Change the Vision


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


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.


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.


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!”


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


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.”


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!”


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,  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…



Mind the Shade


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.


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.


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.


Keep it Clean


Fall colors had me ga-ga like a little kid with a new toy, wandering around snapping shots of all the beauty everywhere I looked.  But when I got home and looked at my photos, I got a lot of ‘scraggle’, like that below.


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While I tried to be aware of all my photography rules: Simplify, Simplify, Simplify,  I pulled out contrasting yellow leaf color against dark trunks and green backgrounds.  But what I got was ‘scraggle’… busy, busy, busy.  Somehow when running around snapping the photos I didn’t see the little twigs that added clutter and distraction.

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Instead, I should have been keeping it CLEAN, by pulling out singular subjects and isolating them for a more interesting and uncluttered shot.



The shots I took that CUT THE CLUTTER, took the prize and won my favor and the viewer’s eye.

Somewhere Where It’s Quiet

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Now if that doesn’t describe where we live, I don’t know what does!

We live in the most amazing place, with the most amazing people, and the most amazing animals.  It is truly somewhere where it’s quiet.  Somewhere between the Mogollon Rim and Moqui Draw, surrounded by Potato Lake, Knoll Lake, and Blue Ridge Reservoir, and littered with elk, deer, bobcat, mountain lions, fox, and coyote.  This is what we call our home.

After the devastating Tinder Fire (  which we still continue to clean up from that raged in our backyards, we are blessed to have friends and neighbors helping each other out.

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And this is what it looked like BEFORE the fire.  My photo of Moqui Draw, now scarred by the Tinder Fire.

“At sunset, fog shrouds a ponderosa pine forest at Moqui Draw, along East Clear Creek in the Coconino National Forest.  This spot is about a mile southeast of State Route 87 and northeast of Potato Lake.”  Photograph by Kathy Ritter, published in the June 2018 Arizona Highways Magazine, just after the Tinder Fire devastated this very same area.

Leave room to Run

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While I like the action in this photo, as this buck was spooked.  It is not a great photo because it is too constrained.  It is instead, a perfect example for what not to do.  I have left no room for the buck to run.  Since I cut off the action, the viewer is left to wonder what spooked him… or where he is going.  It lacks that sense of place.


A better photo that shows a sense of place, and includes the subject (my buck) and his environment – the forest and trees.  One where the subject is looking at you, and it’s eyes sharp are a bonus.  Having the subject well lit, and not in the shadows help to draw the eye to your subject…. albeit often hard to get everything to line up, particularly when working in the wild.

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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.