Monday, January 31, 2011

Elegant Emily

Even More Beautiful on the Inside!

This is one of my three lovely daughters-in-law.  You wouldn't think so by the glam shots I took, (which were my idea), but Emily is very down to earth, in addition to being sweet and kind and fun and smart.  I am very blessed.  All my sons picked perfect brides!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sunset Sunday (kind of) - Golden Gate Bridge

Colors In My Mind
For those of you new to my blog, I need to mention that I make no secret of the fact that my work is a blend of photography and artistic editing.  Often I do very little editing, but then there are times when I go hog wild!  Depends on the subject, the photograph and/or my mood!  I love to use HDR, textures, actions, numerous photo editing programs and techniques.... all possible in this amazing digital age. 
This photo is a case in point.  I loved the simplicity of the composition, but with a plain, boring sky, it was just, well, too plain and boring!  So I made it into a sunset!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Golden Gate Bridge - Getting the Shot


Most serious photographers will tell you that a great photograph is the result of time spent deciding on the best composition, which lens to use, what the exposure and DOF should be, etc., etc.  This is true, that most great pictures look effortless, but in reality are the product of skill and art.  

There are, however, many exceptions to this rule.  Just ask a childrens' portrait photographer or a photojournalism photographer.  Sometimes, getting the shot itself takes precedence over composition or settings or art.  I remember an experience from a week long photography workshop I took, taught by National Geographic Photographer Joel Sartore.  (Incidentally, he is fabulous both as a photographer and an instructor, and this was an experience I will never forget!!)  Anyway, he was showing some of his work, and if I remember correctly, it was a photo of an event in a rodeo where the action was fast and furious.  He took an amazing shot which looked like he was almost going to be trampled by the action.  While most of us were admiring this shot, someone in the class raised his hand and commented that the horizon in the background was crooked.  Joel had a great response that I can't remember, but the gist is that sometimes something will make a photo great even if it is not technically perfect or has other flaws, or even if it is a quick candid catching a great moment in time.

I thought of all this when I took this photo.  It was a quick shot through the windshield of our moving car, directly into the sun.  And, yes, I had to do a ton of editing to even get it presentable.  Whether because it is through tinted glass, or into the sun, or through fog, or because I was using a polarizer, or whatever...... I ended up with a weird shade of green/blue and some banding in the sky.  But somehow it works for me! 

Friday, January 28, 2011

Phriday Phun - Golden Gate Bridge

I Left My Heart.......

Wouldn't it be PHUN to be in San Francisco with that special someone right now???  I guess the next best thing is either to plan a romantic getaway, (a Valentine's Day surprise maybe?),  or relive memories of a past romantic interlude.  (Be sure to see Scott's comment on my last post about a special photo of a very special trip to San Francisco.)  If none of that is possible, then I hope you will enjoy San Francisco through the lens of my camera.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Golden Gate Bridge


Whereas London Bridge in Lake Havasu should not be on anyone's 'bucket list,' (IMHO), Golden Gate Bridge should be on everyone's list.  Actually, if possible, photographing this beautiful place should happen more than once in a lifetime.   Truly a photographer's dream location!  It is a magical place, ever changing... moody with mist one minute, romantic with a golden sunset the next, then something surprisingly different a minute later.  Here the fog was gently rolling over the land looking like cotton candy as it reached up to the sky.  I'm trying to pretend I'm back there as I avoid looking at the gray, snowy views out my window today.  I'll post some more of my misty memories of this bridge during the next few days.  

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tech Talk Tuesday - Making the Sun Your Friend! (plus a bonus!)

A LOVE -HATE Relationship!

If you are an outdoor photographer, you probably have a love-hate relationship with the sun.  If you are a portrait photographer, you know that bright sunlight produces harsh shadows and 'raccoon' eyes on faces, and blown out high lights where you don't want them.  If you are a landscape photographer, you know that bright sunlight produces flat, lifeless images.  As a beginning photographer, you learn to avoid the sun, because more often than not, the pictures taken in the sun look like......well, they look awful, so you avoid the sun shots.

As you grow in experience, however, you learn how to control and tolerate the sun.  You try to shoot on lightly overcast or foggy days, or for landscapes, you try to shoot in the 'golden' hours with the help of polarizing filters, lens shades,  etc.  For portraits, you use scrims to block the sun, or direct its intensity away from your subject, and you look for locations to place your subjects where they are in the shade or at least out of direct sunlight.  The sun is the boss!  

And then at some point, you stand up to the sun, and and look it square in the eye....(on second thought, don't do that!).....  and say something like, I'm not going to let you bully me around any more, or force me to stop shooting during most of the daylight hours when I'm awake and want to enjoy my photography hobby!   I'm going to be bold and use you as part of my artistic canvas and I'll be the boss!  This of course means being creative and stretching yourself to think of different compositions where the sun adds to the image rather than detracts.  

When I took a portrait class last year, the instructor told us and showed us how he loves the sun and uses it to produce stunning images with spectacular high lights bouncing off the model's hair and clothes, accompanied by soft fill light to produce beautiful lighting on her face.  Ever since then I have looked at sunlight in a different way.  Yes, it is true that the hours around sunrise and sunset produce the most beautiful light possible, but that time is not the 'only show in town.'  Below are two cases where I've used the sun instead of avoiding it, and I think they both work well.  Once in a while it is fun to use sun flare instead of avoiding it, as in the first image, and creating silhouettes with unusual shapes by shooting directly into the sun, often makes for an interesting image.  Another little hint here, although these are not HDR shots, often a stunning HDR image results from placing the sun in your series of exposures.  (See below for a little bonus discussion.)

Here's a little bonus discussion for Tech Talk Tuesday.  Remember, I like to compose pictures that show a perspective or view that most people would miss if they were walking by the same scene as I was looking at.  This means you look at your 'subject' from all angles and points of view to find something interesting and different, that catches your attention, and will catch the attention of your viewers.  We all know about getting high and shooting down, or getting low and shooting up, but I didn't realize the concept of shooting low to the max until a few months ago when I accompanied a wedding photographer on a shoot.  Some of the most unusual and beautiful shots she took were from a very low position, angling up.  Now you may think she was sitting on the ground, or even lying on the ground.  Not so.  While standing, she bent over and held her camera at arm's length, an inch away from the ground and pointing it up to take her shots.  When you think about this, you would say, but how could she do this and look through the viewfinder or even at the LCD screen???  Well, she couldn't and didn't.  It takes practice and a ton of shots to get the subject just where she wants in the frame, but she just aimed in the general direction.  Because one doesn't often see photos from ground level, (and I mean ground level), looking almost straight up, many of her shots were fascinating.  (This would be a phun experiment to try on Phriday Phun.)  My point of view on both of these shots is unique from what most people would see, and I think it makes them more interesting.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Winter Desert

A Bit of Winter Color

I had to look pretty hard to find some color, but I managed to find a few little flashes to remind me that this landscape will look very different in a few months.  I can't remember what this plant is called, except that it starts with a 'c', but with the many I saw during my traipsing through the desert, there were about 3 growing close together that had a couple colorful tips. 

Saturday, January 22, 2011

"London Bridge is Falling Down".....

........ and then was rebuilt over a bay at Lake Havasu, Arizona

There have been a succession of bridges called the 'London Bridge' built over the River Thames for more than 2000 years, all being distroyed and replaced because of disrepair or political upheavals.

In 1014, during one such upheaval, (according to tradition), the bridge at that time was destroyed by Norwegian prince Olaf, in a successful bid to divide the defending forces of Danes who held the city of London, thereby regaining London for the Anglo-Saxon king.  This has been thought to have inspired the nursery rhyme, "London Bridge is Falling Down."

The bridge just prior to the bridge photographed above, was the 'old' medieval bridge and had 19 arches, shops build along the bridge, and gatehouses.  It is often mistaken for the bridge a ways away that had towers.  The southern gatehouse was a notorious place in London's history as the severed heads of traitors were impaled on pikes and displayed there.  This 'tradition' started in 1305 and continued for 355 years.  At one time in 1598 there were over 30 heads for 'commuters' to view.  After 600 years, this bridge had to be replaced. 

The 'new' bridge, (above), was engineered by John Rennie and opened in 1831.  As the years passed, this became one of the most congested and heavily traveled roads to London.  The bridge was widened to accommodate the heavy traffic, but that weakened the foundations, and so it had to be removed and replaced.

The bridge was purchased by Robert P McCulloch of McCulloch Oil for $2,460,000.   He then paid n additional $2,700,000 to have it transported and rebuilt at Lake Havasu City, in the middle of the Arizona desert.   It was dedicated in 1971.   McCulloch felt he needed an attraction to draw investors to his new 'retirement' town out in the middle of 'nowhere'.

In my humble opinion, if you are thinking about traveling to Lake Havasu just to see the London Bridge, don't waste your time.  The only thing that was impressive when we were there was the beautiful sky.  Well, you might be impressed if you like dessert and trailer parks!  And when I say desert, I don't mean the beautiful Saguaro cactus type desert.  However, if you live where the winters are cold, and you want to be a snowbird, this area might be for you.  Between Lake Havasu City, and Yuma, we have never seen so many RV resorts, trailers, fifth wheels, motor homes,  and campers in our lives!!  Our son in law tells us that in the little town of Yuma, there are over 23,000 trailer spaces and the population doubles in the winter.  And in the summer when they all go home, many businesses just close up.

Friday, January 21, 2011

NOT a Phun Phriday........

for this bad boy, who met up with........

these hombres!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Saguaros at Sunset

The Saguaro cactus, (pronounced Sawarrow), is a magnificent plant and I can see why photographers travel great distances to capture their unique, unusual and diverse shapes and characteristics.  Each one has its own personality.  They are sacred to the Native Americans who treat them with the same dignity and respect as they would their brothers and sisters.  Indeed, they look very human, especially at twilight when it is easy to imagine them taking on human form.
The Saguaro is a very slow grower, maybe only an inch a year, and they don't start growing 'arms' until they are over 20 years old (according to a park ranger).  They can grow to 50 feet tall, and those with more than 5 arms can be 200 years old.  They have a smooth and waxy skin with ridges of 2 inch spines.  Night blooming white flowers appear in May and June and secret a sweet nectar in its tubes that awaits fertilization by cross pollination with the help of birds, bats and insects.  If fertilized, fruit develops and ripens just before fall and is eaten by all desert creatures and was an important source of food for the early Native Americans.
Photographers can test their composition skills as they view and capture these beautiful plants from unique angles to emphasize their individual character and personality.  I had a wonderful time, but after seeing photos of how beautiful this area is in the spring when this desert comes alive with color, I must go back again! 

Saguaro Winter

Winter in Saguaro National Park produces muted shades of browns, greens, rust and lavender, warmed by early morning and late evening light

Textures, shapes and size are what makes photos at this time of year interesting

It is a beautiful, but very hostile environment.  EVERTHING, and I mean everything, seems to have stickers or thorns, from huge needles to little tiny slivers you can't even see, but you certainly can feel.  Even though I was careful not to touch anything, they must be able to jump out and attach themselves because I'm still picking out slivers!

The size and shapes of these Saguaros are magnificent.  I will give you a little more information on them in my next post. 

Monday, January 17, 2011

Meet Barrett Jay

Barrett Jay
(Nicknamed "Baby Bear" for now, and Jay is for Michelle's grandfather who passed away 2 years ago)

The last day of our Arizona trip ended with a phone call from Michelle saying she was in the hospital because Barrett decided he needed to be born 3 weeks early.  We kept in touch via cell phone as we drove for 10 hours to get home.  Jaron and Michelle described a pretty exciting birth.  Michelle was not feeling any pain until they broke her water, and in less than an hour, and with no medication whatsoever, Barrett made a grand entrance.  And when I say 'grand', Jaron describes the event by saying that after only 2 pushes, he "shot out and was practically airborne, and the doctor barely made it into the room to catch him!"  He is a beautiful baby and definitely looks like he is a brother to Gavin and Sawyer, but maybe looks a bit more like Gavin.  He weighed 7 lbs. 3 ozs. and was 20 inches long.  He had a little bit of trouble breathing for the first few hours, but now is doing fine.  Below is a quick snap in the hospital.  I'll take a 'formal' newborn portrait in a few days. 
This makes our tenth grandchild, and we feel so blessed!!!!


Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sunset Sunday - Saguaro National Park

Saguaro Silhouette at Sunset

Just returned late last night from a lovely trip to Arizona.  Will catch up and post photos of our trip soon!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Friday, January 7, 2011

Phun Phriday - Maternity Shots

"Girls just wanna have fun", so Michelle and I decided to do some corny, funny shots.  (Jaron played along!) What do you think???

They usually don't pick out a name until the baby is born, so we thought we'd give them some suggestions!

This is the cutest ultrasound photo I have ever seen.  Can you see his little hand waving at the camera?

Just in case there is any question that Michelle is pregnant!

We are very excited about the soon to arrive special gift!!!

Thursday, January 6, 2011



Michelle is due at the end of the month, so the other day we took some fun maternity shots, a few of which I'll share with you this week.  If you've ever tried to get an 18 month old to cooperate in any way, including taking photographs, you know you've got to be tricky.  I envisioned this shot with Sawyer pointing to Michelle's belly, but the only way we could get him to do it was to tape a cracker to her belly, which you can see in the photo.  I was going to photoshop it out, but thought it was fun to leave it in.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Tech Talk Tuesday - Setting Up a Home Studio (Part 4)

Thanks for sticking with me!  I'm still not through 'unscrewing up' the mess I made with my computer.  Actually it had to do with importing and exporting from Lightroom, and instead of losing photos, I duplicated about 15,000 photos, mostly huge raw files, which my computer didn't like one bit!  So anyway, don't tell anyone that 'Tech Talk Tuesday' is being posted on Wednesday.

We've talked about the size and type of space you'll need, from a corner in your family room to a large area in your basement, that you could dedicate to your photography hobby.  We've talked about how to prepare that space, and some of the basics you'll need to get started in the way of camera accessories, backdrops, props, etc.  Then we talked about various types of lighting you can use, including some basic information on studio lighting.  (For those of you just checking in, you can find Parts 1,2,3 of this little mini series by clicking on 'Tech Talk Tuesdays' under the header.)

Today I'm going to show you a few photos of my friend Kimberly, (and her business partner Amy's),  home studio to see how they put it all together.  Remember, however, they had the financial resources to remodel part of a basement and purchase adequate equipment to run a professional business.  Most of us will probably not be able to manage something as extensive, but we certainly can get some ideas.  Here we go:

To the right is the door into the 'reception' area.  There is a separate entrance from the outside of the house to enter the studio.  To the left is the seating area and down the stairs is the studio.

This is looking into the sitting area from the main entrance.  Did I mention that my friend and her partner are primarily portrait photographers?  Here is where they meet with clients, and later review 'proofs'.  The door leads to a bathroom.

Looking down into the studio from the reception/sitting room.  Note the dark neutral colors and custom painted walls.  Also note the  system they use for hanging roles of seamless paper to create a backdrop.  Remember, though, we talked about many inexpensive ways to accomplish the same thing using pvc pipe or brackets attached to the wall that will hold a roll of paper.  Note that the ceilings are high, but one thing that Kimberly said, was that in hindsight, the studio space is not large enough to photograph any more than very small groups.

Here is a view looking back up to the reception area.

Here is another backdrop setup.  They've built a frame with utility stands, then are able to hang curtains or other fabric or material to create the background look they want.  If you are looking for ways to save, think pvc pipe for this one.

This shows their key light with a large soft box attached, and a reflector attached to a stand.  Even if you only have one light, you can create lovely portraits, however, a basic system that would cover most everything you need would be a four light system.  The key light is the main 'tool' the photographer uses for his artistry and should be able to move freely.  The fill light is an even wash of light, and when used with the key light at various ratios, creates different highlights and shadows depending on the ratio and where the lights are placed.  The background light is placed between the person and the backdrop to add separation.  The harelight (also called hairlight), is placed above the person's head to add shine and highlights to the hair.  Other lights, including spotlights can be added for special effects.  The type and placement of these lights vary so much between photographers that it will take some study and practice to see what works for you or what you like best.  (See recommendation at end of this post.)

Here is part of their prop area.  As you can see, it includes seating, backdrops, tables, stands, baskets, etc.  Clothes include a variety of hats, shoes and boots, jewelry, etc.

It's easy and inexpensive to gather various fabrics to use as backdrops.  Sheets, curtains, blankets, bedspreads are all options.  Kimberly told me the best black backdrop is a textured bedspread.

As I think I mentioned before, Lowe's or Home Depot might become your best friend.  Here is a piece of wall paneling that is used as a floor prop or could be stood up and used as a backdrop.

One other part of their studio I neglected to photograph was a small room off the studio that is Kimberly's office and inspiration room.  She has large 'bulletin' boards on the walls where she clips and pins photos from magazines or elsewhere that she wants to remember, as well as other ideas to try.  This is also where she does her computer editing as well.  Kimberly and Amy do beautiful work.  Their business is called Tilt Photography and I would like you to check out their blog  here.  (Thanks Kimberly for taking the time to visit with me and helping me learn.) 

Note for the portrait photographer.  When you are serious about setting up a home studio, and want a short, concise, yet specific overview of what you need both for your studio and studio lights, and just as important, diagrams of where to put your lights, how to operate them and what settings to use, and also a review of the classic light patterns for portraiture, then you need to purchase a book titled "Professional Portrait Lighting" by Dave Newman.  He is a master photographer and a wonderful instructor.  I purchased this book at the workshop I attended and it is very easy to understand, with step by step instructions that even beginning photographers can understand.  Here is a link.

Hope these very basic posts have been useful, stretched your view of what is possible, and maybe given you a bit of incentive to make it more convenient to indulge in your photography addiction hobby!  Happy Shooting!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Note From Karen

For all of you who are looking for Tech Talk Tuesday, you'll need to be a bit patient with me.  I've had computer problems last night and this to be perfectly honest, the computer has had user problems, and I've managed to screw up 12,000 photo files!  Anyway, check back later today and I hope to be up and running again, and have Part 4 of setting up a home studio posted!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Back to the Future

As we visited with the 'characters' at Calico Ghost Town, it was evident they loved being where they were, and doing what they were doing, which sometimes meant just enjoying the moment.  I think these people yearn for a simpler way of life, one not so complicated with the pressures and hustle bustle of the world today.  Sometimes we do get so caught up in running from one event to another, or jumping from one commitment to another, or struggling to 'keep up with the Joneses', that we lose ourselves.  We lose sight of what is important and what the really meaningful things in life are.  We neglect ourselves, our spouses, our children, our friends, our health, our faith.  Maybe the beginning of a New Year is a good time to reassess how we spend our time.  After all, our time on earth is a precious resource and gift.  None of us knows exactly how much of it we will be given or when our allotment will be all used up!  I'm going to try harder this year to spend more of my time doing what really matters most!  Want to join me?        

Saturday, January 1, 2011



It is insightful to look back at what we've learned in the past year.  And regardless of whether it has been a wonderful year filled with joy and accomplishments to remember, or one sprinkled with many challenges and disappointments, we have all grown from the experiences of the past 365 days, to become who we are and where we are today.  And now, as we look at the dawn of a beautiful new year filled with possibilities, we can choose to dwell on our shortcomings and disappointments of the past, or we can eagerly look forward to the amazing opportunities of the future.  We have the choice, but we have to do our part to make the most of each new day our Heavenly Father gives us on this earth.  My choice is to move forward with FAITH in God, HOPE for the glorious opportunities He has in store for me, and more CHARITY and kindness toward everyone I can help along the way!

My friend has produced the following short video about moving forward into the New Year.  It is the perfect message for all of us today:

P.S.  For those of you you who may be stopping by for the first time, at the beginning of each month I post an image that you can download and enjoy for your computer 'desktop'.  Please feel free to share it with friends, but please, it is not for commercial use.  It should fit nicely on your monitor and should not be blurry or pixelated.  If you have problems, let me know and I will help.  To download, click HERE, then right click to set as your Desktop Image.