What is it about artists…

and old barns?

the old barn
the old barn

I search for the realness, the real feeling of a subject, all the texture around it…I always want to see the third dimension of something…I want to come alive with the object.

Andrew Wyeth

Perhaps it’s my years spent working on old wooden boats but I too find myself drawn to these old, dilapidated structures that were once filled with life and now lie vacant, slowly returning to the ground upon which they were built.

This particular barn stands fairly close to the edge of a road that I travel frequently and one could easily miss it as it sits sheltered by the trees that have grown up alongside it.

It was a typical fall morning. The kind when the cold overnight temperatures have dropped a shroud of fog onto the landscape below. As the sun gained strength the light became quite soft and beautiful. The foliage had a deep saturated color and the nearby water shone with subtle reflections. For me it was an opportunity not to be missed.

I love to use the in camera multiple exposure feature not to fill the outline of a person’s head with leaves as is more commonly seen, but to use it for more subtle qualities. I love the painterly effects that it can imbue on an image and I hurried to paint this old barn with my camera.

I will often return home from photographing with images that I did not plan on. Part of living an artistic life is being prepared to capture what is presented to you on a daily basis. Whatever your medium, carry at least part of it with you at all times and when you see a moment, you can react to it with spontaneity and make it come alive!


where the demigod Maui snared the sun and forced it to move more slowly across the sky.

sunrise on Haleakala
sunrise on Haleakala

The grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never dried all at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor is ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal dawn and gloaming, on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls.

John Muir

It seemed like the right thing to do, after all I have had a lot of practice lately at getting up after midnight and chasing the night sky so the alarm was set and at 2 AM we began our journey to the 10,023 foot summit of a volcano called Haleakala.

I would not have imagined packing my winter down, snowboard under layers and wool hat for a trip to Hawaii but I was really glad that I had! Bundled up and with a Pepsi and pretzels in hand to combat the nausea that I deal with on winding mountain roads, into the Jeep we piled.

The drive was as curvy and slow as reported so we were glad that we had gotten such an early start. Upon arrival we made our way up top and I found a good place to set up my tripod, thankfully weighted down by my gear bag as it was cold and breezy.

It was a full moon night but I was still pleased to be able to see the milky way with my naked eye and took some shots of it while we waited for the main event. I think that this was the first time ever for me photographing the night sky with a group of people and I do mean group! Those of us braving the weather outside had a chuckle at the expense of the ones who looked a little like caged animals staring out from the enclosed and far warmer viewing area; snapping pictures from behind the glass with their flashes on.

enclosed viewing area
enclosed viewing area

Being surrounded by some wonderful people from other parts of the world helped to pass the time as my fingers (gloved) froze and my kneecaps shook. Thank God for remotes so I didn’t have to touch my camera!

For me the best part of a sunrise is always the time before it comes up and the continuous line of vehicles driving up added some lovely trails to the night sky images. The main event was a moving experience as the sun rose over a bank of clouds and the audience could be heard to say a collective aaahhhhh. 

Haleakala sunrise
light trails from cars on Haleakala

Haleakala, house of the sun, I will remember you…



On the island of Maui…

my time spent with Honu.

chelonia mydas
chelonia mydas

No water, no life. No blue, no green.

Sylvia Earle

As I prepare to go on an adventure, whether it be in my back yard or thousands of miles away, I try not to have expectations about what I will photograph but rather be ready for anything that comes along. Words from a very wise friend of mine filter through my consciousness “Sheryl, expectations are unfulfilled resentments“.

Expectations are not to be confused with preparations though…I had an abundance of preparation! The first thing that I packed was my camera bag which I took as my carry-on luggage and every inch of that bag was carefully analyzed and utilized.

As I walked along the rocky shores of the beach as the tide was coming in, I caught my first glimpse of the head of the largest of the sea turtles, the green turtle.

green turtle with red algae
green turtle with red algae

They were a joy to watch as they surfed the incoming tide to snatch mouthfuls of algae from the rocks. I spent hours watching them and waiting for those few chances to catch them as the water swept out from under them leaving them momentarily high and dry. The gracefulness was unexpected as they maneuvered through the waves; diving for three to five minutes at a time and then surfacing to breathe for a short one to three seconds. I got the feeling that they enjoyed the ‘water slide’ feel of the water rushing them back out to sea. To get a feel for their size; the carapace can measure up to five feet and they can weigh between two to five hundred pounds.

I can’t help but feel sadness that these beautiful, herbivorous creatures are listed as an endangered species but feel gladness that steps have been taken to ensure their survival. I will treasure my time spent with them.


Stalking the Lyrid meteor showers…

and having a great adventure, all in the name of science.

meteor and milky way
meteor and milky way

Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure Science.

Edwin Powell Hubble

If my mother had told me when I was a teenager that one day I would be obsessed with science and biology and that I would voluntarily go outside after dark by myself I would have thought that she should be placed in a hospital where wrap around sleeves and not well groomed poodles make the biggest fashion statement.

I will confess to going to bed early and getting up in the middle of the night for the better part of a week now all in the name of science. Always in search of new subject matter I have found the night sky to be a vast, exciting source of material for the photographer who doesn’t mind losing a few hours of sleep. For that somewhat minor sacrifice, I have been so blessed with having clear, dark skies during these showers that occur each year when Earth passes through the dusty tail of Comet Thatcher.

So here are some things that you might encounter if you choose to go down this path…

  • lectures from your spouse, family and friends about how crazy and dangerous this is
  • getting chilled (depending on your location and time of year)
  • loss of sleep
  • stiff neck from staring upwards
  • being a little freaked out by the sounds of coyotes howling

For me though, all of those things were countered by the experiences that I had each night. I not only saw but was able to capture several meteors as they shot through the night sky; some of them landing so perfectly in my images that I could not have placed them better myself. I learned more about the constellations and how to find them in the night sky. Along with the coyotes howling I heard owls hooting and the haunting call of the loon. I saw a porcupine, his quills swaying as he waddled past and I could smell spring in the night air. I discovered that spending time under the night sky puts things in perspective for me. It slows down a world that has a way of becoming too fast and too busy and provides quiet time for reflection.

Was it worth the lectures?

Without a doubt

The beauty of fog…

lies in its ability to reveal just enough to let the imagination run wild!

sky crack
sky crack

A discerning eye needs only a hint, and understatement leaves the imagination free to build its own elaborations.

Russell Page

One of things that draws me to photography, especially if you shoot every day like I do, is the unexpected. I love to shoot what nature chooses to reveal and often that is only a hint of what lies beyond.

Fog for me is one of those times that should be grouped with the golden hour for its ability to transform a scene. It has such an ephemeral quality as it shifts and morphs adding its own brush strokes to a landscape. You know that if you come back again and again that it will never look the same.


the sky cracks open

revealing a hint of trees

bathed in swirling fog


Keeping an open mind when you head out to shoot will enable you to grow as a photographer. Will you seize the opportunity or will you decide that you won’t be able to see anything before you’ve even looked?

If you’re not playing…

you’re missing out on the unexpected.

cloud play
cloud play

There is no abstract art. You must always start with something. Afterward you can remove all traces of reality.

Pablo Picasso

I think if you shoot a variety of subject matter you get pretty accustomed to quickly dialing in your settings. For the situations that I am not as familiar with, the ones that require more complex settings, I make use of the Nikon D7000’s two user defined  spots on the operation mode dial. This enables me to get a very quick starting point for shooting a scene without having to adjust multiple settings first.

I’m fortunate to have friends that tolerate my obsession with imagery and ignore my third arm…the tripod…that accompanies me most everywhere. In this particular case we were on a girl’s night up at the mountain and hanging  alfresco in the hot tub when I saw the moon slip behind some interesting looking clouds. I might add that it is a little chilly in the mountains of Idaho in March so I was grateful to not have to spend any more time than necessary adjusting my settings!

My Tokina 11-16 2.8 wide angle lens is prone to lens flare and since it was almost impossible to get away from all of the hotel and landscaping lights I thought it would be fun to try to use these flares in my “nightscape.”

I think we all have a pretty good idea of what we’re going to be shooting when heading out but for me I always find a little magic in those times when opportunity jumps in when my plans get shot down.

Have a great week and don’t forget to play…



Chasing the lunar eclipse…

can be a daunting task in spring.

spring melt
spring melt

There is no certainty; there is only adventure.

Roberto Assagioli

I had hoped to be posting an image of the latest lunar eclipse but instead came home feeling a bit like I’d been on Mr Toad’s Wild Ride.

I had already covered the bases and done my homework for potential shooting sites; carefully taking into consideration elevation and azimuth. Living in an area where conditions can be quite different all over the county I wanted to make sure that I had several options plotted that varied in location and altitude but still had a good line of sight to the full moon.

Alas, no matter how meticulously you plan for a shot there is always that factor that you just can’t control and in last night’s case it was the weather. Yes, it’s Spring in Idaho and with that come days that could be filled with sun, rain, snow, graupel, hail or all of the above. All week I’d been charting the weather for the hours between two and six AM Saturday morning. Never did it look great but ever optimistic I chose to see my weather forecast as “a glass half full.”

Having packed my gear bag and laid out some warm clothes in anticipation of spending several hours outside, I set my alarm and laid down for a catnap. Moments later it seemed, the alarm went off and final checks of the weather showed very overcast skies. Not being one to choose practicality over adventure and with a chance that this would blow through I headed for my highest point, the top of the mountain.

Cruising down the highway and slipping quietly through town the rain began to fall. Not to be deterred, I pressed on and partway up the mountain it switched over to snow…blinding, mesmerizing, and blowing snow. This, I thought, does not for a good shot make and into four wheel drive I shifted. Reaching the top and feeling like I was in one of those snow globes that I loved so much as a child, I decided that the prudent thing to do would be to return home while my tracks were still visible.

Warm and dry as I write this post I’d say it was a good night. The image that I share today is a Spring one that for me captures the beauty of solitude; something that I’m sure many of you can relate to.

I will remember this lunar eclipse, not for the shot that I got, but for the adventure that came with pursuing that shot and I have to say that was almost as good!