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.

A Sunday of Learning

Today my husband and I went adventuring. This is something that we do often. We try to come up with new places but there are times we revisit places as well. So today we went to a few places.

Something that the Louisiana Photographic Society has been drilling into my brain is to not just take photos but to learn about where and what you are photographing. I’m going to start that today. Tonight I will take you all on a tour of our day and share whatever information I have found on the places and objects I photographed today.

Stop One: Cohn Memorial Arboretum

We started our day at Cohn Memorial Arboretum. The Cohn Arboretum is a BREC park here in Baton Rouge, LA. It’s over 16 acres of land with over 120 different species of trees and shrubs all native to the area. It was a beautiful place. We tend to like more natural, woods like parks but this still made for an interesting trip.

I saw a ton of these small little brown dragonflies. I love dragonflies and photograph them often. I learned that these little guys are called Eastern Amberwings (Perithemis tenera).  I learned that these dragonflies stay small. To keep from getting eaten their bodies have yellow stripes and then when perched they wiggle to make themselves appear like hornets.DSC02054-01

While I was photographing these little guys, my husband got all excited, he had found a woodpecker. We were too far away to get a photograph that I would display but I got one good enough to share the story with you. This was a red-headed wood pecker. A beautiful bird. I learned a few really interesting facts about the red-headed woodpecker tonight. The red-headed woodpecker is monogamous mating for several years at a time if not life. They’re extremely territorial and they eat both meat and plants, eating more meat in the spring than any other tie of the year. He was very active today and really made us work for the few photos we did get.

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One of the most interesting creatures we came across at the Cohn Arboretum were these funny little bugs that we only saw on this one plant. They were in large groups on almost every stem of the plant. I tried to search and figure out what kind of bug they are but I couldn’t find anything that matched them. I thought they were cool because they have this little spot on their backs that look like tiny white hearts. I would love to know more about them if anyone has information.DSC02085-01

Below are a few more photos I took before we left the Arboretum that I wanted to share.

Stop Two: The Baton Rouge Capital Building

Every year Baton Rouge honors our fallen heroes with a beautiful display at the capital building; The Garden of Flags. The Garden of Flags is a display on the capital building grounds of 11,000 flags which are brought in by the National Guard and veterans. They march the flags over 6 miles through the LSU campus and the downtown area before several volunteers plant all 11,000 flags. I started a few years ago making it a tradition to view the garden. All though I have visited the capital gardens on many occasions, the atmosphere is very different for the Garden of Flags. It’s a very very powerful sight.

I got slightly irritated with a man today. I was waiting off to the side to try and get a special shot. I was patiently waiting for another woman in front of me to finish taking her photos. She was taking her time and working to get her shots and didn’t care who was waiting. I didn’t care. As I stated before most of photography is patience and the absolute truth of the matter is the Garden of Flags is not there for our photographic entertainment. It’s to make a powerful statement and honor those who give us the freedom to photograph anything we want. This man next to me kept bitching about how people were waiting and she was taking too much time. It really bothered me that the man couldn’t even stop bitching long enough to admire the sight he was attempting snap a photograph of. This brings up another point. Photography is supposed to tell a story. It’s hard to tell a story if you cannot feel an emotion from the scene you are photographing.

Today I took a photo that I believe really shares the impact of the sight (see below).DSC02103-01

Below are a few more not just from today but from my previous visits as well. I hope that my photos can help to give you a feeling of overwhelming honor that I feel when I visit each year.

 

Final Stop: Afton Villa

Afton Villa is a place I had heard about, told it was beautiful by many. Last weekend I was supposed to go on a field trip with the Louisiana Photographic Society. I made the wrong decision to pass because it was supposed to storm all day that day and I had no way of keeping my camera gear dry. It never did rain. So today my husband and I went. We didn’t know anything about this property before we went. But after an interesting little tiff with the gardener on staff we decided to look it up. Before we get to that, lets talk about the actual most interesting thing that we saw on this property. Side note, we personally didn’t​ feel this property was really worthy of the money and time but the story I’m about to share with you might have made it worth it today. So we were walking around the grounds and as we were walking by a tree my husband noticed something falling from the tree and into the weeds growing from the side of the tree. It was 2 snakes at least 4 feet long. Once again our photography superpowers kicked in and we both got close and had no idea what else was around or possibly crawling around or falling from the tree. We’re not entirely positive but we think they may have been Texas Rat Snakes.

So earlier I mentioned a tiff with the gardener. That took place after the snakes, so lets get back to that. We were hoping there were more to the grounds because we were rather disappointed with the little we had seen. So we start following the trail further into the property and as we’re passing the gardener he tells us that the house is private. We thanked him for letting us know and then asked him if the trail in front of the house was private as well. His exact response, “No, it goes in to the large woods”. Well the “large woods” is exactly the kind of stuff my husband and I like to explore so we started walking that way. The gardener yells at us not to go that way. So I say “You said it wasn’t private” he yells back with “I said it went to the large woods”. So again, is it private or not? We decided not to fight with the old man and leave. But I’m still curious to know what’s in those damn woods.

After our tiff with the gardener we decided to look up the Afton Villa and learn a little about it (really wondering more if the old gardener was just the grounds guy or was it possible he lived there). Turns out Afton Villa was a large, Gothic antebellum mansion that was destroyed due to a fire in the 1960s. The gardens are supposed to make you feel haunted. Today, we felt annoyed but not at all haunted.

 

Finally, my husband and I learned one more rather simple thing today that for some reason never clicked before. Make a list of places we see or hear about that we want to check out. First thing on the new list, Port Hudson Civil War Battlefield.

Photography Gives Me Superpowers

When photographing Avery Island, I learned something about myself. My camera gives me a false sense of security. It tends to also make me feel invisible. I know that having a giant camera at my face actually makes me stand out more than not, however, when I’m behind the camera and all I’m seeing is what’s through the view finder the rest of the world completely disappears. I have been known to hit people in the face with my lens as I’m shooting because everything just fades away. Let me share a few examples.

Alligators of any size in the wild should most likely be left alone. Yet there I am as close as I can get without them moving sticking a long zoom lens in their face. But that’s not the worse of it. Sitting in it’s face with a camera while your husband throws rocks around it to make it jump is probably even more stupid than just getting too close. Don’t worry we weren’t throwing rocks directly at him, we love nature we don’t hate it.

Another example. A few weeks ago I went to Houmas House, as I’m walking around I notice a chicken just hanging out. So I sit on the ground and start shooting. The noise of the shutter starts to catch his attention and he starts to tilt his head back and forth like a dog. I thought it was cute and didn’t think anything of it. Note: that apparently is a chicken’s cue that they’re irritated. So I decide to walk past him to move on. As I walk passed him the darn thing starts to chase after me, literally screaming and kicking at me. All of a sudden my inner superhero says “You Got This!” So I immediately stop, face the chicken as he is jumping and kicking at me, stick my zoom lens in his face (bad idea, I do not suggest that) and loudly holler at him like he’s a dog in trouble. After doing that twice he finally left me alone.

I realize that standing on the edge of a swamp in an alligator’s face with a camera does not make me safe, but for some reason I’m just not nearly as anxious or scared of life when I’m behind a camera.

Above are the alligator’s from Avery Island. Below is the chicken the attacked me at Houmas House.

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Mulberry Grove

Saturday morning I had the pleasure of touring Mulberry Grove plantation. Mulberry Grove is a privately owned plantation in Donaldsonville, LA. This beautiful plantation was originally built in 1836. It is currently a private residence and a working Sugarcane plantation on over 800 acres. I had a wonderful morning touring the property and learning more not only about the house but about sugarcane farming as well.

It’s really hard to walk through a property like this and not come up with hundreds of questions. I was constantly asking questions about every little thing I saw. It was also very difficult not to look around and just wonder if the walls and tree could talk the stories and history they have been through.

I truly appreciate the Noel Family for giving me this opportunity!