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!

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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!

 

Finally Some Inspiration

I was just telling someone how I loved blogging but I was really lacking the inspiration for posts lately. Due to that I have gone an entire month without a post. That saddens me. It’s sad for 2 reasons. The first reason being that I feel like I failed a little on a goal I had to blog once or twice a week. The second reason being that I have gone an entire month without feeling inspiration for my photography. This has my asking myself, why? Why wasn’t I inspired. I’ve taken some great shots since me last post.

The week after my last post I went on a field trip with my Louisiana Photographic Society. We were challenged to use several different elements to create new and unique photographs. Or at least I decided to use it as a challenge for new and unique things. I tend to stick to two main things, macro detail oriented shots and black and white shots. During this field trip I explored color, background, shutter speeds, a whole mixture of elements. I was very pleased with the results. I even found myself loving my work without any editing. Below are my shots from that field trip.

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After that field trip my husband and I went for a short hike at the Port Hudson Battle Ground. This hike was short but in the small amount of time we were there it was spider haven. Although taking photos of spiders always freaks me out (I fear they’re going to start crawling all over me while I’m photographing one) I got some great shots of the creepy crawlers. So why didn’t they inspire me to blog. I think it might actually be a catch 22. I blog because it helps me learn, helps me relax, allows me to destress, I enjoy being able to put my thoughts down that I some times otherwise struggle to communicate. But then at the same time when I’m stressed I find it hard to get my mind in the right place to blog and often just end up spacing out. At the time I had taken the photos of the spiders I had just been an accident, I was supposed to be taking a trip home to see my family and now couldn’t and work was starting to hit it’s most stressful point of the year. I’m sure for these reasons, I just couldn’t get my mind in the inspiration mode. Nonetheless, I did end up with some very cool spider photos.

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That brings me to now…my inspiration. In the past month I have found myself hiding from my stress by playing in the yard. Even the smallest amount of time just watering my potted plants or planting one new item or even picking my fruits and vegetables. Last weekend I took three small clay pots I was no longer using and a hanger and I filled them with bird seed and hung them in the crape myrtle in the back corner of my yard. The birds quickly found the seed and I noticed that we now had a decent amount of wildlife hanging out in our yard. This is something I have been trying to accomplish for the last five years we have been in this house. I quickly grabbed my camera and sat at the end of the patio (which was about as far as I could get without the birds taking off). Currently the largest zoom I have is a 210mm. This was not enough zoom to get the photos I was hoping for. Somehow, out of no where, I remembered that my Sony a6000 has a built in remote with live view on my android phone. After a quick google search I set the Sony a6000 on the tripod and connected my app to the live view remote. I set the camera at the base of the crape myrtle and focused on the pots. I calmly sat on the patio until the birds came back and then I snapped a few shots.

The first few shots I took were very boring but effective and it only took a few minutes for me to know that this was something I would play more with. Below are a few of those first few boring but effective shots.

So yesterday after a long day of chores, the birds caught my attention again, so I set the camera up, but this time I focused on only one pot at a time. I sat on the edge of the patio with the live view remote set up on my phone and I patiently sat and watched. It wasn’t but just a few minutes after sitting down that I found myself so focused on the birds that I couldn’t even hear the dogs barking at the door trying to get outside to be with me. All I heard were the birds, all I saw were the birds. It was so relaxing. This time the results were more fun. I still have a lot to learn but I was very pleased with the result. I am so excited to continue to play with this feature and explore new ways of using it.

Lesson learned the hard way during this experiment…. always have a second camera on you. Although the photos you’re taking through the camera and live view remote are fun and all, you miss a lot going on around the area your camera is focused on. For example…at one point I had a bird hanging out in my camera lens hood. I used my phone and tried to get a photo but let’s face it, if the 210mm zoom wasn’t enough to photograph them well from where I was sitting, there was no way I would get a photo of the bird sitting on my camera with my phone. But I tried. Below is the phone photo of the bird sitting on the lens hood as well as a photo I took of the pots with the bird sitting on the hood.

I ran in the house, grabbed my Sony CyberShot and sat back down hoping he would do it again so I could get that super cute awe moment photo. Of course after I grabbed the CyberShot not a single bird even showed interested in the camera. I did however get a few simple and nice shots of what was going on around the pots in the tree.

I learned two very simple things during this experience yesterday. First, I learned to always have more than one camera on hand. Second, I learned that my high amount of patience for photography mixed with my love for nature makes for a much more calming and relaxing experience than most other methods of relaxation I have tried.

Back to Basics

Today I took a photography basics course hosted by the Louisiana Photographic Society. Although I have been photographing for many years, I have never really learned the basic info that I should know. I would always just mess with the camera over and over until I kind of got the shot I was hoping for. I have also lost a lot of shots over the years as well because I didn’t know how to make it happen. I know that a quick and easy fix would have simply been to read about it, but… I hate reading unfortunately.

So today, Joshua Lefebvre  taught a class for us on the basics. I was really looking forward to it as Joshua seems to shoot a lot of similar stuff that I like to shoot. The class was a lot of fun, we discussed all the real actual basics and we did a lot of practice in between each specific topic. I was really surprised at the amount of info that I left with having been photographing for the amount of time that I have. So let me share the pieces of my day that I worked most on and how my photos progressed.

We started off working with shutter speed. Shutter speed is exactly that, the speed in which your shutter opens and closes. To achieve blurred motion photos you use a slower shutter speed. For frozen action photos you use a faster shutter speed. So we practiced this today in class. We started by using tennis balls and rolling them across the table. I was really really bad at this. Here are a few of my tennis ball practice shots with shutter speed. I was decent at the fast shutter speed freeze frame but I could not get the slow shutter speed practice down.

Towards the end of the class with had some time to walk around and practice everything we had learned. I was determined to try the shutter speed piece some more as it was obvious I need to work on it. For this I used 2 fountains I found on the grounds. The first fountain it is more difficult to see the difference but I was very pleased with the photos I got regardless. You can see a slight difference in the smoothness of the water but it’s not dramatic.

On the second fountain I was able to get a very different image between the 3 different shutter speeds.

The second piece that we worked on that I was most interested in was aperture. I enjoyed this piece a lot because I love to take macro photos and aperture really helps me to achieve the blurred background and bokeh  effect. I was better at this than the shutter speed. So my first try with the aperture was with the books on the library shelves. I was not a fan of these.

After trying with the books and not being very happy I came back to our classroom and tried with the tennis balls lined up. These, I was very happy with.

Finally I tried this exercise with a small toy. These photos weren’t too bad either, They made it easier to help see how the background changes with the aperture. This particular set of photos also showed me how dirty my lens is and how badly it needs a good cleaning.

I continued to play with this and practice during our final assignment at the end of our class. I really enjoyed the results of those photos as well. It’s very interesting how just the smallest change to aperture can change a photo.

Joshua also touched base slightly on white balance. Something I had used before but hardly ever. Although I knew how to use it and what it did I never did think about how changing it might effect the photo. I always kept it on auto and just rolled with it. Today during practice time I played a little with the white balance on a bobble head to see what it would do. I think this is something I may need to start playing with.

As you can see there’s some very different looks, some much better than others. Joshua also told us a fun little tip about white balance. He was telling us that changing the white balance can give you effects such as the look of dusk when shooting in pure daylight sun. I will be trying this.

Finally, the last piece that stuck out a lot to me today was composition. I knew the rules of art when it came to composition but honestly never really consciously thought about them when shooting. So today during our final assignment I tried to think about them and find different examples and actually shoot with them in mind. Here are some of those examples.

All in all I had a great time and the class really made me think more about what I was doing rather than just shooting. I even came home and practiced a little more at home this evening. Here’s a few from that practice.

I am very excited to take what I learned today and apply it to my future work. I’m also excited to go back through some of my old work and review the settings so that I can recreate effects and learn from the good and the bad!!!

The Dragonfly

Anyone who truly knows me can tell you that I have an attraction to dragonflies. Dragonflies catch my attention everywhere I go and I feel like they follow me around. They bring me peace, they make me smile, I feel like someone is visiting me or watching over me.

So a few years ago I started by pushing there buttons and seeing how close I could get with my camera for close up shots. I quickly learned that you can read their body language and some will let you get REALLY close. One day I noticed this one in my yard and he wouldn’t even budge when I put the zoom lens in his face. Being as drawn to them as I am, I decided to put my hand out and see if I could touch him. I slowly moved my hand closer and closer. The first few times he would leave and come back. I kept doing it over and over until he would let me actually touch him. When I realized that he trusted me and wasn’t going to move even when touched, I quickly figured out that I could hold him and I did. So now any dragonfly that I can just tell trusts me, I insist on holding.

So today while I was working in the yard, this beautiful blue dragonfly started coming around. I grabbed me phone and attempted to take a picture. While as you know it’s really hard to get a close up photo on a phone without being as close as possible. So I grabbed this photo. IMG_20170610_134029I was pretty close and he didn’t budge so naturally I reached out and tried to touch him. At first he was a little jumpy. But within about 15 minutes he finally decided that I was okay.

I chased him around, held him and photographed him on and off for a solid 45 minutes without a care in the world. I have been debating on getting a dragonfly tattoo and after my husband put the thought back in my head again today, I thought it would be amazing to get him to lay on my forearm where I want the tattoo and to photograph him in the spot, then I could get that exact image of him on my skin as my tattoo. I tried so hard but he just wouldn’t sit on my forearm.

Later this afternoon I decided to pull my camera out and chase him around with the my zoom lens. By this point there were a few out.

I noticed this one sitting on my fig tree and after sticking the camera in his face, I figured out I could hold him as well. He wasn’t as trusting but he was trusting enough to sit on the grass and hangout with him on my fingers for a few minutes.

The symbol of the dragonfly historically means change, and that’s fine if that is what these guys are always telling me, but there’s also and old saying that dragonflies bring angels to earth. I rather believe that these guys are visitors saying hello to me, protecting me, watching over me, letting me know that everything is alright.

Below are several dragonflies I have captured over the years.

To show you that this is something that occurs often, here are a few photos from the many times I have held them.

Eye on the Sky

The sky is something that is probably often overlooked but as a photographer I know that the sky can often be a very important part of the background of a photo. Clouds, sunsets and sunrises make some of the most amazing natural elements that can make a photo pop.

Over the last few years I have found myself drawn to the sky and often stopping whatever I’m doing to capture a photo.  I don’t know how many times I’ve seen the colors of a sunset reflect on the back wall of my house and I just jump up, phone and/or camera in hand, and go straight to the patio to capture it. My husband probably thinks I am crazy, constantly jumping up out of no where and darting outside. The sky is an ever changing piece of art that never repeats itself and changes quickly. You have got to get the shots when you see them. This is also why one of my coworkers and I joke saying “death by clouds”, because I take most of these while driving. I know that’s stupid and possibly very dangerous (hence the death by clouds) but I promise I am as safe as possible doing it. But I’m also not going to miss the shot.

Many of us were probably taught to appreciate the beauty of the clouds at a very early age when we would lay there and try to find objects and things in the shapes of the clouds. I never realized that would have me constantly admiring the sky until now.

Here’s kind of the fun part, in all these random photos I’ve taken of the sky I have captured several things. The first being the obvious, the different types of clouds. I think I have captured all the 10 basic types of clouds as depicted by this chart I found on Pinterest.

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Even more fun than just being able to name the different clouds in the photos and recognize them in real life, I have been able to depict several different emotions just from these cloud photos. When I look at them I see the following emotions:

  • Playful
  • Happy
  • Romantic
  • Scary
  • Angry
  • Peaceful
  • Anxious

So, lets think more about that, if just looking at a photo of weather can make you feel an emotion, I guess it’s pretty easy to understand how much the weather plays an effect on our emotions. How depressing it can become when we don’t feel the sun on our skin for days on end, or how sick and sad you can feel when you don’t even see the sun. How scared and anxious just a bad storm can make us feel.

If I could give anyone any advice, just enjoy the weather when it’s beautiful. Play with your kids or your dogs, work in the yard, go for a walk, TAKE PHOTOS, do anything; it makes you feel good. I know it makes me feel a thousand times better to sit in the sun, listen to nature and stare at the clouds. Take just 2 minutes when you see the sky turn in to a piece of art and enjoy it, admire it, you’ll never see it again and I promise you, your brain can always use the 2 minute mental vacation.