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.

 

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 Picked Me!

How do you pick your hobbies? Do you look at something and say “I could do that”? Do you inherit it from a family member? Did your friends show you? How were you introduced to your hobbies?

I know I tried many other things throughout the years, especially in my younger years. For example, somewhere hiding in this house there is a journal full of poetry I wrote. With the exception of Poet’s Cafe with my step-daughter during her fourth grade school year, I haven’t written poetry in close to 10 years. Why? Was I good at it? I thought so. Did I enjoy it? Yeah, I really did. So why did I quit? I have no idea. I played piano for 12 years. Age 4 to 16. I started because my uncle, who also played, showed me a few things on a tiny keyboard I had (and I mean tiny) and I was able to pick it up and play it back to him. Well I have learned over the years that I was able to do that because all music is, is math. I love math. My brain understands math. I was horrible at the piano. I played on keyboards until I was 10 years old. Then my dad decided I proved my dedication to it and he bought me a real upright piano from the 30s. I still love my piano even though it lives at my parents house and I couldn’t tell you the last time I played it. Again, I was horrible at the piano. I could read music and I could play it after practicing thousands of times while still reading the music. I could never play by ear or by heart. But for some reason, I loved it and was determined to play. For 12 years my mom drove me once a week over 30 minutes away so my uncle could give me real official lessons at his studio. He quit when I was 16 and so did I. I loved playing, I wanted to be good, I guess I could have been good, but I didn’t want to find a new teacher.

So now I get to photography. I did not pick photography, it picked me. I never researched it. I never knew anyone who was a pro photographer. So then how did it start?

When I was in middle school and high school I would bring a disposable camera with me to everything. I couldn’t tell you why other than I really wanted the memories. School dances, school field trips, friends’ parties, whatever it was I brought a throw away camera. So for 6 years my dad saw me not only photograph everything in front of me but go from cutting peoples heads off to actually getting photographs that my family wanted printed to hang in their homes. My senior year in high school I started photographing for the high school sports teams and was photo editor of our yearbook.

So how did I get from disposable camera’s to this. For a little while my mom and dad let me play with their film camera that was like 30 years old at the time (thinking about it now, I wonder if they still have the camera). Then when I graduated, my dad bought me a film Canon Ti and 2 lenses. He sent me on my way telling me I better use it. 14 years later, I still own that Ti, I use 3 digital cameras with several lenses regularly, plus I have had 5 more digital cameras in between.

I never thought about photography as a hobby or a passion, it just happened!

So I decided to dig up my old photo boxes and find you some fun examples from some of my very first rolls of film on the Canon Ti my dad bought me. Please keep in mind that these photos are film photos that I scanned to my phone using the Google Photo Scan option.

Here’s another random side note. If anyone has ever tried using the Google Photo Scan option, you get a cool effect if you try moving the photo in the middle of the scan. See below.

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Phone Photography???

Here’s the ultimate question for the day, is phone photography an art?

Personally, I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer to this question. Like I said yesterday, art is in the eye of the beholder. For some the process of how you got your piece of art might be important, for others maybe just the end results.

I will say, that now days, it’s really hard not to view your phone as a camera. The technology grows and grows everyday and they take some amazing photos. Especially if you’ve ever used your phone camera’s manual mode options. And let’s face it, the unfortunate truth of the matter is we don’t always have a camera on us but we almost always have a phone on us. I know I have used my phone in lieu of my camera because I didn’t have my camera on me.

And if I’m being even more honest with myself, does the camera used really matter if you know how to achieve the look and effect and capture a gorgeous image?

I would love to know everyone’s thoughts on this. Just for curiosity sack. Something to think about.

Below is a photo I took on my Google Pixel.

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