Saturday, October 20, 2018

Photographing a kitten.

Hi, This week I've had the pleasure to photograph Gary. Gary is a teeny little kitten that my  neighbor rescued a few weeks ago when he was only about 4 weeks old.  Gary loves to play and loves to cuddle which made the photo session go more smoothly than I had hoped.

So, here is what I did.

I arrived, pet the jealous doggie Zoe for  a bit, and then went up to Gary's room (which is the kids rooms) and shut the door so Gary couldn't run too far.  I had a small assortment of Christmas decorations that I just threw on the floor.  Since nobody has a tree up, I used green garland, some plastic ornaments of various sizes, a chain of red, wooden beads, and some other odds and ends. 

The hardest part about pet photography is the waiting.  You have to wait for the pet to get to know you a little bit. Pets will not be their normal selves if they are frightened or wary.

Gary loves people.  He will jump right into your lap but it's hard to get a good photo of a kitty in your own lap.  He was a bit wary of all the stuff I draped over the floor.  He would walk through it but if I moved, he would scamper away.  So, I let him explore.

Once he realized that the balls moved, then he started to play.

Now, how to get him to look at the camera?  If I would have had an assistant, this part would have been easier, but I was by myself.  I should have remembered to bring a cat toy on a fishing pole, but I didn't, so I used a bit of ribbon on the end of a wire.  Turns out, Gary wanted to play with the wire too so he wasn't always looking at the ribbon. 

My goal was to get a photo of Gary, looking towards the camera, with only Xmas colors around him. 

Then it morphed into, "I want a picture of Gary in the hat."  Getting him into the hat was easy, I picked Gary up, snuggled for a bit, then gently brought the hat up around him like a blanket.  He was fine with that, purring up a storm.  However, the minute I put him down, he was out of there.  So, I had to time it perfectly and when I put him down, I didn't let go until my camera was in my other hand.

After a few nice shots in front of the fireplace, I tried to decorate his little castle. It's cute, but not what I wanted and Gary was very distracted by the stuff I used to decorate instead of looking at the camera.

I realized by this time, I hadn't used the larger of the plastic balls.  So, I moved the garland away from the fireplace, added a few of the balls with that shiny gold/red ribbon and tried to shoot from above. 
That didn't work out as well as I hoped, but then I tried the hat again and it worked. As you can see, he didn't stay there long. 

I took many photos.  But remember, even sometimes the ones that don't come out right can be made into useful photos.  

Look at these before and after photos. For the black and white conversion here is what it did. 
Removed background distractions.
Increase the clarity to make the black and white contrast a bit sharper
Sharpened, increased Exposure and added more contrast to his eyes. 
Decreased highlights
Clicked Black and White in Lightroom and the result is very nice. 

Here is the gear I used.

  • Canon 5D Mark III  
  • Canon ef24-70 f2.8 lens at various apertures.  I shot close but allowed some wiggle room on the sides in case I had to Photoshop some more greenery to cover a baseboard or something. I was sitting on the floor and bent over for many of the shots so I was eye level with Gary.  If I had an assistant and didn't have to get up to rearrange the props, I would have been on my belly. 

  • 1 Canon 600EX II-RT on a stand behind me pointed to the ceiling with a MagSphere from MagMod. Even though the room was full of light from beautifully large windows, I still used the flash to fill in the shadows.  I set my camera for proper exposure without flash and used the flash at about 1/34th power.

What I would change:

  • Bring a background to tape to the wall or other colored material to drape over the bed and use it as a backdrop.  The fireplace was nice, but the plain wall and baseboard was not what I wanted. 
  • Bring an assistant.
  • Next time I'll set up a station on the bed or higher surface so I can get even closer to eye level. 
  • Bring my cat toy fishing pole.
  • Bring a shallow basket 
  • Bring some red and white fake fur to arrange in the basket.  
  • Bring a small fake tree. 

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Redefining Myself-From Musician to Author

When I was in seventh grade I wanted to be a Veterinarian.  Then I saw a film in my science class where they were operating on a cow's brain.  I couldn't watch it and with that event, I left those dreams die in the toilet with the other stuff. 

I have always liked to write and was encouraged by my 10th grade (or maybe it was 11th I'm not sure)  English Teacher.  However, my mom and my piano teacher conspired to push me into music.  I was a decent piano player, I could learn almost anything and memorize it quickly.  After six (yes six, I fooled around for two) years of college, I finally graduated with a Piano Pedagogy degree.  

I soon learned that, though I could play almost anything, except maybe jazz and improvisation, I didn't know much about music.  I didn't think in terms of harmony, chord progression, key, or form.  I just memorized the melody, shape of the music and my fingerings.  I remember playing in a competition in high school. I was in the middle of a Bach prelude and got lost.  I had to start from the beginning again, since I had no idea what notes to play.   I knew enough to teach beginners and at one point had 40 of them. In all that time, I had one high school student, and I feel that I failed to inspire him to learn more. 

After returning from our last tour in Germany in 2006, I decided to get a "real" job.  I started at Ferguson Enterprises.  During the next 11 years, I tried teaching a little, but never got into it.  In 2009 I joined a photography club. My life goals changed drastically.  Now I just wanted to take pictures. I could not quit the real job because, by this time, kids were starting college. 

One of the neat things about the Hampton Roads Digital Photography club is that it is a teaching organization.  I met many great photographers, learned of others, went on photo walks and listened to informative presentations on camera basics and ways to improve your photos. I received encouragement to branch out and to go out of my comfort zone.  At one point we were encouraged to find a niche on which to focus our talents.  I started volunteering at the SPCA to get more experience photographing pets, since that's the direction I wanted to go.  

In 2016 one of my co-workers was getting married and asked me to photograph her wedding.  "Not me, I don't do weddings!" was my response.  However, she persisted and I caved.  The wedding photos were lovely and she was very happy.  It was a scary experience but also an enjoyable one.  Since the pet photography wasn't going anywhere, I decided to try becoming a wedding photographer.  

I have photographed about 14 weddings, mostly on the referral of other photographers who were booked on those dates.  Some came via or The Knot, but marketing yourself as a wedding photographer takes persistence and with my full time job, I just didn't feel like it. Besides, I'm not very good at telling others to use me, to "Pick me!".  (Probably from all the days of being picked last for sports in PE).  I joined the Smithfield Center for a year as a preferred vendor and sat through two of their "Expos" and was not happy with doing that.  Plus, there were some really good photographers represented who had gadgets galore and pretty packages.  I am a person that likes to keep it simple.  I'll photograph your event for this much, you get the pictures... done...  That is great in theory, but it doesn't sell well, even when you offer it at a cheaper price.   

In 2015 we got a dog, Jazzy.  I had a goal, to get a picture of her each month next to her stuffed, pink dog. We had to replace and then hide the toy in between shots because she would eat it. Taking her photos prompted me to start "pet" photography again, but I had the same problem with that as weddings.  I did not like to market myself. 

In March of 2016 I put together all the monthly photos.  It was a cute little book that inspired me to make it more than just a picture book.  So I chose a few different pictures, added some text and called it "GROWING UP JAZZY".  My daughter worked for a print company in Baltimore and she helped me get in touch with a representative there. He helped me print multiple copies for a reasonable price, so I had something cute to give or sell.  A product is easier for me to market than marketing myself. 

Then came the idea for the counting backwards book, "COUNTING DOWN JAZZY".  After that I revamped GROWING UP JAZZY to be easier to read and more dedicated to the concept of months.  My next idea was creating a book about the alphabet and ABC JAZZY was created.   In a week I will receive the first editions of LITTLE RED JAZZYHOOD and JAZZY TIME.  

Who would have known that after all that music and floundering around as a "wedding/pet photographer"  I would become an author via my love of photography.  

I will always be willing to photograph an event for someone, but I won't go out of my way to find that kind of work.  On August 10, 2018, I retired from Ferguson.   I will be putting most of my energy in to getting my books out there to children who will enjoy them and learn from them.

You can see more about my books at

Monday, August 13, 2018

Retirement: First day home alone.

Today is my first day of my retirement.  I'm not old enough to "officially" retire, but I no longer need to work for a living.  I'm very lucky!!!!!!  So what did I do on my first day?

I took Jazzy for a walk, played ball with Jazzy, cleaned two smokers, did two loads of laundry, hosed and swept the mud off the brick walkway, dug a path for the water to filter away from the bricks, and now I'm giving Jazzy some loving before I'm  off to shop for groceries. 

Had I been at work, I would have used my fingers and my brain, but I would have been sitting for the last two hours.  It feels good to be up and moving around.

Jazzy is finally asleep, so I"m off.
Have a wonderful day everyone.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Family photo fun-Roanoke VA

When ever I go anywhere, I have my camera.  This past weekend I visited my son Ryan and his lovely new bride, Justine in Roanoke, VA.  I had some time to kill while the boys rode their bikes up and down hills and Justine studied (she's gonna be a doctor one day soon!) So, I decided to drive around and catch a few sights. 

I tried to get to Catawba, VA via "avoid highways" on my Google maps.  However, the device asked me to turn right into trees and go on roads that weren't there and then I took random turns down roads that looked cool.  All in all, a fun way to go and see interesting parts of  the American past and present.  Later, I asked one of the neighbors on Ryan's street if I could catch the sunset on the mountains from his back porch. (since you can't really see it when there are houses and trees in the way.)   It was a little too late for sunset, but the mountain view from their porch is lovely.

When I was waiting in the house, I photographed the indoor plants. 

Enjoy the photos of the Roanoke and Salem area of Virginia.

An old dilapidated house in Pamplin City. 

My house has this type of construction too. 

Choosing succulents at the Roanoke farmer'smarket.

View from the Roanoke Star

Still newlyweds.

Add caption

View from the neighbor's porch.

203 Union St, Salem, VA. It's for sale only 250,000. 

An nature always returns.

Google was saying to turn right, right into the trees.

Google says, this should be a street.

Another fine home in Salem, VA.  I always wonder what the story is behind houses like this.

Wouldn't you know, I found a pig in Salem.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

A weekend Getaway

When I go away to take pictures, with no clear goals in mind, I love to travel the older highways.  What would take only 3 hours on interstate 64 takes about 5 hours. When you stop to take pictures, visit shops or check out roads that seem to go nowhere, the 5 hours go by quickly.

The highway is beautiful.  It's lined by trees, goes through small towns, passes by memories.  Though I am not poetic like Emily Dickinson or Robert Frost , I know that what I am feeling when I see abandoned buildings, railroads that stretch across the landscape, livestock grazing, painted valleys and big sky,  I'm feeling what they must have felt. 

Here is my trip in pictures. 

A roadside stand with the honer system for payment.  I picked up some yummy blackberry jam and tomatoes. 

I always wonder what happened in these old buildings.

The neighbors didn't make it either.

I feel like the trees are guiding me down the road.

A path off the highway, I wonder where it leads.

The only drawback of one lane roads is when you have to drive on the wrong side due to construction. 

I saw this cabin by the river and wanted to get a photo but after I turned onto the street I needed to drive about 1/2 mile before I could turn around and I am glad I did. 

So many colorful trees in bloom. 

The cabin by the creek.

This is an old colonial like the one I live in now, I wonder if it was built about the same time. 

Church or school room?

The town was not called Buffalo so I have no idea about the name of this abandoned store. 

The valley looks like a painting, so many colors and textures. 

I'm not the only one who has stopped here to admire the scenery.

Something about railroad tracks, I gotta stop and photograph them. 

The little bull was being quite the bully. 

The curve in the road beckons me to keep going, to see what is next.

The drive way to Windy Mile.  A small, clean, cabin in a cow pasture. 

I often see trees in the middle of fields. I wonder if the farmers left them there because they were too big to move or to provide some shade for resting during the day. 

The driveway from the other angle. 

I wonder what the price of gas was when the last tank was filled. 

There is a story here I am sure.

Don't know why, but I like to photograph cows too.  They heard the camera clicking and were curious. 

The yard around the cabin is fenced but I wonder how close they would get if there was no fence. 

If the mama could talk, I wonder what she would be telling her baby. 


The Maury river which runs through the Goshen Pass

Selfies at the pass.

This footbridge led to the trails on the mountainside.

New Friends crossing the bridge.

Me and my girl. 


We walked up and then down a big hill. 

Beautiful friends and big sky (photo by Rachel). 

Rachel, my daughter, took this picture. The view out the window looks like a mounted photo.

At the winery, trying to get creative in Photoshop.

Rockridge Winery, yummy.

Rachel, my girl, really shows how the weekend was for all of us. 

The sunset on Saturday night with Evie. 
On Sunday we drove to Buchanan, VA the the River Craft Rail house for lunch to meet with Ryan and Justine.
On the way home, I tried a different route.  I was using the directions my phone said to use, then took a right turn and ignored the phone until it started re-routing me.  
The phone re-routed me and I though I was heading east.  I went through Virginia state roads the were just gravel paths.  I truly felt like an explorer but never alone cause I'd see little houses and mail boxes along the road. Funny thing, I took a 45 minute trek through the woods only for the gps to bring me exactly where I started.  
Abandoned nest to the railroad.