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.

Dreaming of Spring

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I was daydreaming about spring today.  The winter gray, black and white wonderland with all the face slapping cold is starting to wear me down.  So, I dream of the flowers in spring.  I dream of a walk across a windswept Scottish pasture with sheep grazing nearby.  And the bluebells of the Yorkshire Dales-a sight that I want to repeat and photograph again.  The feeling of freedom that vacation in a faraway place gives me.  I can still feel the ties of home, they never leave, but I just settle into the moment and the feel and the warmth.

I dream of springs blue skies that mark the change of season.  The washing the rain does to clean off the dirt and mud of a cold winter.  The warmth that seeps in and brushes against your cheek as you lift your face to the sun.  The simple growth of grass before its first cut.  I dream of this park with these trees and the flowers that emerge before the leaves.  Can you imagine the bravery and faith a tree has to grow every year.  Just grow, bud, flower, leaf, every year without fail, without question.

While, I sit and question my photography, my trips, my goals instead of just concentrating on the growth.   I am decisive by nature and I like to keep myself in check-this isn’t a bad thing-I just want to keep myself on track for a vision.  I question what I am doing and whether I should keep doing it.  Like the photography and the writing, what they fulfill  for me and my growth.  I have come to the conclusion that I wouldn’t like me without the outlet of the camera.  My dreams would be less inspired and my soul very much like winter.

So, I dream of spring with my camera in my hand.  I wonder what day I should drive over to the park to catch the tree with the blooms.  The red ones were my favorite.DSCF5162

The unashamed bright colored blooms waving in the breeze for all the world to see.  The tree that has the faith every year just to grow, even as it seems they die for winter.  Which is  maybe what I do a bit too.  I take a break and store up the energy to go out again each year.  I plan, I dream and I take time to think and slow down.

I dream of photos with color and feeling.  Don’t you?  Not just for the world to see, even though the feedback of others is important, at the end of the day what you think matters most.  Whether you have the spirit it takes to explore with your camera and see the world.   Whether you dream big enough dreams that you can accomplish and feed your soul.  Whether the now silent tree calls to you in winter reminding you that beauty is at your doorstep and all you need to do is explore.

Whether you have the faith is up to you.  I have all ready decided what I am going to do.

The Simple Watermark

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I have never had great patience for photoshop.  I have tried, I promise you but the layers upon layers of options and keys to hit.  My mind just goes numb.  I took the classes and sat through instruction only to feel my brain slowly start to fade out on me.  Not my thing and that is ok.   Next, I decided to see if  Youtube had a simple tutorial for me to follow to again attempt to make my own watermark.  Nope, the guy said the word layers and I could feel my brain close down, literally checks out on me.  Best to know where you talent lies and mine is shopping.  Time to shop for a water mark.

I don’t know why the sudden need for the upgrade.  The old name slapped across the photo was doing just fine, although clearly not inspiring.  So, off I go typing in watermark logos for a an internet search and the computer churned back more confusion.  Wow, the options are endless and expensive for just a name slapped on the bottom of a photo.  I truly reconsidered my decision to replace old faithful with something new.  Facebook of course and their sneaky adds that track me and pop things in my feed.  How do they know?  Truly if they post any ads for retirement I will take offense.

I will admit Photologo did know what they were doing and produced the above logo in 4 color options.  All I had to do was answer a few questions and tell them what I wanted.  Not too thick and not too curly and please make it readable.  I mean, it seems reasonable to spend all that money and want to be able to read the name.  Getting it into Lightroom and sizing is easy after playing around with it a bit.  I think I will have to be more conscious of which one I pull depending on the photo.  Given time I will have all the kinks worked out.

Ok so maybe I am changing a bit and taking the picture in as the whole product from the your point of view.  I go to all the trouble of taking what I think is a great shot.  I want to inspire you with that photo, but clearly want to stamp it as mine.  Again,  I went to all the effort.  So, the name should compliment the work and not distract.    Beauty takes on many forms and should inspire even if it is only written words.  Hope you like it.  I do.

So maybe the simple watermark isn’t so simple after all.

Iowa Eagles and a few Geese.

 

It is that time of year.  Cold.  Well, next week is supposed to be cold as we slide closer to January.  The promise of snow somewhere north of the middle earth that I live in.  The scenery currently looks brown from the grass to the trees and it doesn’t do much to stimulate the eyes.  A hope still exists and it is the return of the eagles along the river.  As the temperatures drop the eagles come up north to stay for the winter.  Which, brings something to photograph in the slow time of the year.

Last year, I invested in a Tamron 100-600 mm lens and a used Canon 7d mark 2 to take pictures of the eagles.  I have always wanted to and the lens came up and the website and called to me.  (Kind of by name.)  The lens arrived in a massive box, the size I have never seen before and the excitement began to build.  Now waiting for the eagles and waiting, so I decide to try the lens out on some geese that show up by the river every year.untitled-2-26

Now, photography isn’t all roses, especially when it comes to new equipment and moving objects.  I normally take landscape shots on a tripod with filters.  Nothing moves really, except for water sometimes and grass.  Wildlife tends to have a mind of its own and doesn’t like to be approached, no matter how quiet you are being.  And panning a lens and camera set up that feels like it weighs 10 pounds can be frustrating.  So I thought I would show a not so great first attempt into the cold winter wild.

Moving on.

Sharon, a friend on mine can spot animals from the car like no one I have ever met.  She goes out to take pictures of dear, eagles, hawks and what ever else she can find.  I think once you look for something long enough it eventually shows up.  Well, we decided to go take photos up by Iowa City and the lake.  From my first attempt I decide that I could do better and should do better.  You may ask what is the best place to go to get advice.  That is easy…..Google.  Someone, somewhere out in cyber space knows exactly how to run your equipment and is willing to give you advice.  So, don’t pester your friends just Google it so you look a little smarter the second time you go to take photos. untitled-0218

And try to get the geese not moving this time.  Just kidding.  They were resting across the river.  But, I was impressed by the distance the lens could reach.  The Canon 7d Mark 2 never missed a beat and fired away in rapid speed.  After working through some issues, Sharon suggested using aperture preferred and letting the camera go.  It worked.  We didn’t use tripods because following the eagles in flight and just finding them sometimes in the view finder takes practice.  And if your lucky and your arm doesn’t fall off from he strain you will get a few good shots.  After you freeze for a couple of hours in the bitter Iowa winter.  untitled-0104

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Now, I realize that the lens didn’t cost me thousands of dollars and some of the shots could have been clearer, but I don’t work for National Geographic.  The point was and still is to enjoy being outside and capturing nature.  Plus, since I don’t get to go out all the time spending money on high priced equipment doesn’t make sense.  I am happy with what I did get that day and can’t wait to see what I can do this year.  After I Google again to figure out what I did last year.