It feels like home.

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The first time I visited Scotland it felt like home.  I travel many places to take photographs but something about the grandeur and the misty morning sticks with me.  The light is different here and the weather in fall comfortable, windy and wet but Scotland.  I think what I like most are the wide-open landscapes and the big skies.  The sky always provides drama with clouds rolling in and clouds rolling out.  The above photo was taken on an early morning drive to the Ullapool Ferry.  We left early just to see if we could get a sunrise but we ended up with some really nice light.

When I started photography as a hobby with a Kodak Easy share I never thought I would be standing in the places I have.  The art form grabbed my heart and it hasn’t let go.  I do have certain things I like to take photos of and every person does.  I love water, mountains, mist, sea and it has to have trees.  Which is why the United Kingdom suits my interest so much.  I only get to travel a couple times a year and after every journey, I swear I am going to quit. Usually, after a rest and forgiving the train and airlines, I reset and get ready to go again.

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When I go with friends I usually end up being the navigator.  Which means research on locations and how to get there.  The research is just as fun and dreaming about the location before I even get there gets my excitement up.  Except, finding the places is easier on the computer than with Garmin, maps and guide books sometimes.  We learned that Garmin stops at a certain point just before your destination.  This time I took a hiking Garmin that showed roads the driving Garmin didn’t know existed.  Priceless.  Which means we could still get home since it tracked us also.

In my head, I have things I want to see and explore before I die.  I call it my bucket list.  Everyone has one.  A dream of an adventure that needs to be fulfilled, well part of mine was seeing the black houses on the Isle of Lewis.  It is now checked off the list.

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The best part is I get to do this with friends who enjoy it as much as I do.  It really matters who you take on trips when you take photographs.  They need to understand that taking good photos is going to take time and want to be up at all kinds of hours and weather conditions.  You need to be fit because you are going to want to climb that hill to get that shot.  I have walked on sheep trails right on the edge and decided the way back would be a different path.

If I were to change anything it would be the long flights and jet lag.  Ugh…..JET LAG.  Takes days to adjust coming and going.  The days start to merge the longer I am there and my eyes fill with sights and beauty hard to descibe.  When light hits for a few fleeting seconds and the car can’t get pulled over fast enough to catch it.  Or the herd of sheep walking on the road and you jump out of the car to get a picture.  All those are memories stored on a card taken by my Canon camera.  Why?  Because something in my heart says that the beauty of Scotland can only be captured one photo at a time.

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The 4th of July

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The fourth of July.  My dogs hate it, and I just want to sleep without all the noise. My neighbors enjoy letting some off several nights before the actual day.  Oh, well once a year.  Beyond that, I just hope people remember what they are genuinely celebrating and the lives lost to get our freedoms.

However, taking pictures of the fireworks is quite the experience.  These are from last year when Sharon Scarff and I went to the fireworks display.  The hardest part was finding a place to set up the tripod and camera without a lot of people in the way.  Next, getting a decent shot in the dark with the camera.

Some tips from the Nikon USA website.  I posted the link below.  Let’s face it I don’t try to remember and google what I need to.

https://www.nikonusa.com/en/learn-and-explore/a/tips-and-techniques/taking-pictures-of-fireworks.html

And you want to have your camera set as much as you can before you start.  The time between fireworks is not that long, and you don’t want to miss a good shot.  No, not every shot will be a keeper because you don’t know where they are going to appear in the sky.  Just relax and have fun with it.  

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At first, I didn’t know whether I would enjoy taking the photos themselves.  It’s hot, and the crowds are large, but a new experience and a chance to see what the camera can do in low light makes it fun.  The time will go faster than you think and you will wish they had more to set off.  I did use a cable release, bulb, and f11 as suggested.  I had a great time, and glad I went out and took the photos.  Don’t be afraid to try something new with your camera you will probably be amazed at the results.

 

Hand in Hand

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Sometimes, I like to sit and think or stand and think.  Either way, I am an introvert, so it comes naturally for me to need time to process life around me.  I enjoy nature so much so that I do not know how good my life would be without it.  Another part of my life that is important to me and I am protective of is my peacetime.  I do not function, write or be a happy person without time to reflect and rest.  I do realize that this all plays into the great adventures that I go on.  The need to explore and take photographs of places around me.  I need both, and surprisingly they go hand in hand in my life.

The creative side of my nature feeds off of the photography and writing.  Photography takes time to learn and develop and the ability to see a good photo does not happen overnight.  The development takes looking at other peoples photos who are better and seeing what they see.  Reading books on photography helps too.  My favorite book when I was starting out was “Digital Exposure Handbook” by Ross Hoddinott and “Understanding Exposure” by Bryan Peterson.  They helped me understand the f-stops, lighting, and speed which function together.

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And I like to look for what people overlook.  The abstract, simple, intricate, lines and anything that will interest you and me.  Mostly, it has to mean something to me and my vision.  Photography and writing is a reflection of the artists’ life.  Most people don’t recognize and or see the relationship.  Most people don’t care they just either like the photo or not.  Just as the writing, the story either says something to them or it doesn’t.  Either way, I never expect people to really understand what I see.  A few people will, but those are the writers, poets, photographer romantics on a similar journey.  River (1 of 1)

My best advice is to not get upset if people don’t see color in your black and white.  Developing your creative side and learning what works for you takes time and comes down to what is inside of you.  Not everyone you meet will be supportive or have an interest in what you do.  Keep your faith and learn to grow.  I have been more of a late bloomer with my creative side.  As the confidence in myself grew I laid down the old hang-ups.  Don’t be surprised if your photography inspires you to write, paint or dream.

The traveling opens doors to the soul and you find people and places you didn’t know existed.  My thinking burst the limits of my small town the moment I flew across the water.  The moment I stood and stared out across a lake in the still of the morning covered in mist.  I hope you find your adventure.

 

A Time To Rest

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And breath!  After a rushed weekend crammed full of gardening, laundry, cleaning, packing and cooking.  I went on vacation almost exhausted before I got into the car for the drive.  I had been looking for a cabin to stay in that had some atmosphere and not just a dull treeless campsite.  I found Four Mounds in Dubuque, Ia during a long search for the right spot.  The cabin had a view of the river and was isolated enough for peace and rest.  Plus, some history behind the location that was started as a gentleman’s farm in 1908.  I could almost feel the early 1900’s in the houses and the drive and the peace of the garden.  It wasn’t hard for me to imagine the bustle of everyday living here next to the river.new-7124

The two older houses were used as bed and breakfasts.  I could hear the echoes in the hall of the family that lived there.  The wood around the door frames, windows and  the wood floors reminded me of a time we don’t understand anymore.  The head house keeper Anna who came from Ireland when she was 18 and staid the housekeeper for the next 40 years until she died.  Apparently, she never married but carried out her life here.  I could understand why standing in her room and seeing the view from her window.  We walked the grounds and read the billboards describing the past.  People, lives and living.

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And then the cabin built for the granddaughter in the 1950’s.  The chair that I spent quite a bit of time in reading and staring out the window watching the rain.  Can you believe I felt guilty for doing nothing but reading.  It took time to wind down from all the activity my life contains.  Time to relax and time to forget that all activity isn’t productive for me and that rest has great value.  Time to read and unplug as much as I could from the world around me.  I did of course have my camera, but only took photos that represented something to me.  I love to be in the trees and feel the cool under the shade of the leaves and limbs.  I could hear the patter of rain and watch it drip from the leaves. I walked the path along the river and listened to the birds sing in the trees.   And dreamed the dreams of the creative mind free of the clutter of technology and time.  new-7187

The oak tree with its rugged bark and scars of time, still standing.  A tree knows how to be a tree when it comes out of the seed.  Humans are the only ones that seem to not understand their purpose.  Nature has a way of bringing me back to the present and keeping me grounded.  Realizing that doing nothing was actually something that was needed to regain focus.  I spend a lot of my life trying to get back to nature.  I don’t think I need to wonder why.

The Mirror Of Spring

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I look forward to this moment every year.  The moment the earth warms from the frozen cocoon of winter and a myriad of color bursts forth.  The moment, I no longer feel I am peering at life from behind the window waiting for the color to arrive.  Maybe only introverts understand but I do a lot of thinking about photography and my life.  The two events are intertwined with adventure and adventure through photography helps me see.  Like most people I feel like a cog in the everyday wheel of work and repeat.  Nothing wrong with work and it is necessary just more limiting to a schedule.  And I dream of freedom and being able to explore nature around me.  I dream of crossing that street.IMG_6600

Maybe, life is like crossing the street and moving down a block.  I don’t know what I am going to find and not sure where I am going, but I can go.  With my camera in hand and wisps of color on trees pulling me down the block, I go with expectation.  My eyes searching everywhere around me and my thoughts on nothing but my environment.   I leave myself behind to enjoy the moment of sun, cool air and vision.  Knowing that I want to adsorb the beauty of the day, the quiet on the street, the call of nature.  I am been waiting for this awakening all winter long, when my life can transform once again into something new and growth happens behind the lens.  All the time I am looking for that light.IMG_6683

That just kisses the top of the petal on the bloom.  The one bloom trying not to get lost in a myriad of flowers reaching toward the sun.  A moment in time to disappear in a matter of days.  The spring quick adventure and the frenzy to capture the glory.  A moment to breath before the heat of summer and hard sun.  All of it as life moves forward in its seasons, a mirror almost for the moments most fleeting.  The moments that I wish to hold onto then are gone.  The peace found away from this world in the quiet of the trees.  A time to turn off the voice of insecurity and raise my try.  Everyone needs to remember their try…that moment of  “I can” that explodes open the doors of possibility.  If I never would have believed I never would have picked up a camera.  IMG_6747

I took a chance really to step outside my comfort zone and believe like a flower.  That I could open myself up and make a difference mainly to me.  To explore the little things, big things, fleeting things.  I like to look for what most people don’t notice.  I tend to notice whether in people or nature, I quietly observe.  I recognize or try to the purpose, the connection between the smallest flower to the largest tree.  Recognizing the season and taking advantage of the time and growing in it and through it.  The camera reflecting the soul of the photographer and nature brining man back from the brink of folly.  Photography is more than art its a Mirror if only you take time to look.

A Bird Adventure to Florida

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Another adventure under my belt.  Another flight across country to a new destination.  This time my travels led me to St. Petersburg, Florida and a Jennifer King Photography workshop.  The workshop led by Jennifer King and Chris Beasley a photographer in Florida.  I will admit going into this I am way overdue for a vacation.  I save my time and my money for my adventures, they are what make a well rounded life for me.

I land at the airport and experience temperatures that I haven’t seen for over a year.  The sun shines like it is normal for it to be out this time of the year.  Only a northerner would understand this, which I am, the frozen tundra I like to call it.  I can feel myself trying to adjust to being jolted out of the day to day routine of office life and responsibilities to the freedom of vacation.  A nice lunch on a sunny veranda and I am ready.

This is my third Jennifer King Photography workshop and she never disappoints me.  Chris Beasley, the scout for these locations, knows what he is looking for and where to find it.  Which is huge for someone like me who has 4 days in one location.  I would have never been able to walk up to a sight and expect to see birds, not knowing the locations.  The birds were there every time, to the point, of overwhelming me in some cases.   It was tough to deal with but it had to be done.  It was that good.good-5606

What I really am glad they did is take us to the beach to get used to the equipment and test it on the birds.  I purchased a Gimball Sidekick by Wimberely for my Canon 7d Mark II and Tamron 160-600mm lens.  I meant to practice before I left and I had issues with the set up the first day and into the next.  My plates were wrong and the weight of the camera would make it slide.  I switched things around and it didn’t work but I am with a group of photographers so I got some good advice.  I switched it again and I am in business.  I use a Feisol tripod and regretted taking it into the water.  However, the legs are easier to take a part and clean the sand out of.  I did notice that if I tried to focus on a bird in a clear blue sky the Canon 7d would struggle.  A learning curved had to be trudged through to get my system down.  However once I did get the camera set up I rarely changed it.  I used the Aperture preferred setting and one stop of from wide open on my lens, a 6.3 on the lens.  I did have to adjust my focus point to get the sharp eye.

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We also had a class room session about taking the photos.  This helped me keep in mind the kind of shots I am looking for.  What would bring interest to a photo and to keep a sharp eye on the bird.  The advice rolls through the mind once the equipment starts to work as it should and the opportunities fly in view.  I will admit the names of the birds are not going to be memorized in 4 days. I am out of my zone and am seeing birds that I are new to me.   I do know the above is a White Egret.  Just don’t test me later on some of there others.  good-5776

Light.  Side light, front light, back light.  Some of the best I have seen in awhile.  I am a landscape photographer and I like a good sunset.  (Which we had.)  In nature I think the like just brings me closer into the bird I am looking at.  I am taking a peak into their world while they hunt for their breakfast.  They don’t care whether their eye is in focus or is the light good enough to display all their beautiful color.  But you do.  Those of you that will follow my adventure and happily trudge through my photos.  I want to bring you into that moment of peace and quiet.  When it was just me, a cool breeze, morning sunshine, with the smell of the ocean in the air and a bird going about its morning.

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And Jennifer, who walked by as this bird a Cormorant drying itself in the sun, said the wings make a nice abstract.  Or Chris who kept his eyes out for birds flying in so we wouldn’t miss an opportunity.  Both, always ready to help with a camera malfuntion or advice about a photo.  I really enjoyed myself and I have a few thousand pictures to prove it.  However, the editing will have to come in phases with that many photos to look through.

I think an adventure is remembered best by the people you meet and the experience you have while you are on it. I am glad I got to catch up with some old friends and meet some new ones too.  A group of photographers together can either be competitive or a smooth fun experience.  This was fun.  Thank you.

The moment I fell in love with Scotland

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Its a gloomy day here in my part of the world.  The weather cold with ice in the future and I have been thinking.  I can pinpoint a lot of things in my life with moments and here is one of mine.  The moment I fell in love with Scotland.  Yes, the above picture is the exact moment in all its amateur photography glory.  I remember my first Canon camera and XT-1 and feeling pretty special walking around with that piece of equipment. Of course, if I knew then what I know now that picture would have been a lot better.  I hadn’t had a camera for very long at this point and I was up with jet lag taking photos outside our hotel near Oban.  I just new I was in a special place.  The view from the road and the quiet sheep grazing in the field along with the water.  I am landlocked where I live and our water views are nothing compared to this…..nothing.

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Kinipoch hotel near Oban Scotland with the tulips blooming and buds just emerging off of the trees in early spring.  The bright red color of the Azalea and pinks in the Rhododendrons in the gardens that looks so effortless and peaceful.  That morning was quiet and calm with a blue haze before the sun started to lift.  I snuck out of the room with camera in hand, little did I know that it would start a love affair.

With a peaceful feeling from the land the hills and water calling me.  So much in one small area it was like the world opened up and showed me that life existed beyond my home town.  Which is the true point of travel really to wake me up and get me out of my comfort zone.  At this point I was so far from my comfort zone I knew I never wanted to go back.  Of course, the pictures were disappointing when I got home.  I have chosen a few from that trip but the rest are just standard tourist photos.  I tried. I knew nothing but I tried which was why I decided I had to go back again because I needed to do a better job.  The excuse sounded reasonable and I had a camera and no point wasting it. My next trip over was for a photography workshop to the Lakes District.  And then back to Scotland again.  Isle of Mull_MG_3183

With views like this how am I supposed to ever stop wanting to see this part of the world.  I could only imagine what it would be like to live in that house in the distance.  The view of the water every morning surrounded by the mystery of time.  The house seems so lonely yet perfect beacon against the landscape.  Why wouldn’t you want to wake up to this view everyday.  My world was so different than this spot being landlocked.  The people were very friendly and well used to travelers .  I wonder if the people living here on this small island take for granted what I saw as I looked across the water to the mountains.  I have corn and bean fields everywhere I go…no water except for a small pond…no clouds that you can almost touch.  The world seems to almost stop as I stood there as the clouds floated over head.

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Yet, here I sit back home…no clouds….or water except in the form of rain and I dream of my love for Scotland.  I am past the point of caring how many times I go back.  Well, except for the plane ride is still long and jet lag…hate jet lag.  I just dream every year of my next adventure and wonder where I should go and how to improve my photography to convey what I see and feel.  Even though the landscapes are large the feeling of quiet and peace are larger.  A sense of adventure and the lure of a Scottish accent calls.  This year Isle of Lewis and the Callanish standing stones beckon, along with beaches, birds and rocks that could tell stories.  Just don’t forget the tea when a break is needed.

I can’t wait for another adventure.