Working in the Blind

It’s funny, when working in a blind, trying to get that elusive photo of animals in their natural environment, one notices everything…. the loud whir of your AutoFocus motor you never noticed before, the deafening shutter click that alerts the animals to your presence, and the bitter cold that bites through you at dusk when the animals come in.

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But, if one is lucky, the photos that might result make the discomfort all worth the while, particularly to be able to capture photos of animals from a ‘ground level’ perspective.


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The Beast is Gone

People have asked me if I could have any camera, what would it be.  I have always said I have the exact gear I want, a Canon EOS 5D, Mark III.  I am very happy with my camera gear.  It’s the latest and greatest professional lens, camera body, etc.

So our newest acquisition to help my growing and exceedingly successful photography has been a new camper for our 20 year old truck.  We love our truck, and the camper top that has been on it has served us well.  But the camper top was starting to show it’s age.  So we decided to custom build a new utility body for our truck, and a pop up camper top.  The new improved truck would be the latest ‘tool’ in my photography arsenal.  We could go out to the rim watch the sun set and rise over our beautiful overlooks and sleep in the bed in the pop up camper, enjoy the comforts of its hot & cold running water, toilet, dining table, etc.

We took a 2 month trip to Washington state in November 2016 to pick up our custom camper… and again for 1 month in July 2017, returning just a month ago, to do some warranty repairs.  We spent months customizing the bins, drawers, and cabinets with hand crafted pecan wood organizing touches.  It was perfect.  With that done, we were ready and prepared to use our new tool, finally ‘retire’, and enjoy our environment.

Well… I guess that just wasn’t meant to be.



On John’s way to fire school he smelled smoke.  He got out to look under the hood, which was already all ablaze.

Several off duty fire fighters on their way to fire school stopped to help out. They used 5 fire extinguishers from people’s personal vehicles. People stopped to throw fire extinguishers at him from across the double divided highway he was on.

When the fire got in the cab and became unsafe for passersby, he abandoned trying to save the truck and instead backed everyone away from it. As soon as he saw the tires bubbling and bulging he knew it was unsafe to be around. Just after he hustled people from standing around watching him work and he corralled them away, his large tires with high pressure loads burst and exploded in a fury, blowing pieces of truck at everything in it’s path.  He had one fire guy call DPS to have him stop traffic both directions when the gun from inside the truck starting going off and ricocheted off of rocks above his head. Bullet holes could later be seen exiting out the side of the truck doors.


When saving the truck became futile he turned his attention to the side hill that was starting to catch fire and sprayed foam on the live growth to prohibit a wildfire.

By the time DPS and the fire engines got there, a long 35 mimutes later, John was directing traffic on the freeway away from his burning truck (20 years old this year – a gift from his folks).  They stopped to ask him where the driver was (John was wearing his Fire dept blues).. they had no idea he was the ‘victim’.  John even hooked up the hose to the fire engine to put out the fire for his own truck.

I’ve said it before.. he is my hero.


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There’s not much left of her.  The fire was fiery hot.  It melted the steering column… all that was inside is GONE.  On the day after we think of all that is lost.  Not only the truck and camper, but little things like all his fire department gear, his fire helmet… his tooth brush… his cowboy hat he has had like, forever… our prescription glasses… our many marked up and commented on maps of our travels… our computer.  It can all be bought again.  It’s just things after all.


This morning, on the day after, I feel tremendously thankful and relieved that I woke up next to John this morning… and he went in to the fire house to pick up someone’s shift since he did not go to fire school afterall.


Freedom Reigns

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If you know me, or have followed me at all… you know that it has been a dream of mine since I was 15 years old, to be a photographer.. and have dreamed of being published in AZ Highways.   Tears are welling up in me, as I share this amazing news to the world….

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I am now published with a full page in the August 2017 AZ Highways with my bobcat photo.  I am beyond ecstatic.  Words cannot even convey my excitement.  I LOVE LIFE!

Happy 4th of July.  Celebrate your FREEDOM, INDEPENDENCE, and the Beauty of LIFE.


Hart of AZ Gallery

Somewhere I wrote about ‘my’ gallery in Cottonwood.  It’s a small little space that I rent to sell my photographs.  It sells all sorts of fun and creative art like jewelry, woodworking, cards, purses, etc.

The Gallery just published a new video on YouTube.  While I’m not featured in it, my photographs can be seen over Viki’s right shoulder.

It’s a fabulous video.  Check it out…. here.

Picture in Picture

I learned this cool technique.  I learned it as ‘Picture in Picture’ which reminds me of that feature I never use on my tv.  Apparently it’s all the rage with Snapchat and such.  Being behind the times (where I pretty much live), I had never heard of or seen it.

The idea is you take a photograph of your hands holding your phone, and put them on a blank layer (transparency) in Photoshop.  Then you take a photograph and fit it to the background.  Cut and paste the same photography INTO (Paste Special) your picture of your phone. (Use the polygonal lasso tool to make the selection of your phone screen.) Don’t forget to blur background layer for best effect.

And wa-la…

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Cool, hunh?!




Best of 2016

I was recently talking to my friend, Maureen, about Best Photos of 2016.  It’s an interesting topic and one worth taking pause to think about.   We are fortunate and active enough to take quite a few trips per year, and with them lots of photos.  So I have lots to choose from for a Best of collection.  The hard part, if not impossible, is trying to pick which ones make the cut.  Nonetheless, I think it is an important and relevant task that should be part of my annual objectives… pick your best of the year.  It does two things, allows one to reflect on the year past… all the special moments, great experiences, and cool things we did… and identify my best photos.

So I decided to take on the task.  Looking at my 2016 photos, I was delighted to see how many I really liked and that indeed I did come away with some great shots on the many awesome trips we took.  In fact, I got so many I liked, I am able to break this blog into two .. and share my TOP 10 here… and another TOP Honorable Mentions on my sister blog, here.

So without further ado… here are my Best of 2016 (Top 10), in no particular order.  What do you think?

Alstrom Sunrise Pano PEPSi.jpg1. Alstrom Point, Lake Powell

Mesa Arch Pano_PEi.jpg2.  Mesa Arch, Canyonlands  Utah

reflctnpondPSi.JPG3. Mogollon Rim, Northern Arizona

treesaddlePSi.JPG4. Mogollon Rim, Northern Arizona

boatrekPSi.JPG5. Peggy’s Cove,  Nova Scotia

mossfingersPSi.JPG6. Olympic Peninsula, Washington State

iredaleshinePSi.JPG7. Peter Iredale wreck, Ft Stevens  Oregon

leafsplash2PSi.JPG8. Leaf splash, Northern California

golfbayPSi.JPG9. Lunenburg, Nova Scotia

qfalls mistPSi.JPG10.  Quinault Rain Forest, Washington

So that’s it.. my selected 2016 Top 10.  To see the honorable mentions, check it out here.

The coolest part about this exercise, were the number and amount of great photos I left behind that I could have chosen.  Love it when that happens.

So what do you think.. weigh in… what are your favorites?

Journey goes on a Journey


The life of a dog named Journey…

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We recently took a long road trip up through the WA and OR coasts.  Our dog, Journey went along for the ride.  Along the way she had lots of firsts.  She rode her first elevator – and wasn’t so sure about it when her feet went out from under her.


She ran on the beach and collected sticks.  She loved the feel of the sand beneath her toes… but wasn’t crazy when the waves chased her back and got her feet wet.

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She saw waterfalls and rainforests for the first time.

She did wineries and lighthouses, hikes and trails.

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She met friends everywhere she went… and introduced us to them.

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Peter Iredale Wreck

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In the northwestern part of Oregon, lies the Fort Stevens State Park.  It has a military heritage and historical past.  But between the old abandoned bunkers and many walking trails lie this relic of time, the Peter Iredale.  It’s the rusted out remnants of a 1909 cargo ship wrecked on shore leaving it’s hull as a treasured gift of the past.


For me it’s a photographic destination.  While our country is full of National Parks and State Parks with landscape attractions like waterfalls, mountains and peaks the likes of El Capitan (Yosemite), there are few historic ‘castaways’.

This is a treasure of history meets landscape, literally and a photographically interesting subject.

Blurring the Background

If you are a student of Photoshop you will love this technique as I did.

Bryan Peterson is doing some Photo Critique videos, and some are interesting, and some, like this one – down right enlightening.  George Crudo gives a critique that is FULL of awesome tips and techniques to enhance your photos.  Check it out…  George Crudo critique

Not only does he talk about multiple techniques we can learn from, like color range – ability to enhance the color of specific areas like sky, subject, foreground – he also shares a cool technique for blurring the background.

Now I get that the best way to blur the background is to do it in camera.  But sometimes that is just not possible.  Not all my lenses can give me a wide aperture (and shallow depth of field) like f2.8.  Moreover, sometimes in the daylight with bright sun, I may not be able to have a large aperture, instead I have to use a small aperture like f/11 or f/16, which doesn’t help me blur the background.  Unless I want to use an ND filter to cut the light, I am forced to compose and take a photo that pretty much is what it is.

With George’s technique though, I can blur the background in post process.

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Take this photo for instance.  I love the gesture / expression on the baby elk, but the background, while a little blurred is just too busy and takes away from my subject.

Using George’s technique, I can create a new layer in Photoshop (Command J), and quick select my subject (the elk), select the inverse (Command I) to select the background (all but the elk).  I then blur the background (Filter-Blur-Gaussian Blur).  Then using a brush paint back in the foreground.

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Fantastic!  Now my elk stands out more.

I must admit, I’m not one to Photoshop my photos much… a little tweak here, exposure adjustment there… but having useful tools in my toolbox is always appreciated.  Awesome tip.  Thanks, George.

Panning Technique

I love this technique, but it does take practice.

Thank goodness for digital cameras.  I can practice all I want, and throw out the duds.

The trick is a SLOW shutter speed.  It should be 1/8, 1/4, or 1/2 second.  It has to be slow enough to actually capture the motion.  At 1/500 or 1/30 second won’t cut it as your inferred motion will be too slight.

The tricky part is getting the shutter speed that slow during the day.  There are several ways to assist in this.  Use a small aperture (f/22), allowing for the slowest shutter.  Use a polarizer or Neutral Density filter to cut the light, and slow down the shutter.

Once you can get the shutter slow enough… let ‘er rip.

This is a hand held technique, not tripod.  So you have to move with the subject.  Focus on where the subject will be crossing your path (or use Al Servo) parallel to where you await your subject to pass.  Also use your high speed exposure to take multiple photos as you swing with your moving subject.

It’s good fun and a cool technique.  Good luck.