The Barefoot Photographer®

a photography blog

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Is it the camera?

"That guy must have a really great camera." How many times have you looked at a photo and thought that? Or if you are at a show have you overheard someone say that? Is it the camera or the photographer?

Well…which is it?

I believe you can give a great photographer a throwaway film camera and the results will be wonderful. If a person has some knowledge of how to use the light that is available – or if they know that the lighting at the time will not produce a decent photo – then the camera makes no difference. The person operating the camera is in charge. If the person taking the photo has the skill to compose the photo it will be a pleasing composition. The camera does not compose – it merely records what ever is in the direction it is pointed. The camera is a tool used by a person. People use tools for many purposes. A driver uses a car in a race. If the driver is a winner usually it is the skill of the driver that is praised – not the excellence of the car, the tool. But like a photographer, the driver's skill is enhanced by having a certain kind of car for a certain type of race. You would not see a stock car in an Indy-type race.

I have different cameras that I like to use for different results. The type of camera I use allows me to get a certain result. In part, I give credit to my camera for the settings that give me the choice I want for my macro shot. My, ancient by digital standards, Fuji S7000 and Canon S2 IS cameras both have a "super macro" setting. This setting allows me to place the lens so close to a subject – it could be touching. In fact, I have taken many shots with the filter touching the subject. I use an adapter tube with these fixed lens cameras. The adapter tube enables me to use filters – if for no other reason than to protect the lens from damage. The camera has the setting – but I compose the shot and use the available light. The camera is my tool. When I want a super macro shot – I use these cameras. Otherwise I am using my digital Rebel. The Canon S2 also has a cool feature called "color accent." This feature gives the photographer the choice of one color in the shot that shows up and the rest of the shot is black and white. Choosing which camera to use for which shot is like choosing a shovel over a rake for which garden job you plan to take on.

Last Saturday I took a workshop. The instructor made a great point about 'is it the camera or the photographer'; he said that when a great writer is asked about his work – does anyone ever ask what kind of pen he used.

OK – after you discuss how the camera is a tool and it is being used, guided, directed by the photographer – someone will say, "yeah, but the photo was really fixed with Photoshop." For that I have one reply – garbage in, garbage out. You can enhance a photo in Photoshop (or any other photo-editing software) but if it is junk – it will always be junk. When film is developed that person tweaks things to get the best photo (sometimes they would tweak things and you would not get a great print!). Adjusting contrast and exposure in Photoshop is no different. Everyone knows that those great photos taken by Ansel Adams were manipulated in the dark room. Does that make him less of a photographer? I don't think so. Again, he was using tools and the equipment available to him to produce the photo he had envisioned and composed when he looked through the viewfinder. His knowledge and skill made him a great photographer – not the camera or the dark room.

Friday, August 24, 2007


This entry to the blog has nothing to do with photography. As much as I like to take photos – I also like to observe wildlife in the back yard and woods behind the house. Not too long after we moved here I had the property certified as a wildlife habitat by the National Wildlife Federation. Anyone can do this. Here is a link for more information:

Recently I heard a caller on the Garden Show (WSB Radio) asking Walter Reeves about chipmunks. I learned then that they are a protected species in Georgia. After a little investigation I found that all non-game wildlife is protected in Georgia. This means that is it illegal to kill any species unless specified under hunting or fishing laws. The law does, however, speak to the rights of a homeowner to protect their property against wildlife causing damage. This call and the mention of the protection made me curious.

Chipmunks are cute. I love to watch them in the yard. They scurry around under the shrubbery in the back yard. I see them run from the woods to the flower beds near the house. When I have old grape tomatoes I toss them out in the yard for the birds and the chipmunks. Sometimes I find a half-eaten tomato on the flat rocks in the back yard. Especially important during this heat and drought, in the backyard I have two containers that hold water at ground level for the chipmunks and birds. Chipmunks stuff their cheeks with nuts and berries to carry back to their burrow to store for winter. I have piled a mound of sunflower seeds in the yard and watched from a window as the chipmunk stuffed its cheeks. It would run off – only be gone long enough to hide the seeds away in its burrow – and then it was back to do it again.

Chipmunks are often mistaken for ground squirrels and vice versa. The chipmunk has two tan and five blackish stripes on its back. It also has two tan and two brownish stripes on the sides of its face. The ground squirrel has thirteen lines on its back and does not have the facial lines. Chipmunks are the smallest member of the squirrel family – the chipmunk seen around here is the Eastern Chipmunk. This variety grows to 5 to 6 inches long and weighs about 3 ounces. When they run their tail is erect. When startled, a ground squirrel keeps its tail horizontal to the ground.

Chipmunks are ground dwellers and their burrow can be 30 feet or more in length. The entrance to the burrow is about 2 inches in diameter. The chipmunk's burrow entrance is usually near objects or buildings and it is not marked by any mound of dirt. The chipmunk will carry the dirt away in its mouth and scatter it to help keep the burrow secret. A chipmunk's territory may be as large as a half an acre – but it will only defend up to about 50 feet from the entrance to the burrow. You can find as many as 10 chipmunks on an acre – more if the food supply is plentiful. Except during courtship, chipmunks live a solitary life. They mate twice a year – in early spring and again in late summer or early fall. Chipmunks hibernate in winter but can and do become active on warm winter days.

A chipmunk most likely will not cause major damage around your home. They may burrow under a patio or retaining wall. They may damage and eat plants, seeds or flower bulbs. All the time they have been welcomed into my yard (they think it is their yard) I have not noticed any damage. Although for some reason those sunflower seeds I planted in the spring never came up! The chipmunks are not the pests in my yard – the pests here are the cats roaming free!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Sunday, August 19, 2007

More Spiders and Weeds

Why can't the plants I buy at the garden center grow as easily as the weeds? OK – I know really – the weeds are native – so they are in a sense the perfect plant for the place where they are growing. Those "ditch daisies" I transplanted from the yard do very well – all over my backyard. They pop up in places I really don't want them – but I can't bring myself to pull them up or spray them. Finally I found a spray to take care of the wild blackberries that spring up any and every place. I was so happy! I spent the better part of the hottest day spraying them and any other weed in the yard. Guess what? The only things looking "ill" are the blackberries. All the other weeds are just as perky and healthy looking as they were when the daily temperature was 100+. I don't want to pull them up – especially where I see those huge spiders. Today I will mix up some Round Up (the regular kind) and spray the weeds in the pea gravel path. I will leave the weeds in my flower bed (only one is really very weedy) alone until those spiders are gone….frost anyone?

The green lynx spider has moved on to another perch. Daylily blooms don't last long – so I imagine she stays on the move. The writing spider is still in her same place – in fact I found two more near her (and another that looks slightly different and smaller – I think it is the male). In my Google search for the proper name of this spider (Black & Yellow Argiope or Argiope aurantia) I found photos of the egg sacs. I have two of these! The egg sacs were found objects in the yard – I kept them. One of them had "hatched" and the other never did. When you shake the unopened one it has a maraca sound. The two I assume are the egg sacs of the black & yellow argiope are oblong in shape. I have another that is completely round. This, too, must be the egg sac of some type of spider – maybe the green lynx? The photos I took of the green lynx (Peucetia viridans) the other day are nice – but I haven't taken one of the black & yellow argiope that I am happy with yet. Since this is the writing spider – I will call the larger one (my main subject) "Charlotte." Later today I will photograph Charlotte and hopefully get something I like.

It has been a while since I went on a black widow (Latrodectus mactans) hunt. When we lived in California the newspaper printed information on how to find them – to know they were around your home. After reading it in the paper – I scoured the patio and found three! Now, I leave the garden spiders alone – but black widows…. Well, they either end up in a jar of alcohol or sprayed. I don't like to leave them when I find them. One of the best ways to find a black widow is to find the web first. They make a very messy web – very messy. You know how you can look at a spider web and think it is pretty? You would never say that about a black widow's web. Along with being messy, the web material is very strong. Find a stick (a long one) and let it tangle with the web. You will be able to feel the strength of the black widow web. Once you find this messy, strong web – you know you have a black widow some where. They like dark places and small places. More than likely they are hiding in the dark, small space while you are tugging on the web. If you don't see the spider – spray around anyway. If you see it – you can be 100% sure it is a black widow. This spider is so black and shiny – it looks lacquered. If you get a chance to spot the under side, you will see the tell-tale red hourglass.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Writing Spider and a Green Lynx

The frogs and the fish are staying low in the pond these days. Yesterday seemed cooler – it is amazing to think 90º would be "cooler." The pond has been doing well, even in the heat. There are some tadpoles left. This spring I added an obedient plant – and it is not obedient! The pot constantly tipped over – so now the plant is at a 90º angle – but it is blooming nicely! I need to do something better with the pot to make it more secure.

I did get out and find a few spiders the other day. There were some huge ones out there! Suspended between the fence and a butterfly bush was a black and yellow argiope, or commonly known as a "writing spider." This spider uses a web to catch its prey. When I first saw this spider it was just moving into its web. It stretched its legs and body looking as it had just rolled out of bed.

Another spider I found was the Green Lynx. It is a creepy-looking spider and does not use a web. The Green Lynx attacks and grabs its prey. You can find this one lurking on plants waiting for some unsuspecting bug to come along. The photo I am posting is the green lynx on a daylily.

I did not see any crab spiders – but I really did not look for them. After spending time photographing the green lynx and writing spider – I headed indoors to cool off and have a glass of tea. The crab spiders are a little harder to spot. They use camouflage to hide among the flowers and then grab their prey. Their body color will mimic the color of the plant they are on. I usually find them on the zinnias – a rusty-colored one on the red bloom and a yellow one on the yellow bloom and so on and so on.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Heat, Spiders, & Lenbabies

I just heard a weather forecast that the heat will be with us for the month of August. The weeds in the back yard love it and the flowers are struggling along (there are even a few grape tomato plants – volunteers -- from where I throw out the old tomatoes for the chipmunk). There is a "volunteer" morning glory spreading over a chair, wind chime, and post. It is a beautiful blue and seems completely unaffected by the heat and lack of rain. The hummingbirds are draining the feeder in record time this week. This morning I made a new batch of nectar – I even cooled it slightly with a few ice cubes before filling the feeder. As soon as I hung it up – it was surrounded! You can make your own hummingbird nectar: use a ratio of 4 parts water to 1 part sugar. I heat my water in the microwave and then stir in the sugar. I make sure I don't heat so much water that the feeder would be filled – I like to add some cooler water to it and ice cubes to cool it down prior to filling the feeder. Some people add red food coloring – I don't. My feeder has a lot of red on it so there is no need to color the nectar.

My photo project this week will be weeds, spiders, and the morning glory. I love the way it made its way around the legs of a chair and through the wrought iron design of the chair back. The leaves are an interesting shape and, as I said, the blue color is beautiful. The best part of the morning glory – it is in bloom early in the day – the cooler time! When I was out watering this morning I noticed quite a few spiders among the weeds. It can be challenging to get a good shot of a spider with a good background. Many times insect shots are not what they could be because of the background. Remember a shallow depth of field will blur the background to make it less distracting.

Speaking of blurring the photo and keeping your subject sharp – there is a cool product out there for the SLR user called Lensbabies. The Lensbaby is what is called a selective focus lens – the sweet spot (sharp focus) can be moved around by bending the lens around. You can check them out at

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Feet Photos

Where are you going? Where have you been? Kind of sounds like Forest Gump, doesn't it? I like to take photos of my feet. I know I am not the only one. It shows where I am going and reminds me of where I have been.

Taking photos of your feet on vacation is a fun way to record a fun time. When I work with the kids at art camp – some times I have them take photos of their feet (or hand) for a "self-portrait." One day I ran into a former student in the grocery store with his mom. She told me how he had taken photos of his feet on a recent vacation. The family did it – they had fun – and they recorded a fun time.

My "barefoot" photo is my logo. Ever since I was a little girl I have enjoyed going barefoot. When I get home from running errands – the first thing I do when I enter the house is take off my shoes. When I was a teen I used to drive barefoot (I never could drive in those high heels I wore!) In thinking of a name, an identity, a description of me and my photography – "barefoot" was it.

The barefoot photo on this page was almost an accident. I was walking down the deck steps to the back yard for another round of "chase the butterflies from bush to bush" and when I looked down and spied the texture of the steps and my feet – I had to take the shot. Originally it was in color – as are 98% of my photos – but I felt black and white shows more texture of the steps, my feet, and my jeans – color would only be a distraction in this photo.

Taking a photo of your feet does not mean you have to be barefoot. Many people are in love with shoes – why not take a series showing your favorite shoes doing "their" favorite things? Have fun with it – and think what a great wall display it would make.

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