Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Year With My Camera

I read about this challenge on Google Plus, to choose what you think are your Ten Best Photos of 2013, and post them in a blog.  I decided to do this, as I was able to pick up my first DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) back in early February 2013.  I thought this would be a good way of looking back and seeing not only what I had done, but how far I'd come in my skills. Most of you know I love taking and sharing pictures - it is my passion to share my original material.

So without further ado, here are my Top Ten Photos, with a short story behind each photo.

I stitched these photos together to make one - but that is due to the subject matter.  The cloud photo I took a couple of years ago with my Sony Mavica DSLR.  It wasn't until late February of this year - about a week after I got my new Canon DSLR that I took the photo of Phineas, my cat. The cloud photo had always put me in mind of my cat's profile; as soon as I saw what I had taken in February - of my actual cat - I knew I had to find some way of putting these two together as a sort of mirror image.

This is a Tufted Titmouse, and the photo was taken in my backyard during the first week of March.  Probably one of the few times we didn't get snow dumped on us, or so it seemed!  He had just snatched a peanut from the feeder, and I got to use my telephoto lens to pick him out.  Very happy with how this turned out!

When I saw this pic of the full moon in April of this year as I was going through all the shots I'd attempted to take, I thought for one incredibly, crazy moment that the SD Card I was using had come with some "stock photos" on it - out of every attempt, this is the only one that showed up with such incredible clarity.  I'll take it!

Although I have no Mimosa trees in my yard, one day in late June I was visiting my son and his apartment complex was just full of these trees.  I already knew about the photography rules - when to shoot and when NOT to shoot - and this was one of those times that the sun was not your friend.  But I fiddled with the settings on the camera and made sure I was in the shade, and concentrated more on the macro shot - and was very happy to have this come out with such clarity and color.

In the middle of July, I finally got my setup complete (light tent, lights, assortment of backgrounds) to photograph the jewelry that I make.  This was a new step on my learning curve - how to set the camera with the lights, how the tent diffused the lights, how different textures of gray for the background work with the coolness of a photo (kelvin, or degrees of a photographic temperature) and playing around with the f-stop to make the front of the item in focus, and soften the back part of it.  I have a lot more photos to take, but if even half of them turned out this well, I'd be very, very happy!

On the same day I was shooting some of my jewelry pictures, I was between takes and turned around for just a moment...and our cat, Loki walked into the light tent and sat on the piece of slate I had inside.  The lights were still on and I was struck by how good he looked so...I started snapping away.  He makes a rather marvelous model when he's sitting still, doesn't he?

Throughout August, September and October of this year, my butterfly bush was inundated with butterflies of many kinds.  I had a chance to get a lot of photos, just by walking out very carefully and slowly to the bush, until one day when I decided I didn't really need the telephoto lens, I could just walk among them - and that's exactly what I did!  In this photo, I can see that every part of the butterfly and the plant is in focus, and that's a bit difficult to achieve because most of the time, they were constantly moving and feeding and fluttering.  This is a Black Swallowtail Butterfly.

This and the next picture are from our September trip to the west coast of Ireland.  We had a spectacular and wonderful time there, and plan to return if it is at all in the cards!  We came upon this man and his son standing and waiting for the waves to roll in at Oldhead Beach in Co. Mayo.  I do not know who they are, but the stance of both of them against the ocean spoke volumes to me.

This was one of the more surreal evenings we spent in Ireland.  We found a bed and breakfast in Tralee, and this view was at the end of the walking loop nearby, looking out over Tralee Bay.  It is the sunset and showers over the bay all in one.  It was so windy, we could barely stand upright, and I was pleasantly surprised when my pictures turned out. When they tell you about the green in Ireland (and you will never, ever get tired of looking at it), what they don't mention is that it's even in the clouds.  Look at those rays - they are tinted green and I can promise you that it's not due to post processing my pictures, because I don't do more than crop and maybe a little exposure/color editing with my photos.  I don't have any PP software!  It's safe to say this is completely unretouched.

My final photo is this one, taken in mid-November at Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge in northwest Missouri.  We are fortunate to have this migratory stopover for waterfowl so close to us, and now that I had my "good camera", I was looking forward to getting some great pics.  My husband spotted this bird - from our previous trip up there and seeing mostly the all brown juvenile birds, I had completely forgotten to look for the white-headed adults!  I was very, very happy to come home with this exposure in my collection of shots.

I hope you have enjoyed taking this photographic journey along with me, and please stick around for more - one of my intentions for 2014 is to learn much more about using my camera, and maybe this year I will look for a longer telephoto lens for my camera.  It will be interesting to see what else I can get "up close and personal" to!

Happy New Year everyone!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Art of Giving and The Giving of Art

To anyone who knows or is acquainted with me through my social media pages, it's no secret that I have a mad love for my cats.  Phineas (The White) and Loki (The Exotic Tabby) came into our lives about 4 years ago, and to call them "Game Changers" doesn't even begin to cover what they have come to mean to us. Each of their stories about their lives before we adopted them - and since - are blog posts in their own right.

But today's writing is not about that - no, today's story is a tale of gifts.  And how they can be used individually, combined, divided and multiplied.

It began a couple of weeks ago when I had the chance to set up a table and offer Energetic Dowsing at a local holiday metaphysical fair.  Using a pendulum to measure and shift energy is one of my gifts - and I met so many amazing and wonderful people at this event.  I also had the opportunity to use my Paypal App and plug-in on my smart phone so I could swipe credit cards for payment. The money would then be deposited into my PayPal account. (Hey!  don't judge me - it was the first time I had used it and I was a little excited, ok?)

I did pretty well at the fair, and about a week later I was sitting in front of the computer, reading through my Google+ Stream.  Over the last several days, I had been aware of an indiegogo campaign taking place for Cliff Roth, one of the people I had circled when I first started in G+.  This night, I noticed another post - the campaign was ending at midnight, and they were short of their goal by just a few hundred dollars.  I started thinking that maybe I could contribute a few bucks, and then it hit me - I had my profits from the past week just sitting there in my PayPal account, and surely I could donate some of that to Cliff's campaign - phrases like "Pay it Forward" and "The More You Give, The More You Get" circled in my head.  I was so grateful to the people who had come to my table at the fair, and I knew I wanted to keep the money moving in some way.  This was truly a gift for me to be able to do.

I clicked on all the appropriate links and got ready to make my donation.  The page opened up, and all of a sudden there were a lot more choices than I had been prepared for - Levels?  Perks?  And I realized that Cliff was, in turn, giving back to his funders!  So I chose my level of giving, which included a colored pencil drawing of the subject of your choice, done in Cliff's distinctive style.

Allow me to digress for a moment to tell you that Cliff does a variety of interesting artwork that he sells -
(by the way, I love the "Framed by Abed" piece, but if he does a drawing of Ron Swanson from Parks and Rec, it WILL be mine - as a gift for my husband who willingly admits to having a man-crush on him)
- but on Google Plus, he has been dubbed "Speedpaint Master of the Googleverse."  He does a very stylized type of digital caricature that really catches your eye!  And while I love to see what he creates of those, I was not yet brave enough to offer myself up for that sort of sacrifice yet; much less framing it and hanging it on the walls of my house! Maybe someday...

So I chose the next thing that popped into my head - my beloved cats!  Yes, that was perfect.  Cliff and I messaged back and forth a couple of times and I sent him a "few" pictures to work from for the drawing...

He chose the last 2 photos, and cropped them to his satisfaction.  In less than two days, he was done.  Until the actual piece of art arrives, I keep going back to the screenshot I took and looking at my wonderful cats - because I can't even begin to tell you how real this drawing looks to me.  He got the eyes, and as they say - the eyes are the windows to the soul.  And you ain't got nothing if you ain't got soul!

But wait -there's more!  As if that wasn't enough, (with my permission) he documented his artistic process on his You Tube channel.  Watching someone create a drawing - making 2D material appear to be 3D - has always seemed utterly magical to me.  click here and watch Cliff's awesome talent as he brings my cats to life!

I have a friend who dispenses some of the most wonderful and wise sayings; one of my favorite Guide Lines refers to how you know if you are doing the right thing. Ask yourself - "Does it make you feel heavy or light?"  As I was relating this story to her, I said "I've never felt more in my life that I was part of a bigger Win-Win situation - does it make me feel heavy or light?  Oh my, I am Floating!"

And then to top it all off, this morning, Panache Desai posted something that describes so perfectly why I enjoyed this so much:

"When you are blessed with love and abundance, the best way to truly give thanks is to give that love and abundance away. ♥"

And that is what the Art of Giving means to me.

*Cliff Roth is available for commissions and you can purchase some of his work online here.  He can be contacted through Google+facebook, or his You Tube channel.

**And in case I need to say it any clearer...I highly recommend his work! After all, 'Tis the Season - of GIVING.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Feast for the Eyes - Autumn in Eastern Kansas

Can someone tell me where October went? I seem to have misplaced it.  In truth, I've been so busy appreciating and photographing our longest-lasting and most beautiful Autumn in years, that I have not sat down to create a blog entry! Each time I would have a chance to go out with my camera, the weather would be forecast to turn and I was sure that all the color would be gone in the next day or two.  The "next day or two" lasted almost six weeks!

I got a great deal on a large pumpkin this year, and though I don't consider myself a carving artist, I think this freehand g+ was pretty imaginative.  When I posted this, I told everyone that my Halloween wish was for the Great Pumpkin to bring Google Fiber to my neighborhood!  I'll let you know how that works out!
Maple and Ash Trees

I have been very fortunate to be able to capture digitally a lot of color that my eyes have seen this year - so I thought I'd try and put a few of the photos I took here, all together.  I hope you enjoy seeing these colors in photos as much as I enjoyed seeing the original!

Silver Maple

Silver Maple, taken with my cell phone on my morning walk

Silver Maple, one week later (from pic above)

Oak Tree

Oak Tree
Oh my gosh, the colors!

Oak Tree
Oak Tree

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

I'm a Little Slow...

A Snail on The Burren
A week ago today I returned from a week long trip to Ireland - "on holiday," as it is properly referred to.  I have over 700 photos to go through, and have been dragging my feet on posting about it due to that large number - but have no worries, because I DO intend to post about it - probably more than once because we had so many lovely experiences!

The Narrow Roads

What follows is a brief overview of where we were at, because we only visited a small part of the country, and places are different.  We flew into Shannon (at 7a.m. with about 2 hours of airplane sleep from a transatlantic flight), and hit the ground running by renting a small manual car.  (Here's some free advice: the smaller the car, the better - better yet, get an automatic next time, and buy all the extra insurance they offer - because you WILL drive too close to a hedge!)

Cliffs of Moher...trust me, they are there!

Then we drove to the Cliffs of Moher along with the other 299 people from the plane (ok, not really).  By the way, I have no idea how they get those shots that you see in the travel brochures and online of actual cliffs; we were told that they look like this most of the time.

We pretty much kept to the Atlantic Coast and traveled The Burren, Lough Corrib and Achnanure Castle in Oughterard; Connemara National Park (where we hiked to the top of Diamond Hill, or Ben Gooria), drove the road that goes around Killary Fjord, through Doolough Pass and the Famine Walk Memorial, then north along the coast to Westport.  Our furthest point north was on Achill Island, where we experienced the most beautiful sunny weather and surely what was the loveliest day of our trip!

Big Happy Sigh on Achill Island, Co. Mayo
Our last couple of days we traveled back down to the south, as we wanted to "Do the Dingle" - yes, that's really how they refer to it.  The raw power and majesty of the Atlantic at every stop around the peninsula continues to stir my soul just thinking about it. An unexpected tour of the Blasket Museum was an added bonus.

So I will keep this one on the short side - to whet your appetite, as it were, and urge you to keep your eyes open for future posts.  Without revealing all, I can tell you this much of what I discovered on my trip:

People can tell you things about Ireland until they are blue in the face, but some things you just have to experience yourself.  Like the narrow streets.  Like the Irish phrase "The Little People." (I think they are referring to the stature/size of those who will fit in the showers and beds in the B&B facilities!)  I love the fact that they don't use box springs on the beds - just a bed platform of some sort.  And they never skimp on the thickness of their toilet paper. And that all the public restrooms have doors that lock.  And air blowers for drying your hands.  A very green country in more ways than one - the Irish are surely some of the most accommodating people in the world!

Stay tuned...

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Feline Heat Index

The English language has long been known to contain many phrases that liken outdoor temperatures to to our canine companions, i.e. "three dog night," "dog days of summer," and so on.  Since I currently have only feline companions (yes, I'm a cat person), I thought it high time to bring some balance to the situation, bases upon the highly complex scientific research known as GWISMD*
(*Guess What I Saw My Cats Do)

For instance, in the earlier warm days of Spring, I would use the air conditioning based on our cats activity level. This was developed after talking to my husband one morning when he called from work; I was wondering if I should turn the A/C on, or try to 'tough it out' the entire day and leave it off.  His response was simple and to the point -  "What do the cats look like?"  It's been my indicator ever since.

Although I've been able to turn off the AC twice in July and open the windows for a few days each time this year (gasp! that's nearly unheard of!), this week it's been in the mid 90's, here in the central plains of the U.S.  A couple of years ago, I realized that my feline friends provided me with an alternative method of forecasting.  

Phineas at 30"
Here's how it works:  First you need to make a note of the surface they are laying on - is it the carpet?  a throw rug or blanket?  If so, you probably don't need to measure anything - it's not too hot (This is also a good time to get a baseline measurement - using a soft measuring tape, make a note of how many inches they measure stretched out, and jot this down).  

But if you spy them laying on any of the following - a cardboard box, newspaper, paper you are working on, pillows with cool material, wood floor, wood furniture, tile floor, the bath tub or sink (empty, of course - although there are exceptions, and exceptional cats!) dinner table, Formica or granite counter-top...go get your measuring tape!

Loki at 34" (cat pattern not included)

Measure once again, write down that result and compare with your baseline.  I believe it's a scientific fact that every inch they stretch out (further than their baseline) is equal to "X" degrees of increased heat.  And there you have it, ladies and gentlemen - The Feline Heat Index. (would someone else please crunch these numbers? I'm too hot. thanks.)

Phineas at 32"

Furthermore, this finding could greatly benefit both the feline AND the Mass Media Communities.  Just think of all the TV stations out there that could 'employ' several cats (at least two, but the more the better!) for their Meteorological Desks - thus reducing the population of thousands of cats in rescue shelters across the country!   And everyone knows that petting or just being around an animal reduces your blood pressure and relaxes you - and when you're not stressing out, how can you deliver bad news?  Presto - Instant World Peace, don't you agree?

Phineas and Loki - on carpet
Phineas in/on porcelain

Phineas and Loki - World Peace.

Thursday, August 22, 2013


This morning, as I sat at my kitchen table finishing breakfast, I looked out the back door to our deck and saw not one, but two wrens on my rosemary plant.  An entire family has been close by all summer long - they built a nest in some clematis vine that grows on the back fence of my next-door neighbor.  I've been a bird watcher my whole life, but have only in the past few years started seeing wrens with any regularity.

In my area there are two species of this bird - the House Wren and the Carolina Wren.  I have seen mostly the Carolina Wren in the past year around my house, including the "family" I am referring to.  I thought the birds on the plant would make such a great photo, so I ran to the other room to get my camera, fiddled with the settings and slipped back into my chair to see if I could get a shot of the birds on the deck, but alas they were gone.  Out of sight, but not out of hearing range.  These amazing creatures have a disproportionate voice to size ratio - loud doesn't even begin to describe it! I could hear them still hanging out around my deck and back yard, so I picked up my phone and started up the iBird Pro app. This program has over 900 birds listed, complete with recordings of their songs .  It is really amazing to select a bird, play their song and watch them get really curious, really fast - this is the best $5 I've ever spent on an app for my phone!

Out on the deck I went, with my camera and my phone blaring the Wren's song.  I decided to park myself at the bottom of the steps, and wait to see if one of them would perch long enough for me to snap some pictures.  I had barely sat down, when I was startled by something almost hitting my head - it was one of the Wrens, they had dive bombed me!  It was all I could do to contain my laughter - the iBird app was working perfectly.  I was a big puzzle...I looked like me, but sounded like them!

Listening for the recording
Roof Inspector!

Answering back!

After several overhead attempts to give me a new hairstyle, and only a few chances for photographs, I decided to move to another spot in the hope of some better angles.  I have a chair under a Bradford Pear tree that sits in the corner of my yard - I've had all sorts of wonderful peaceful nature experiences there - one time I even saw a hummingbird chase off a chickadee right above me (I only looked up because I thought I heard the sound of a helicopter in the distance!).

My spot came through for me again today.  As my chair faces the back of our house, I was able to get some great shots of the Wrens on my deck rail. Meanwhile, I was serenaded (or was that scolded?) by what I think was the entire family above me in the tree, hopping around the whole time.  What a perfectly lovely way to start my day - and how fitting is it,that as I finish typing this and am getting ready to post, they are singing their hearts out just outside my window! ♥♥♥

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Divining Time

A few months ago I was contacted by a woman who wanted me to dowse her house that had been on the market for some time.  It was beautifully appointed and the grounds were a landscaper's dream - but there seemed to be little interest from buyers, in a market that has rapidly been picking up speed.  They had already moved out and were living in their new house, so we made arrangements to meet at the house they were trying to sell.

When I talk to a prospective client, I have learned to pay attention to all those thoughts and feelings that pop up - those same ones I used to rapidly push aside as "just coincidence."  I have a notebook that I use to write their name, phone number, address and concerns.  I also make notes of any thoughts, feelings or ideas that come to my mind while I'm talking with them.  These days, I know to honor my first thought, and follow through with it - because it's how I "get" things.  And I know beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I'm receiving that information from my higher self.  I always have, I just had to learn to trust that I was.

This time, after I hung up with my client (and even before I had seen the house) I got a strong urge to dowse for an actual date that the house would be sold.  I was rather surprised, because I don't consider myself that type of dowser - I don't feel very comfortable giving people solid dates about things, I'm much better at shifting energy.  Still, because the thought came to me I trusted it and immediately picked up my pendulum and started asking questions.  "Will my client's house sell in the next three weeks?"  No.  "The next 4 weeks?"  No.  "The next 7 weeks?"  When I got to 7 weeks, it swung to Yes very quickly.  So I looked at the calender, saw what 7 weeks from that day was, and changed my questions to ask for a specific date.  Once again, I got confirmation.  I remember at the time I thought, "what the heck!" - and wrote it down with my notes.

The day of our meeting arrived, and I drove out and met my client at the house that was for sale.  I like to get a feel of the energy of the place, and let things come to me, and as we walked around, I continued to wait for signs as to what the house wanted me to do.  That really should have been my first clue - although it's not always about what the house wants - sometimes it's the land, or something else that comes up, but as I completed my tour, something told me to dowse and find out how much of the "soul" of the house was actually in the house.  Once again, that's more along the lines of something I would normally dowse for a person, but I have learned that it is best not to argue with my (higher) self!

I have said to many people that I am so fortunate, because the Universe continues to match me with clients that feel energy in much the same way I do - so that when I am shifting energy, we usually both feel it.  As we stood in the kitchen that day and I shifted the soul of the house back into the house, we both felt the waves of energy "showering" over us.  It was a rather beautiful experience, and I love receiving validation like that.  Up to that point in time, I hadn't been sure if I was going to mention the date that I had dowsed for the sale of the house.  But once again, something had been set in motion and I knew I had to pass it on - for better or for worse - and I told her what I'd done and the date I had got.  Being very intuitive herself, my client looked at me, nodded, and said "that sounds about right."  The session ended soon after, and as I left she told me she would let me know when the house sold.  I came home and put it out of my mind - after all, it was 7 whole weeks away, and if I was supposed to know, I trusted I would hear about it!

Three weeks ago, I got the most wonderful email.

Hi Sandy,I wanted to give you an update on the sale of our old house.
After you dowsed and returned the energy of the house on May 23, we received a contingent offer on June 15.
That would be about three weeks later...;) You're awesome!
You had mentioned to me that the house would be sold on July 6th.
The people who made the offer on our old house needed to sell theirs first.They cleaned, moved out extra furniture, painted, installed new ceiling, etc. so their home could be placed on the market.
These repairs took three weeks. (they were going at full speed)
Yesterday, their house went live on the market with an open house.  Several people wanted to see the home.
Within a few hours, they had an offer on their home, over listing price; sold on July 6th.
This in turn, sold our house to them, on July 6th.
Therefore, you are a fantastic dowswer!!!

And therefore, Divining Time = DivineTiming!
Have I mentioned how much I love to dowse???