time previous to this year. We did have a year just a few back where it iced really bad, but not snow. So on December 8, 2017, we had a “Bayou Blizzard”. This was actually a record-breaking snowfall.

In Baton Rouge, at least once a year the city and most of the state shut down due to the threat of winter weather. What always ends up happening is everyone stays home in anticipation but gets nothing. So this year, we all kind of thought the same thing, “snowless day”, but we woke up to a very big surprise.

Around 4am I woke up to let the dogs out and sure enough it was snowing. I immediately snapped a few pictures and even sent them right then and there to my mom. I thought for sure when I wake up again in a few hours it would all be gone. So I just got whatever little shots I could (see below).

 

I woke up again around 6:30 and it was still snowing. Finally, a little after 8am I decided that I was going to brave the weather and go out photographing. I promised myself that if the roads were slick I would immediately come home, but turns out they were good to go! My husband was kind enough to come with me and even drove so I could snap photos along the way. First, we stopped and picked up my step-daughter, then we headed downtown. I really wanted to get photos of one of the plantations all covered in snow but I was too afraid to travel too far and most of them you had to go over a bridge to get to and Louisiana bridges and freezing temperatures is a deadly mix. So, I passed. Looking back on it though I really wish I hadn’t passed.

I was slightly disappointed, as downtown didn’t get nearly as much snow as we were getting at our home. I was still about to get some pretty winter photos though and ended up with these from downtown Baton Rouge.

On the way home I grabbed a few shots of the Spanish moss filled trees and the cattle in the fields huddled around the hay. These turned out to be some of my favorites from the day. You would never know we were in Louisiana by the looks of the cattle photo. DSC05743-01.jpegDSC05749-01.jpegOn our way home it was very obvious that everyone was enjoying the snow. We saw many snowmen in everyone’s’ yards. For many of these kids, it was the first time they ever saw snow. I took some pictures, they were so cute.

When we got home, my step-daughter asked if she could make a snowman. We, of course, said sure, she quickly made sure to tell us that this was her first snowman ever. So it was our turn to play in the snow. We had a snowball fight (which I have never been a fan of. Even having grown up in the north and experiencing snow all the time. I hate snowball fights). We also made Rizzo the snowman, who then became our Christmas card image. It was fun. It was not just fun to experience it, but it was so much fun to see how much fun my step-daughter had that day. She played outside until we forced her to come in late that night.

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To say the very least, it was a very rare gorgeous winter day in Louisiana!

Portraits

So after months and months of trying to “go pro” and drum up portrait work with absolutely no success, I decided to give it up for a little while and concentrate on the photography I love. I figured after some more time to practice, take a few portrait classes and hopefully learn more about marketing and drawing attention to my online presence.

Just about that point and time when I decided to take a break, a client from last year reached out to me and asked if I would do their Christmas photos again. This was a very exciting feeling as I didn’t exactly feel they liked their photos the year before. I agreed to it and we met on a gorgeous Sunday morning in the Capital Park downtown. Their son was super wiggly, which is to be expected from a 3-year-old, but he was cute as could possibly be. I decided not to stress and just roll with it and do the best I could. I figured worst case scenario I gave them the session for free and considered it a learning experience. Afterall it wasn’t wedding photos or anything like that.

I wound up being very pleased with the result, there were some super cute photos, especially of the little boy. Let me share some of my favorites here before I move on to the next part of this post.

 

After sharing them with some friends and family to get their input, I heard the same comment a few times, “they’re not traditional”. So this got me thinking.

First of all, what is “traditional”? I’m assuming they meant they weren’t your normal posed everyone looking right at the camera with the same fake smile on their face, photos. I know you’re not supposed to assume, but what else could they have meant? So then I started thinking about it, non-traditional is not a bad thing.

To be non-traditional nowadays with photography seems to be the way you get your edge. With portraits, non-traditional is a great way to capture true emotion and beauty.

For example, in this photo below, this adorable family actually walked from spot to spot like this. I did not ask them to. This was a very natural thing for them and it was too sweet not to capture. In fact, they did it the year previous too and we caught another adorable picture of it then too. But not once was that a planned photo.

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2017

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2016

Another example. This little boy loved nothing more than picking up the acorns, so we let him and you can see in the photos with the promise of letting us take 2 as a family first. Well thanks to burst shot 2 photos was actually 20 and we got this sweet photo under a gorgeous Louisiana oak tree.

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He counted off his 2 photos and then immediately started picking up acorns.

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My absolute favorite photo of the day

So maybe non-traditional actually means better photos, or at least better memories.

I’m curious, what are your thoughts on this???

The Butterfly

What photography has taught me is probably not what you would think. I hate to read so I don’t read. I don’t even follow what new technology is out or what people are saying about it. I often feel lost when I’m talking to my fellow Louisiana Photographic Society members, I’ve learned a lot from them but totally lost 50% of the time. I definitely love hands on classes and have learned way more from just a 3 hour basics class than I’ve learned in years (my own fault). I guess the truth of the matter is I really don’t geek out over photography like I feel like I should.  So what on earth have I learned if I’m not really learning about photography? Yesterday I had an experience that helped me to answer this question.

Yesterday I grabbed my camera to capture a photo of this bright purple dragonfly. I tried but just couldn’t get the photo of the dragonfly that made me smile. My pup kept putting the tennis ball in my face and scaring the dragonfly off.  I couldn’t sit and focus on the camera for more 20 seconds before my Roux would be back in my face. I tried for a few minutes but lost my patience and gave up on the dragonfly.  The following is the best I got during that time.

Even though I had lost my patience in the backyard with the dragonfly I was still very much in the mood to photograph. So, I decided to head out front and poke around the woods.  I noticed this orange butterfly bouncing around in the gravel so I slowly headed his way and started snapping photos in hopes that I would get a shot before he took off. Dragonflies are hard enough to capture but butterflies… much more difficult. So I sat down and started shooting.  Nothing spectacular just photos of a butterfly.

After watching him for about 15 minutes I realized that he wasn’t afraid.  So that little voice inside me won and I quickly told myself to see if he would let me hold him. Sure enough,  I put my finger out and touched his legs and next thing I knew he was hanging out on my hand. He would take off every once in a while and then just land right back.

He stuck around so long I was able to walk him into the yard and call my step daughters out to see him.  We decided to see just how trusting this butterfly was. He was trusting enough to even let both of the girls hold him several times. The only thing I could think of is how much I live for those moments.

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I thought about this moment a lot yesterday.  Several things came to my mind.  First of all I am very curious to know what it is that allows me to connect with nature’s most fragile creatures like I can.  Then I thought about my patience. I taught preschool,  I loved it,  but keeping my patience was near impossible. At work, again, very low patience and easily frustrated. I do my best to either keep it to myself or find a way to make the situation less frustrating as quickly as possible but it’s still low patience. At home,  same thing, quickly and easily frustrated. In fact, I spent triple the amount of time writing the first half of this blog because the dogs were causing trouble, fighting with each other, putting tennis balls in my lap, Roux even erased several words because he couldn’t stand that I wasn’t paying attention to him. All of this,  very frustrating,  low patience.

So to answer my initial question,  I’m learning to be patient. I’m not sure that it’s translating into the rest of my life just yet but I’m hoping that it will. I’m at least learning that it is possible for me to be so patient that I get that photo. That photo that I can’t stop looking at,  that makes me smile and feel at peace. So what was that photo you ask…

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Houmas House, My Love

Houmas House Plantation and Gardens is a beautiful privately owned plantation home in Darrow, Louisiana. The current owner lives in the home and opens it up to the public for touring.

If you have ever been on a plantation tour or other historic site tour, you know that most times, you’re stuck behind ropes and only allowed to walk in certain areas. You also, probably get a very monotone boring guide who hardly smiles. At least that had been my experience prior to my tour at Houmas House.

My first trip to Houmas House was September 21, 2008. I had only been in Louisiana for three months and this was my first plantation tour ever. I had my film Canon Ti. The original camera my dad got me for my high school graduation.

This plantation tour is like no other I have been on still today. Your entrance fee includes insurance. This means there are no ropes, you can sit on the furniture, you can play the piano you even get to walk through the owners own bedroom. The tour guide is dressed in period time clothing. They have personality beyond belief. Every time I have taken the tour I have learned something new, it’s not a constant never changing script. They make it interesting, lively and fun.

Quickly, Houmas House became my … happy place. I’m not really sure what to call it. It’s the place I run to when I’m feeling down, when I need to think, when I’m looking for inspiration, or just want to relax. It’s my Louisiana version of the Henry Ford Estate in Dearborn, Michigan.

In the last nine years I have visited several times. Each time my photos are different, some times good, some times not so good. Regardless of the photo outcome though I always leave feeling renewed.

September 21, 2008, my first trip ever. I honestly don’t remember a whole lot about this trip. I know I went with the guy I had moved to Baton Rouge with, we were in awe at how huge the live oak trees are (they are three of the oldest live oaks in Louisiana, over 500 years old). I was using my film, Canon Ti, which means fewer photos and praying that you got something half way decent. Below are a few of those photos in digital form.

My second trip was the following year, July 11 2009. I took this trip with another boyfriend. This was a fun trip because both him and I were photographing. He was using a Canon PowerShot digital full body camera and I still had my film Canon Ti.  I remember laughing at myself because I stole his camera several times to play with it since I was still using film. It allowed me to take way more photos then I could with my film. The bad part was, when we got home, I didn’t know which were mine and which were his. In fact, when I was going through the album to pick out photos for this blog, I didn’t use any of the digital ones because I didn’t know if they were mine to credit or not. The one thing that really stands out to me from this trip was our tour guide. She was so animated and played her part so well. She sat down at one point and played the piano and I remember being blown away by her playing and voice. Absolutely beautiful! Below are a few of my favorites from that trip, again these have been converted to digital format from film.

That was the end of the film trips. After that it was always digital. I won’t bore you with discussing every single trip I took. I will however share a collage of photos from those trips with you below.

Yes that is the chicken that attacked me from my earlier post. I made sure that when I went today, I was prepared for him, told myself if I saw him that I would not go near him nor would I stick the camera in his face.  Thankfully, I found him in his chicken coop today.

So today’s trip to Houmas House. I went for one reason and one reason only today. I saw on Facebook that they had just completed the addition of their reflection pond to the grounds and of course I had to see that. How do you not take photos of that? So, I got up, checked that my camera had battery power and I headed out. Yes, I know, I’m a horrible photographer, I did not have a battery charging, its a flaw of mine. But not to worry it was at 100%! So I got there, and with the grounds still all ripped up from construction, I got my photos plus some.

A small side note about the Houmas House. As you see there are a few dogs. These are the owners dogs. After the current owner bought the house he threw a large party. It was a wedding. This wedding actually holds a world record for one of the largest weddings. He married his dogs. This is not a joke, you can look this up and it is part of the tour!

Of course Houmas House has become more than just a place I love to photograph. It’s also a place I like to share with those in my life. Here are a few fun shots of myself and family enjoying the ground with me. PS, I can not take credit for all these photos my friends and family have helped me to capture these great moments.

Before I end this post, I want to share a very fun, special moment I had at the Houmas House. When I got engaged and decided to have my wedding in Louisiana I knew that my dream would be to get married at The Houmas House. Well, let me just say my dream came with a very HUGE price sticker. No to worry I compromised. I decided that it was ok not to get married here (after all I didn’t want anyone to go bankrupt), so I had my bridals taken here. My bridal shoot was definitely my favorite trip to the Houmas House still today. Let me share a little with you. My photographer, Steven Schaefer,  had not yet photographed here. He did an amazing job doing some homework and getting ideas, which was great, but that wasn’t the best part. I had decided to pay to be able to photograph inside and outside of the house. So, I got there, I got changed and they sent me on my way with my photographer, one of my bridesmaids and a “babysitter” who works for the Houmas House. Like I said before you can sit on the furniture and all but they tend to mean that as a chair or sofa. Well we followed that rule until Steven made a declaration that the pool table was furniture (which let me mind you is insanely old and none of us would ever be able to replace). He picked me up, laid me on the pool table and our Houmas House “babysitter” turned her cheek and pretended she didn’t see anything. Steven did an amazing job capturing my love and passion for this happy place of mine in these photos. With full credit to him, below are my favorites of my bridals from that session.

If you have never visited Houmas House, I highly suggest it and I hope that you find a little joy and happiness in it like I do!