Friday, December 23, 2011

A Holiday Gift for You

The holiday season is the time for sharing.  While brainstorming ideas for something special to share with you, I was contacted (out of the blue) by Sherry Klinedinst, a talented pianist from South Bend, Indiana.  She explained to me how much she enjoyed my photographs and wondered if I would be willing to share some of them with her to accompany her beautiful piano music.
Together, we created "Winter Essence," a visual and auditory salute to the holiday season.
I hope you will take the time to enjoy our collaborative creation, and I hope you also take time to visit Sherry at sherryk.com.

You can access our creation by clicking HERE
Please feel free to continue the Spirit of Sharing by passing this gift to others.

Best to all of you during the holiday season and throughout the new year!

Sincerely-
Wendy

Friday, December 9, 2011

A "Miksang Moment"

Miksang is a Tebetian word which means “good-eye” and describes a style of photography which captures the essence of a fleeting moment in time.  The moment is defined when we synchronize eye and mind, abandon all concepts and predispositions and become completely present in the moment. Miksang photography can also be referred to as contemplative photography.  
We have all had these moments, when something catches our eye and stirs something in our minds and in our emotions.  Usually, it is a very simple, brilliant, and fleeting moment, during which our minds are relaxed and we view the moment without any preconceived ideas about it: in other words, we see it with pure perception. 
For those of us who carry cameras with us, it is a moment we must capture before the connection of our sight, emotion and perception disappear.
I have many images in my photo library which have been made when these three conditions are present.  Today I would like to share my most recent Miksang experience.

We were out to dinner the other night and my daughter had ordered hot tea.  During our meal I glanced at the silver teapot of hot water and saw a woman’s face looking back at me!  No, it was not because of the wine I had consumed thus far with my meal, but a “Miksang moment.” 
As soon as I saw this, I used the only camera I had with me at the time- my cell phone. 

I captured what I was seeing while the song “I’m a little teapot, short and stout…” began to run through my mind.  I shared my capture with my husband and daughter who had been looking strangely at me as I interrupted my meal to shoot a subject they did not see.  (One would think they would be used to my behavior by now after all the years I have been photographing!)
Anyway, after sharing my capture with them, I went to take a second shot of “Mrs. Potts” and she was gone!  The server had removed my husband’s plate (which created her right ‘eye’) I took the photo anyway, wondering if I actually saw her winking at me!  Nope- my Miksang moment was gone.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Dunes Are Alive!

In my last blog, I described the life living WITHIN the dunes, but did you know the dunes, THEMSELVES, are "alive?" Dunes are constantly changing shape by the power of mother nature- especially when she blows strong winds up the windward side of the dunes, causing the grains of sand to blow over the crest to the shorter leeward side. 
Not only does this change the shape of the dune, but also causes some dunes (known as barchan dunes) to actually migrate across the desert a few meters each year; which is enough distance to periodically update maps currently in print.  (especially if they block roads, which they often do!!)
One afternoon on my most recent trip to Namibia, we set out to photograph the dune belt between Walvis Bay and Swakopmund. The wind was blowing quite strong- too strong to subject our gear to the constant abrasiveness of the sand grains blowing through the air. So, we spent some time sitting quietly in our vehicle watching the sand as it blew across the face of the dunes. It reminded me of a "tan blizzard" and it was mesmerizing to watch the swirling patterns of blowing sand as the millions of tiny grains brushed across the dunes and over the crest. I noticed that the speed of the wind and its gusts are what determined the dancing patterns we saw. It was like watching a ballet! I wanted to take this memory home with me since watching the blowing sand was so relaxing and fascinating.

I secured my bean bag bag on the car window for stable support and placed my Canon 5D Mark II on top of it. I braced the camera by placing my hand on the lens to stabilize the camera even more. Then, I shot many video clips of the scene before me hoping to capture the side lit dunes and the dancing sand.
Below is a link to my video page on my web site.  Here, there are two of my favorite videos I made from the afternoon which rival any still shots from the photo session. I hope you take less than 2 minutes from your day to witness the beauty of nature and the "movement" of the dunes.

Clcik HERE to view.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Living Desert

Nestled between the two towns of Walvis Bay and Swakopmund lies an expansive dune belt which is part of the Namib desert.  The dune belt stretches from the inland desert to the Atlantic Coast of Namibia. 
This dune belt area is very unique, in that it has a high level of biodiversity which is the result of the many and varied habitats in the area.
First time visitors to the Namib Desert see nothing but sand and dunes for as far as the eye can see.  But, the sand dunes here are much more than beautiful barren sweeping crests and ridges of gold and red sand.  They are home to many insect, spider, scorpion, and reptile species. 
What better way to explore and experience this area than by taking Tommy's Living Desert Tour based out of Swakopmund!  Tours are led by Tommy Collard, himself: the brainchild behind this educational and eco minded 1/2 day adventure.  Tours depart at 8 AM and return around 1PM.  In that short time frame, Tommy enthusiastically and expertly shares  his vast knowledge of the hidden gems found living in the harsh environment. 
On the day we spent our morning with Tommy, we were able to see and learn about many endemic creatures.  Thanks to Tommy's keen tracking skills, we were up close and personal with a legless lizard, a sand diving lizard, a darling little palmetto gecko, and the endangered Namaqua Chameleon! He also found many beetles and a dancing white lady spider.  Tommy takes great pride in sharing his knowledge about each desert animal and plant, with passion and humor.  His wealth of knowledge includes emphasis on special adaptations and perfect design used for survival in the desert.
At one point, after reading and analyzing some tracks in the sand on the side of a tall dune, Tommy climbed top, asking us to follow.  On the dune's crest, he pointed out an endemic venomous sidewinder snake known as  a Peringuey's Adder, burrowed in the sand with only his eyes showing.  Its camouflage ability was amazing, and made me realize just how dangerous a walk on the dunes could be if one does not know where or how to look for these venomous snakes!  Tommy carefully uncovered the snake for us in order to demonstrate to us how the snake buries itself in the sand.  It  was so fascinating to witness the snake effortlessly becoming invisible in the sand in no time at all as seen in this video footage I recorded.
Intrigued by the mysteries of desert life, I decided to post a small gallery called "The Living Desert" including photos of life in the desert I made as I traveled through the Namib Desert.  It can be seen HERE.

If you find yourself in Namibia and in the Swakopmund area, I highly recommend Tommy's Living Desert Tour as a 'must' on your itinerary.  To learn more, visit Tommy's Tours and Safaris Web Site.
Or visit him on his Facebook Page.


Friday, November 11, 2011

The Many Hats of Photography

This week I have chosen images of hats that I have made over the years to represent my thoughts.
Please let me explain... 

After almost 2 months away from daily work on my photography, I am happy to be back in full swing. Sitting down to my computer, I began to prioritize what needed to be done. WOW! So much editing to do in order to get caught up. New galleries to create for the web site. Images to select and upload to my stock agency. Plans to be finalized for an upcoming photo tour. And has it REALLY already been 8 weeks since I last posted a blog entry???

All of these tasks await my action- along with the physical part of my business: printing, framing and preparing for upcoming shows and exhibitions.
I was looking at my long "to do" list when it dawned on me just how many just hats  a photographer wears....

"Wendy, the Photographer," is also:
Wendy- the editor, Wendy- the writer, Wendy- the accountant, Wendy- the printer, Wendy- the promoter, Wendy- the exhibitor, Wendy- the tour planner, Wendy- the book maker, Wendy- the web master, and Wendy- the IT specialist. (and, trust me... I use that term loosely!)
I had never really stopped to realize all the hats I wear to keep my photography alive and fresh.  It's no wonder that my days go so fast!  I can hardly believe we are already approaching the close of 2011 with the holidays right around the corner...
So, I am taking a deep breath and digging in, reminding myself  how happy I am when immersed in my creative process.  Stay tuned for more galleries and blog posts as I return to a more consistent work flow...
As a very talented and successful photographer friend of mine, Brenda Tharp, recently posted on Facebook:
"I'm still alive, really I am, just overwhelmed with photo tours, manuscript editing, and planning out next year. I need six hands right now!"
I see am not alone with what I have realized.  I am sorry I can't offer Brenda or myself more hands right now- I can only offer more hats!!   ;-)

Friday, September 16, 2011

Pre-Visualization- Part 2 "Backlight"

Building on the pre-visualization concept from my last blog entry, I have decided to share another group of images with you for which I had pre-visualized the concept and then looked for subjects in the optimal conditions to achieve what I saw in my mind’s eye. 

Backlit Caracal-What my eyes saw...
I have always been a fan of backlight for the drama it adds to a subject- mainly the silver rim light outlining the shape of the subject.  Backlit subjects present exposure challenges!  As you may already know, to render detail in backlit subjects, it is necessary to let more light into the camera either by opening the F-stop, by increasing the ISO, by adding fill flash or by slowing the shutter speed.  (Sometimes it might take a combination of these methods.)

What my mind's eye saw...
 On my most recent trip to Namibia, I visited Harnas Wildlife Foundation and had the opportunity to photograph many different animals.  At times, I observed strong backlight behind them showing the edges of their fur as silver linings.  In my mind’s eye, I saw these subjects as a study of line and defined shape.

So, I asked myself, “What if I underexpose these backlit subjects to the point of little or no detail in their faces, and just try to capture the rim light around them?”  

And so, I did the exact opposite of “proper exposure” for a backlit subject: I decreased the light into my camera to capture my backlit subjects.  I then darkened them further in Photoshop and brightened the highlight edges around the animal’s shape. 

I think I am on to something…The simple lines and shapes depict the various wild animals I photographed and the subjects have taken on an abstract and artful quality.  I think this collection is an interesting body of work that I intend to continue to pursue.  (clicking on any of these images will enable you to view them larger)


Friday, September 9, 2011

Pre-Visualization

When I set out to photograph, I photograph my subject "as is" and present it to my viewers exactly the way I saw it. Other times, a subject lends itself to a different rendering to make viewer stop and see it in a different way. As I study my subject, I pre-visualize how I want it to look in the final output.

So what do I mean by pre-visualization? It can take many forms such as rendering the subject in black and white, making it into a panorama, using HDR to increase the dynamic range of a scene, or taking it beyond reality with the use of post processing filters.  Pre-visualization begins with the question I have posed in many of my previous blogs: "What if I........? 

This week, I am utilizing the concept of pre-visualization by expanding on the animal tracks of my most recent blog entry, "Creepy Crawlers."

While stalking the insects that made these tracks, I was admiring the patterns their tiny feet made in the Namibian desert sand. The designs of the tracks lent themselves well to various interesting compositions and abstract images.
 
Because of the low angle of the sun and the increased contrast of the scene, I pre-visualized the delicate patterns in black and white in my head abstracting them beyond simple tracks and creating artful design images.  (Answering the question, "What if I...?") 
Now I am back home and have had the chance to look through the images I made. While I am pleased with these images, to me, they are only the beginning of an idea I will continue to pursue until I accomplish what I saw in my mind's eye. So, in essence, you are seeing a pre-visualized "work in progress."  

Since I, personally, think my pre-visualization ideas are not "quite there" this time, I will further study this idea, perfecting it into the images I have in my mind...stay tuned!
My eyes saw this scene...



...My mind's eye saw this.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Creepy Crawlers

After last week's blog, a few people who know me well contacted me asking why I left out a photo of the scorpion that was discovered by the campfire. While I do not have a photo of THE scorpion, they know me well because I take advantage of any and all photo opportunities and do have one of the MANY like it discovered next day during daylight hours. I have included it here. 
Thank goodness I was unaware of the number of them in the area before turning in for the night or I would not have slept at all or ventured out alone into the darkness when nature called! (I am so brave...!)
Scorpion
I am also thankful that I was unaware of the fact that scorpions seek out warm places in the cool night time hours: "warm places" translates to "under the canvas floor of our tents!!!" One was found beneath one of the tents when we broke camp on morning #2.
Remember I mentioned that this charming campsite was on a level sandy area? Well, in the early daylight hours, the sandy area was covered with a variety of insect tracks criss-crossing every which way. The low light of the sun accentuated the different patterns left behind by tiny feet. And so, we spent the early morning tracking and identifying the insects responsible for the beautiful patterns left behind.
Tracks

It was fascinating to see the variety of creepy crawly critters: dung beetles, armoured crickets, and scorpions! As creepy as these insects can be, the more we stalked them and observed them, the less creepy they became... Of course, we stalked them with cameras in hand and were rewarded with numerous photo opportunities to explore light and shadow as well as behaviors.
Breakfast Protein
Showing Scale
Armoured crickets (Acanthoplus discoidalis) are huge and quite intimidating when you first see one. After a while, they become ordinary and commonplace after seeing so many. BUT BEWARE! Our guide told us that even though they are referred to as “crickets,” they can inflict a painful bite!!! This is why I squealed whenever one came close…
Their tracks surrounded our tents (obviously, they were looking for a warmer place during the night, too!) and they showed up in very odd places. I have included a photo of one on the frying pan at breakfast time and one by my size 7 shoe for scale. I loved how the low light of the sun made their shadows so tall!!
So Tall!
Rolling....
Digging...
Burried!
Dung beetles collect animal dung, roll it and then lay their eggs in the formed ball. Next they dig a place to bury the dung ball. The dung beetle at left is hard at work rolling the dung ball and digging. It was so interesting to watch it. The entrance to his freshly dug tunnel looked like a fan in the sand. (Below Left)
On our previous visits to Namibia, we learned about these creatures’ presence solely by their tracks left on the sand; but this time, because we were camping, we were treated to actual observation the creatures themselves. What an unexpected bonus photo opportunity these little critters and their tracks turned out to be!

 
Feel free to click on any of the featured photos to see them larger.

Friday, August 19, 2011

An Unexpected Starry,Starry Night...

June 15, 2011- a night I will remember for the rest of my life! 
We were in Namibia, driving from the Marienfluss in the Hartman Valley to Serra Cafema - a full day of 4WD rugged roads up and down mountain ranges in the literally in the middle of nowhere…

The plan was to camp near Serra Cafema for 2 nights.  We arrived to Serra Cafema late in the day as the sun was setting.  Luckily we found what turned out to be a charming spot for wild camping at the base of a large hill on a large expanse of flat sand surrounded by grasses. (‘Charming’, that is, except for the scorpions later discovered by the camp fire!!!)
From our pre-trip research, we knew tonight would be a full moon and we were delighted to have the hill as our foreground element and clear skies to capture it in all its glory.
Tents were set up and dinner was being prepared while we set up our tripods to photograph the moon rising over the hill.  As the moon began to make its appearance, we photographed it, practicing everything we knew about capturing the night time orb at its finest.  While photographing, we were distracted for a few moments by the discovery of a large scorpion by the camp fire!  The discovery of this unexpected and unwanted creature, caused a stir of excitement in the campsite which lasted a few minutes while it was captured and deposited into the surrounding grasses.  We then went back to photographing our moon.  Looking up, I said, “Guys? What’s happening to the moon?”  It looked like it was getting smaller and was a slightly odd shape.  As time continued to pass, we realized we were in for a treat: We were experiencing a lunar eclipse! 
Dinner was then ready and we sat down to eat, but we photographers had our eyes on the sky.  The moon continued to disappear and the stars were getting brighter!  We inhaled our dessert and went back to photographing this unexpected and amazing phenomenon.  It progressed to be not simply a lunar eclipse, but a TOTAL one at that!!!  With the moon obliterated by the shadow of the earth, and no light pollution, except for our glowing red headlamps, we were treated to a most amazing sight: millions of stars and the Milky Way as I have never seen it!
We photographed as quickly as we could before the shadow of the earth slowly slipped by the moon.  Once gone, the moon shone brightly, illuminating the landscape as if it were daytime. Some of the stars dimmed and others disappeared.  Sadly, the show was over but we felt very special to have witnessed it, as if Mother Nature put it on just for us!

The peak of whole event lasted a very short time, but the  incredible experience will last in my memory forever…

Friday, August 12, 2011

Cheetahs

                                     One of the most beautiful big cats is the cheetah. (Acinonyx jubatus )  Cheetahs are quite elusive in the wild. The word "cheetah" is derived from a Sanskrit word  meaning "variegated." Their spotted coat acts to camouflage them in the grasses of the African plains.  The dark stripes around their eyes act to decrease the brightness and glare of the hot African sun.  Cheetahs are the only cat that does not have retractable claws.  The genus name, Acinonyx, is Greek and means "no-move-claw."  The species name, jubatus, is Latin and means "maned", which refers to the mane found in cheetah cubs.

The cheetah is the fastest land mammal reaching running speeds of 60-70 mph and is able to go from 0 to 60 miles an hour in only three seconds!  Because of their speed, they are very successful at hunting.  Cheetahs hunt during the day by first using their keen eyesight to find its prey. Once in their sights, they stalk and chase it down. The kill lasts only 20-60 seconds.  After the kill, the cheetah needs about 30 minutes to catch its breath before eating.  It often drags the kill to a shady spot not only to hide from their  own predators, but also to hide from other animals who may steal their hunting reward before it can be eaten.  Because of prowling in the daylight hours, they are vulnerable to being preyed upon by their natural enemies: lions. 

Cheetahs are listed as ‘critically endangered’ on the IUCN red list.  They used to roam most of Africa and Asia, but their numbers have decreased drastically due to human encroachment of their habitat. Currently, their range of habitat is only south of the Sahara Desert.  According to Defenders of Wildlife, it is estimated that only 9000-12,000 cheetahs remain in the wild.  Their typical prey of hares, impalas, gazelles and wildebeest calves are also declining in numbers.  Cheetah cubs have a high mortality rate falling prey to lions, hyenas, and even eagles during their first 3 months of life.

On my most recent trip to Namibia, I had the thrilling opportunity to observe and photograph these beautiful cats at Harnas Wildlife Foundation. 

Images of my memorable afternoon with the cheetahs can be seen in the Cheetah Photo Gallery at throughwendyslens.com



Friday, August 5, 2011

African Wild Dogs


The African Wild Dog is found only in Africa and is closely related to the wolf.  The scientific name (Lycaon pictus) is derived from the Greek word meaning “painted.”  Because of this fact, they are also referred to as Painted Dog, Painted Wolf, or Spotted Wolf, each which accurately describes the appearance of their mottled coat.  No two dogs are marked the same, and unlike the domestic dog, which has five toes on each foot, it only has four. (Lacking a dewclaw)  They live in packs and together they are very organized and efficient hunters.  Their targeted prey rarely escapes and is consumed by the pack in a matter of minutes. 

The African wild dog is listed as ‘endangered’ under the Endangered Species Act and on the IUCN red list.
In some areas, they are close to extinction. Between 2,000 and 5,000 African wild dogs remain in the wild, mostly in game preserves or national parks.  African wild dogs face a number of serious threats, including habitat loss, human persecution (hunting and poisoning), disease spread from domestic animals and isolated populations. 

Currently one of the few captive populations of African Wild Dogs in Namibia is at The Harnas Wildlife Foundation. This population grew from various packs of wild juvenile and adult dogs. All the dogs in the first pack were very badly wounded.  The Harnas Wildlife Foundation’s efforts are helping to conserve the African Wild Dog population and one can read about and support their mission here. 

On my recent trip to Namibia, and visit to Harnas, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to watch and photograph a pack of dogs in their feeding frenzy- an event that is extremely rare to see in the wild!

Some of my images captured during that exciting morning can be seen in my newly posted AFRICAN WILD DOGS GALLERY.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Harnas Wildlife Foundation and Guest Farm


During our recent visit to Namibia, we had the opportunity to visit the Harnas Wildlife Foundation and Guest Farm.

The Harnas Wildlife Foundation is a not for profit organization whose mission is to rescue and rehabilitate wild animals and, if possible, return them to the wild giving them a second chance at life. Harnas is located in the Omaheke Region in the central east Kalahari Desert of Namibia. The closest major town to Harnas is Gobabis, capital of the Omaheke Region.

Harnas' many missions strive "to protect an environment that includes all forms of life, ensuring endurance and sustainability."

The animals at Harnas are accepted and protected for various reasons. Some are injured. Some are orphaned. Some are unwanted pets. Others are problem animals, either threatening people and their livestock or competing with livestock for precious resources.
Harnas is the home to many species of animals including, but limited to, lions, cheetahs, hyenas, mongooses, caracals, meerkats, leopards, crocodile, African wild dogs, ostrich, bat eared foxes and baboons.
Through the Harnas Volunteer Project, Harnas is staffed with many volunteers from around the world who are passionate about animal conservation. The program not only provides manpower to help with the animals, but also raises much needed funds.  In addition to the Volunteer Project, the people at Harnas are very involved in a number of other worthy projects:

The Harnas Life Line Project helps rehabilitate animals and release them successfully back into the wild.

The Wild Dog Project strives to reintroduce African Wild Dogs into the wild to restore populations of the most endangered predator in Africa.

The Caring Hands Project helps the San Bushman people assimilate into modern society while preserving their nomadic culture and heritage by offering them various job opportunities at the foundation.  The Project also includes a day care center to help the children of the San people prepare for modern and formal schooling ahead of them.
So many wonderful missions and visions!

It takes many funds to carry them out.  In addition to direct monetary donations, people can help support the work at Harnas in a variety of other ways; like 'adopting' one of the animals or by sponsoring one of the Bushman students.  Harnas also has guest accommodations from rustic chalets to campsites for visitors to come and see firsthand the wonderful dreams Harnas is realizing and to observe animals at close range- many which are elusive in the wild.

It was fascinating to stay at Harnas and watch the daily buzz of activity around us!

Oh, Did I mention photography? Harnas offers photographers the opportunity to photograph the animals in residence, and while this is not the main mission or purpose of the Foundation, it is a benefit to both the photographer and to Harnas. Photographers can photograph animals they would not readily or commonly see in the wild and use the photos to educate the public and to help promote the importance of their conservation. In return, Harnas receives some most needed funds to keep their main missions alive and successful.

While wildlife rescue and rehabilitaion centers do not promote photography as their primary purpose, they certainly can offer some amazing photo opportunities. 
You may want to check out wildlife rescue and rehab centers in your area as a photography resource.

In the meantime, I invite you to visit the Harnas Wildlife Foundation web site at http://www.harnas.org/ to learn more about them.

You can also follow their news and 'like' them on Facebook.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Irises

No other flower is unusual and elegant as the Iris. It is my favorite flower of the spring season...
Like fireworks, my bearded irises exploded this past week in all their glory, decorating my yard in a beautiful array of colors! A few were a surprise this year. Rhizomes of unknown colors were given to me by my sister and planted last season. This spring, they revealed their secret by complimenting the iris colors I already had.
I wanted to enjoy them in my house and so cut many to make an arrangement that I placed on my kitchen counter. The overhead lights in the kitchen brought out their rich colors and being in my most 'lived in' room of the house, I studied them up close and often!
Out came the camera and macro lens... I spent many hours photographing these beauties at close range. I was in 'the zone' as I viewed the blooms intimately and from all angles.
I decided to share some of  my favorite shots from my visual exercise with you this week.
(Clicking on each image will enlarge it for better viewing)

 Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 50mm f2.5 compact macro lens, 1/80 sec @ f25, ISO H2 (25600)

 Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 50mm f2.5 compact macro lens, 1/40 sec @ f16, ISO H2 (25600)  Converted to black and white in Adobe Lightroom 3.




 
 

 Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 50mm f2.5 compact macro lens, 1/60 sec @ f20, ISO 6400.  Grain added in Adobe Photoshop CS5.






 
 

Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 50mm f2.5 compact macro lens, 1/60 sec @ f20, ISO 6400
 
 
 
 
   
 
Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 50mm f2.5 compact macro lens, 1/100 sec @ f29, ISO H2 (25600).  (Noise reduction applied in Adobe Lightroom 3)