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!

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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

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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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!

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.

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.