Monday, April 27, 2015

It's Not Just Luck Hummingbird Photography Tips

This photo is the result of trial and error that basically took me all day to get. I achieved part of my goal (freezing the hummingbird wings) but the other part of my goal I did not. My next goal is to figure out how to light that beautiful red gorget for maximum color. This photo was created  partly from hummingbird photo tips from one of my favorite hummingbird photographers Gregory Scott and partly from lots of patience. Check out Gregory Scotts amazing work HERE. Not only are his photos amazing but he's a great human being as well, willing to share tips with other photographers to help them rather than keeping all of his photo secrets to himself. I wanted to pay it forward so here are some tips that will hopefully help another photographer who loves these little flying gems as much as I do. 

 One of  the tips I learned from Gregory Scott was to use a macro lens to get great detail. Most people including myself believed that you needed a really long telephoto to get hummingbird shots but this is not always the case. For this photo I used a 105 mm 2.8 macro lens on a tripod. The reason for the macro lens is detail. You can set his to a really large f-stop number like 18- 22 and this helps a lot with your depth of field for focusing so if you prefocus the focus is a little more forgiving. The camera was set 3-4 feet away from the feeder.  I prefocused in the area where I wanted the hummingbird to hover and sat in a chair with my cable release in hand and waited and shot and waited and shot until I got the right combination of the little flying gem hovering where I wanted and the light to freeze the wings. 

The settings for this photo were F-stop 18, shutter speed 320, ISO 200 and 3 flahes set to manual 1/32 power including the on camera pop up flash that triggered the other two Nikon S-B800 flases. I also used a piece of foam core board that you could purchase at any craft store for the back ground. The back ground was placed about 4 or 5 feet away from the feeder where I was trying to get the hummingbirds to hover. 

Most people think that hummingbird flight is frozen with a fast shutter speed but that is not the case. It's flash duration that freezes the wings. And believe it or not this is done but setting the flash to a lower power rather than higher power. Bigger isn't always better. These settings are not written in stone as far as the camera settings so put your camera on manual and just take some test shots to get the light to where you want it by adjusting the shutter speed and f stop combos until you get what you want. I also used the lowest ISO I could because these keeps the noise down. 

In order to get the flahses to do what you want, you need to have control over the light which you can't do in sunlight. I shot this in the shade on a cloudy day and I had the best results around 4 pm when the sun behind the clouds went behind the house. These were all shot on our deck using the shade from eves of our house but you could do this in your yard if you have deeply shady spot. I used a sprig of flowers inserted into a hummingbird feeder port and I taped off the other 3 ports to get the hummingbird to hover where I wanted. 

I photograph on a budget so I have two tripods and two off camera flashes. I used one tripod for the camera and another for one of the flashes but since I only have two tripods for my 3rd tripod I used the arm of a chair and some electrical tape to hold the flash in place. The other part of my studio was the piece of white foam core board that I used for the back ground.

 I hope these tips are helpful to others learning their way in photography and on a budget like myself. I'd like to be able to afford more flashes but in the mean time I'll make due with what I have and continue to try to get the most of what I have. 

Thanks for stopping by to read my blog and for following my progress as a nature photographer. If you'd like to see more of my work, click on the photo below. 

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Sunday, April 12, 2015

How To Get Nikon Optional Picture Controls Onto Your D300

Sometimes it's the little things that either drive you crazy or make you happy depending on the outcome.

I just spent hours and hours trying to figure out how to load the Nikon Picture control landscape setting onto my Nikon D300. I love nature, I love photographing nature but I am no programmer. All the computer jargon took my poor brain for a ride. What's a "root folder" anyways? Through trial and error I finally succeeded in getting this onto my Nikon D300 and I can now shoot using the landscape mode if I so choose. Here's one of the first photos using this mode:

Ahh greens look ...well green! And I have nice saturated color but not too saturated. I'm not exactly sure why the camera didn't come with this and also the portrait mode but it didn't. I tried following the instructions on the Nikon website but they were as clear as mud. I'm pretty sure the newer Nikon D800 and 810 comes with these already in the camera but I'm still saving for one of those. If you want to contribute to my new camera fund you can buy something Here or Here  :-)

So for anyone else who has pulled their hair out trying to figure out how to add the Nikon optional picture control settings onto their camera, here is my non-programmer minded explanation for the rest of us.

First you go to their website Here

Next I went onto my main drive on my computer and created a folder called PICTURECONTROL. I don't think it matters what you name the file but I put it in all caps because I read another tutorial somewhere that had it in all caps so I did this just in case it did matter. I don't think it matters what you name it either. Then I went back to the website and selected the one I wanted (landscape in my case) and then I found my camera model and operating system which was Nikon D300 and Windows and I clicked on the button to accept the download. Then I navagated to the folder that I created and clicked inside it and made sure it downloaded there. I have Windows 7 so it may be a little different on windows 8. Your computer may default to another place for downloads but you can change it to get it into the new folder you created by navagating there.  Once it downloaded, I then had a file in my new folder. Next I double clicked on this and it created a Nikon folder with the picture control inside.

This is where it got tricky. At frist I just put the file on a formated Nikon CF card using a card reader but my camera wouldn't recognize it. *Note I think it's important to start out with a formatted card (card that has been formatted in your Nikon camera).  It said "no file on card" or something to that effect.  I finally figured out that I needed to copy that whole Nikon file that contained the picture utility file. Once I copied the Nikon file with the picture control utility inside, I pasted it onto the Nikon CF card (not in the DCIM file but just on the card.

Next I put the card into the camera and in the menus found the little icon that looked like a camera. Under that I went to manage picture control and then load/save and then copy to camera and OK. Wala! Now I have more options to choose from on my camera.

I hope this is helpful to anyone else who was pulling their hair out trying to figure out how to add these onto their Nikon D300 or other Nikon DLSR Cameras.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

2016 Shenandoah Valley Birds

After the encouragement of some friends I decided to test the waters with calendars. After posting some photos of birds on Face Book a friend suggested I make a bird calendar so here is a link to my first calendar . This calendar features a different bird for every month and each bird is a bird that can be found in the Shenandoah Valley.  If you are want to get ahead on your Christmas shopping or are looking for a unique birthday gift, this would make a great gift for anyone who loves birds and finds inspiration from watching them.

I may be offering other gifts as well and most likely another calendar or two will be in the works. Check back here for updates. Thanks for stopping by to read my blog. 

Friday, March 13, 2015

My First Public Exhibition

I'm super excited! My baloon photo was chosen among the photos of Vincent Warrick & Neal Lewis to be hung in a display in the Page Memorial Hospital. The hospital recently moved into a brand new building and this display is seen as you walk in the front entrance of the hospital. The hospital wanted to showcase local photographers myself included.  More photos from Vincent Warrick can be seen here . And more phototos from Neal Lewis can be seen here. What an honor to be shown with two amazing photographers! 

Friday, March 6, 2015

Our Feathered Friends

Sometimes when you lend a helping hand the unexpected rewards are great. Yesterday was one of those moments. We have been feeding the birds all winter long and recently we’ve had some record breaking cold snaps combined with snow storms here in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Every morning when we get up we have a morning ritual…feed our cats, feed the wild birds and lastly tend to our own needs with a cup of coffee or tea. Sometimes the cats have to wait for the birds to be fed since they are snug and warm in the house but the wild birds are all lined up in the tree waiting for us with anticipation looking in the window wondering when those magic bundles of food will be placed on the deck for their breakfast buffet.

Yesterday the snow was falling (9” total when it finished), it was cold and the birds were hungry! After the feeders had been hung for a while there was an enormous amount of birds at the feeders, more birds than we could ever recall seeing at once. Since we were snowed in again and cabin fever was beginning to set in an idea occurred to me to pass the time… why not try to hand feed the friendly little pine siskins. I had noticed that I could get just inches from these little birds and they showed virtually no fear of me when I would walk by the feeder. So I filled my two outstretched hands with sunflower seeds and patiently waited near the feeder. My hands were resting on the two bottom rungs our finch feeder. My husband was watching from inside the house but I didn’t know it at the time because I couldn’t turn around. To my surprise a siskin landed on my right hand and began to feed! Then another tried to land on the same hand and they had a little mini power struggle over my hand! The next thing I knew there was one on each of my hands and then there were two on one and one on the other! I remember thinking “I hope my husband is seeing this”.  Well he must have been picking up on my ESP because he not only saw but he shot photos and a video as well (See below).

Today I decided to try it out again to see if maybe they were just desperate yesterday because of the snow or if they really did trust me. So under a clear blue sky with no snow falling today I was treated to the same joy of bonding with a little bird…actually two birds! I tried something new too. I gently put my hand under the feeder rung where a bird was already perched and it happily hopped onto it. At one point one was hovering trying to land on my hand from a nearby branch so I held my hand closer to the branch and then that one landed on my other hand. It’s always nice to make friends but it feels extra special when you make a friend who is of the feathered kind.

My husband got to witness some special bird behavior this morning too when he hung our feeders. A tufted titmouse watched from high above in a tree as he hung the feeders. Once he had hung them the titmouse called out to all the other roosting birds and they all flew out of the trees and came to the feeders. The little titmouse announcing that the breakfast buffet was open didn’t fly to the feeders right away…it was almost like he or she was the bird flock leader and was making sure its flock was OK before tending to its own needs. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

He's Back! Male Pileated Woodpecker

And here he is! I was just writing about "Ricky" our male pileated woodpecker yesterday wondering when he was going to make an appearance when he showed up today. Perhaps he was reading my blog yesterday. :-) It really is amazing to see such a huge colorful bird at your bird feeder that usually hosts birds less than half his size! Thanks for stopping by to view the wildlife in our back yard in the blue ridge mountains of Virginia. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Beauty In Winter From Colorful Birds it the longest season or does it just seem that way to a Southern California born girl living in the rural mountains of Virginia? I know Spring is surely around the corner since the end of February is thankfully approaching. It's hard to believe though when currently the temperature is 13 degrees which is actually quite an imporovement from the -1 that the morning started with! I'm trying to stay positive though and find what beauty I can in this cold and color muted world of winter. Luckily the cold does come with a silver lining in the form of beautiful birds like this very chilly male cardinal and this hungry female pileated woodpecker who seems to be saying "More Suet Please!". If we are lucky we will get to see the male pileated this year as well. The male and female pileated woodpeckers look identical at first glance but can be told apart by what I call their mustache. The males have a red mustache (see photo below) and the females have a black mustache (see photo above). Well I'm off to make some more suet for our hungry hoards of winter birds. Thanks for stopping by to read my blog and view my photos. More of my photos can be viewed at

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

WHSV Photo Contest

Thanks to all who helped with their votes. I didn't place but I did make it to page 6 out of  200 and some entries. I entered after a friend suggested I do so, ran outsdide with my camera and literally got my entry in just minutes before the closing deadline. Thanks again for all who voted, it was much appreciated. :)

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Helping Our Feathered Friends

This weekend took on a sense of urgency for our feathered friends. The temperatures in the valley were ranging from 5 degrees to the teens but with the wind gusts of up to 45 miles an hour the wind chills got as low as 25 below zero! Some people don't think that we humans should interefere with nature and wildlife...but the way I look at it is that since we already have altered the balance of nature by our presence here on planet earth, it's up to us to help take care of our fellow creatures. We had a steady stream of birds at the feeder all day long today. We kept them fed with home made peanut butter suet, rose hips, black oil sunflower seeds and safflower seeds. We were even surprised by a visit from a rather large female pileated woopecker. We also saw cardinals, red bellied woodpeckers, downy woodpeckers, juncos, purple finches, gold finches, titmice, chickadees, nuthatches and one of my personal favorites, wrens.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Feeding Winter Birds

Here are a few of my favorite winter birds in the Shenandoah Valley:

These little beauties "will work for food" and seem more than happy to pose for me when given their favorite tasty bird treats.

We have three feeders in the winter months to help our little bird locals get through the winter months.

We feed them home made suet, black oil sunflower seeds and safflower seeds. The cardinals really like the safflower seeds.

My home made suet attracts a wide
variety of birds ranging from
woodpeckers, to wrens.

 Here is a loose recipe for my home made suet:

I buy the store bought suet for the
little plastic molds that they come in and then I use those for my home made suet. The birds will eat the store bought but they devour my home made.


Melted Lard (not Crisco but real lard) Maybe about two or two and 1/2 cups
Once melted, remove pan from heat and add about a cup of peanut butter
Add about a 1/2 a small bag of cornmeal
Add about 2 cups of black oil sunflower seed
Add enough flour until the consistancy is about that of cookie dough
Scoop into the molds and put in the refrigerator or freezer until hard and then you can pop them right out of the mold and put them in any suet feeder.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Good Morning It's A Great Day to Be A Photographer

Some days are better than others. Today was certainly one of those that falls into the better category. My morning routine is to wake up in the morning, drink a nice cup of French roast coffee and check my emails and Facebook. I had been feeling a little blue about my photography lately and started wondering if I should continue to put so much energy into it since my sales had drastically dropped off. Well this morning the powers that be told me loud and clear to keep going! 

 I first saw a message from a friend on Facebook that said they had seen my photo on the Washington D.C.NBC 4 Weather News . I submit my photos to them when I get a pretty sunrise or snow scene and sometimes I'm lucky enough to have a photo shown during the weather segment. Thank you Tom Kierein! 

Then I got another message in Facebook from   Shenandoah River Outfitters requesting to use one of my photos for thier website in exchange for two free kayak trips on the beautiful Shenandoah River!  How could I refuse?  The photo above is the one that Shenandoah River Outfitters wants to use on their website. 

The photo below is the one that was shown on the Washington D.C.NBC 4 Weather News this morning. 
To anyone reading this blog, I hope you all have a great day too! :-)

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Monday, January 19, 2015

The Reset Button

It's a new day. It's a new chance. It's a new opportunity. Yesterday didn't go like you wanted? Use this new day as an opportunity to start over and replace those negative thoughts of "I can't" and "I'll never get there" with "I will and I can!"  And remember to take the time to be more giving with your loved ones, more patient, more understanding and more loving and see what happens! :-) "Give and ye shal receive!"

The Colors of Winter

Winter is often devoid of color here in the Shenandoah Valley when all of the deciduous trees shed their leaves and the farmer's fields turn brown... but sometimes we are blessed with vivid colors in the middle of winter like this double rainbow that graced the valley yesterday.


 After the clouds parted we were blessed with this colorful sky. The sky appeared to be on fire with warm and welcome tangerine and orange hues. I'm so thankful for the colorful days of winter that give me hope that Spring really is just around the corner!

If you would like to support my photographic endeavors, please click below to purchase greeting cards or prints. I create my photography on a shoe string budget and do not pay for any advertising, so please feel free to help spread the word about my photography and share my blog or photos! Thanks for any help in allowing me to follow my passion, it's much appreciated! :-)


Sunday, January 18, 2015

Beauty In The Ordinary

So I went down to the Hawksbill Greenway with my big lens hoping to see a kingfisher or a great blue heron...but there were none to be seen anywhere along the Hawksbill creek. BUT there were ducks everywhere! I didn't find the flashy king fisher or the regal great blue heron but the beautfiul glint of green in the sunlight caught my eye on this ordinary mallard duck.I guess beauty is where you find it.  :-)


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Pay It Forward

Photography Prints I meant to write about this at the time but was too busy and never got to this so here goes. There is a pay it forward story that goes with this photo and one day I hope to do the same for someone when I have the opportunity and the lens. When you are a photographer you tend to have what is often referred to as "lens envy" when you see another photographer with a really impressive expensive lens that you don't have but wish you did. I met a really nice photogrpaher named Roy Woodford last fall and I made a comment about his big lens to that effect and to my surprise he said "would you like to try it?". I felt like I had won the lens lottery! In desbelief I asked "Are you serious?" and it turned out he was! He detatched his camera from the giant lens on the tripod and I very carefully attached mine to it. I think I heard my camera let out a "yippee!". Above is the photo I got with my camera attached to his big lens (a Nikon 600 mm 4.5 for those photographers reading this who are interested).I was amazed by the detail and brightness from the image. It was pretty hard to wipe the smile off my face and I thanked him serveral times. He said "somebody did this for me once". I hope I can do the same for somebody one day and make their day too. If you would like to contribute to my "big lens fund" to help make this happen plese buy one of my prints that would make a lovely addition to the nature lovers wall! :-)

Friday, January 2, 2015

Looking Forward 2015

I’m trying to keep my chin up and think positive but 2014 was a bit disappointing as far as sales go. When I started my website in 2011 I was very encouraged after I started making sales in just one month. Each year I sold a little bit more than the year before until 2014…when my sales went down from the previous year. Negative thoughts have been entering my mind: Are my photos just not good enough? Should I throw in the towel and stop wasting time and money on what’s really just a hobby? Can I really make this more than just a hobby? Am I just fooling myself calling myself a photographer? Can I really compete with the photographers that are selling? Have I lost my creative vision?

 OK so maybe it’s time to re-boot. What can I do to get moving in the right direction? Firstly I need to get my thoughts back on track and replace the negative thoughts with positive ones instead of hearing that voice from the movie scene in Wayne’s World “I’m not worthy”. Next I need to formulate some goals.

 Here are my 2015 photography goals, I’m not going to call them resolutions though since everyone knows that those only last about a month before falling back into the same old habits.:

1. Find new and better ways to market. Research online for other venues besides Face book for marketing/ networking. Since Face book went public in the Wall Street world , the site no longer seems to be very effective for sales for someone like me on a budget i.e. not spending money for advertising.

2. Write in my photo blog regularly to keep my creative juices flowing

3. Improve my photography skills by viewing/reading educational articles and videos and learning  techniques from photographer friends

4. Find my audience who wants to see and buy my photos

5. Create photos that inspire and instill an awe in the beauty of nature

6. Increase sales to be double or more of what they were in 2014

OK so that’s my plan for the New Year. One foot in front of the other…moving forward in to 2015. Wish me luck. :-) Art Prints