Category Archives: Life

Shoot For Yourself

In 2001, on a trip to the Canadian Rockies, our guide had a Nikon N65 Film Camera. I came home smitten with photography and bought one for myself….thus began my love affair with photography. I don’t come from a photography background, I never had friends that were interested in photography.I have no formal training in art. I love to create but never thought of myself as creative.

Pink Camillas

My very first Personal Project began when my Mother passed away in 2003. My Mom was an avid gardener and I was obsessed with documenting every living thing in the beautiful yard that she created and worked so hard in over the years……that is how my journey began.

Pink Dogwood

 Shooting personal work is a way for you to have complete creative control. It’s also a great opportunity to test out new ideas and techniques. Personal Projects can help you beef up your portfolio. They can keep you passionate about photography by stimulating your creativity. Think outside the box, the great thing about shooting personal work is there are NO RULES (unless you want them). The only person you need to make happy when shooting Personal work is yourself…..YOU are the client.

Eastern Bluebird Female Ruby Throat Hummingbird Cedar Waxwings

Set a goal…..improve your skills and your vision through your project. The best way to separate yourself from the sea of photographers out there is to put your personality and life experience into your work. What are you passionate about?

The Chair

Oh, I forgot to add that all of the images above were taken in My Mother’s Garden……memories of her.


Quickie Tutorial on adding a texture to your images:

1. Open the background image you’d like to apply a texture to (this should be a finished image
with any needed adjustments already applied).

Wind Chaser_Original

 2. Open the texture you would like to use, Select All>Edit>Copy Then go back to your background image and Select Edit>Paste

(this will apply the texture image on top of your background image and if you look at the layers panel you will see the second layer added)


  3. With the texture layer selected go to Select>All then Edit >Free Transform (Ctrl T)

and you can adjust the size of your texture layer to match the background layer by dragging the

edges in or out as needed, when finished click enter.

layer styles_web

 4. Go to Layer Styles (box above the top layer that says “normal”)….and you can scroll through to see which style you prefer.

Here I chose Linear Burn. I also use darken, multiply, overlay and soft light quite a bit.

You may need to brush some of the texture effect off your subject/background image so you would add a layer mask to do this.

Choose a white brush to reveal or black brush to conceal. Flatten your layers and you are done!

Wind Chaser

Here are a few companies that sell textures/backgrounds or you can get on their email list for freebees. Also, you can just Google textures for Photoshop, there are 100’s or you can go out and photograph your own textures. (templates and textures)

 Hope you will join me May 23, 2015 at Greer Farm in Hampton, GA for my next Cowboy and Horse Workshop….it’s almost full so sign up soon to reserve your spot!

We just completed the WOW Workshop at LearnToTakePhotos,

thanks to everyone who signed up for class!!!

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Happy New 2015!


The soul can not think without a picture.  ~ Aristotle

I think like Aristotle! That is definitely a stretch but I do need something to help me visualize ideas. I guess that’s why I love sites like Pinterest, where you can pin ideas to a board to use later.

You can follow me  at I’d love to see you there and I will try to follow you back!


Occasionally I will let someone borrow my camera to take a quick picture.

When I tell them that I use Back Button Focusing, they want to know more. So I thought I’d do a quick review to answer that question.

What is back button focusing?

It’s a very simple thing that might change the clarity of your images forever.

When you auto-focus with your DSLR default settings, here is how it basically works: you press your shutter half way to auto-focus, and when your focus is OK you press your shutter a second time to take the picture. There is an alternative to this focusing method: you can decide that another button (the famous BBF, or “back button focusing”) will handle your focus.

In short: Rear focus involves focusing by pushing a button on the top right back of the camera (rather than by pushing the shutter button).

Why would you do that?

Simply because it separates your focusing from your shutter. Instead of asking your index finger to deal with two different things one after the other, you give it one single task (pressing the shutter at the perfect moment) while your thumb will deal with focusing.

Making the change from the shutter button to rear focus requires a big commitment and takes lots of getting used to; it takes a bit of retraining of the brain and the thumb to get used to rear focusing.

If you mainly photograph landscape or still life, it’s very likely that BBF won’t change your life. On the other hand, if you are a portrait photographer, and if your model is potentially moving fast BBF is probably going to be your best friend.

This is why BBF is very often used by sports, equine or wildlife photographers. Don’t forget that to get a crisp image with a fast moving subject you also need a high shutter speed in order to freeze motion, at least 1/500s or higher depending on the speed of your subject.

Another interest of BBF is that it locks your focus. If you press your thumb on your back button and release it, your focus won’t change until you press the button again. This will allow you to focus and then recompose a picture.

You need to change a custom function or two to set up rear focus. With most systems you set up rear focus via the camera’s menu, please consult your camera’s user manual or even do a web search on “Back Button Focusing” for your camera model. Depending on your camera, you will use the AF-ON button for Canon users and the AF-L button for Nikon users.

Both these images would have been very difficult to capture sharp focus without Back Button Focusing.

Try it and see if you like BBF but remember that it takes a while to get used to!

We still have two slots left for our Alaska Bear Tour in June….send me a message if you would like more information.

My 2014 Iceland Equine Tour is full, thank you to everyone who has signed up! We are going to have a fabulous trip! If you are interested in joining me in 2016 send me a message.

My Spring Workshop Date has been announced it is May 23, 2014 in Hampton, Georgia:

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Picture the People in your Life


It has been my wonderful pleasure to meet and photograph the nicest people over the years. I am always on a quest to learn and grow in my photographic process. It truly is all about the journey and not the destination because you never stop learning in this business. When I approach portraiture I try to create portraits that are creative. I always try to strive for something different, maybe even unique if possible. I try to “previsualize” the end result. It doesn’t always happen but when it does it makes my heart sing!

Ansel Adams defined previsualization as, “The ability to anticipate a finished image before making the exposure.” I call this making an image instead of taking a picture.

We, as photographers, should spend as much time as needed to make our subject comfortable in front of the camera. A portrait should be a collaboration between the photographer and their subject. Connect, engage, relax….

That being said I’d like to share some tips I use for memorable images so that you can make your own. I like what the writer said, “Ideas are just collections of thoughts. Locations are just points on a map. What we do with those ideas when we get to those points on the map is what sets us apart from the rest of the pack.”

Interaction, connection and emotion are all strong elements of design.

Connect….share the love.

A Boy and His Chicken

Use the props and tools around you to make the setting more interesting. Find things to place your subject in, on, under, around, etc.

Concert at the Farm

Colors – use vibrant and contrasting colors to draw attention to parts of your subject.

Sitting Pretty

Rodeo Queen

Get serious…a smile isn’t always best.

Beautiful Ebony

Capture the moment, sometimes the best shots are when your subject isn’t looking. Catch them doing something they love.

Prairie Dance

Christmas Surprise

Motion brings another dimension to your images.

Fall Fun

Get up close and personal!

Capture the environment that is part of the person’s culture.

The Cowboy Way

Back-light, hair lights up like crazy when it’s back-lit, so if hair is a big part of your subject make it stand out by placing your subject between you and a light source.


Underexpose, a dominantly dark or low-key image will naturally draw your eyes to the lighter parts.

Wyoming Cowgirl

Overexpose, blowing out the highlights or making a high-key image makes a nice soft portrait with kind of a light airy feeling.

First Love

Use Photoshop or some type of editing software. If you’re good with post-processing and manipulations, use it to your advantage. Get crazy with the adjustments, try some new Photoshop techniques, and maybe even a composite image. The composite technique I used for the next two images is pretty simple:

1. Open your background image.

2. Then go to the image you want to place into the first image and make a selection using the Elliptical Marquee Tool, I usually choose the oval shape.

3. Click on refine edge and change the feather to about 80 or so, click ok.

4. Copy and Paste your selection into the background image, use the move tool to place the selection properly, then add a layer mask and brush around the edges with a lower opacity to blend, then change the opacity of that layer (your selection layer) to your choice. I think it looks best faded. Of course this will work best when the background that you are placing the image into is simple and uncluttered.

Enjoy and let me know how it works for you, I’d love to see what you do!


I hope you have enjoyed this post on portraiture and I’d love to hear how your portrait sessions go when you put some of these tips into use!

Stay tuned as I will be teaching two up coming classes at We will be running my “How to make Digital Images with the WOW Factor” again in January and then a Post Production Class will follow in February. Be sure to check out my upcoming events: and  Hope you have a beautiful Christmas!

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