I am so fortunate that I get to live in paradise. I sometimes forget how beautiful our area here in South West Florida is. No matter what direction I travel I can find the natural environment I crave. From beaches to swamplands it’s all here. Today my travels took me to Sanibel Island and the J. N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge.
While driving slowly down the scenic drive and stopping when something caught my interest, I felt so blessed to be able to have the day off and enjoy such natural beauty. From birds to butterflies the day was full of surprises. A lone Roseate Spoonbill and White Ibis looking for their breakfast and finding it.
A curious Little Blue Heron signaling a warning of the alligator who was lurking close by.
A lovely Common Buckeye butterfly unknowingly pollinating the flowers as it gathered life giving nectar.
Even the pungent smell of fermenting palm berries carried in the warm breeze was refreshing in it’s erthereal own way.
The nutrient rich tannin stained waters were bringing forth life to the White Ibis as it was searching for a quick meal.
As I watched nature doing her thing, I was reminded that I am just a very small part of all of this, yet just as important. Each of us have our place in this world, the birds, butterflies, the water, the land, all celebrating our creator.
Thank you for joining me on my adventure……until next time, happy shooting!
I belong to a local Meetup group called the South West Florida Shutterbugs and in two weeks we will be six months old as a group. In that six months we have offered learning opportunities, trips both local and out of area and have met some really cool people. Recently, we have initiated a mentor/mentee program and I have decided it’s time to take my skills to another level by working with an incredible portrait photographer. This will stretch my knowledge and also take me out of my comfort zone. I’ve already worked with him on a few shoots and he makes what he does look so effortless. I know this will make me better, especially when it comes to using off camera flash.
Now, for the next part, I will be mentoring a more beginner photographer. I really appreciate what has been taught to me and I want to give back. When I started shooting I had no one to guide me and I learned on my own. I learned that concerts and events were sometimes a crap shoot depending on the lighting, but now I go into them full of confidence in my own skills. This mentoring will hopefully allow another beginner to feel more confident with their camera without having to learn it all on their own.
If you are in the South West Florida area and want to join a top-notch photography group, feel free to check out Meetup.com. Happy shooting.
You hear all the time that the eyes are the window to the soul, one of my goals when I’m shooting concerts is to get the eye contact; now mind you I don’t ask for it, I don’t do anything distracting to get it, but generally it happens, even when I don’t think they can even see me as with Alice Cooper. I was way over off to the side and a couple of rows up, yet this happened;
There wasn’t anyone that I could see in his direct eye contact, I even asked the photographer behind me if she got him looking our way…….she didn’t.
On Monday I got kind of the same thing, but it was almost as if I was recognized, don’t see how that’s possible, but REO’s bassist comes out on stage and this happened;
and it continues with the other two bands Tesla………
Recently I reconnected with an old friend through Facebook. We had been friends back in our late Junior High early High School days. He moved away and we kept in touch for a short time after; well before Facebook when letter writing was envogue. He had moved back to the same area as an adult and joined the local Sheriff’s Department as a K9 handler. He is currently retired and breeds/trains Malinois & German Shepherds. He contacted me about photographing his dogs working so I took a trip up mid June to a training facility. It was a huge field set up with obstacles and many different working dog owners. I was allowed to be on the field with the dogs working and even though the field was full of water and mud it was a great time. I met some incredible people and took some awesome photos. Out of the photos I took THIS is why I was there!
It’s not often I get this way, normally I have lots to share and lots to write about, but lately I have been in a photographic funk. It’s not something that will last as I have had them before, but I’m having a difficult time getting myself motivated to shoot anything other than concerts, portraits and weddings. I know these are my true niche because I love the excitement of it all. Especially the concerts! I love meeting people and seeing them excited like when I took photos at the Big Ole Bonfire in the Photo booth. Or meeting the artists and photographing their fans like I did this night at The Ranch (my photos have my watermark on them). I love seeing the look of excitement on peoples faces when they get to meet their rock star idol like this young man did with Sixx: AM at Fort Rock. This excites me! Check out more about Fort Rock here on my blog Festival Daze
My funk comes within my own realm of doing photos for myself. I need to find something outside of my “normal” range of concerts, weddings & portraits to shoot. I have tried the “photo a day” challenges and I feel bad when I can’t complete a day’s challenge so I stop doing them. I need something other than beaches and flowers too; I need something exciting, something that catches not just my interest, but my eyes. I need to slow myself down and create my own masterpiece, something worth sharing and talking about. But what would that be? I’m not really sure. Do I need a vacation to somewhere other than here? Maybe, or maybe I just need to take in what’s around me and see it in a different way, but how? I love adventures! I love taking adventures on my own where no one but me dictates how or when. Maybe I need a day of adventure, to explore somewhere new on my own and to get back within my grove. Or maybe I need a day with couple of my friends who are incredible photographers, who are creative and like to think outside the box. I’m sure this will pass quickly as it always does, but in the meantime if you, my readers have any thoughts or suggestions, please comment below. Until next time, from the Life of a photographer.
I really had not planned on writing tonight, but I’m home instead of being out celebrating and I didn’t know I would be as emotional about this whole New Year thing, but here I am at the computer typing my thoughts for the world to read. So here goes….
This time last year on December 31, 2013 I was also alone, but I went out and enjoyed an evening at a local establishment (which sadly is no longer open), listened to a band who was losing their lead singer to cancer, it was to be his final performance, he passed a month later. When I first arrived at my table, I was a bit upset, they didn’t seat me with anyone……I was in a huge outdoor seating area, sitting alone at a table for four and I felt really awkward and thought maybe I shouldn’t be there. You see I had just ended a four-year relationship and was determined that my life was going to be better alone than what I was enduring the last couple of years in that relationship. As I sat at my table being served a wonderful surf & turf dinner by the best waitress ever, I kept thinking “2014 will be my year”. It was quite chilly and I wasn’t really dressed for the coolness, but I endured to midnight, had a glass of champagne and toasted what was to come. A young girl came over to me and gave me a huge hug and invited me to her table, I declined, You see I was holding back tears, because I wanted her to know I was fine and really wasn’t staying much longer. I finished my glass, and took the rest of the bottle to their larger table and wished them all a Happy New Year and left. Driving home I was almost smiling at the thought that I got through the evening and I was going to be just fine.
Life simply got better, I was surrounded by friends who rallied around me and kept me encouraged in the midst of those sad few trying to discredit me and my work. I threw myself into my photography and began to pick up more and more work. I realized I was much more successful on my own and was regaining my self-confidence and finding my lost identity once again. I have talent and my photography is good and even though the gossip mongers were trying to tear me down I was surpassing my own expectations! I also picked up a new partner in my photography; my son Tommy who is incredible and he knows how to use his camera, he’s so amazingly talented and creative. We are my father’s prodigies, he would be proud of us.
Tommy allowed me to photograph him and in return I succumbed to the front of his lens as well, not an easy task for a photographer. It felt awkward and unnatural, but after a few minutes I began to enjoy the experience and really loved the images he produced of me.
As the year progressed I was able to add an incredible amount of images to my portfolio and actually had the privilege of photographing my all time favorite former Beatle Ringo Starr (bucket list).
I have had a set back or two, but I never allowed them to get the best of me, because I know I’m right where I need to be. God is in control of my life and what I am doing. My faith is unwavering. The end of the year has been trying with finding out a close friend was diagnosed with cancer, thankfully she is a fighter and it didn’t win, she did! I’ve added friends to my very small circle and I love each one of them. I also just sent a text my to my son and his response brought on the emotions. I have two incredible boys and my youngest is a lot like me in more ways than with a camera.
So here I am ending my year in a puddle of tears, yet I know 2015 is going to be even better than 2014. I will find love again this year because I’m ready and I know God is preparing someone for me, and I will be one step closer to realizing my dream of being a full-time working photographer. I am beginning the new year documenting the journey back to health of a woman in the fight for her life and hope to highlight her here in the very near future. So to all of my followers, stay tuned, it’s only going to get better. God Bless each of you, treat each moment as if it could be your last….Love, laugh, dance and sing…… 2015 is going to ROCK! Happy New Year!
I have wanted to go camping for several months now and finally had a weekend free where I could even think about doing it. I love to camp and if I can take my camera and explore even better. I decided on camping at Trail Lakes Camp Ground in Ochopee, Florida which is a multi-generation family owned business. I have known the family for several years and my son went to school with the current owner. This place is unique as it’s been around for well over 50 years and owned by the same family. Big Cypress has tried to have them removed but they have endured. This particular trip had a goal in mind, my youngest son wanted me to take portrait style photos for him, so I knew I would be using the camera a lot and for this reason I was even more excited about going.
I decided to arrive on Friday evening after work because I wanted a full day on Saturday and didn’t want it interrupted with drive time, even though it only takes an hour to get there I knew I would have plenty of time Friday evening to set up my campsite and eat a bite before dark.
This was a great decision because I was awarded with an amazing night sky. I met up with Tommy after he got off work and we shared a meal at my camp. My son lives on the campground and is a guide for Everglades Adventure Tours which is housed out of Trail Lakes Campground and is run by Jack Shealy who also is now running the campground area. Tommy is a bit of a local legend himself because last April he had an encounter with a ten foot Burmese Python, one of the exotics currently trying to take over the Everglades. Growing up in this area and the son of a biologist, Tommy’s instincts kicked in and he got in the water and grabbed the snake. You can see the video on his website www.phloridaphoto.us
The weather was near perfect for sleeping cool but not cold and the stars! I was also serenaded to sleep by a chorus of frogs, so delightful to hear. I woke up fairly early and planned out my day. Made a quick breakfast and headed out to Turner River Road and HP Williams Park. I saw the usual, alligators, wading birds and tourists. I ventured on down the extremely dusty road toward Wagon Wheel road in hope of encountering a Purple Gallinule and to get a wide vista shot of the Big Cypress Preserve; goal two was achieved, didn’t get the Purple Gallinule as the growth was incredibly heavy. I headed back to my campsite to get a bit of lunch and to see what time Tom would be off work, I then proceeded to take a brief nap in my very warm tent. I awoke and muddled about cleaning my camera until Tommy’s quitting time. A short time later we met up packed our gear and headed off into the Saw Grass prairie in back of the property. Tommy brought several changes of clothes as he wanted to get some different shots in different areas. His first choice was business wear, dress shirt & pants, totally out of place in a swamp, but then again if you knew my son, you’d understand. The contrast of being dressed up and being out in this wild area was actually quite striking and it accented his natural good looks. As we were shooting we had a visitor, whom he thought was secured in the house; his dog Sunny, she had broken free and knew where to find her master, it turned out really well as I was able to get some shots of the two of them. This was a pleasant surprise.
After several scenery and clothing changes we packed our stuff back up headed to his place to see what I captured, (this is the most exciting part for me). I was blown away at the incredible images that came forth on his computer.
I headed off to my camp cut up by the Saw Grass (lives up to its name) and excited for Sunday as we were going to head to the Fakahatchee Strand. After trekking around for a couple of hours I was tired and sleep came quickly.
Sunday morning arrived and I packed up most of my gear back into my car and headed to get Tom. We detoured into Everglades City and had a wonderful breakfast at the Island Café. Then off we headed to the Fakahatchee. My ex-husband, Tommy’s dad is still biologist there and it’s easy to understand why he loves this place, as there is nothing else like it in North America. We drove down Jane’s Scenic Drive heading to our destination with a few stops on the way to look for the illusive Everglades Mink which Tommy was fortunate enough to capture on video and on camera (first person to post it ever on You Tube). We checked the spot and didn’t see any signs of them. We did encounter plenty of Great Egrets, White Ibis, and Snowy Egrets in our path. We also stopped at an Alligator hole and were fortunate enough to see one being quite active. As you can see from the photograph, it was VERY active!
We finally reached our destination of West Main tram and saw a small gathering of people, watching something very intently with cameras in hand. We grabbed our gear and took a look at what they were watching. They were watching an entire family of Everglades Mink, this was my first time ever seeing them even after living there for 13+ years. I was so excited and hopeful that I would be able to capture one on camera. I did, even though it’s only the back of its head I was able to get a decent photo. Not only did I see one I have a photograph to prove it! Even the deer flies we later encountered were unable to dampen my day, it was incredible.
Heading down the hiking path we scouted out a few locations that Tommy was interested in using as his portrait backdrops, we came upon an old cabin and even though the hand scribbled sign said it was a private residence the place looked as if it had not been inhabited for quite some time so we stopped there to get a few photos again with him dressed like a business man. We also moved on and found some other interesting spots to shoot from including him climbing an orange tree.
A few clothing changes later we headed back out, but not before I turned around and for the second time in one day saw another Everglades Mink, we staked it out, but they are so quick and so quiet that neither of us were able to squeeze off a frame. Coming out of the swamp we were tired and hot and ready for ice cream. After making a short trip back to the campground we headed back off to Everglades City to a local shop called Sweet Mayberry’s for some wonderful gelato and a cookie. This little shop is owned by another local whom my boys grew up and spent a lot of time with. Tommy has a lot of his framed photographs in this shop as well as his postcards.
Finishing up our sweet treat we headed out and this is sadly where I had to tell my boy goodbye, as I had to head back home to begin another work week. You can bet I will be heading back down there again soon. It was a great weekend and one I won’t soon forget. So what have you seen from Behind the Lens?
I know many are wondering why I titled a photo blog ‘Education’. I titled it as such because no matter what we do in life, we should continue to learn and grow and make ourselves better and more educated. It’s the same for the photographer. Maybe you went to school to become a photographer, or you studied design and/or art years ago and you think “well that’s all I need to succeed” true it may be, but in our ever changing world of technology there is always so much more to learn. I have found the simple act of getting a new camera or new software challenges my brain and I am constantly searching for learning opportunities to improve myself, my software use and my overall photography.
Even though I have been taking photos for well over 25 years, I still want to learn new techniques to make myself better and more marketable. I read everything I can get my hands on and I am constantly searching YouTube, books and the internet for instructional videos and articles. I’m not afraid to talk to other photographers, most are willing to help. I have my own style of photography and love looking at the styles of other brilliant photographers work. I have taken Photoshop classes to be able to quickly enhance my photos if needed; recently purchased Adobe Lightroom and I’m slowly learning how to use it to best meet my needs, so far I love it and it does make processing my photos a lot faster, even though I am pretty quick with Adobe Photoshop Elements. Last year I upgraded my camera and I am still learning what it can do outside of what I use it for. This week, I found a free 2 day class (has turned into a 3 day class), on photographing and empowering women in portraits. The class is live and already I have learned so much, especially when it comes to social media and how to get the word out and followers and keeping them engaged in my page. I am on the right track and it’s been my intuition which has guided me in this area. I was also challenged to think up a few ideas upon which I am going to pursue and I’m excited about offering something to a specific group of women that may have some self- esteem/self-worth issues and will be partnering with a local business to accomplish this. I am passionate about my choices in life and photography is simply one of those choices. I have a full time job and for right now photography is only a part time business, but who knows what the future may bring, if I want it bad enough it will happen.
I am getting ready to hook up with day two of my online class and I am looking forward to it. So this morning while waiting I set up my new home studio. I have plenty of room to work and lots of natural light along with my shoot through umbrellas. I will use this studio set up for late evening work and on days I can’t take my clients out-doors.
So to you that are fence sitting about learning and growing, jump off and jump in, you never know what you may find that will inspire, create and motivate you into doing something you have always wanted to do. Get an education, it doesn’t have to cost anything, nor does it have to be in a classroom. And of course most of all enjoy your passion!
I am really fortunate that I have lived in one of the prettiest places in North America, the Florida Everglades. I am also fortunate that my son Tommy is a guide in the ‘Glades and I get to visit. This past Friday I had that opportunity, but not only did I have the pleasure, but I was able to take someone with me (a new friend) who had this trip on her bucket list. Linda, is a friend of a friend and one of my future clients as well. Her son is getting married to our mutual friend’s daughter in July and my son Tommy and I are honored to be photographing the wedding as a team.
I picked Linda up from a location our friend and I agreed upon and our adventure began. As we drove along we were able to get acquainted and I really enjoyed her company. She is a school teacher from the north and for her being down here this time of year was a real treat, considering her home was blanketed in snow and still quite cold. She was enjoying our 80 degree sunny weather.
Linda wasn’t sure what to expect and of course didn’t know where exactly she was being taken, which I think added to her excitement. We arrived at Everglades Adventure Tours in Ochopee, Florida and while waiting for our tour guide Tommy (my son) we looked around the eclectic gift shop. Linda found a few things she wanted to purchase including an alligator head and a postcard of a photo my son took. She decided to wait until our return to make her gift purchases.
Tommy loaded us up and our driver took us to our destination; a place I had never been even with living down in that area. I had heard about it, but never took a trip. Generally our three hour tour would have been on the Turner River, however due to low water the river is closed for commercial use. I’m sort of glad it was. Donna Drive turned out to be a mecca of photographic opportunity. I am always proud to listen to my youngest son, do what he loves which is the interpretation of his home. This young man has quite a history of his own and being only 27 years old has had many wonderful adventures which include kayaking the Mississippi River (54 days) and again in a canoe for 500 miles. He also wrestled a python that was spotted in what he considers his home while on a tour; of which the video went viral. If you Google ‘Tommy Owen Python’ you should find a plethora of links to view that video. He makes his mother very proud.
As we were traveling, (the great thing about this trip is the clients don’t have to do any paddling) and this particular trip was an actual photo safari. As soon as I sat down in our boat I took out my camera, I didn’t want to miss any opportunity and Linda followed suit. It was a gorgeous warm day with a slight breeze and as we entered the river/canal we were greeted by a beautiful blue sky with wonderful white puffy clouds, picture perfect.
We were on the lookout for birds, the possible alligator and any other creature who calls the Florida Everglades home. After about an hour on the water, we came upon a flat marsh area; one of many habitats within this community. Looking at it, you would think it would be dry and easily accessible. Linda was thrilled to be able to add this to her day and we all got a good laugh as we realized, this area was not “dry”, but actually quite wet and if we didn’t step in the grass areas we were going to sink, sometimes up to our knees! Linda was the first to go down, as I turned around to get a photo of her, guess who also fell? Me! We both had a good laugh and Tommy who had Linda’s camera, caught it all.
I was able to get a couple of photos of Linda “sitting” in the mud after I made my way back to a standing position. We walked around a bit more and then decided to work our way back to the boat. What fun! The most amazing thing, this so called mud really isn’t mud, not in the dirt sense of the word, but a mixture of peat like plant material that has decayed and built up layers in the water. Getting out of it we realized we were not dirty.
Our wonderful guide headed back out and took us in another direction into different habitat. We went through a couple of Mangrove tunnels then back out onto the Sawgrass areas where we finally saw an alligator.
Heading back in Linda said the trip far exceeded her expectations and she too had a camera full of photos. One of her goals on the trip was to get some tips and tricks in using her camera. She was happily snapping away and using her manual settings on her camera by the end of the tour. Teaching other’s to use their camera is something I truly enjoy.
Our day was not quite finished. After making her purchases in the Swamp Ape Headquarters gift shop, Linda, Tommy & I then headed over to Joanie’s Blue Crab Café, you simply can’t miss this opportunity. The food is very good, but the atmosphere can’t be duplicated. This little roadside café has been featured in the Disney movie ‘Gone Fishin’ with Danny Glover & Joe Pesci. You could spend hours simply looking at all the things in this place. I love the notice posted upon the wall behind the cash register that says “if you want fast food, keep driving”, kind of sums it all up. Joanie wasn’t there and was sorry I missed her this trip. For anyone reading this, you must stop if you are in the Ochopee area.
After dropping Tommy off back at Trail Lakes Camp Ground we said our goodbyes to him and Linda and I headed back, but not before we made a stop at the Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk at the Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve Park. We were able to see two young eaglets in the Bald Eagles nest which is viewable from the boardwalk, and had some gorgeous birds greet us at the end of the alligator pond. There was also a nice large alligator at the entrance to the boardwalk.
All in all it was an incredible day and I’m always reminded of the wonderful area we live in and the diversity of wildlife we can possibly encounter each and every day if we simply open our eyes and look. I am fortunate because I have a child who lives and works in this beautiful area and I can visit and go out as often as I can with him. If you are ever in the area of Ochopee, Florida please visit Trail Lakes Campground/Skunk Ape Headquarters/Everglades Adventure Tours and tell them Tommy’s mom sent you. Take a guided tour with Tommy and you will be glad you did. The uniqueness of this tour makes it well worth the money. It’s a private tour, which means only your party is with the guide, you don’t have to paddle, your guide will do it for you. Take your camera because you will be able to capture your trip without worry of getting wet, and make sure you tell your story on Trip Advisor. For more information please visit www.evergladesadventuretours.com and Tommy Owen’s website at http://www.phloridaphoto.us/
Last night I was given the privilege to attend a Gregg Allman concert. This was my first time hearing him live and what a treat to the ears it was.
First let me tell you about Sailor Circus Sarasota the venue in which the event was held. It was a smaller venue, with stadium seating and floor seating. Quaint and cozy; the seats were extremely close together and not a lot of leg room. Not sure this could’ve been avoided, but it was still a great venue simply because I don’t feel there was a bad seat in the house. We were fortunate enough to be in the stadium seating fifth row up and pretty close to the stage. No complaints about that.
Unfortunately I was not granted a photo pass for this event, (I will apologize ahead of time for the bad cell phone photos) I know it’s a gamble on getting passes for out of town events, however we were close enough my iPhone was able to at least capture the feel of the stage. Not great photos, but at least something to post with.
Now, let’s cut to the chase and get into the meat of the program. There were two opening acts, and I felt it strange at first that Gregg’s son Devon Allman Band was the first act to open, in my mind I thought he was going to be prior to his dad. He took the stage and it was like seeing his father (with shorter hair) up there, his sound was very much influenced by his dad, of that you can be certain. His tour is called the Turquois Tour and is based on his newest first ever solo album of the same name with a bluesy rock feel to it. His songs were fresh and had hitting. The song When I Left Home, was a biographical song of his life as the son of a rock star and his start in the music business. His song Turn Off the World also was a ballad of needing to get away from life and the stresses of the road. Overall Devon put on a great show and this listener will be purchasing his newest CD Turquois.
Next up was a local band (out of the Pinellas County area) called The Greg Billings Band at first I couldn’t figure out why a local band was the opening act to Gregg Allman, but one minute into this bands set and you knew exactly why! High energy, fun to watch, and a dream to the ears. Their first song Built for Love was hard hitting and full of great guitar. The vocalist was on the money and never stood still (good thing I didn’t have to photograph him). They too had released a new album and last night was the first time it had been offered, I may have to look them up on iTunes as well for the downloadable version. They covered a song by Sister Roseta Tharpe Ain’t No Grave and received a standing ovation for this one. Phenomenal sound, phenomenal energy and a great opening act for Gregg.
Now let’s get to our headliner the one and only Gregg Allman and I must say (this is for the ladies) he is still as good looking as ever! He took the stage behind that Hammond Organ and the sound was incredible. His line-up of musicians were as follows Scott Sharrard-guitar, Ben Stivers- Keyboard, Steve Potts-drums, Jay Collins-horns, and Ron Johnson-bass. Unfortunately I didn’t catch the name of his percussionist and he brought his son back on stage with guitar on a couple of numbers.
Gregg performed a few numbers from several of his albums like his latest release like Floating Bridge from Low Country Blues, Whipping Post from Searching for Simplicity. And of course he performed the Allman Brother’s classic Sweet Melissa. His rocking style has not faded, however he has delved more into a Jazzy Blues feels with allowing his band mates to perform a jazz number during his intermission. Overall the show was excellent and I have Sailor Circus Sarasota to thank and Matt Mangas at 94.5 “The Arrow” for the awesome tickets; a couple of my friends who were able to attend because of his generosity.