I post about love around just about every Valentine’s day. It’s kind of a broad concept. Again, I encourage Valentine’s Day as a day to share love with friends and family, not just significant others. (Write, call, visit, or e-mail your mom, dad, grandma, sibling, friend, etc.) Lately, I’ve been thinking of another sort of bond we as humans often enjoy: bonds with our pets. (Maybe this is because my cat’s approximate birthday is February 15th?) Those of you who have pets, whatever species they may be, please take time to let them know they are loved this Valentine’s day, even if you have a date with a human.
This was my quick still life practice for the month.
I know llamas are not common pets, but it was a cute decoration, and I was looking for more stuff for my mantle. This is my love-love, Maggie:
(Cell phone pic of her cuddling with me.)
I promised I would do another Maggie post. One sunny Sunday morning a couple of weeks ago, the light and the cat aligned and I got a few photos of her. I was going to wait until she was more comfortable with the camera, but it was just too perfect of an opportunity to pass up. Overall, she did rather well. The shutter noise still bothered her just a little (I could see her react to it a tad, small nuances), but the camera itself didn’t scare her. I did set it down and let her sniff it for a while so she could be sure it was OK.
Maggie loves to explore and hide in closets. As long as I’m not on my way out the door or going straight to bed, I’ll indulge her and let her have some closet time. She’ll come out when she discovers I’ve moved to a different part of the house and she wants to know what I’m up to, or she wants food.
Like most cats, Maggie also loves beds. Mine is near a large, second-floor patio door that acts like a giant soft box on a sunny morning.
Maggie also wanted to play mouse that morning. She can be a feisty little animal when she wants to be.
I’ve had a lot of changes in my life these past two years. Unfortunately, they didn’t bring the happiness I thought they would. Instead, they left me lonely. This in turn gave me the desire to adopt my very own kitty. Sometimes, I’m uncertain about her with me. I work full time. Will that leave her lonely? Hopefully, we’ll both adjust. For now though, she is new, and we are getting used to life together. Meet Maggie:
Overall, 2014 was a good year of photographic explorations and blogging. I did some archive posts because of other things I was involved with, and I didn’t finish my video essay (yet). However, I did have some memorable explorations: two new cities, a new park, and some foggy conditions. That and a new camera for higher resolution and video capabilities. I explored and learned a lot. Below are some highlights from 2014:
As usual, I plan to keep blogging every other week and spend a lot of time in nature – all four season are beautiful. I also want to get back into more table top (it’s a skill I need to work at and winter isn’t just beautiful, it’s cold!). Hopefully, I will finish the video, shoot macro, post more good cat photos, and have a few adventures. Only time will tell.
Yes, that’s right under, not in. Being owners of an artificial Christmas tree, my family is fortunate enough to have a tree whose branches bend to the floor under the weight of a typical household feline. The cats are both resigned to this, but they do enjoy sitting beneath the branches and admiring the beauty. It’s quiet back there too.
This year, I thought I’d try to get a photo. Flash simply would not do, and dear Jen is a dark cat, so I turned on the brighter lights in the room and pulled out my tripod. Jen was a little bothered by the autofocus in the first shot. I also thought it wasn’t close enough.
I moved in, switched to horizontal, and used live view to focus. Fortunately, Jen was pretty still. It was brighter than I wanted the final shot to be, but I decided to take it down in post rather than risk getting Jen noisy or loosing detail in her fur.
I was photographing dear Jenny the other day. She was in a good mood for it, but she decided to sit in very strong sun, causing some harsh shadows.
I decided to use a large piece of white poster board as a reflector. This did not work. Jenny hid behind the board.
So, I got a toy to lure her out. She came, but the board came with her.
Long story made short, I’ve decided to stick to photographing cats in softer light.
Next Time: Mugs (If they’re not done in two weeks, I have issues.)
Last week, I valiantly attempted to photograph my cat Jenny, who can be kind of a moody sweetheart. Jen has been hiding behind a bed all day, only to come out about the time the sun starts to go down. She will sit my room, which is now way too dark for natural light photography of a living subject, even at ISO 1600. So one afternoon, I lured her out with my cell phone alarm and an open patio door (she loves to sniff the outside air). Problem: I have about one shot where the cat’s face is not in the patio door.
It’s been awhile since I photographed her, so she gave me her curious face. I would have used the tripod more, but Jen was on the floor, and my tripod doesn’t go very low. Also, Jen likes to rub her chin against the tripod in typical cat “I own this” fashion.
The next day, Mom was trying to frame a picture she’d purchased, and Jenny was very interested in the process. She sat on the chair next to the frame. Frame was her new friend, she owned it. Jen was a bit surprised by some of the things her mommy was doing with the picture. She gave her mommy the surprised Jen face.
Mommy finished with the picture and took the frame away. A bit miffed, Jen sat on the chair and assumed the “I am Queen Jen-Jen no matter what” pose.
Hopefully, Jen will end her reclusive phase and come out into the light more often so I can photograph her with her “I am so cute, it makes you want to cry” face. We’ll see. For more pictures of Jen, see my Catography post from last year.
Next Week: Jewelry
As I’ve mentioned before, photographing cats can be tricky. Success depends on lighting conditions, experience, and the subject’s mood. Here is what Miss Precious was probably thinking the last time I attempted to photograph her. The first shot is just an introductory shot to let the cat know what I’m up to.
Oh, what is this? The human has opened the blinds so she can get more light. I will now go stalk a bird and press my nose up against the window, leaving noseprints on the glass. This makes it hard for the human to get my face on camera. Now that, my fellow felines, is how you deter humans from taking your picture when you’re not in the mood to be photographed. Humans, they never seem to notice when we’re having a bad fur day.
Next Week: Adventures in Stock Photography or Nature
Last week, I set out to do something different from I’ve been posting for the past month. I turned my attention to some solitary details within the house and then outside to the bitter cold snow with thoughts of monochrome and split toning. One of the first objects to interest me was actually one of the last I shot. I wasn’t sure how to approach it. Finally, I decided I wanted to make this plain old everyday object look a tad creepy, hence the odd angle from below. I used the duotone color space option in Photoshop. It’s not like split toning in Lightroom at all. Duotone (also tritone and so on) mode is based on printing, so the more different colors you add, the more ink you would have in printing, and the darker the thing is. Fussing with the curves for individual inks finally gave me what I wanted.
Venturing out into the frozen tundra beyond my door, I spotted a lilac bush in its winter state. The remaining buds reminded me of hearts, and, as fate would have it, it’s Valentine’s day and I’m fussing with monochrome and toning.
Spying some interesting snow drifts from the blizzard, I trudged back to the edge of the yard. The wind back there is often quite strong and moves in unusual ways. In the last storm, it drove the snow away from the bases of the trees. Snowy frames encircled every trunk. I cheated a bit on my monochrome and toning theme for this shot.
However, there were a few spots where the snow did find its way up against the trees just a little bit. This spot worked well in an unrealistic blue as well.
Back inside, I found my kitty. Curled up all warm and cozy in her favorite chair, she probably wonders why on earth her crazy humans go out at all in this weather. Crazy humans get other weird ideas, like doing a photo study of cat paws. Yes, I’ve often wanted to do that, but it would take more than a week, not to mention the alignment of forces out of my control (the moods of two cats). Nevertheless, with that idea in mind, I composed this photo of my cat’s little white paw. I think JenJen would be pleased. She is very proud of her paws.
Next Week: Flower-Like
The days are getting longer and spring is just around the bend. To celebrate, I’m photographing flowers and things that look like plant life next week.
Photographing cats is something I find both challenging and rewarding. It’s always interesting to see how they respond to me taking pictures, especially of them. The hardest part for me seems to be getting enough light on the subjects. These are house cats, and they can move very fast when they want to, making longer shutter speeds difficult. Why not just use a higher ISO? Well, with my camera, anything much past 800 or sometimes even 400 can cause noise. Hopefully, newer models will improve on that. Flash? At first, that seemed like the answer, so I did some flash photography with Jenny. She hated it. She blinked, ran, and squinted. I can’t do that to my cat. So now I use available light.
I started doing available light with longer shutter speeds and a shorter focal length lens. I also used the afore mentioned higher ISO. The cats were more calm and natural in their poses, but grain and some slight motion blur were evident on closer examination. Below one of my earlier available light photos of Jenny. She’s having fun playing with her fishy.
To reduce these problems, I decided to photograph the cats while they were sleepy (so they would be still) and use a tripod. I set the tripod up out in the open where they could sniff it and get used to it for a couple of days. I got Precious (the striped cat) to look at the camera by calling her name and taping my fingers together by the camera lens. Cat toys also work. Precious is a bit more shy of the camera for some reason. Jenny is more accustomed to being photographed, but due to her experience with flash photography, she always squints for the first couple of shots. Because Jen has demonstrated her ability to understand spoken English, I usually verbally assure her that I will not use flash. After that, she can get very curious about what exactly I’m doing. Sure, I take pictures all the time, but why am I pointing the camera at her? And why did I move that three-legged thing she likes to sit under? Fortunately, it is in her nature to sit and stare at me when she’s curious, so I get some cute shots.
Below are some of my more recent cat pictures.