Where is Spring

Although you would never know it on this cold & wet morning here in VA, spring is out there. There are some things in bloom & buds everywhere. I don’t know if I have ever wanted spring to come so much before. I am craving warm weather and being able to use my grill for dinner. Is anybody else really over this winter weather & ready for spring? I am loving my Lensbaby Sweet Optics. I took this with the Sweet 80 Optic & I also used a macro filter from Lensbaby.

The Lensbaby lenses do have a learning curve & every picture does not come out the way I wish it would, but when one does come me out, I love it!

Why take on a photo project?

I haven’t written here in quite a while. Sometimes real life takes away from the things I like to do. I have still been taking pictures, and one thing that I have started is a photo project. 

I decided to use a Mickey Mouse figurine that my mother had in the attic. My nieces once used to play with him & other Disney character figurines when they were smaller, & my mother has quite a collection of them in the attic. I thought taking pictures of him in different places & under different circumstances would allow me to practice some different techniques in photography. I am calling the project,”It’s a Small World After All.”

I was inspired by a friend who takes some great pictures of his miniature toys. You can view some of his work on Instagram at @alanrappa. I love his pictures with Wall-e. 

This was my first picture for my project. One thing that I am learning already is to get out of the comfort zone in which so many photographers get. We stand & take pictures. We often look at the world the way we see it, at eye level. For this picture, I was literally laying down in a field out in the country in my Sunday church clothes. We often don’t get that low & look around, but that day in the field there wasn’t much around. So a post & a road was what I had in my view. 

I am pretty good with shooting in natural light, but this picture was taken indoors. I have a lot to learn about controlling the light. Trying to take more staged pictures indoors is teaching me how to do that better. I still need lots of practice, but at least this project is doing what I had hoped, help me learn. 

I will be sharing more pictures of Mickey & his friends, and I will share with you what I learn along the way with this project. Maybe it will inspire you to take on a project too. Sometimes the only way to learn is practice. Give yourself a reason to practice & find a project of your own. 

Nothing Like a Georgia Peach

I love that my photo group keeps me filled with ideas and challenges. At our last meeting, we gave ourselves the assignment of “details.” I was headed to Georgia, and every year we visit Lane Southern Orchards while we are there.  I decided that it would be a great place to take some detail shots. I just wish I was able to spend more time at the orchard that day.





Since we go to this place every year, I am very familiar with it.  I have never really taken the time to walk through the processing area though, which they have open to the public.  There is a nice walkway that is above the working area so that you can walk all the way through it and see each step of the process that happens from when they bring in the peaches through the boxing of the peaches.









They have a store front that sells all kinds of peach products as well as other items, such as pecans, another famous Georgia crop.









I love peaches, but I have a hard time finding really good ones here in Virginia. Every time I buy them at the store I get all excited thinking about those great tasting peaches. I am usually pretty disappointed when I eat them though. The peaches from Georgia are just so much better to me. I told my husband, I am just going to have to enjoy them while we are in Georgia from now on, because there is just nothing  like a Georgia peach.




Visit Lane Southern Orchards if you are in the area. And if you do, don’t forget to try the peach soft serve ice cream and peach sweet tea in the Peachtree Cafe’. You won’t be disappointed!

Lane Southern Orchards



Child Portraits

Let me introduce you to Dexter Glenn Basham. He is the youngest of the many children in our family. He is my cousin’s little boy. When my cousin’s wife asked me to take some pictures of him for his third birthday, I was excited but also a little apprehensive. I have never really photographed small children. I know Dexter is pretty active. He is all boy and he loves to run and climb, so I knew he was not really going to sit still much for pictures. I always like more candid shots of kids anyway, and I knew that this would not be the typical portrait session that I have done with older kids or adults before. I was a little nervous, but I was up for the challenge!

I love shooting portraits with a wide open aperture. I have two prime lenses, a 35 mm f1.8 and a 50 mm f1.8. I shoot with a Nikon D5500, which is a crop sensor camera, so my 50mm is more like an 85mm on a full frame camera. It is perfect for portraits and I love the bokeh I can get with it when I shoot wide open. I only used the 50mm, which presented some challenges for me because I had to move myself around a lot, but I loved the results.

The first thing I did was ask Dexter’s mom to bring some of his favorite toys with him and meet me at a park close to both of us. I walk my dogs every day in this park, and I am always looking at it through the eye of a photographer.  If you don’t frequent the location that you plan to shoot, I would highly suggest getting there early enough to scope out the areas you want to use to take pictures. I still got to the park early myself so that I could check the lighting in the areas I planned to shoot.

Dexter’s mom brought some trains and some balls with her. I told you he is all boy! I brought a blanket with me that he could sit on to play with his trains, but he just sat down on the grass, which was fine with me. I just crawled right down there with him and started shooting. If you are going to photograph kids, you have to be prepared to get down on their level. Dress appropriately and you will be ready to lay on your stomach in the grass if you need to do so. I just followed him around, taking pictures of him as he played.  Dexter’s mom also brought his sisters along, which actually turned out to be helpful. They played with Dexter by throwing a ball back and forth to him and I was able to get some great shots of Dexter while they played together.

After we took some pictures in this location, we moved to another section of the park to take some pictures around the play ground. He likes to climb, so we just let him climb around the playground, slide down the slide and swing, and I followed him from down below. I really like shots of kids doing what they love to do, like being kids!

Dexter’s mom mentioned that she had taken him to a portrait studio for some pictures, but he just didn’t want to sit still, and they had a hard time getting him to smile for the camera. If you just go with the flow and let them be kids, you can often get that natural smile that the family of the child recognizes best. It will make life easier on you, the child, and the parents.

Remember not to take pictures for a long time. Even though a child may be having fun what they are doing, you can start to irritate them if you keep them too long, especially if you are outside and it is hot.

I really had fun taking pictures of Dexter. I don’t have any kids of my own, but I love kids! I wasn’t sure how things would go at first, but I enjoyed it a lot. Kids at that age will play and pretty much forget about the camera. Older kids and adults always know the camera is there and they often don’t like getting their picture taken, so it can be a challenge. The biggest reward is when the parents love the pictures. Dexter’s mom shared a picture that she had framed on Facebook. I really like the one that she chose, because it just looks like Dexter having fun in his element.




There’s No Place Like Home

My mother is a Wizard of OZ fanatic, so at a very young age I watched this movie a lot. Everyone knows that the last line of the movie is, “There’s no place like home.” But before she says that line, Scarecrow asks Dorothy what has she learned. She replies, “Well… I think that it … That it wasn’t enough just to want to see Uncle Henry and Auntie Em. And it’s that if I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any farther than my own back yard because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.” I learned this lesson with the assignment that our photography group choose at our last meeting. We choose to take pictures of the beach.

You might think, sure that is easy. You live in a beach town and you can just drive a few minutes and be there. Everyone doesn’t have that luxury. However, I decided to challenge myself a little. First of all, my 18-200 mm lens was in need of some repair and is in the shop right now. I only had prime lenses to shoot with for this assignment. Then I decided to use just my 50mm lens, which on a crop sensor camera is equivalent to about an 85 mm lens for a full frame camera. Then I choose to go to a beach that I have never been to before. Well if I have been there, it was when I was very young and I don’t remember it.  I don’t really venture down to the Virginia Beach Oceanfront during tourist season much. I prefer to visit that area of town when the tourist have gone. It would have probably been pretty easy for me to go to that area of town and find plenty of things to photograph. I decided, however, to head to Sandbridge instead.




I wasn’t sure if I was going to find anything interesting to photograph, and I had no idea where I was going. If it were not for GPS on my phone, I would have really gotten lost! I went to a park at the beach called Little Island. They had areas to park your car and access the beach, as well as a bath house and a fishing pier.




I really enjoyed my time here at Sandbridge, and I would love to go back when I have more time to take some more pictures. As I was starting to drive home though, I passed a church. I love white country churches with black shutters. I just had to turn around and go back to shoot it.


So what does all this have to do with Dorothy’s lesson? Well sometimes I fall into the trap that I think a lot of photographers do when they first start out. You see so many great pictures on the internet these days of exotic locations. I often times get discouraged thinking that I can’t take pictures like that because I can’t travel to these exotic places. However, sometimes the things that are in your own backyard are just as beautiful if you look at them in the right way. Sometimes you have to venture out to areas around you that you may not have seen before. Sometimes you have to try to get a new perspective on an area that you have seen a hundred times. I do think Dorothy said it best, “There’s no place like home.”


A Trip to the Zoo

I haven’t been posting as much lately because I have been sick for nearly the entire month of May and part of June. Somehow I either managed to get a cold or had sinus problems that turned into bronchitis. YUCK! Being sick and having lots of rain in our area has kept me from taking very many pictures lately.  I finally felt better, and I decided to take a trip to my local zoo in Norfolk. It was so great to get out and take pictures again. I found myself acting like a kid going to the zoo for the first time. It was very exciting!

I have been going to this zoo ever since I was a little kid because I grew up here, and the zoo has changed quite a bit over the years.  One of the biggest changes lately is that we lost of our elephants.  Due to new regulations, any zoo with less than three elephants had to either get more or move the ones they had to a bigger herd. Our elephants moved to the Miami Zoo. I have never visited the zoo in Miami, although I have been to Miami. I heard it is a great zoo, so hopefully our two lovely elephants are settling in to their new home and their new family.  There were a few paintings on the wall where the elephants’ indoor housing still sits. I am not sure if all of them were done by the elephants, but I knew that two of them were prints from the elephants themselves. We will miss them.

One of the other changes that I have seen over the years at our zoo is the variety of animals and the types of enclosure in which the animals are housed. I am a big animal nut. I am not trying to debate the merits of housing wild animals.  However, I am glad to see that many more zoos around the country, as well as our local zoo, have been migrating towards much more natural enclosures for the animals.  At our zoo, even the white rhino and the zebras are in an area together. Apparently, they are great friends and they get agitated when they are separated. What are crazy friendship, but it seems to work.

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Our zoo isn’t huge, but we do have a nice variety of animals. There is a section that has barnyard animals, and a petting area where you can go in and interact with the goats. Who doesn’t love goats? Just watch your belongings. One goat decided that my camera needed some close investigation and another one decided to try to make my shoe laces a snack.

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I love the little prairie dogs too. There habitat is being rebuilt, but they did have one in the barnyard area.

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The peacocks can be found wandering all over the zoo, but it is great when you can catch them with their tails spread out. What gorgeous colors!!!

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The most recent construction at the zoo is the area called, The Trail of the Tiger.

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You can see tigers here, although I didn’t catch a glimpse of them today. There are also a lot of other animals in this section of the park. One of my favorites are the Red Pandas. I just think these guys are so adorable. I could stand and take pictures of them for hours.  Apparently, so could a lot of other people. There is hardly a time when someone is not looking at the Red Pandas, even on a slow day at the zoo. How could you expect any less than constant attention when you have such a cute face? They seem to not mind the attention much. Today, they were just napping away, with an occasional position shift. One kept hiding in its box and peeking out the door.

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I had so many great pictures of the pandas, it was very hard to decide which ones to share here in the blog.


One of the other big areas at the zoo is the Africa section. Of course, most people love the lions, but they were also hiding today, like the tigers. The giraffes always get a lot of attention. They are amazing to see up close and some of them can come pretty close to the walkways throughout the area.

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There are two other animals that I loved in the Africa section and that is the Fennec Fox and the Meerkats. The fox has the biggest ears, but they make him look very cute. He was snoozing today, so I didn’t get to see his face.

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The Meerkats are so fun to watch. They are always taking notice of everything around them. As some airplanes flew overhead, they had to come out of their holes and stand at attention to see what was making the loud noise. They are another animal that I could watch for hours.

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It was so great to get back out and take pictures again. Visiting your local zoo is a great way to practice taking pictures. You will certainly have different light challenges to address. Some animals are more active than others and therefore you may have to adjust your shutter speed accordingly. I highly recommend some kind of zoom lens for an outing like this. I had my 18-200 mm Nikon lens on hand for my visit.  The enclosures only allow you to get so close to the animals, so any zoom lens will help you get closer with your pictures. My Nikon D5500 has 24 megapixels files, so that also allows me to be able to crop my pictures quite a bit when I process them and still get a very good quality shot.

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I had a great time at the zoo. It was rather sunny and warm, but it made the landscape, such as the sky, look really nice in my pictures.  I can’t wait to go back again. Maybe I can catch the lions and tigers next time. Note to myself though, this time don’t forget your sunscreen!

Celebrating 90 Years Young

How do you celebrate a woman who is turning 90 years young? My grandmother is an amazing woman. She has been through a lot of turmoil in her life. She has lost 2 husbands, 2 brothers, a sister, and a daughter, not to mention her parents and a host of friends. I guess that is what happens when you live to be 90. Her focus in her life has always been on God and her family. She has been a great example to those of us around her. She is always there when you need her, and she has done so much for the people in her life.

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There was no better way to celebrate her than a party with all of her family. We have a huge family, and it is hard to get everyone together at one time. There were a few who could not make it, but there was still a big group of people there to celebrate with her. I can’t say thank you enough to my Aunt Cheryl and Uncle Terry for throwing this party for her.  From the use of their facility to the pretty decorations and the wonderful food they prepared for us all, it was perfect.

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Grandma loves nothing more than having her family around her, and if she can’t have them physically around her, she loves to have a picture of them.  Truth be told, it is probably because of her (and my dad) that I love to take pictures.  She has always had pictures galore in her house. Her walls are filled with pictures of all of her family. It is funny to just walk around her house and see all the family members in different stages of life.  She has albums full of pictures of all of her children, grand children, and now great-grand children too. When my mom and I were at her house recently, she told us that she had an entire chest of drawers full of photo albums, and she does! She loves getting pictures for presents too.

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It was so nice to be able to get together and celebrate this wonderful woman. She still lives in her own home by herself and still drives her own car too. She may not be able to do everything she would like to physically these days, but she still runs circles around most people her age.  Her family is everything to her, and I am so glad that we had so many there to celebrate with her.

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Thanks, Grandma, for being such a wonderful example to our whole family. We love you so much and are so thankful for you. Happy 90th birthday, and we hope to help you celebrate many more!

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For the Love of a Mouse

I am a self proclaimed Disney addict. I usually have some kind of Mickey Mouse apparel on or a Disney accessory with me every day of my life. Not only do I love Mickey Mouse, but I love the ideals of the dreamer who created him, Walt Disney himself. “What does that have to do with photography?” you might ask. Well I have always liked photography. I started taking pictures back in the days of film. I know, I am telling my age a little here. I always took pictures on vacations, but I kind of got away from it for a while. When digital cameras became the “norm,” my husband bought me a Nikon D50 and I was in love again! Now I could take all the pictures I wanted, and it didn’t cost me a fortune to buy film and get it developed. On one trip to Disney World, I came home with over 2,000 pictures. They weren’t all good pictures, but I was thrilled.

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Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade, Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World

Fast forward a few years, and I found a website called Flickr. I was looking at pictures one night on my computer, and I decided to do a search for pictures of Walt Disney World. Up came some amazing pictures of the parks from people like Tom Bricker, Cory Disbrow, Don Sullivan and more.  If you haven’t seen their work, find them. You will be amazed. I thought to myself, “I want to take pictures like that!” I am not at the same level of these guys, but I am working my way there. You don’t become a great photographer overnight.

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Cinderella Castle, Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World

I began to study their pictures and their settings. Then I stumbled on to Tom Bricker’s website, Disney Tourist Blog. He has great Disney information there, as well as some really great pictures. I began to look at his recommendations for photography books and equipment and started making my wish lists for future birthday and Christmas presents.

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Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, Walt Disney World

Then I also found a website called Disney Photography Blog. It had great tips about how to take better pictures in the parks, and I tried to soak up as much information as I could. They recently had a problem with the site and lost a lot of their content. They are rebuilding it and trying to add new content, so check them out. Some of the members of the site planned a big get together at Disney World called Photo Magic 2013. I was lucky enough to attend, and I got to meet several really great photographers and great people like Mark Willard, Joanie Eddis-Koch, Alan Rappaport, and Mike Christoferson and many others. This event only made me want to better my skills even more.

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Imagination Pavilion, EPCOT, Walt Disney World

When I got home, I began to take some photography classes at my local Museum of Contemporary Art and I joined Kelby One online. I also meet on a regular basis with a small local group of photographers who are constantly pushing and challenging me to better my photographic skills. I have a lot of things that I want to do with my photography, so I hope you come along for the ride. Just a word of caution though. You might fall in love with a mouse!

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Disney World is Photography Boot Camp

I had a great time in Disney World, even if it was just for a few days. I was actually able to meet up with a Disney Photographer that I have been following online for a while. While we were discussing photography, I mentioned that Disney World gives you the opportunity to try different kinds of photography all at once. He replied, “Disney World is photography boot camp!” It is so true.

Every time I go to Disney World, I feel like I try new things with my photography. I am constantly practicing shooting in low light situations when I ride “dark” rides. If you photograph shows or parades, you get practice shooting action shots. You can shoot great street photography in certain areas of the parks. EPCOT is great for landscape pictures, especially during the Flower and Garden Festival. You can even get some great flower and butterfly macro shots there at this time of the year too. By the way, if you have never been to Disney World while this is going on, you must try it. The park is so colorful and fragrant.

You can do portraits of your family members in the parks too and get some really great backgrounds in your portraits.  There are certainly plenty of opportunities to do food photography as well.  Disney is great at doing details, so there are tons of little things that can be captured throughout the parks besides those big icons, if you look for them. Let’s not forgot fireworks. Disney World is the holy grail for fireworks photographs. There are also plenty of opportunities to do some long exposure shots in several locations at night and even some in the daytime too.

I don’t think a lot of people plan a Disney World trip by themselves. As a photographer, I love going into the parks by myself. It gives me a great opportunity to take as many pictures as I want. My husband is pretty tolerant of letting me stop & take pictures while we are in the parks together. We don’t have kids, so it makes it a little easier for me to take pictures without anyone being impatient to get to the rides.

Here are just a few examples of the shots I got on this trip. I tried shooting into the sun on this shot.  I don’t do it often, because I feel like I don’t know what I am doing. However, I have gotten some pretty interesting shots when I have tried it. I really like the way this one turned out and I liked the lens flare in it. Maybe I need to try it more often.

I love the fountain in EPCOT that actually sprays upward.  It always look great as the sun sets and in the blue hour.

My husband and I love to ride Ellen’s Energy Adventure. This ride is really dark, and I have a hard time getting a decent picture on it. I think upgrading my camera body really helped to get a better picture. Sometimes gear does matter, and I think it made a difference here.

I love the details that Disney is famous for, and one of the best places to see these details in my opinion is in the Morocco Pavilion in World Showcase in EPCOT.  We love to eat at the Restaurant Marrakesh and this little lamp was just sitting on a shelf near the register.  I was just waiting for Robin Williams to pop out of it!

There is a great show that they do with projections on the castle at night before the fireworks. I have never really tried taking pictures of this show, but I did try some on this trip and I liked the way they turned out.

Some “dark” rides are harder to shoot than others.  The Three Caballeros has some sections that have a little more light in them. I really liked these skeletons and the pops of color all around them.

I love the Flower & Garden Festival at EPCOT. Every year they have great topiaries spread throughout the park. Although I am not a huge Frozen fan, I do think this one of Elsa is one of the most realistic ones they have ever made.

I just loved these sunflowers they had in the middle of one of the flower displays for the Flower & Garden Festival too! Who can’t be happy when you are looking at and smelling sunflowers?

I love spending time in the Morocco Pavilion of World Showcase in EPCOT. The King actually sent some of his own artisans over to create the mosaics in this pavilion. My husband and I love to spend as much time here as we can, and one of the things we love to do the most here is eat at the Restaurant Marrakesh. I love these non-alcoholic juice drinks they have here. This one is pineapple juice, strawberries & orange water. I could drink them all day!

I actually feel like I came away with more good photos from this trip than previous trips. That is actually quite amazing, since we were only in the parks for a few hours a day and for only three days and we actually only visited two parks.

Disney World is a photography boot camp for me, and I do feel like I have stepped my photography up a notch on this trip. Hopefully, I can keep it up!

Travel Photos

I was supposed to be in sunny Florida today with my toes in the sand. Unfortunately, due to a small medical issue with my husband, and a trip to the doctor instead of the airport, we had to cancel our trip. What do you do when that happens? You call your trusty AAA Travel Agent and you book a very last minute trip to Disney World after a few days of rest. My husband is doing fine with some medicine, so we are off to Florida after all, just not to Longboat Key.

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I am posting a few pictures from our previous trip to Longboat Key, Florida, while I am on my way to Disney World today. I will miss relaxing on the beach this week, but Disney World is a nice alternative for me, of course. Maybe staying at the Caribbean Beach Resort will help my husband feel like he is relaxing at the beach, even if we couldn’t get there. The pictures above are some of the first ones I took as we got to the resort in Longboat Key last year. It was so nice to walk out and see the clear waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

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These pictures above are from a walk on the beach that I took there by myself. I felt like these walks on the beach just refreshed my soul!


We went to St. Armands Circle and did some shopping, and I just loved this little pastry shop. We just had to buy a box.

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And who could forget this sunset view from our balcony? It makes me want to stay there forever, or at least plan another trip back there. Hopefully, we will get to go back to Longboat Key sometime soon.

Travel photos are my favorite kind of photos. I do love a good landscape picture, but most of all I love to remember the trips I take and the fun I had while I was there.  I love to take pictures of the details, not just those wide vistas. It is the fun little details that I usually love the most about the trips we take anyway. Don’t just take pictures of those classic monuments or that snapshot of you under the Eiffel Tower. Take pictures of the details. Try to tell a story of your daily adventures. Most of all, make sure you get a few pictures with yourself in them too.  I am bad about not getting out from behind the camera. Most photographers would rather be behind the camera than in front of it. You’ll regret it later though if you don’t get some pictures of yourself on vacation too!