Friday, July 31, 2009

Natural Photography Anywhere

I don't know about you, but I don't care much for posed, unnatural photography. When my husband and I began looking for a photographer for our wedding, one of my priorities was to find someone who would be spontaneous and natural with us.

My husband liked the guy we chose but I wasn't so sure. He was expensive and a bit too starchy for my taste. But Steve wanted the best for us and said we shouldn't skimp on this important aspect of our wedding. I should have been firm about my misgivings and continued looking. But I went along with his choice to be agreeable. I wasn't happy with our pictures. They were unnatural, awkward and just not me. The price we paid made it twice as hard to deal with.

When I pursued a career in photography, I vowed to do things differently. The photographer who handled my wedding was a good photographer and I'm sure he had many happy clients. Yet I know I'm not the lone ranger on this issue of spontaneity. The world is full of butterflies.
This is not to say I don't do portraits. Portraits are an important part of every special event. I strive to engage the people I'm working with in such a way that the kind of portraits recorded capture them as they feel comfortable, not posed in unnatural positions. It's important to understand the character and personality of those I'm photographing in order to capture them in ways that honor who they are.
I'm a nature photographer and people are not the easiest subjects. But the truth is, I love everything about weddings. Taking those ceremonial vows is a serious matter. Marriage is more than two people in love - it's about two people committed to living out their love in relation to one another and perhaps even future children. It's an action that requires courage, determination and sacrifice.
For me, the joy of photographing weddings comes as a result of blending into the crowd and nonchalantly capturing intimate moments. Later, seeing the expressions of those whose precious memories I've recorded is a reward greater than any financial compensation.

This is what I do. Naturally.

To see more Colorado Colors Photography, visit my other blog,

Friday, June 26, 2009

Historic Photography

My work is called Colorado Colors but my heart is in my country and just about anywhere I visit. As some wise person once said, "home is where the heart is." It's easy to find the beauty wherever you are if you just take the time to look and I've left a piece of my heart just about every place I've ever been.
(c) Colorado Colors Nature Photography & Art

Sometimes I take liberties for fun. If you think an African Lion looks out of place in fall aspen forest, you're right. Photoshop play. The lion was photographed at the Denver zoo. I've never been on a safari as much as I'd like to.

This week I'm in Ephraim, Utah.
Ephraim Library: Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Historic Genertional LDS Home: Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
If you asked most people who have been to Utah on vacation where the most beautiful place is, they might tell you Zion, Bryce or Arches National Parks. Maybe they would even say Capitol Reef, Big Cottonwood or Timpanogos Canyons with their scenic creeks rushing alongside. But I'm guessing not too many people have ever heard of Historic Ephraim besides the folks who live in the area or devoted Mormons.

I love small-town anywhere. Whether I'm rumbling across Germany by train taking in a verdant countryside dotted with ancient stone castles nestled in quiet villages, or cruising the back roads of Kentucky in my car, small towns speak history. The folks who live in them are die-hards - the backbone of America. Still standing are homes from the early 1900's in need of paint with sagging roofs. Broken, uneven sidewalks foster weeds in the cracks and giant trees form canopies over through ways. Almost every downtown resides on Main Street where tall black street lamps add warmth and friendliness, and remind us of sweeter times in history, when families gathered at home in the evening. A midtown park of cool green grass beneath shady trees beckons us to stop for a picnic lunch while bees dance in a nearby garden of roses, zinnias, peonies, petunias and marigolds.
(c) Colorado Colors Nature Photography & Art

Today we live in a world of fast food and quickly changing technologies nobody can keep up with. We have computers, video games, cell phones and televisions capturing our attention while the human connection in families has all but disappeared. After dropping Michelle at soccer practice, Kayleigh at dance and Ryan at track meet, Mom's busy on the computer updating Facebook, Dad's updating Quicken, Jonathan sits on the couch lost in a Game Boy world of his own . Baby Jewel is parked in front of the television in her self-rocking baby safety seat engrossed in Teletubbies and Boo Bah, whatever that is.

When I visit friends in a small town like Ephraim, I love to drive down Main Street and photograph the old buildings. Some have been restored and the trim is freshly painted. Others are in the process of restoration and I look forward to seeing them finished on my next visit. My favorite, a large old two story stone house has a well kept yard but the peeling paint on the trim speaks of family that's moved on and sweet Mrs. Deacon carrying on alone in the home where she was born, built by a grandfather many generations ago. Her lovely property is a testimony of her love for this place of comfort and familiarity.

Along the country roads I stop to photograph rotting, half collapsed houses, barns and sheds. With grasses blowing in the breeze, fluffy clouds scattered across aqua skies against a backdrop of rich emerald hills, these kind of images stir my imagination. Who lived there, what did they farm and where have they gone?
(c) Colorado Colors Nature Photography & Art

Once in awhile I'll get lucky and capture some unusual wildlife or farm animals. At the edge of one small village on my way north, I came upon a dilapidated windowless brick home on a large property where horses grazed in long grasses. A broken-down fencing covered with yellow roses framed the property. Off to one side, large farm-style sprinklers were revolving to spray the grasses. One of the mares seemed to be playing with them the way children do - stepping into the spray and then prancing off. It was a marvelous and humorous sight which of course I had to stop and photograph.
(c) Colorado Colors Nature Photography & Art
Protected Wild Horses in South Dakota

At another property earlier in this journey, in the mountains of Colorado, I had stopped to photograph wildflowers (mules ears) covering a hillside. On the other side of the road was a ranch where horses were grazing. As I got out of the car, two of them came to the fence to greet me. They looked like twins, these burnished auburn beauties. What a treat and a blessing from God, I thought.
(c) Colorado Colors Nature Photography & Art
Protected Wild Mustangs in South Dakota

When I travel alone, I'm never really alone. I always sense the presence of God and He always entreats me to amazing sights along the way.
(c) Colorado Colors Nature Photography & Art
Often unexpectedly whimsical
(c) Colorado Colors Nature Photography & Art

(c) Colorado Colors Nature Photography & Art

(c) Colorado Colors Nature Photography & Art
(c) Colorado Colors Nature Photography & Art

Today I encourage you to look through a new lens. We've all been reminded many times to stop and smell the roses. Stop, look, listen, smell, breathe, lift your hands and praise God for the beauty all around us. Turn off the the technology. Walk away empty handed and watch horses play, prairie dogs pop out to squeak warnings at one another, birds flitting from fencepost to tree to telephone wire. Now that's entertainment! Take pictures. Make posters, pc desktops, and screen savers as reminders to take breaks to get out and see the world.
Happy shooting,

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

What to Do With all Those Photographs

Family photos are truly heirlooms that can't be replaced. It's wise to care for them as such.

Creative Memories and other companies (no, I'm not a dealer and don't hold stock in any company) offer a line of products to display and preserve those memories. As I look at old albums of fading color photographs of my children, I wish the scientists who developed these archival products had done so long ago!

I'm rather appalled at the lack of care given my grandfather's priceless photographs and have spent many hours restoring some of them.
It's never too late. Get your old photos out of those albums, off the glue and out from under the PVC covering that eat away at the archival properties of your photographs! Do it soon before any further degeneration occurs. Put them away in a shoe box in a dry, dark place at least for the time being. And store all your precious photographs in one easy to get to place so in the event of a fire, flood, tornado or hurricane you can grab them on the fly and take them with you. Let's face it, clothing, furniture and dishes can be replaced. Photographs cannot. Sentimental junk is just that. Photographs are living memories.

Remember the days of film, when you took countless photos of places you visited and most of them were pretty horrible but you could never bear to throw them out because of the investment in processing and printing? That's my story anyway. Thank God for digital! I no longer have that problem. I still take a thousand or more pictures on every journey but now I download them into my computer and discard those that are junk without any guilt at all. Those images don't cost me a thing if I don't print them.

But what about the ones that are good enough to print? What should we do with them? Well I'll tell you what I do with mine, as well as all the old prints that are good shots. I use them to create greeting cards for my friends and family. Why not bless others with your lovely images?

You can buy blank card stock with envelopes at any craft store like Michael's or Hobby Lobby. Or you can be really creative and make your own cards from cover stock which can be purchased in a variety of colors and hues from paper stores or office supply retailers. Most greeting card stores end up with lots of envelopes of various sizes leftover which they sell in bundles for little money.

I write my own verses, use Scripture or favorite quotes for the inside of the cards to bless those I'm writing to. It's also fun to add embellishments to the photo on the cover or inside the card that match the theme. For instance for a beautiful mountain scene I'll glue some small dried pressed wildflowers in a corner to add dimension. Sometimes I used stickers with phrases or applicable decorations that go with the occasion or the image. Be sure to use approved photo safe glues, stickers and papers that are acid and lignin free. There's a good article on the subject here.

Another way to use that boxful of old scenic photos is to create your own coffee table book out of scrapbooking materials. So much better than what you order online for thirty or forty dollars! Be creative!

How about using the old images as postcards?

Some photos may have only an element or two that are worth keeping. Perhaps it was a terribly bright day and everything is washed out but there's a great flower or building in the shadows that's redeemable. Cut it out and use it for an embellishment in your memory album or card.

With all my talk about old photos on this rainy day, I'm just itching to go rifle through some!

Happy Crafting,

Friday, May 22, 2009

LIfe Happens

It's a journey we hear. It's not the destination but the journey that matters. Really.


As I took off to find a new spot (for me) to shoot spring wildflowers in the rain (or at the very least, a good overcast sky,) I was suddenly stricken with an overwhelming sense of dread. "Don't go there," said that still small voice within.

Now we can speculate until the end of time about that voice. We all hear it. I don't know what yours sounds like. Mine sounds very much like my own voice, but with a softness to it that doesn't sound like me at all. It has a genteel quality that I lack. There is a smoothness to it, a confidence, a buttery richness that isn't me at all. And yet it is. So where does it come from? Who speaks? Why?
Ah, those deep questions of faith.

Because this is my blog and I can write whatever I want, I'm going to share my view about the voice from within. You don't have to agree. It's just what I believe. I call it the Holy Spirit. Anyone who's a Christian will get this. Those lacking Christian faith will not get it the way I mean it, so this requires some explanation on my part.

A Christian believes what Jesus said when He was here on earth. He told us three things (among lots of others.) Three that are specifically pertinent to this message. One, He said He is God. Whoa, that's powerful. But it's a fact, He said it. If you want to know when and where, get your hands on a Bible and read John 8:57-59, 10:30-33, 12:44-46 and most critical of all, John 14:6-9. So that's first. I believe Jesus is God. This is important because why else would I believe anything else He ever said?

Next, He said when He left earth He would send us a counselor to take His place (John 14:16.) He was referring to the Holy Spirit.

The third thing is that the Holy Spirit's purpose is to guide and direct according to truth (John 16:13.) This is absolutely key for me because I sure don't want to put my faith in a lie, or the dream of some confused fourteen year old, or the musings of a guru on a Himalayan peak. Whatever I put my faith in, there has to be strong history and archeology to back it up. The Bible works for me. It is tested historical documentation with abundant archeological proof.

So when I'm driving down the road and I get an overwhelming sense that I'm not supposed to do what I'm about to do, I sit up and take notice. I believe God is speaking directly to me through the Holy Spirit. Yesterday, I decided to change my plans.

Suppose I hadn't? Had I gone ahead to Green Mountain, what would have happened? I don't know. Maybe an accident was ahead of me. Perhaps I might have hit something in the road that would have caused a blowout. Or it might not have been anything that was going to happen but rather a divine appointment I was supposed to have that I'd have missed if I had gone on. I had a number of encounters in my journey yesterday that wouldn't have occurred had I gone to Green Mountain. Whatever the case, I learned some valuable lessons, grew spiritually in my discussion with Steve about it, and all this because of that still small voice.

So what does that have to do with photography? In my world, everything. You see, everything I do is intricately connected with God's plans for my life: the images I capture, the words I write, the people I meet along the way.

So, you want to hear something really funny? I'm a nature lover. I spend a lot of time outdoors, tromping through the woods in search of the perfect image. Despite this, I've never recognized poison ivy. Friends have told me absolute horror stories about this stuff. Perhaps you've heard the cute little sayings, "leaves of three, leave it be," or "rosy leaves of three are a danger to thee." I've seen many plants that fit the descriptions, always steering clear, but have never known for sure if any of them were actually poison ivy.
On my diversion trip along a lakeside at South Platte Park yesterday, I overheard some workers talking, one of them warning against a patch of poison ivy. So I wandered over and asked her to show me. Naturally, I snapped a picture for future reference. It looks so harmless. Even lovely. Ever seen poison ivy? Now you have. The slightly shiney red tinged leaves are the offender.

I don't think the Holy Spirit changed my plans just so I could get a glimpse of poison ivy. The point is, it's good to pay attention to signals. We do have an innate sense of things if we pay attention. Human beings are a complex creation and we have been given amazing abilities. There are some things that can only be seen with the soul.

May your focus today be on what matters most, eternal matters.

Lock, load, shoot. There is so much beauty to capture!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Printing Frustrations

I've been thinking about doing some volunteer work for the local parks department. My physical limitations prevent me from working a regular schedule. I have limited endurance and after a day of photography it typically takes me two or three days to recover. But I've had this burning desire to teach basic photography to kids. I figured doing it as a volunteer, I could pretty much call the shots.

Why do I want to teach children to take better pictures?

Because I see them taking pictures of everything in sight, their parents shell out the dough to have the images printed which are mostly garbage. One of my nieces has developed a keen interest in photography and now has her own camera. During my last visit, her mom let me take her out of school for a few hours in the morning so we could go to a local pond and take pictures. We had a wonderful time and she enjoyed learning a few tips and tricks.

But printing photos is not what my frustration is all about.

Recently when I took a small portfolio over to a local park office in need of volunteers to lead classes and nature walks, I was asked for my business card. I felt like a complete moron for having none with me, and realized later that my current cards have outdated information anyway. My phone number has changed, website is down for revamping and I wasn't thrilled with the design to begin with.

So I've spent the past few days working on new designs and finally got ready to submit for print when...

OMW! Have your tried to order printing online lately? Darn, I really wish I could start my own printing company. Somebody needs to take that bull by the horns and shake it!

The first place I go to, my artwork imports way too small and I can't get it to fit the layout. I know the size and resolution are right-on, so I move on and try site number two in the google list. No preview, can't see what I'm getting. Screw these guys. Onto number three. I go through all the set up process which takes me about thirty minutes because I had two different cards to print and some labels as well. I get to the end and they want to charge me $20 for shipping for two little boxes of business cards (100 in one set and 250 in the other) and a roll of labels. That was only a couple bucks shy of my whole order total. Forget them.

Okay, so by now I'm really steamed up because I've wasted half my day trying to get a print order going and nothing's happening. So I say to myself, "self, you're a member of NAPP and you get a discount at Office Depot which you've never used. Let's go to Office Depot online and start our print order there." Easy enough, right? Well, you'd think.

After I signed up for the NAPP OD account many months ago, I promplty forgot which email address I'd used for the log in and my password. Most websites are pretty forgiving and you get several tries to get it right. Worse comes to worst, you say, I forgot my password and they send it to you, no problem. Right? You'd think.

No, I get an ugly red notice that says I've violated protocol and they're confiscating my birthright and reporting me to the OAORMP (Online Association of Really Mean Programmers.) Okay, that's a slight exaggeration. Actually, it said something more like, "Sorry, you're an imbicile and must contact customer service at... "

Okay fine, whatever. I call the 800 number and I get Tamika. Have you ever spoken with Tamika? I swear, I get her every time I call an 800 number for any business you can think of. I know her name, her voice - hell by now I ought to know her whole family. You know her. She's the one who puts you on hold for ten minutes and then comes back to appologize, she's still checking on that for you, and puts you on hold for another twenty minutes.

Finally she comes back on the line, really appologetic this time, and says she can't help me, I'll have to call this other number and talk to my account manager. So I call this other number and ask for the lady she told me to talk to, and guess who's on the line? You got it, Tamika. She puts me on hold again for five minutes and comes back to tell me that person no longer works there, she'll put me through to the new account manager, Gerald. I wait again for several minutes and sweet little Tamka comes back on (I'll bet her Boca Raton complexion is beet red by now) and tells me he's out, she'll have him call me back.

Gerald calls me back and keeps me on the phone for another ten minutes to tell me he can't help me, I have to call the National Accounts office at another number. Well, imagine who I get on the phone when I call the national office. No it wasn't Tamika, I just wanted to be dramatic. I got Maureen this time, who tells me NAPP has no account with them.

You know what? I won't be printing with Office Depot any time soon. Sorry Tamika, you may be out of a job if OD can't get their customer service act together.

So, back to square one, I still have no cards printed. Sigh...

All this because I'd like to help kids learn how to take better pictures. Go figure.

And my husband is sick to boot.

Hope you're having a better day.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Welcome to My World

Please note that the images posted here and all images associated with this site are copyright with all rights reserved. Please respect this and refrain from downloading, sharing or printing these images without permission of this blographer. You are welcome to share the address of the website but do not link to images. Thank you.

Whether I'm out on a weekend camping with my husband or off on a day designated for photography, my camera is my ever present companion. I never leave home without it. And no matter where I am, there is always something I'm excited to photograph.

On the sunny morning I came across these lovely balsamroot arrowleaf blooms, my intention was to photograph the Grand Teton at sunrise. Things don't always go as I plan and the drive from Yellowstone National Park over to Grand Teton National Park took longer than we'd anticipated. That didn't stop me from finding lots of wonderful images to capture on my memory card!

One overcast day I headed over to a favorite local park to take pictures of ducks and geese. The weather could have sent me packing home empty carded. It began to snow like crazy - big white, very wet, fluffy stuff. I decided that since I was there, I might as well fire off a couple of shots for kicks and grins. Some four hours later I departed wet and cold. I managed to capture several memory cards full of images of ducks and geese playing in the snow and sliding in for a landing on the ice that remained on the pond.

When the weather is bad, I hardly ever even notice because I'm so captivated by my subjects.

It was Thanksgiving day when I drove up to Tibble Fork Reservoir in Utah. We were visiting family for the holidays and I needed a break from all the noise and commotion that goes with six wonderful nephews and nieces. Another formidable day but not too intimdating for me. We love our Avalanche which does well just about anywhere any time. No mud or snow keeps me away for long. I found this wonderful placid scene and peace to boot!

While a friend and I were visiting Washington, DC to participate in a march for the 10th Anniversary of the Women's Military Memorial, I found more wonderful subjects than I had memory cards to keep them! Fortunately, I take my laptop with me everywhere so I was able to download photos and reformat my memory cards daily. Besides wonderful nature and wildlife, buildings with wonderful architechtural details abound in this historic city.

Not all my images come out perfect but most are redeemable. Editing and creating art from photographs is almost as much fun as taking the pictures.

Because this image was a bit on the soft side, I did some post work and made it even softer, enhancing the warm tone. I then used it to create a bookmark.

The entire image itself held little interest as it was, but the long narrow design of the bookmark enabled me to use the best portion of the image to create something really lovely - and useful :-)

Most photo processing companies today, whether in a local shop or online, offer a wide array of items on which to print your images. Have another look at a not-so-good photo and see if there isn't something you can do to salvage it as a painting or to create a luggage tag or bookmark.

Shoooting wildlife poses it's own set of problems. Often shy and uncooperative, maintaining some distance is usually required. That's when a longer zoom or telephoto lens comes in handy. You might find yourself out on a walk without the longer lens in tow. Or perhaps you don't have a telephoto lens at all. With modern digital cameras that capture high resoultion images, one can also crop a photo to make it look like a closer shot and still print an 8x10 or larger with no loss of qualilty. Try experimenting with your photos, cropping in different ways, to see how you might improve an image before printing.

Make the most of Color, lighting and elements. The day I stumbled onto this scene was like a moment in heaven for me. When I came across an idyllic little bridge over a creek, I spent several hours wandering around this neck of the woods capturing everything. The aspens were in full golden splendor, and when the clouds hid the sun for brief periods I was able to slow my shutter speed to soften the water flow. With patience, all the elements will come together to produce a satisfying image.

I enjoy using my images to create greeting cards and positive messages. By adding Scripture verses (you could use any kind of proverbs or positive sayings) to an uninteresting area of the image, you can merge the feeling of an image with a statement from your heart. This is one of my favorite verses combined with a favorite image.

I love the world of photography. The possibilities are endless. I hope this journey through my world has given you some creative ideas to use or improve your own images.

Happy shooting,

Saturday, April 4, 2009

What Does it Take to Get Great Pictures?

If you take a look at the images in my posted slide show, you might think they were easy to get. So let's talk about that.

When do you usually take pictures? When you're on vacation? Out with friends? At a family gathering?

Most people take their camera with them to record specific events or milestones. These are personal images that have no meaning to anyone except you and perhaps your family members.

Serious photographers on the other hand, don't wait for events. Like the postman who braves rain, hail, sleet and snow, the avid photographer goes out into all kinds of weather in order to capture eye-popping images.
My Grandfather, E J Cour, a photo journalist for Chicago news, captured this image in the 30's.

Let's take for instance, a day like today. It's windy, cold and snowing on and off. There is ice on my windows. It was a day similar to this (actually worse - it was snowing quite heavily) when I photographed "Cold Duck." Would you go out on such a day just to photograph geese and ducks?

To capture the "Doe and Fawn" in Rocky Mountain National Park last summer, I was awake and out of my tent well before dawn and followed this pair for over a mile. They led me through thorny shrubs, thick forest, and over trecherous rocky terrain.

These little ventures often find me having wandered quite a distance without a clue, having to pray for the strength to carry on and find my way back.

I'm not an able bodied person. A nicked nerve during back surgery some years ago left me with little strength in my left thigh muscle and almost total loss of the muscle that controls my right ankle. My left thigh is dependent on the strength of my glut and calf muscle to ambulate. My right foot drops because of the ankle problem being a major tripping hazard and wearing me out quickly. In addition, I'm in chronic fiery pain which will never improve. This also zaps my energy. I don't write this seeking pity but to emphasize the lengths a photographe will go to for "that shot." It's just the way things are for me. I feel blessed and amazed that I can walk at all. But I'm still waithing for that one image that takes my breath away. There are many I'm happy with but not the "one." Brokenness be damned, I'll keep truckin' until I fall off the mountain...

I give what many aren't willing to find for themselves. Enjoy the views.