Passion

The dictionary defines passion as: intense, driving, or overmastering feeling or conviction; strong and barely controllable emotion. I consider myself a passionate person, which actually can be a mixed blessing. Sometimes it gets me into trouble. My emotions can run strong and people tend to take my intensity the wrong way.

On the flip side, however, it’s that passion that drives my ambition and love for excelling at the things I take on.

In terms of photography, it’s that passion, which has driven me to get published. So it is with pride and joy that I share my recent contest win from the National Park and Public Lands. I won 3rd place out of over 15,000 entries. Check it out here…

https://www.nbcrightnow.com/news/state/the-winners-of-the-national-park-foundations-2020-share-the-experience-photo-contest-learn-more/video_82c929b7-d741-51ba-bcf8-a36f5d1bc92a.html

The award is humbling and feeds my passion further, and gives me validation of my work and growth as a photographer. It makes me want to be better and strive to work harder.

I guess it goes to show, you really can do anything you set your mind to. With determination and hard work, we can overcome any obstacle and achieve great things.

A Tribute to Our Journey

Journey was born Dec 15, 2009.

We picked her up on Feb 2, 2010, following an extremely difficult time and my dad’s death on Christmas the year before.

She was my everything. I poured my love and soul into her, and she gave back in spades.

We got her just before we retired while still living in the Valley.

She grew up at the home we were building at the time in the mountains, where she has lived ever since.

She was our helper, our companion, and friend.

Journey died on Jan 31, 2021. Almost 11 years from the day she came home with us. She was 11 years old.

She left our lives just as she came into it, following a parent’s death, and a difficult time. John’s mom died just two weeks before. John’s mom’s quality of life had diminished significantly in this covid time of ‘protectionism’. We had only been allowed to see her once in the past year. It took its toll. After months of isolation and loneliness, she died alone, with no family at her side.

I had a friend once who said she’d never want another dog again, as the death of a pet can be so hard. While I can attest to the excruciating pain and sadness Journey’s death brings, I wouldn’t give up the last amazing 11 years with Journey for anything. She had so much love to give, and gave it unconditionally.

She was such a happy girl, and physically showed it in so many ways. She loved her toys and her pillows. (And she loved me to fluff her pillow under her head. She had me wrapped around her paw.). She loved for you to ‘hold my paw’. She’d wave when she saw you and want you to hold her paw as a form of affection. If she really liked you, and you were lucky enough, you’d get a ‘puppy hug’. She’d put both paws and her head on your shoulders, as if to say, “I love you, thank you for being here”. When you’d come home, she’d be so happy to see you that she’d go into a ‘puppy rampage’, and run around in circles. She had so many beautiful gestures, facial expressions, and love.

Journey was so full of life and happiness that she brought it with her and shared it with everyone she met. She loved people and would greet them with a butt wiggle, tail wag and those big beautiful bright eyes, as if to say, “Hi, hi, hi, I’m Journey.” Strangers were just friends she hadn’t met yet, and she introduced us to many.

Journey was with us 24 / 7. She went with us everywhere. She loved her Jeep and truck rides, it didn’t matter where we went. She adored camping and was all full of jumpy-jumpy-jumpy just at the mere mention of it. She had an enormous vocabulary. She knew when it was supper time (her favorite time of the day). I would ask John, “can you take her out?” while I was preparing dinner. She knew what that meant, and without any hesitation ran to the door. She would RUN back in with such excitement expecting dinner to be waiting for her, sometimes skidding into the kitchen.

She was so full of life and brought such joy and happiness to our lives. Our lives and home are empty without her. We are absolutely devastated and heart broken for her loss. The pain and knots in my throat and gut are unbearable. But we remember her many quirks, mannerisms, and every day behaviors that make us smile.

Both John’s mom and Journey leave a huge void. They wanted more than anything, for us to be happy. We intend to never forget and honor their memories, and live a full life and be happy. I miss you so much it hurts.

A world of friends

I have to say, with all that is going on in the world, and our lives right now we have felt very alone. I know we are not the only ones. Having not seen or talked to so many friends we have (or had) during all this isolation seems so sad. Will it be different when the world opens back up? Or will they be gone forever? That I can not answer, but suspect it is a combination of the two.

So, without getting too sappy or melancholy, today I feel thankful for the my many friends and supporters of my photography. It’s times like these that we should immerse ourselves in those things that make us feel joy and happiness when all the rest is falling by the wayside. I have had many folks who have asked to see pix of the snow. So it is with that encouragement, that we braved the storm and trudged out every day to get what pix we could.

Snow photos can be difficult to get. First off, the snow itself is white and blindingly bright. Having no ‘color’ it is hard to take photos of and exposures can be tricky. The snow storms bring bleh clouds and gray skies, drab and not very photogenic. Here on the mountain, most of our roads are closed. Snow plows have created berms along the main roads making pulling off the road impossible.

Animals are scarce, as foraging through the snow can be difficult for them. See my post here… https://kritterspaw.com/2021/01/27/snow-foraging/ . But with the encouragement of friends, we were persistent and somewhat successful in our quest to find some decent photos.

We went North toward Winslow looking for snow and animals. We went out into the forest behind our home to see if we could find some snow views. We headed toward Flagstaff to see if we could catch some animals. We ventured toward Pine to see what that might yield. See post here … https://kritterspix.com/2021/01/27/we-got-snow/

We ran into road closures, icy slick roads, dead animals, stupid drivers, impassable areas, ugly skies and bright harsh light. But we also found bull elk standing in a meadow blanketed with snow staring back at us wondering what we were doing there. We saw trees caked with snow on the windward side majestic and satisfied with new found water. Ponds and waterholes previously dry were filled with fresh fallen snow, thirsty grass poking through the hill surrounding her.

There is beauty when we look for it, both in the environment around us and those in it. Be thankful for what you have and who you have to share it with, as we are today and everyday.

Sun star

Call ’em what you will – sun star, sunburst, starburst, sunray, or just plain fun.

I love doing sunstars. A sunburst adds a dimension to any photograph and point of interest.

Sun bursts through the trees to reflect through the Aspen Trees

I am often complemented at my use of adding sunrays with a a star filter, program, or app. The truth is, sun bursts are very easy to do in camera. No apps required.

All one needs is a wide angle focal point and small aperture. I love my Canon 16mm, set at f/11 for these great results. Sometimes you have to take a number of photos to get the sun poking through the trees just right.

You may have to split a tree to showcase the sunburst, rather than just looking directly at it with full intensity.

But, it’s an easy thing to do, at sunrise, sunset, or even mid day.

As with any photograph – look ahead, look behind, look all around, and look up. Sometimes the best things are just ahead of us.

Photography Genre

When I started getting serious about photography I kept reading that one should pick a ‘genre’.  I was like, ‘what the heck is that’?  Why can’t I take any kind of photo I want?

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As I read more and photographed more, it made sense.  A wedding photographer needs certain skills and tools to take beautiful wedding portraits, just as a sport photographer, and they are each different.

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So, I thought – I want to be a landscape photographer.

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So, I was surprised when the first photograph I got published was wildlife.

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I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.  We just got back from a trip to the beach from AZ, and these are the pix I brought back – all wildlife.

Do what you’re good at… and what you enjoy, and you’ll be good at it.

 

Fossil Creek ND

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As I continue to strive to get better pix I find that if I stop to think about the photos before just clicking away at the shutter, my photos come out better.

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Case in point when I went out to get smoke pix, just because the smoke makes for more moody pix (see my post here… https://kritterspix.com/2019/10/19/mood-lighting/ ).

So continuing my current pursuit of Fall Colors, we planned a trip to Fossil Creek.  When I think of water pix, I think smooth silky water cascading over rocks, which means to me, a long exposure.

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So considering the outcome I wanted, I had to think about how to achieve my desired result.  Do I go first thing in the morning, dawn… or dusk?  With little light to be had, that could work… OR I could go in full daylight and sun and use a tool I carry in my bag – a Neutral Density (ND) Filter.

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I actually use a variable ND filter so I can control how much light I cut anywhere between 3 stops to 10 stops.  The ND filter allows me to stop down my exposure so I can take a 2 second exposure to get that super silky water.  Tripod required!

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Hmmm… it works!  Thinking through our actions does make a difference.  Who’da thunk it?  Ha!

 

Change the Vision

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I love Fall.  The colors are stunning.  Though I do find it difficult to capture.

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This season, I decided to challenge myself and shoot ‘out of the box’.   It appears experts are always looking for something new and different.  It doesn’t even matter what the field.  Something edgy that hasn’t been done before often ‘wins’ over tried-and-true.

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I’m happy to learn techniques, composition, and style that I can apply and repeat.  But I suppose that one could argue that such a philosophy can yield predictability and common-place results.

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I’m not sure that’s a bad thing.  That’s for the eye of the beholder… and the end user to decide.

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You Must Have A Good Camera

People often ask me, “what kind of camera do you have?”  Or my favorite statement, “you must have a good camera!”

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It reminds me of a story I heard some time ago, about the photographer who goes to a gourmet chef’s house for dinner.

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The well known published photographer shows up at the woman’s house for dinner.  The home owner & chef goes on about how beautiful his photographs are and as she invites him in she adds, ” I love you photographs.  You must have a great camera.”

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After a lovely evening and an amazing gourmet meal, as the photographer is leaving, he tells the woman how wonderful the meal was, and in parting “you must have a great oven!”

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The right camera gear is essential, skill… is priceless.

 

The One that Got Away

As everyone of us knows, we all have moments that we might have done differently, if we had the chance.  Perhaps in the way we reacted to something, or something we should have done – but didn’t.  You know, that ‘if only’ kind of time.

In terms of our passions or hobbies, and in my case (and this blog), I am referring to a photographic moment.  That shot I wish I had gotten.  Maybe because I neglected to change my setting, or wasn’t quick enough to get the shot.  I have been known to get excited and go off taking pix, and forget to change the aperture, or ISO.  Sometimes I shoot into the sun – but sometimes that’s where the action is, and no way around it.  One can guess how those shots come out… but not always.

There was this time… I wrote about it here https://kritterspaw.com/2019/01/01/a-whoosh-and-a-tale/,  when I saw my first mountain lion.  it was crazy… and quick, 1/100th of a second quick.   My camera was set on a tripod and was taking a photo of this sweet deer, in portrait format.. when all of a sudden, out of nowhere…..

And I got this shot!  Note the tail of the deer in the front left… and yes, that’s the mountain lion leaping into action from behind… or at least half a mountain lion.

I lie awake nights wishing I had moved the camera to the right… if only.

If only I had been in landscape format instead of portrait format.

It happened so quick it was over before it started.  It would have been that National Geographic kinda shot… or at least AZ Highways!  If only…

Arggghhh!  If only…

 

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Mind the Shade

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There are so many things to remember when trying to make a good photograph.  I recently talked about Keep It Clean, and reducing clutter in a photo.  Another important consideration is Shade and Light.

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In the photo above, it’s easy to see the large disparity between exposures – intense shade and shadows in the water, and blown highlights in the sky and trees.  To make the photo successful, I could have done an HDR to take multiple photos with the proper exposure for each separate condition (Shadow & Highlights), and them merged them later.

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Or, using the light that I had, I could cut out the blown highlights in camera, and turned my attention to where the light was more even and exposed for the shadows just by looking down.  Cutting out the highlights yielded a more interesting and focused composition.

Remember… mind the Shade & Light, when composing that pic.