Deer hunting

June 17, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

I am sure the title of this particular blog post is going to bring one thing to mind for many - but when I say "Deer hunting" I am using a camera (not any form of ammunition).  On our deer hunting rides, I did find several deer hiding out in the Cloudland Canyon State Park - but if you're driving the speed limit and not really hunting, you probably will never see them!  This particular photography was more a let's see what this camera can do and I am happy to say that the Nikon D750 is truly very good is extremely low light.  Some of these photographs were taken in such dark light that I was amazed it could actually focus as I could barely see the deer with my eyes.  I hope you enjoy deer hunting with us as I found it a lot of fun to watch them in their native habitats.

This last one was using the "hi 1" ISO setting that indicates as 51,200 when the photograph is loaded into Lightroom.  It was pretty dark when I took this photo, I could barely make out the deer with my own eyes.  Quite impressive what this camera can do (Nikon D750 with 70-200 f/4 lens).

Also while we were out shooting, this little bluebird came and sat outside the car window - I love these birds, they are such a vivid blue (especially the males).

That's all for this week - hopefully as we roll into this next week the cold I have been fighting for a few weeks will 'find another home' (ha ha) and I'll be out doing more shooting that I have been the last couple of weeks.

Enjoy and have a great week!


Wildflowers

June 10, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

Often times I return to my 'roots' in photography - flower photography.  I've always had a love for shooting up close, and flowers are often the subject when I am shooting up close.  On our recent trip to Cloudland Canyon State Park, we spent an afternoon hanging out at one of the playgrounds just chilling while the park ranger was at our cabin with the air conditioning company replacing the entire air conditioning system (if that's news to you, you might want to go back a few Sunday blog posts).  Anyway, it was a relaxing afternoon and not long before Jim and I starting looking at the various flowers growing wild and taking some photographs.  

Most of the time people photograph dandelion flowers when they are finished flowering and have all the little seeds still intact.  That looks more like what you see below.

But, sometimes you see a dandelion that has already lost a good number of the seeds and has a "bald spot".  Since this is the less often version seen, I think it has more interest.

One other wild flower caught my eye as we relaxed around a picnic table.

For all of these images, looking closely at what is behind the flower and using a shallow depth of field, allowed for a nice blur of color without any actual objects being included in the photograph.  This is a preferred way to photograph flowers to have them stand out.

 


Pet Photography - Theme 'Blue'

June 08, 2018  •  7 Comments

It is interesting that this week's theme for pet photography is "Blue" and I've been down with a pretty good cold since the weekend - feeling rather Blue myself.  The weather here has been really raining, I am starting to think we live in Washington state not Florida as the rains have been coming so much almost every day with no real rhyme or reason as to when it is going to rain.  I managed to get a few photographs of Martin just before it started raining late last week.  Martin is a middle age (probably 6-7 years old) and is currently looking for a foster or forever home.  When I returned home to load the photographs of Martin on my computer, I was sad to see that Martin actually has a very 'blue', sad frown on one of the photographs.  I don't know that I have actually captured this particular look on a dog.

Martin did have a happy face for us too, but I was definitely struck by his frown and sad eyes in this photograph - if only Martin could tell us what he has seen in his life thus far.

What a big difference just having his mouth open with his tongue hanging out a little bit! His whole face lit up and he looks like a different dog.

For more pet photographers sharing their take on this theme, head over to visit Ursula M. Garrison is a freelance photographer based on the South Shore of Lake Superior in Northern Wisconsin and then head around the rest of the blog circle.

If you would like to book a custom pet portrait session, send an email to vpshoots@gmail.com or give us a call/text at 813-610-2671 in the Tampa Bay area (Florida).

 

 


Point Park, Lookout Mountain, Chattanooga, Tennessee

June 03, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

Point Park is located on Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  There are wonderful views of the city of Chattanooga from this military park which overlooks the Lookout Mountain Battlefield and the city below.  There is a paved walking path around the park and several areas that can be explored by going down small sections of stairs.  Historically known for the battles fought in the Civil War over 150 years ago.

We arrived with a threat of rain nearby, but parked in front of the park and fed the meter so we could see what it was about.  The stonework is very different than anything I have seen before, but immediately reminded me of the rook (castle) in the game of chess. This park is not staffed and pay is requested via credit or debit card. 

The overlooks are beautiful - and probably even more impressive if we couldn't see the rain coming across from the north over the city of Chattanooga.

The cannons are situated at the edge of the mountain so they can fire down into Chattanooga. November 25, 1863 - no Union troops reached the top of the mountain during the Battle of Lookout.  During the battle which was from November 23rd through November 27th, 1863 - the Union troops lost 684 men killed in action.  Many more were missing or wounded bringing the Union total of casualties to 5,824.  The Confederate troops lost 361 men killed in action with a total of 6,667 killed, missing or wounded.

On a slight hill, in the center of the park is a large monument.

This monument is the "New York Peace Memorial" erected by the state of New York as a tribute to peace and reconciliation between Union and Confederate veterans after the war (per the nps.gov website for this park).

As you can see from the sky in this photograph, the clouds were dark and the thunder let out a rumble and Jimbo does what Mom always told you to do as a child - "Seek Shelter" - Jimbo had one thing on his mind and that was get to the truck ASAP - so I didn't get to see the rest of this park, but I did make it to the truck just before the skies opened up.  Best weather dog I know!

 


Pet Photography - Theme 'Black and White'

June 01, 2018  •  8 Comments

This week's pet photography theme is black and white.  I personally think pets (cats, dogs, etc) that have strong contrast in their fur look the best in black and white photographs.  Most often I find that the brown and red color dogs become gray and don't have the striking contrast in their fur.  It's been raining here a lot and opportunities for going out and photographing dogs has been severely limited - in fact, I was having to time dog walks based on the weather so it was a bit trying!

Here's a couple of kitty photographs taken inside.  The first one the kitty is sitting inside on the window sill with bright light coming in the window.

This kitty is a solid gray beauty who loves to run out the door when he is suppose to be an 'indoor cat'. Does he look a little annoyed?

Next up, a senior boxer with lots of character. One of his favorite things to do is lay down with his head between front paws.

Sometimes he perks up, just a matter of saying the right words!

For more pet photographers sharing their take on this theme, head over to visit Tim Evans Photography in Hattiesburg, Mississippi and then head around the rest of the blog circle.

If you would like to book a custom pet portrait session, send an email to vpshoots@gmail.com or give us a call/text at 813-610-2671 in the Tampa Bay area (Florida).

 

 

 


Cherokee Falls, Cloudland Canyon State Park, Georgia

May 27, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

I love to shoot waterfalls.  Something about the variety of waterfalls, the fact that we don't have any in my area (there is one in northern Florida) - who knows, but I love to shoot them.  Within Cloudland Canyon State Park they have two different waterfalls - Cherokee Waterfall and Hemlock Waterfall.  At the beginning of our visit, we talked with the rangers when we checked in and I found out that the waterfalls for this particular park are accessed by stairs.  And when I say stairs, the ranger said about 600 stairs to the first waterfall (Cherokee) and about 1000 stairs to the second waterfall (Hemlock).  Now, I'm not sure that I could do this number of stairs in a short period of time, but I am sure that given enough time I could do them.  However, Jimbo (dog) cannot.  He has hip and/or knee issues due to being a little older and that's not an option for him.  In addition, the ranger said the stairs are 'grated metal' - that's not good for the dog's paws and some won't walk on it anyway.

So, my dilemma was, do I pass on seeing the waterfalls? Or do we figure out another way?  On our second full day at the park, when we returned to our cabin we found that a park ranger and another vehicle were there.  Hmmm, why?  On closer look, Jim said it looks like they are replacing the air conditioner (which we didn't really need being that the temperatures were nice and we are from Florida so we don't like it real cold anyway).  After our morning hike, I personally wanted to take a nap before we headed out late afternoon for more fun.  That didn't look like it was going to happen...but, with a ranger at our cabin and most likely very knowledgeable - we asked him about whether there was another way to get to the waterfalls - one without 600 stairs!

He told us of another way that would eliminate a good number of the stairs (yay!)  The next day we set out to hike part of the West Rim Trail (not on the loop part we did earlier in the week) and go to a waterfall.  The first waterfall on the trail is Cherokee Falls.  We managed to navigate the first set of about 20 stairs without much issue.  Then we came to the 'final' set of stairs that took us to the bottom of the canyon where the waterfall is located.

Here's the stairs.  Let's look over the edge...

I wonder how many stairs there are?  As the dogs were not going to make this trek, I decided to go down the stairs to see the waterfall while Jim stayed up top with the dogs - they had a nice log bench there to sit and relax.  We agreed I would come back in about 30 minutes as I wasn't able to get cell service so deep in the canyon.  Down the stairs I went.  Eventually after about 100 stairs, I saw the waterfall.

This photograph was taken about 8:30 am - the sun starts to hit the waterfall between 10am and 11am (per the park ranger that was at our cabin).  This particular waterfall appears to be facing north (so my camera is pointed towards the south in this photograph).

The locals mentioned that this is a popular swimming place during the summer months.  We visited on a weekday in early May and there was no one in the water at this time.  Looking to see where the water flows to after the water fall, lots of beautiful trees along the water way.

A small waterfall and flowering rhododendron along the water.

After I returned to the top, I waited for Jim to go down and view the waterfall.  Sometimes when you're sitting there all by yourself, 30 - 45 minutes can seem like a LONG time!  I played with my camera and the surroundings for a little while - made this image below (one of about 50 - but probably one of a very few I actually like).  This is made by moving the camera up and down while using a long shutter speed.

And the dogs, Jimbo and Abby, hung out with me - but they were more content to lay around as Abby settled down pretty quickly and Jimbo wasn't to far behind (but I had to untie him so he could pick a spot).

That's all for this adventure.  We have a couple more before this vacation will come to a close - so tune in next week!

 

 


Pet Photography - Meet Nina

May 25, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

This week's pet photography blog features Nina who is looking for her forever home.  She is a very sweet dog, loves her humans and gets along fine with all her current foster siblings of the feline type (several cats).  As soon as I met her, I knew we would have a fairly easy photography session to capture images - she is very laid back, yet curious on what exactly we wanted her to do. 

Meet Nina - if you're interested in fostering her or adopting her, please contact Maxx and Me Pet Rescue at maxxandme.org

Maxx and Me is a small rescue here in Hillsborough County that tries to keep all dogs within the rescue in foster homes.  We have been volunteering our time for over 18 months now to help take great photographs and hopefully find these dogs homes.  Sometimes we have more dogs than fosters and they spend some time in a boarding facility (not our preference, but it does take them out of harms way). If you would like to help, like all rescues, they definitely will be thankful.  Monetary donations are accepted as well if you prefer (no amount is to small!).

Until next week...hopefully it won't be raining every day (but I know it is suppose to be) and we will be able to do more pet photography!

 


See Rock City - finally we did!

May 20, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

For decades I remember driving along the interstate and seeing signs on barn roofs, on billboards, and a few others places - they all said "See Rock City".  You know, the traditional red barn, and on the roof the words "See Rock City" were painted.  While we were staying at Cloudland Canyon State Park, we drove around and I saw little arrows (not barns) that pointed the way to "Rock City".  So what the heck, we had our dogs with us, but let's go see what it's about and then decide, should we go see Rock City?

I saw a young man leaving the park that looked like he just finished his shift - Jim, ask him what it's about (please).  So he did and the big question was, "Are you dog friendly? We have our dogs with us right now." - Wow - he said, did I hear that correctly - Yes!  So for all you people out there that might be travelling with a canine, this is a place you can enjoy and your dog will too.

I'll have to say, Jimbo and Abby were probably the only dogs there this late afternoon and there were more than one group of people asking if they could either pet our dogs or have a photograph taken with them.  Guess they were a bit of a rare occasion.  The entire park is a 3/4 mile loop through gardens, rocks, caverns, and fun things that make for an interesting time.

As we walked through the park, they have signs that provide some information.  This one told us how the area was initially discovered back on August 28, 1823, (that's they day before my birthday - a different year of course!).  "In 1823, Two Missionaries named David Butrick and William Chamberlain came to the Lookout Mountain area to minister to the Native Americans. On August 28, 1823, Reverend Butrick made an entry in his dairy stating, 'In company with Mr. Chamberlain, I ascended Lookout Mountain to visit a citadel of rocks.' He went on to describe the immense size of the boulders, which seemed to be situated in such a way 'as to afford streets and lanes.'" (that's the entire verbiage quoted from the sign at the park).

The owners opened "Rock City Gardens" to the public on May 21, 1932, during the Depression.  Here's a few photographs from our walk through Rock City.  As we entered, we see a water wheel on one side (below) and lots of rocks with some small waterfalls on the other side.  This looks like a nice peaceful late afternoon time to visit - not a lot of people and all the school children have gone back to school and/or home.

Frieda Utermoehlen Carter incorporated gnome statues into her gardens within Rock City. Later they were moved to their own area in Fairyland Caverns, and now you can see dozens of them throughout the park. See how many you can count here at Gnome Valley and all along the Enchanted Trail!  (we didn't count, you will have to do that) Jim took a photograph of the gnome that was flying a plane - I think that was his favorite of the gnomes.  They say the gnome life expectancy is 400 years!  I guess they will be here for some time to come.

Goblins Pass was the first underpass (or tight squeeze) I remember on the enchanted trail.  Before us where several people and one of them looked to be at least 6'5" if not 7' - I'm sure he had fun.  I'm 5'5", so I didn't have any issues.

Needle's Eye - a small opening between some very large boulders.

Narrow passage way and I was very happy that our dogs trusted us enough to follow us through on the enchanted trail.  Here's Jimbo and Abby waiting while Jim took a photograph.

Fat Man's Squeeze - yes, be careful, I had to take off my backpack and then try to figure out how to squeeze through sideways while carrying my camera gear.  A nice girl asked if she could help - I gave her my tripod - otherwise it was going to be 'slow going' trying to get all the gear through this little crevice!  Strangely enough, the dogs didn't seem to have any issues with going through.  Not that they are fat, but they didn't mind being totally surrounded by rocks with a small pathway.

There is a swinging bridge (ugh) but you can take the safe route across the stone bridge too - either one, but to continue on the walk, you must cross one of these.  The dogs and I took the swinging bridge - I don't like heights - hence there are ZERO photographs of Jim crossing on the stone bridge because I was too scared to do anything but look directly in front of feet!

Lover's leap has a beautiful scenic overlook.  From this area, you can view portions of 7 states on a clear day!

High Falls is just under Lover's leap - where water falls a fairly good distance down into a pool of water.

One of the coolest places is Fairyland Caverns.  Now, this is actually a cavern of quite some size and it is cool inside (a nice break from any potential heat that might be happening outside).  When we visited, outside temperature was probably close to 80.  Inside the Fairyland Caverns, it was a nice cool temperature - very pleasant (I assume around high 60's or low 70's).

It's dark inside this cavern and it's wonderfully decorated inside.  Be careful, portions are wet due to water still dripping through the rocks as you see all the wonderful displays that have been created.  You must be able to navigate through low light as well as some stairs to go through this part of the park.  Here's Snow White and they are very vibrant - minimal enhancements were done to this photograph.

Or perhaps Cinderella?

 

They have many different wonderful displays - some are fairy tales, some mother goose, enjoy all the wonderful scenes.  There are areas where they have lights within the cavern as you walk along an area that is long and narrow (but not real narrow).  You can see some of the steps within the cavern in this photograph.

All kinds of fun things like that that are natural for the adults and kids alike to enjoy.  Just in case you're hungry, they do have several different places you can purchase food and enjoy your stay longer.  They also have a gift shop at the end of the enchanted trail.

While most of the areas you see in our photographs are not "ADA", they do have an ADA/Limited Access trail for wheelchair and/or strollers.  To enjoy all the enchanted trail, you need to have the ability to walk as well as do some stairs (up/down), and either go around fat man's squeeze or not to to large such that you can't make it through!

I have to say "Thank You" to Rock City Gardens was created by Frieda Utermoehlen Carter – a German immigrant with a love for German folklore.

 

 

 

 


Pet Photography - Theme "Humor"

May 18, 2018  •  4 Comments

This week's pet photography theme is "Humor" and I find that there are several different types of humor within the canine world.  Often times it is just the bloopers from a photographic shoot that are the humorous photographs (which often I don't keep - but perhaps I should!).  The most often bloopers that I catch in a photo session are when the dog blinks (and that happens a lot) or when the dog has his/her tongue out.  In my first photograph, we were at an adoption event and I got the impression that Tristan wasn't to happy about the whole event!

On another photography session with Pogo, well he looks like his tongue is busy - a little close to the nose?

This dog has beautiful fur (hair) - but where are the eyes?  nose? just a little bit of a tongue showing to indicate there really is a dog hiding behind here! 

It's not often that Abby (on left) is able to get Jimbo to play such that it looks like they are dancing together.  I love the eyes on this photograph!

Dog diving in a competition -- this dog is a great jumper and is bracing for the impact!  Catching this at the right moment as the water sprays in all directions - I wonder if humans have that same expression when they are about to hit the water?

For more pet photographers sharing their take on this theme, head over to visit About A Dog Photography in Anoka MN and then head around the rest of the blog circle.

If you would like to book a custom pet portrait session, send an email to vpshoots@gmail.com or give us a call/text at 813-610-2671 in the Tampa Bay area (Florida).


Cloudland Canyon State Park - West Rim Trail

May 13, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

We just returned from several days up in the cooler weather of north west Georgia.  The next few weeks will take you on a tour of our trip sharing adventures along the way.  Cloudland Canyon State Park is located about 20 miles south of Chattanooga along highway 136.  The park is located in Georgia, but is close to the Alabama state line as well as the Tennessee state line.  They have lots of camping areas for tents, campers and rvs.  In addition, they have several 'cottages/cabins' (2 are dog friendly) and a small yurt village.  They have bike rentals, disc golf course, playgrounds, waterfalls and a lot of trails and views.  We hiked several trails during our 4 day stay and enjoyed a camp fire as we pretty much had the areas to ourself since it was during the week. We arrived Sunday evening and started back home on Friday morning.

Our dogs, Abby and Jimbo, travelled along with us and appeared to have a wonderful time!  Our first day we decided to hike the West Rim Trail - this trail consists of a loop which is approximately 2 miles - there is a short connector trail to the West Rim from each of the cottages - we stayed in cottage 7 which is pet friendly.  Cabin 7 has been recently renovated as all the appliances look new.  They had most everything we needed - fire wood was available at the visitor center as well as a few other essentials.  The closest town is Trenton, Georgia which has all the main stores should you need to pick up something you may need during your stay.

Our trip began at the 'official' parking lot for this trail as we came from the visitor's center.  As we began our hike, I spotted an eastern box turtle.

At this time of year, the black berry plants are loaded with blooms - unfortunately, you have to come in the summer to get the black berries and judging from the blooms, there are plenty to eat along the trails.

The trail was fairly easy with rocks, roots and a little bit of up and down along the way.

The mountain laurel is blooming as well as the rhododendron bushes. The smaller bloom of the mountain laurel is delicate white color.  The rhododendron bushes were all pink and at various stages of the bloom cycle.  We missed the dogwoods, as they had just finished flowering.

Jim was taking photographs of the flowers when he noticed a little itty bitty critter on his lens...good thing he noticed before he ended up losing it's life in the camera lens.

We saw some pileated woodpeckers while driving along the roads in this park - not sure if this is their previous homes or from another woodpecker but the holes in the tree were pretty large.

The west rim trail does provide views of the canyon although it was a bit late to get beautiful views with the sun low in the skies.

Abby at one of the overlooks along the trail - she has no problem being a model and posing for the camera.

Jimbo is happy until you pick up the camera and then he either closes his eyes or turns his head - I guess this guy is going to need telephoto lenses to get great photos of (or maybe treats) as every time he would turn his head away from the camera!

I was quite impressed with our Jimbo doing the two mile hike over a period of four hours (we were stopping taking photographs). Abby did great also - so next week we will continue our adventure - be sure to check next Sunday's blog post.