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.