I’m not a Photographer

I’m not a Photographer

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of connecting with a blogging pal. He had recently purchased a new Panasonic camera at my recommendation and was interested in a little help navigating the camera’s settings. Since I’ve been shooting regularly with a variety of Panasonic cameras for the past six years, I was more than happy to assist.

Actually, I loved the opportunity, and we had a fantastic outing where I think we both learned a few things. It’s always fun shooting with another photographer considering we all see things differently. We might be photographing the same subject, yet our images won’t look anything alike.

As my new friend and I were discussing this fact, I made the comment, “As photographers, we all see things differently, and therefore, create our own unique image”. My friend was very quick to respond to my comment by saying, “Oh, I’m not a photographer”. I immediately knew why he said that and could totally relate.

For years, I have felt uncomfortable referring to myself as a photographer. I consider myself more of a snapshot taker, picture taker, a novice, newbie, amateur, beginner … photographer wannabe.

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What is a photographer?

So, after pondering those thoughts, I did a little Googling and this is what I came up with …

  • Photographers create memories and make special moments unforgettable. (check, that’s me)
  • Photographers produce and preserve images that paint a picture, tell a story, or record an event. (again, check)

Okay, well then maybe I am a photographer according to these two sentences. But then I dove a little deeper.

  • A photographer is a person who takes photographs, especially as a job.
  • A photographer is a professional that focuses on the art of taking photographs.
  • Photographers are artists with a camera.
  • Photographers can work as fine artists, wedding/event photography, or sell their photographs to commercial clients.

Hmm, we’ve got some keywords there that definitely don’t apply to me. Therefore, I am not a photographer but merely a snapshot taker … or am I? I’m so confused!

Grand Tetons National Park, #Grand Tetons

Professional vs. Amateur

Have you ever entered a photography contest or read the rules to one of those contests? They seem to always use the terms Professional Photographer and Amateur Photographer making a decided distinction that there’s more than one kind of photographer.

Perfect example; The Washington Post sponsored a photo contest a while back. As I read the rules, this sentence really resonated with me.

Only amateur photographers are eligible. Professional photographers (i.e., anyone who earns more than 50 percent of his or her annual income from photography) are not eligible.

The distinction has nothing to do with the quality of a photographer’s work, but rather with his/her income, and both amateurs and professionals are considered photographers.

Dragonfly #dragonflies

Conclusion

After my research, I think I finally feel comfortable calling myself a photographer … an amateur photographer that is because I am most definitely not a professional photographer.

Whether its a hobby or a profession, we all love this thing called photography. The difference is we either sell our images or give them away. Does it really matter to those admiring a beautiful photograph? So, snap away on that iPhone, point & shoot, or nifty mirrorless camera and embrace calling yourself a photographer. After all, it’s so much easier than referring to yourself as a snapshot taker and a heck of a lot more fun too! 📷

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I told you, we ARE photographers!

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How to Take Sharp Photos

Ever return home from an epic day of adventure filled with amazing photo-ops only to download the images onto the computer and realize your photographs don’t appear sharp? Unfortunately, that has happened to me more times than I’d care to admit. You’d think by now with all the photographs that I take, I’d know better.

mountain reflections in a lake Grand Teton National Park, WY

Making our photographs sharp, clean and crisp is something most of us want, but isn’t always easily achieved. Camera shake, subject movement, and poor focus are usually the main reasons behind poor image quality.

So, let’s talk about some ideas to help capture sharper photographs.

6 tips for beginners to take sharper photos.

1. Is it me or the camera?

The first thing we need to consider is our vision. When was the last time you had your vision checked? Oh, how embarrassing to have learned this lesson the hard way. Amazing how much sharper my images appear with new glasses.🤓 Or consider the resolution on your computer screen. Computer screens can have a huge impact on how our images are displayed. So, let’s make sure it’s the actual photograph that isn’t sharp and not our vision or computer screen. Have someone else review your images and then check the images on different devices.

2. Holding the camera steady.

Camera shake is a common reason for blurred photos. While the best way to tackle camera shake is to use a tripod, there are times and situations where using one isn’t always possible … and then there’s lazy ole me who usually leaves the tripod at home. But there are other options such as holding your camera with both hands, keeping the camera close to your body, and using a wall, tree, or another solid object for support, all of which, can help steady and minimize shake. Also, be sure your image stabilization is turned on.

great blue heron

3. Make sure the equipment is clean.

Make sure your lens and sensor are clean of any dirt and dust. Eliminating smudges, dust, and grime can impact your photographs.

4. Exposure Triangle

Understanding the exposure triangle is huge; ISO, Aperture, Shutter Speed. The first thing we need to think about in our quest for sharp photos is the shutter speed we select. I’d like to think the camera gets it right when we shoot in auto, but that isn’t always the case. Plus, if we want to improve our photography skills, we really do need to move beyond auto.  Remember, the faster the shutter speed, the less impact camera shake will have on our image and the better chance of freezing any movement. But we still need to think about aperture and ISO.

Aperture impacts the depth of field, the range that is in focus in our image. Decreasing the aperture to F11 will increase the depth of field meaning that both close and distant objects will be in focus. By doing the opposite and moving your aperture to F2.8, we’ll need to be more exact where we focus. With a large aperture, only our subject will be in focus.

petrified wood

ISO – When I think back to the era of film photography, ISO was directly correlated to the speed of the film loaded in our cameras. I still think of it that way. To achieve the sharpest and most crisp image, shooting with an ISO of 100 or 200 is ideal, but lighting conditions may not always be ideal. We’ll need lots of light to shoot with an ISO of 100.

ISO has a direct impact on the noise and grain of our images. If we move up to an ISO of 1000, we’ll be able to use faster shutter speeds and a smaller aperture but we’ll suffer by increasing the noise and decreasing crispness in our photos. Depending upon our camera and how we intend to use the photograph, we can usually get away with using an ISO of up to 400 or even 800 without too much noise. A good quality DSLR/Mirrorless can easily go up to an ISO of 3200 or more. My Panasonic FZ300 is good up to 400 and then noise really starts to set in and I lose the sharpness to the image. Each camera is different which leads me into the next tip.

5. Sweet Spot

#phototips, #photographytips, #cameratips, #photography, #travel, #howto, #beginnersguidetophotographyCameras and lenses have spots in their aperture or zoom ranges that are sharper than others. In many cases, this ‘sweet spot’ is one or two stops from the maximum aperture or zoom. So instead of shooting with your lens wide open (ie where the numbers are smallest) pull it back a stop or two and you might find you get a little more clarity in your shots.

The same with zoom lenses. I know with my Point & Shoot as well as my Bridge camera, I don’t shoot with the lens zoomed in or out all the way and I also know F4 is my FZ300’s sweet spot (F8 equivalent to a DSLR). It just takes some trial and error to get to really know and understand your equipment.

6. Check focus

Always check what part of the image is in focus before hitting the shutter. Consider setting the camera to one autofocus point instead of several. This is especially important when shooting wildlife or people. Also, depth of field is something we need to consider. A large aperture like F2.8 will usually have only one autofocus point in focus versus a small aperture like F11 will have several of the autofocus points in focus.

Final thoughts

Practice, practice, practice! And remember, photography isn’t a science. It’s a creative art of expression. And in the end, what matters most about an image is how it makes YOU feel and the memories that photo evokes within you.

Happy shooting! 📷

solitude

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Life through a Lens

Looking at life through the lens of my camera has helped enlighten my awareness of the world around me. I notice little things and details in my everyday activities that I may not have noticed if it weren’t for my interest in photography.

“Through the Lens”

The “through the lens” idiom came from philosophers who viewed life in a way that a lens can distort vision. The idea is that there are many dimensions and shades of life and everyone has their own reality.

Photographers like to borrow the phrase “through the lens” … a different lens with a different focus gives us a different view. We all have our own ‘lens’ that has us see things, events, landscapes, and ideas differently.

Chicago skyline

Perception

Gosh, even eyeglasses are lenses. We’ve all heard the expression of a person seeing things “through rose-colored glasses”. Our perception is completely unique to each of us and how we see the world around us.

When you look through a camera lens, that lens can make things look different. A telephoto lens makes things appear closer than they actually are while a wide-angle lens can make things appear further away.

A lens or a filter can change or transform what we see. It can also alter reality or distort a view. It might help us focus on special sights that we otherwise might not notice.

Watson Lake Prescott Arizona

Looking at life through the lens of my camera has taught me a few lessons ….

What photography has taught me!

  1. Slow down. I’ve learned to slow down and enjoy the journey. Life is not a race, and I need to stop and smell the roses along the way.
  2. Details. Beauty is in the details. Whether I’m confronted with in-your-face stunning beauty like the Grand Tetons or enjoying a taco at the local farmers market, I enjoy looking at not only the big picture but also the little stuff, the details.
  3. Patience. Photographing birds, other wildlife, and even people requires a certain amount of patience and observation. That patience has translated into other aspects of my daily life. Yep, my children will tell you that I’m a lot more patient these days than I used to be. I’m sure it has nothing to do with old age but rather photography.
  4. Control. I’m never in total control, no matter how much I try. I may have planned the perfect day, but if the weather doesn’t agree or there’s a mechanical problem with the truck, it’s time to rearrange the plans or as our GPS says, “Recalculating”. Life happens and recalculating is just part of it!
  5. Share. I love sharing my story, my adventures, and my photographs. Sharing has given me purpose and encourages me to search out new sights and meet new people.
  6. Be spontaneous. Changing plans or even direction on a whim has become my new norm. I’ve captured some of my favorite images with spur of the moment decisions.
  7. Learn. We are never too old to learn new things. I’m constantly reading articles on photography and trying out new settings on my camera. But when WordPress changes things up, I’m not interested in learning their new and improved system, but that’s another subject. 😏
  8. It’s okay to make mistakes. I try not to allow fear of failure to hold me back.
  9. Practice and improve. In order to improve on anything, it takes a great deal of practice. I shoot lots of photographs. Digital photography is the best. I’d be in serious trouble if I still had to buy film and have it developed.
  10. There are no shortcuts in life. Success at anything takes hard work.
  11. Finding myself. I love being creative. It makes me happy. Even though my creative skills may be average, it’s still a passion. I took a painting class not too long ago, and let’s just say, I need to stick with photography … canvas, a brush, and paint ain’t my thang unless I’m trying to humor folks. Yeah, that canvas painting of mine provided a few laughs before being tossed in the trash.
  12. Memories are important. Live in the moment. Life is short.

How about you? Has photography changed the way you look at things, your life, your perception, yourself?

seagulls walking

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What is Bokeh?

Ever hear a photographer say “look at the bokeh in that photograph” and wonder what the heck they were talking about? Well, what they’re referring to is the dreamy soft background in a photo.

More specifically, they’re referring to the quality of the blur or quality of the dreamy soft background. Certain lenses and cameras produce better bokeh than others.

what is bokeh, close up image of a rock surround by ice

Why use bokeh?

Good photographs are supposed to be sharp, not blurry, aren’t they? So, what’s up with bokeh? Although the background is purposely blurry, the subject is still meant to be in focus.

We want to create an effect like this to draw attention to our subject. This way, we’re literally pulling the viewer into the photograph and showing the viewer what we want them to focus on. They really don’t have a choice because the rest of the photo is literally a blur.

Fun Fact:  the origin of bokeh is Japanese and it literally translates to blur!

close up of a pink floral image taken at the Denver Botanical Garden

How do you pronounce “bokeh”?

I think it’s pronounced “bow-kay”, but you can watch the attached video to see all the different pronunciations and decide for yourself. Personally, I keep saying “bow-kuh”, which I’m pretty sure is incorrect.

How do we achieve bokeh?

First off, it depends on the type of camera and lens we use to create bokeh. With a DSLR, we’ll want to use a wide Aperture like f2 or even better f1.4. The goal is to create a shallow depth of field.

With a point and shoot camera or phone, you’ll want to experiment a bit and see what works best with your equipment. With my P&S camera, I set it to the “food” setting and zoom in. The more I zoom in on my subject, the more background blur I create. Good bokeh has a soft dreamy feel to the background, and it’s something we see a lot of in food photography.

Blueberry Oatmeal Squares
Bokeh is used frequently in food photography

I’m certainly no expert when it comes to creating bokeh, but I do have fun trying. How about you? Do you like creating images with bokeh?

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Our Phoenix Adventure Continues

It was day two of our blogger get together. I had another fun excursion planned for the day sharing some of my favorite Arizona scenery with friends. While getting ready that morning, I received a text message from Nancy reluctantly bowing out of the day’s activities.

A view of the Superstition Mountains at Lost Dutchman State Park with a coyote sundial and saguaro cactus
The Superstition Mountains at Lost Dutchman State Park

Although I understood why she wasn’t able to join Teri and me, I couldn’t help but tease Nancy with a reply, “NO! You are my plus one for the HOV lane. You have to join us”. (HOV=High Occupancy Vehicle – aka carpool lane, 2+ lane). In order for me to pick up Teri at her hotel, I’d be traveling from the far north end of the Phoenix valley down to the far southeast end of the valley, which’ll take me a little over an hours drive through the thick of Phoenix traffic. I’d have to time my travels with rush hour traffic in mind since losing my plus one. “Why Nancy, why?” 😥😆😘

FYI for trip planning to Phoenix, Arizona. March is the busiest month of the year. Our population explodes with tourism due to the fantastic weather and baseball spring training. RV parks are full and hotels charge double during this time of year. And traffic is insane, like most major cities. Although, the city is super easy to navigate considering it’s laid out in a grid style manner.

Valley Talk … The term “Phoenix valley” refers to the actual city of Phoenix as well as her dozen or so surrounding suburbs. You might hear folks comment, “That’s in the east valley (meaning Scottsdale or Mesa) or that’s in the west valley (meaning Glendale or Goodyear). Then there’s the north valley where I’m camped and I’ll need to travel to the south valley to pick up Teri at her hotel … I think you get the idea.

Rugged scenery near Phoenix

On the far east side of the Phoenix valley lies the Superstition Mountains (aka the Superstitions). This beautiful and rugged terrain is a favorite of mine, and anytime I’m able to camp at Lost Dutchman State Park or even visit just for the day, I’m a happy camper.

So, of course, I just had to share this stunning landscape with Teri. Knowing Teri was a flatlander from Ohio, I was very selective about which trail we’d hike and made sure she was well prepared for the terrain and strong sun. With that said, she still wasn’t convinced I wasn’t trying to kill her; was it the uphill climb, or our second ever get together, or was it the folklore surrounding the area …. hmm?

two hikers at the Superstition Mountains with a snow-capped Flatiron in the distance
Me on the left, Teri on the right with “the Flatiron” in the background.

How the Superstitions got their name

Stories and mystery abound. This mountain range was called several different names by explorers long before the local farmers in the late 1800s gave it its final namesake. The Salt River Valley farmers had heard stories about strange sounds, people disappearing, and mysterious deaths from the Pima Indians. An overall fear of the mountain influenced the farmers to believe the Pimas were superstitious about this particular mountain, and therefore, the name Superstition Mountain was born.

Lost DutchmanAnd then there’s the legend of the Lost Dutchman’s gold, which is another mystery to the Superstition Mountains. To this day, many people believe there is a hidden fortune to be found out there somewhere.

Due to the severely rugged nature of the terrain, extreme changes in temperature, harsh winds, and dangerous wildlife, the Superstition Mountains have had their fair share of casualties.

There are more disappearances here than any other mountain range in Arizona. On average, about four to five hikers die each year and rescues are a common occurrence.

But hikers and explorers trek on. Unfortunately, many are unprepared regardless of warnings by local Rangers. Whether these hikers are adventurous, reckless, gullible or superstitious, the reality remains that there are a great number of tragedies linked to this wilderness area. It should be revered and respected. When visiting the Superstition Mountains, please wear sturdy shoes. Leave your flip-flops at home and bring plenty of water.

Superstition Wilderness
Superstition Mountains, Arizona

The perfect hike for a flatlander

Knowing this was Teri’s first time hiking at the Superstitions, I wanted to introduce her slowly to the beautiful landscape, and not scare her off with too difficult of a hike. Once parked at the Saguaro day use area at Lost Dutchman State Park, we started our hike on the handicap accessible informative Discovery Trail which connects the picnic area to the campground. (DI in red on map). Super easy trail and great for a warm up.

We then connected to the Siphon Draw Trail (SD is shown to the right in brown on the map). The Siphon Draw Trail is a continuous uphill hike that will eventually lead to the top of Flatiron …. experienced hikers only. We hiked a short portion of Siphon Draw before connecting to Jacobs Crosscut (JC in green). Due to the continuous uphill hike, Siphon Draw was the most challenging stretch of the trail for Teri, and I’m sure she was wondering what this new friend of hers had gotten her into.

hiking the superstition wilderness
Teri tries hiding from me.

After I did a little prodding to keep us moving, Teri eventually found her hiking groove especially on the Jacobs Crosscut trail, the perfect trail for a flatlander. The trail runs parallel to the mountain and is mostly level with only a little up and down in spots. By the time we reached the crossroad for the Treasure Loop trail (TL is shown on the left in brown on the map), Teri was even contemplating extending our hike instead of returning to the parking lot. Clearly, she was bitten by the hiking bug and realized her new friend wasn’t trying to kill her after all.

a hiker along the trail at the base of the Superstition Mountains
Teri enjoying her hike on Jacob’s Crosscut Trail at the Superstition Mountains

This is a loop hike I’ve done several times before and normally I can complete it in an hour, but since Teri and I were stopping to admire the scenery, taking photographs, and doing lots of chit-chatting, it took us an hour and a half to complete. This is the perfect hike for any desert newbie and/or for those easing themselves into trail hiking.

And remember, if you start feeling thirsty, you are already dehydrated. You can’t possibly drink too much water out on the trail. I kept harping on Teri to drink her water. I promise you won’t need a restroom. The desert sucks the water right out of you. Lack of hydration is the number one reason visitors to Phoenix get into trouble and need rescue aid.

Time for lunch

After our enjoyable hike, it was time to head up the road for lunch at the quaint little tourist town of Tortilla Flat. The drive itself is beautiful, but be forewarned, it is a twisty curvy road with drop-offs.

The restaurant has saddles for bar stools.

The food was just okay. The atmosphere was entertaining, but we really enjoyed the scenery outside of the restaurant much more. The Salt River was running fast and furious and Teri and I had fun just sitting along the water’s edge.

A hiker sitting on a rock along the Salt River near Tortilla Flat, AZ
Teri along a fast running Salt River

I had a couple more stops in mind, but one glance at the clock had me remembering rush hour traffic. It was either hit the road before 3:00 or wait until after 6:00. Since I was already running low on energy plus had obligations the next day, I reluctantly took Teri back to her place before 3:00 and started my one-hour-plus drive home.

More hiking in our future

I had a great time meeting Teri, and I’m already looking forward to more photography outings and hikes with her in Arizona. Hopefully next time, we can schedule more time together and our good friend, Nancy, will be able to join us. This tour guide has a lot more plans up her sleeve!

superstition wilderness area Phoenix, AZ

For a few more things to see and do in the area, please click here.
And for more information on the hiking trails at Lost Dutchman State Park, click here.

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Three Bloggers, Three Cameras, One Desert

Wilderness, wild horses, pristine waters, and adventure await, all within a mere thirty minute drive away from the hustle and bustle of the big city of Phoenix, Arizona. I always enjoy my time exploring the far east side of the Phoenix valley, and my recent excursion with blog friends did not disappoint.

wild horses against a field of yellow poppies near Phoenix, Arizona
Salt River wild horses, Tonto National Forest, Arizona

A blogger meet-up

First, I’ll need to set the stage. It was the last week of February and the first pleasant weather of the month. What a crazy winter we’ve had in the desert southwest this year. The wonderful weather was perfect timing for my cyber friend Teri to come to Arizona for a visit.

three blogging gals with wild horses in the background
Nancy, Teri, me, wild horses in the background

Teri and I have followed each other’s blog for over five years, yet this would be our first connection in person.

Let’s add in another blogger, Nancy. Again, she and I started off as cyber friends via our blogs, but since we live only a ten-minute drive away from one another, we’ve socialized regularly.

So, there you have your three bloggers; Nancy, Teri, and me. Our common thread is blogging and a passion for photography. Therefore, our get together had to be centered around gathering blog material and capturing interesting photographs. Oh, we’ll add in a little goofing around just for fun.

It was a sunny Monday morning when I picked up Nancy at her place then jumped on the interstate to head to the FAR southeast side of the Phoenix valley. Nancy and I live on the far north end of the valley. Seriously Teri … could you have picked a hotel any further away? Just asking! 😏 An hour plus drive and a few hugs later, the three of us, along with our three cameras, were on our way in search of wild horses.

More driving, too much talking, distracted driver, missed exits, turned around BUT not lost 🤣 … we eventually made it to our first stop along the Salt River in the Tonto National Forest.

An egret lands along the shore of the Salt River near Phoenix Arizona. Snow capped Four Peaks can be seen in the distance.

Water is life

There’s a saying in the west, “Whiskey’s fer drink’n, and water’s fer fight’n over“. Water is a precious commodity in America’s desert southwest, and anytime one stumbles upon a body of water, it’s a special treat. And the Salt River is indeed a special treat in an otherwise dry landscape.

Through a series of dams creating reservoirs, the Salt River provides water to the Phoenix valley, as well as local wildlife. The wildlife and beautiful scenery were our focus of the day, and we really got lucky scoring a fantastic day.

Our first stop was a simple picnic area just off the highway. Unfortunately, densely covered tall reeds obstructed any photographic view of the water, but our second stop had these three bloggers doing a happy dance. Teri was busy photographing reflections in the water while Nancy was enamored with Four Peaks covered in snow, and of course, it was all about the shorebirds for me.

We could’ve spent hours here just exploring and taking photographs, but we were on a mission which included tracking down a herd of wild horses.

Our next stop was at the Coon Bluff Loop picnic area. I immediately zeroed in on a small group of photographers with long camera lenses standing near the river. There’s something about living the RV life that transforms a normally shy introverted individual into an out-going stranger approaching person. Stranger danger … what’s that? 🤣 After a brief chit-chat with one of the wildlife photographers, we took his advice and were on our way up the road to the location he shared. I never did figure out what they were photographing at Coon Bluff.

Supposedly, the guy had spent that morning photographing some wild horses near Saguaro Lake. So, that’s where we decided to go. We hoped he wasn’t sending us on a wild goose chase.

Siesta time for this herd of wild horses

Salt River Wild Horses

Sure enough! We found the herd of horses that the nice gentleman told us about. They were gorgeous and looked healthy. We kept our distance, walked around slowly, spoke softly, and reminded each other that these horses are wild.

Me admiring the horses and field of poppies

Out of respect for the horses, we didn’t hang around too long. After all, they were trying to take a nap. So, once we had our fair share of photographs, we were on to our next stop. For more information on the Salt River horses, please visit this website – Salt River Wild Horse Management Group.

Saguaro Lake picnic

It was already past noon and our stomachs were growling when we bid farewell to the wild horses. Unbeknownst to my friends, I had packed us a picnic lunch and knew exactly where to snag a picnic table with a view. I also knew we’d be pretty far away from any food establishment which is why I came prepared with lunch. A good tour guide knows these things!

However, little did I know we’d have additional guests for lunch. The squirrels were rather aggressive and when one jumped on the table … well, let’s just say Miss Nancy was none too pleased. I’m not sure if I heard “disease-carrying rodent” or “don’t touch my wine“. 🤣 The words “attack of the wild squirrels” may have even been thrown around. Ah regardless, they provided another source of laughs, wildlife photography, and entertainment for the day.

Saguaro Lake, Phoenix, AZ
Saguaro Lake

After lunch, it was time for a little stroll along the waters edge and more photo snapping.

Our last stop of the day was at a scenic overlook. This is one of my favorite stops for afternoon photography. I discovered this spot about six years ago and always make it a point to stop here whenever I’m in the area, even if I only have five minutes.

Salt River, Phoenix, AZ
Salt River

Wrap up of Day One

That about wraps up day one of our blogger get together. Day two will include more photography and a scenic hike. That’ll be in my next post. Until then, I’ll share a few more pics of the day and a map of where we stopped. To enlarge a photo in a gallery, simply click on any image.

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Phoenix Tour Guide

I was grateful that the Phoenix, Arizona, weather finally returned to temperatures we love and expect in the desert southwest during this time of year. With clear skies once again upon us, I didn’t waste any time getting out with the camera and exploring.

snow covered peaks in the distance reflecting in the Salt River while a white egret flies by
The Salt River with Four Peaks coated in snow. Far east side of the Phoenix valley

It has been a crazy and hectic week for me, but in a good way. Therefore, today’s post will be short and I’ll share just a snippet of what I’ve been up to.

Popular valley hike

On February 21st and 22nd, Phoenix encountered some record weather … cold, rain, hail, and snow. Yes, snow in Phoenix, Arizona. What a rare treat to behold! And although, we spend our winters in Phoenix to avoid cold and snow, this storm truly added an unexpected beauty to the landscape.

an RV park in Phoenix, Arizona with a snow coated hill in the background
Our RV park in Phoenix, Arizona, experiences snow

We woke up to clear skies on Saturday the 23rd, and I just had to get out and take in the landscape. I bundled up and headed off to hike the Pinnacle Peak trail located in north Scottsdale. The cold brisk air (37 degrees Fahrenheit when I first started) didn’t deter me or other hikers on this popular trail.

Pinnacle Peak trail in Scottsdale, Arizona. Large boulders and yellow flowers line the trail with snow capped mountains in the distance
Pinnacle Peak trail with snow-covered mountains in the distance. Note the bright yellow wildflowers along the trail.

I’ll do a detailed write-up on the trail once I have a little down time.

Pinnacle Peak trail with wildflowers in the foreground
There was still a little snow here and there near the peak. What a beautiful contrast with the wildflowers lining the trail.

Tour guide duty

Then came Monday and Tuesday which kept me extra busy exploring and visiting with a couple of blogging gal pals. Teri and I have followed each others blogs for over five years, yet this would be the first time we’d actually meet in person. On the other hand, fellow blogger Nancy and I have hung out many times. Fortunately, Nancy lives a mere ten minutes away from my RV Park making it convenient for us to hike together anytime.

three different feet wearing hiking shoes photographed near a pristine lake near Phoenix, Arizona
Three bloggers in search of blog material

Since the three of us all met via our blogs, we’re always looking for blog material. With that in mind, it was time for me to pick up the ladies and go into tour guide mode. Actually, I seem to be doing a lot of Phoenix tour guiding this season, and I’m loving every minute sharing some of my favorite sights with out of town friends.

First on the list was tracking down the Salt River wild horses. Check!

hikers in a field of yellow poppies near 2 wild horses
We find a herd of wild horses near a field of blooming poppies – only 2 horses seen here

Our growling tummies told us it was time to bid farewell to the horses and move on. We enjoyed a picnic lunch at Saguaro Lake followed by a little hiking along the shore … all of which included lots of photography. The next day, we were off to a new place to take in some other popular yet picturesque sights in Phoenix’ east valley.

Teri shares her backside while Nancy frames a photograph

We had such a great time together and hated to say goodbye to Teri. I assure you, she didn’t seem eager to return to the weather in Ohio. So, I’m hoping she’ll make it an annual trek back to Phoenix for more blogger shenanigans. And yes, I’ll need to do a more detailed post on our two wonderful and fun days hanging out together.

A happy Teri – gal and her camera

Keeping busy

The fantastic weather is making it difficult for me to stay home and get anything done. I’ve been enjoying new discoveries, as well as visits with friends and family at every opportunity, and today I’m attending a wedding.

I think, next week I’ll slow things down and hopefully get some posts written up. In the meantime, hope life is good wherever you are. Enjoy these wildflowers!

desert flowers against a log background
Taken on a trail Friday – March 1st

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Crazy Weather Photo Prompt

Is it me, or has this winter weather been absolutely crazy? Talk about challenging winter weather conditions all across the United States, and for those living south of the equator, I hear you’ve had your own weather challenges. Crazy stuff, huh!

We’ve been comfortably parked in an RV Park on the far north side of the Phoenix valley since early October. I use the term “comfortably” loosely. Although, we are enjoying the RV park, our RV site, and the great neighbors, the weather has been anything but “comfortable”.

thick cloud storms rolling over the desert landscape
storms make for interesting skies in the desert southwest

I love my RV, but living in a tin can RV during cold and rainy weather isn’t much fun. Sure, we’ve had some nice days which were perfect for hiking, but the inclement days seem to be more frequent this winter than previous years. And don’t even get me started with the wind, hail, and flash flooding.

With all that said, compared to other parts of the country, I really shouldn’t complain. The upside to all the extra moisture we’ve received here in the desert southwest over the past few months will be a colorful reward – a kaleidoscope of spring wildflowers.

Last year the desert was dry, brown, and sad. This year, she is green, plump, and happy. So, even though the weather has been colder and wetter than I’d prefer, I know there’s an upside. Can you believe those blooms have already started showing up … and it’s only February? March is going to be amazing!

a dusting of snow on a gloomy day in Phoenix
A gloomy winter day in Phoenix, AZ. Where’s the sun and what’s that white stuff?
yellow wildflowers against a dusting of snow in Phoenix, Arizona
The wildflowers were all closed up due to cold and ice

Last week in Phoenix, it actually snowed. Not the fun pretty kind of snow, but rather, the slushy irritating kind we call graupel. This stuff I didn’t enjoy, but I did enjoy a snow outing last month.

Snow in Arizona

Even this desert dweller occasionally longs for white fluffy snow. Yep, I miss snow every once in a while. So, in January, after a substantial snowfall in Sedona (mere rain in Phoenix), I hopped in my little red truck and took the 90 minute drive up the hill (Interstate 17) for a day of fun in the snow. I love Arizona’s diversity!

winter in Sedona Arizona
Winter in Sedona, AZ

After about three hours of traipsing in the snow along ice-covered trails, I’d had my fill of winter … especially after a near fatal fall on my derriere. It all happened in slow motion. While my feet where sliding hither and yon, my arms were flailing in all directions in an attempt to steady my balance …. all the while, at the forefront of my mind was my trusty Panasonic camera and saving her from a deadly fall. In the end 🤭, my naturally well padded bottom took the brunt of the fall while Panny survived unscathed and ready for more shutter clicking. Disaster averted! We don’t need to talk about the softball size bruise on my …..

cairns surrounded by snow in Sedona, Arizona

So yeah, I’m good with winter weather and won’t need a snow fix until next year. I’m ready for spring. How about you?

Weather – a photo prompt

For this week’s photo challenge, let’s share images of what the weather looks like in your neck of the woods.

snow covered ground against stunning red rock in Sedona Arizona
Sedona, Arizona, after a snowfall

Wandering Wednesday – Ingrid’s Inspirations

Wednesday is the day I like to share a photograph(s) centered around a theme. Photo challenges/themes are a great way for us to share our love of photography and engage with other like-minded people. Whether you shoot with your phone, a DSLR, or something in-between, I hope you’ll join in on the challenge. Share and connect!

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Phil and his Shadow

On the morning of February 2, 2019 in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, a groundhog named Phil emerged from his hole and did not see his shadow. Not seeing his shadow means we can expect an early spring. Phil has predicted the arrival of spring since 1887, but his accuracy leaves something to be desired. According to statistics, the groundhog is only right about 39 percent of the time. Let’s hope he’s right this time because I’m about done with this winter!

historical sites in Tucson

Shadow – a photo prompt

So with groundhog Phil in mind, let’s share images of shadows. Shadows are fun to play around with and can enrich a photograph. Shadows can be subtle and accentuate details or they can be the focal point. Shadows can strengthen a photo by adding a sense of balance, contrast, or dimensionality to a composition.

One of my favorite images of a shadow was caused from a saguaro cactus. I happened to be hiking at the perfect time for the sun to cast the saguaro’s shadow on the trail making it look like a fork. How about that … a fork in the road trail.

shadow of a saguaro cactus casting a fork on a trail
A fork on the trail!

How to improve your photography skills

Travel and photography seem to go hand in hand. After all, don’t we want to preserve memories of all those beautiful places we visit? I know I do, and I’ve been working diligently at improving my photography skills over the past few years. Ah, my photos are still hit and miss, in my opinion, and I occasionally succumb to the “point and pray” method of shooting, but I continue to practice.

One of the best ways to improve your photography skills is to engage in photo challenges or sometimes referred to as photo prompts. These prompts, challenges,  themes (whatever we want to call them) give me a purpose to get out and shoot or, at the very least, go through my photo archives to analyze what worked and what didn’t.

By picking up my camera regularly, I continue to practice, and by practicing photography consistently, I’ve become better acquainted with my gear and vision. I’m still best friends with that delete button, but continue to enjoy my photographic hobby.

Missions in Tucson, Arizona. Mission San Xavier.

Wandering Wednesday – Ingrid’s Inspirations

Wednesday is the day I like to share a photograph(s) centered around a theme. Photo challenges/themes are a great way for us to share our love of photography and engage with other like-minded people. Whether you shoot with your phone, a DSLR, or something in-between, I hope you’ll join in on the challenge. Share and connect!

tips on how to improve your photography skills

10 Tips for Finding Inspiration

What do you do when the creative well seems to be empty? When you don’t know what to blog about or what to photograph? When the creative juices just aren’t flowing? Inspiration disappears for all of us from time to time, and it’s something I personally have struggled with for months.

Visiting the park in Anthem Arizona. Waterfalls, ponds and birds.

Since Al and I won’t be traveling much this winter (we’ll be in Phoenix, Arizona, till April), I find myself wondering what I should blog about and what might be new for me to photograph. Ever since our son moved to Phoenix in 2009, we’ve spent a substantial amount of time RVing around the Phoenix valley, and I’ve written dozens of posts in the past about our time in this Arizona city.

I suppose I could re-purpose some of my old blog posts, but that would keep me inside the RV and in front of the computer, and as much as I enjoy my computer time, the reason for living the RV lifestyle is to seek out new experiences and new sights and not sit in front of a computer screen all day.

The incentive to go out and about is easy when we’re visiting new places, but takes a little more effort and reflection on my part when I’m living a stationary life.

Reflections of life. Tips on finding creative inspiration.

Reflecting on the past can help direct you in the future

Now that I’m sitting in a familiar city that we’ve already spent a significant amount of time exploring, I find myself reflecting on the past for inspiration.

During our last year of owning a sticks and bricks home along Colorado’s Front Range, Al and I decided to pretend we were tourists. After all, Colorado Springs is a major summer destination for many. It was amazing the beautiful sights we discovered right in our own backyard (well, not literally in our backyard, but around town).

I’m grateful that we took the time to explore a little more of Colorado Springs before moving away. We still never made it to the top of Pikes Peak, but perhaps that’s an impetus for us to revisit.

So, think about your past. Think about a memorable place or time, and ask yourself where, when, and why? Memories can serve as wonderful inspiration. All I have to do is think about our five week stay along the shores of Lake Powell this past April, and a smile comes to my face. There was no lack of creative inspiration with scenery like that!

Alstrom Point
Me enjoying the scenery – overlooking Lake Powell.

Meet new people

Attending a conference, a seminar, or engaging in a local “meetup” group, forces us to mingle with new people. In the RVing world, this is an everyday event as our neighbors are forever changing. RV parks are a social mecca filled with activities, and meeting new and interesting people is always inspirational. But what if you don’t live in a setting that’s easy to meet new people?

At the end of November, I decided to attend a local WordPress meetup group. I thought it might be a good way to meet locals outside of the RVing community, as well as get a little WordPress help. You see, I’ve had difficulties commenting and liking some of my favorite blogs.

It all started about a month or so ago. I have a bunch of blogs I follow via the WordPress Reader along with receiving posts via email. I used to be able to easily comment or ‘like’ an emailed post, but no more. Grrr … without getting into the nitty-gritty of my frustrations, I was hopeful in meeting some local techies.

Although I enjoyed mingling, this meetup group is geared toward the self-hosted WP user, and therefore, of little help to me. With that said, listening to other creatives was inspirational, making my attendance worthwhile. I might go again or maybe I’ll try some other “meetup group.

waterfalls

Go for a walk and search out the beauty around you

Phoenix, Arizona, is known for its mild winters and beautiful blue skies. The other day was cold and dreary. There was a thick cloud cover and the threat of rain. It was late afternoon when I decided to don my sweatshirt and head out on a photographic outing.

My husband was perplexed and expressed concern about the poor weather conditions, but when I explained that today was the perfect day for me to shoot a waterfall, he understood …. well, not really, but he did a good job pretending he understood.

I headed off to a local park in the quaint town of Anthem, Arizona (far north Phoenix valley). It’s a beautiful park with ponds, waterfalls, a Veterans Memorial, baseball/soccer fields, a skate park, railroad, a Sunday morning farmers market, and more.

I had a fabulous time playing with my camera and searching out creative inspiration. That little outing was exactly what I needed to get the creative juices flowing, and I’m so glad I didn’t let the weather deter me.

holiday railroad. Enjoy a festive holiday train ride through a park

Study other creatives

Visit a local art gallery, museum, or library and immerse yourself in other works of art. My recent sculpture tour in Scottsdale found me appreciating the talents and vision of the various artists and asking myself, “What inspires them?

If your creative outlet is writing, are you as awed by J.K. Rowlings talent as much as I am? Sometimes I like to go to the local library and peruse cookbooks looking for recipe and photography inspiration. A library is a great way to discover works of art.

And let’s not forget about music. Listening to the words of a favorite song or dancing to an irresistible rhythm can be very inspirational. Unfortunately, the music gene doesn’t run in my family, but I’m an appreciative listener.

Reading blogs

I’d have to say, my most favorite (my favorist 😆) way to find inspiration is via blogs. Seriously, you my friends, are the best creative inspiration around. When I’m really stuck … you know, staring at a blank screen ‘stuck’, and can’t begin to figure out what to write or share, I turn to my favorite blogs.

If that doesn’t work, I go in search of new blogs. Don’t you love it when bloggers write a post linking to other inspirational bloggers? I know I do! Of course, there’s Pinterest to consider, but blogs still rule in my humble opinion.

Tips for creative inspiration

Write a bucket list

Ask yourself, “If money were no object, I would ….?” Write down a list of things you’d like to accomplish … places you’d like to visit … maybe it’s a dream job … maybe you’d like to publish a book, whatever comes to mind. Be honest with yourself. I bet, when you read that dream list that many of the things you’ve written down are attainable.

Research! Whatever the subject, see what other’s have to say about it. What do they say about that dream job, about publishing that book, or traveling to that destination you long to visit? If you don’t have the physicality or finances, perhaps writing a blog post about those bucket list items will be a start to fulfilling a dream, and your writings might inspire you, as well as others.

Spiritual Enlightenment

We all have something we believe in that helps us get through life. For some, it’s attending church services regularly while for others it’s a way of living one’s life. I have friends who tap into their spiritual beliefs by reading the bible or devotionals everyday. Another friend of mine has quotes delivered to her inbox daily, and these quotes serve as her inspiration and enlightenment. Many use meditation, prayer, or both.

I know when I tap into my spirituality, I feel a sense of renewal and hope. That renewed feeling helps me focus and work toward goals.

enjoying fall leaves
My daughter having fun with fall leaves!

Meet a friend for coffee (or a drink)

Enjoy some one on one time with a friend over a cup of coffee or a cocktail. Be the listener and really listen to what’s going on in your friend’s life. What are their motivations and goals? How do your ambitions compare or differ?

Maybe they recently read a fascinating book that would make for a great blog article or maybe that photo shared on their phone was taken at an unusual angle, giving you inspiration for your next outing with the camera.

A relaxed get together with a friend is something we should all do regularly!

Take your camera in search

Take your camera (or phone) on an outing devoted to photography. Be a tourist in your hometown. What would you share with someone visiting your town/city for the first time? Walk around your neighborhood and find unique things to photograph.

My neighbor, here in the RV park in Phoenix, is a photographer. In an effort to exercise, he walks around the park, up and down the streets, regularly photographing interesting sights … the little yard decorations, door details, interesting plants, colors, etc., and in the process, he gets in his steps.

If the weather is too cold and blustery in your neck of the woods, think about heading into the kitchen and cook/bake something new … then photograph it. Step outside of your comfort zone. Photography is about finding out who you are and focusing on the world around you.

reflecting on life, thought provoking

Listen to your thoughts

Allow yourself to slow down, look inward, and listen to your thoughts. Although my camera shutter clicked often at the park the other day, I did take time to just sit on a park bench and watch the world go by. I watched the ducks drift by on the pond. I listened to the trickle of water from the nearby waterfall. I watched the storm clouds swirl about. I watched the changing light on a mountain as the sun was beginning to set.

I thought about the photographs I had just made, and recognized my strengths and weaknesses. I was feeling creative, a feeling which I hadn’t felt in some time, and it felt good. I needed this time at the park to just be … to listen to my inner voice and listen to my thoughts.

It was at that moment I realized, I don’t have to travel to far away places to be creative … to find blog material, photographic material, inspirational material. I just need to look at things from a fresh angle and shake up my routine.

time

10 Tips on how to find creative inspiration

  1. Reflect on the past. Analyze fond memories and decide to create new ones.
  2. Meet new people – interact, learn, and find out what inspires others.
  3. Go for a walk and immerse yourself in your surroundings
  4. Study other creatives
  5. Read blogs
  6. Write a bucket list
  7. Embrace spiritual enlightenment
  8. Meet a friend for coffee or a drink
  9. Take your camera in search
  10. Listen to your thoughts

If we look at the world with a love of life, the world will reveal its beauty to us – Daisaku Ikeda

How do you find blogging ideas and subjects to write about? How do you tap into your creativity or decide what to photograph? What inspires you?

How to find creative inspiration10 tips for finding blog ideas. How to find creative inspiration.

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