photography and digital scrapbooking


Autumn Winged Things

Changes are in the air and the winged things are even more delightful to watch. Hummingbirds are frantically active; chattering and fighting over the feeders we provide for them. They are molting at this time of year. We sometimes see tiny feathers fall as they hover near the feeders. I found one and saved it.

Carpenter bees are desperate to find the last grains of pollen. They especially like the sedum and basil flowers. This female worker was aware of my presence and constantly adjusted her position to face me and stay a comfortable distance. Persistence on my part paid off when she let down her guard for a moment.

Yellow leaves have already begun floating into the yard. We will have a lot to rake or blow into piles and bag. But I don’t mind. I like the exercise and being outside in the cool autumn air.

Numerous butterflies were a constant and welcome sight this summer. They are still visiting the butterfly bush from early morning until almost dark.

Summer went by quickly. But autumn is my favorite season, so I am welcoming it and getting ready to make some changes myself. Enjoy your week and remember to peek at the little winged things if you have them nearby!


Photographing a Male Ruby-throated Hummingbird: A Simple Strategy

Our feisty Ruby-throated hummingbirds arrived a little late this year. We put the feeders out in April and faithfully filled and cleaned them all summer. Finally in July, three birds decided to claim our yard as their territory. We love watching them fatten up for their long migration next month!

Today the cloudy sky created good light, so I set up my tripod, attached the remote shutter release, and carefully considered my camera settings. Determined to photograph the male hummingbird, I felt it would be easy since he was feeding and zipping around the yard all morning. I soon realized he was chasing other birds more than eating, so I needed a strategy. I decided to place all the feeders on the porch except the one in front of my camera. Then I added a misting spray of water from the garden hose to make the remaining feeder more interesting. The strategy worked and the male finally posed in all his orangey-red-throated glory!

Click photos to view in higher resolution.

All photos: Canon 60D, aperture priority, RAW format, AI Servo AF, continuous high speed, partial metering, ISO 2000, 200mm, f/11, 1/250 for the perched photos and 1/400 and 1/500 for the flying photos. Exposure compensation: -1 to help produce a proper exposure of the lighter hummingbird on the darker green background. I set the focal point on the right flower port. When the hummingbird came into that plane of focus, the f/11 aperture allowed his eyes and most of his body to remain in focus. In post processing, I was able to retain most of the light feather texture, even after increasing the exposure by about 1 stop. I experimented with reducing noise in Nik Define 2.0, but ultimately decided to accept the noise generated from ISO 2000.


Doing What I Love

It all started with a magazine. I had recently discovered scrapbooking and adored creating layouts of all types with paper and adhesive. I was eagerly reading everything I could find on the subject and happened to spot information about digital scrapbooking. The layouts amazed me. The embellishments looked dimensional and I saw photo techniques I never imagined. I barely knew how to use my old computer, but wanted to do what was necessary to take my creativity in this direction. Working in Photoshop, I taught myself the skills I needed. Almost six years later, I am still learning new techniques and have upgraded my computer, camera, and Photoshop. Over the years, I created hundreds of layouts and have been fortunate to have some accepted for print and online publication.

Recently my life has happily changed due to a new venture in digital scrapbook product design. I have been warmly welcomed as part of the talented design team at Happy to Create. Working intently over the past six weeks, I now have five new products offered in the Happy To Create store.

My blog, Visioning, will be as important to me as ever. My work is essentially about photos, so I will continue my photo shoots and post here, as always. Blogging has allowed me to become online friends with many kind, talented people. I greatly appreciate those of you who view my photos and comment. And I love reading your stories and seeing your wonderful photos.

On this Thanksgiving weekend, I’m feeling thankful for friends near and far and for my new opportunity to do what I love! I hope you are also doing what you love and will share some of the ways you have found happiness through work and hobbies.

My new layouts and products shown below. Happy To Create products used for my layouts listed under the gallery.

“Delicious Autumn” digital scrapbooking layout uses: Eclectic Autumn Maxi Kit; Chalk Talk Font

“Autumn Exercise” digital scrapbooking layout uses: Eclectic Autumn Maxi Kit; ScrapHappy Brushes Maxi: Paint Mess

“Young Visitor” digital scrapbooking layout uses: ScrapHappy Paper Templates: Grunge Patterns; Eclectic Autumn Maxi Kit; ScrapHappy Shapes: Centers MA01; ScrapHappy Shapes: Flowers MA02; SH_Shapes: Flowers MA03

“Meeting Mallory” digital scrapbooking layout uses: Maxi Embellishments Botanicals Autumn1; Maxi Embellishments Botanicals Autumn3; Maxi Embellishments: BotanicalsAutumn2; American Quilt Maxi Kit; Eclectic Autumn Maxi Kit; ScrapHappy Paper Templates: Woven Textures; Font Quirky

“Colorful Autumn” digital scrapbooking layout uses: Maxi Embellishments: Botanicals Autumn 2; Eclectic Autumn Maxi Kit;  Maxi Embellishments: BotanicalsAutumn1; Maxi Embellishments: Botanicals Autumn 3; ScrapHappy Dynamic Brushes Midi: Leaves VR01; ScrapHappy Brushes Mini: Bees; ScrapHappy Brushes Maxi: Colors Of Fall 2; Font Friendly

“Mr & Mrs” digital scrapbooking layout uses: Maxi Embellishments: Botanicals Autumn 3; Maxi Embellishments: Botanicals Autumn1; Maxi Embellishments: Botanicals Autumn 2; ScrapHappy Paper Templates: Grunge Patterns; EclecticAutumn Maxi Kit; Midi Embellishments: Just Frames


My Hummingbird Afternoon: A Setup For Success

Yesterday we picked up several types of flowering plants at a nursery. I wanted to try a technique I learned from Tricia Booker’s photography blog. She explained how she placed flowers near a hummingbird feeder to attract the birds and provide a backdrop for her photographs. With a few additional items, I felt this idea could work for me too!

The most convenient place for my tripod was the screened porch. That meant placing a feeder opposite the porch door, just outside the landing. So my husband and I stacked several large, abandoned flowerpots full of garden soil. Then we pushed a tall shepherd’s hook into the top flowerpot and secured it to the landing with a bracket. I hung a hummingbird feeder on the shepherd’s hook, then all I had to do was arrange the new flowers under and around the feeder. I used bricks and wooden blocks to adjust the height.

While I arranged the flowers, a curious hummingbird appeared two feet in front of my face, hovering for about 5 seconds! It was a juvenile male. He claimed the feeder as his own and spent the rest of the day checking out the flowers, feeding, and staying alert for interlopers. He even objected to bumblebees landing on his flowers, chasing and jabbing at them with his beak. Throughout the afternoon, hummingbird fights broke out that included body slamming and frantic chirping. No casualties resulted, although an adult male was seen rapidly diving (or falling) into ground ivy. When he came to his senses, he buzzed around under the ivy until he found his way out. He seemed unharmed, except maybe for his pride!

My new setup was a success, allowing me to shoot partially hidden and giving my hummingbird photos a flowery ambiance. I hope to try again when bright sunlight will allow for a faster shutter speed. Have you learned tips for photographing hummingbirds or other birds? Please share your success in the comment section below!

All photos: Canon 60D, Manual, RAW format, metering mode; center-weighted average.

Photos 1-4 and 6-10, ISO 3200, 200mm, f/11, 1/320.

Photos 5 and 11: ISO 2400, 200mm, f/11, 1/250.




Poetry of the Earth

Poetry of the Earth digital layout

Journaling: Hints of autumn are renewing my energy for nature photography! Cool nights and warm days are also renewing my flowering plants. I am thankful for the butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds who visit my flowers; coming together as poetry of the Earth.

CVW_QuickStarts_1, font: AMC_ChalkTalk.

All photos: Canon 60D, RAW format, handheld (except hummingbird photo).

Click on photos and layout to enlarge.

Grandmother's Pincushion blossom

ISO 500, 100mm, f/7.1, 1/160.

Dark pink blossom from my Grandmother’s Pincushion plant.

Female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly

ISO 1000, 100mm, f/4.0, 1/1250.

Female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail visiting the Butterfly Bush.

Female Ruby-throated hummingbird

ISO 400, 100mm, f/3.5, 1/250.

Ruby-throated hummingbird surveying the territory before drinking at the window feeder.


ISO 400, 100mm, f/2.8, 1/200.

A bumblebee intent on gathering pollen.

white sweet william blossom

ISO 400, 100mm, f/5.6, 1/1000.

Sweet William blossoms. A favorite of butterflies and bees.

cherry tomatoes

ISO 500, 100mm, f/5.0, 1/200.

Sungold cherry tomato plants. The stalks have grown wild; allowing some fruit to rest on the retaining wall.

Pink Sedum

ISO 500, 100mm, f/8.0, 1/500.

Another favorite of bees, Sedum blossoms start out very light pink and darken over a period of weeks.


Portrait of a Hummingbird

He is a trusting young bird, so I am now able to set the camera 12 inches from the feeder. During one of his visits yesterday, he stopped moving for a moment (except for sticking out his tongue), allowing me to take a macro portrait.

I tested a relatively high ISO setting during this shoot to compensate for an overcast sky and shaded feeder. If you are a photographer and use Photoshop, you might be interested in how I edited this photo for noise. I usually reduce noise in Lightroom 3. But for this photo, I tested the ‘reduce noise’ feature in Photoshop CS5 and was happy with the result.

  • I duplicated the photo, then Filter>Noise>Reduce Noise. Basic panel: Strength 8, Preserve Details, 77%, Reduce Color Noise, 90%, Sharpen Details, 10%. In Advanced panel, I set the red and green channels to: Strength 4, Preserve Details: 60%. Blue channel: Strength 7, Preserve Details, 60%.

Canon 60D, ISO 1600, 100mm, f/4.0, 1/80.

Click on the photo to enlarge.
male juvenile hummingbird


The Smallest Bird in the World

I tried a different approach to photographing the smallest bird in the world! After placing my camera on a small, flexible tripod, I placed it on the kitchen countertop about 3 feet from the window. I wanted to get a different perspective and get close enough to use a macro lens. But manual focusing was more difficult, since touching the lens caused the tripod to bounce a little. I noticed the hummingbird tends to hover and feed at about the same place in front of the feeder. So I decided to focus on the bird once, then just shoot during his next visit (hoping he would position himself in the plane of focus for a second or two). It was the easiest shoot so far and produced two photos that I like.

The young male shown here had the feeder almost exclusively to himself yesterday. The adults stayed at the other feeders in the yard. The youngster has learned to accept my presence, even when I move slowly a few feet from him. He usually looks directly at me and always checks out the camera no matter where I  place it in the kitchen.

Although the hummingbird has a tiny body, his brain is 4.2% of his body weight, the largest proportion in the bird kingdom. This particular bird’s curiosity is amazing! Recently, my husband and I were standing side by side at the kitchen window watching goldfinches eat seeds from my basil flowers. We froze when the young male suddenly showed up at the feeder. He drank as usual, but before flying away he paused and looked at us; moving his little head back and forth to get a good look at each of us! The hummingbirds always seem to know when something is different from their previous experience!

Both photos: Canon 60D, ISO 1600, 100mm, f/4.0, 1/200.

Click on the photos to enlarge.

juvenile male ruby-throated hummingbird

The macro photos make the hummingbird look huge! To provide perspective on his size; the flower shape of the feeder measures 1.5 in. (3.8 cm). His body is about 3.3 in (8.5 cm) from the tip of his beak to the tip of his tail.

Hummingbird facts I have discussed on my blog come from World of Hummingbirds. The information on this site is comprehensive and entertaining!

juvenile male ruby-throated hummingbird


Hummingbird Quirks

Observing the Ruby-throated hummingbirds revealed some quirks of the juvenile and the female. They are the most active, so I ‘know’ them best.

All photos: Canon 60D on a tripod.

Click on the photos to enlarge.

juvenile ruby-throated hummingbird

The juvenile male  (identified by a few red and gold throat feathers) is the least wary of humans. He visits the feeder more often than the adults. And he is more likely to perch for a few seconds after he drinks. When he perches, he looks left and right almost constantly, sometimes angling his head in comical positions.

(This photo is similar to the one included with my Juvenile Hummingbird post.)

ISO 400, 370mm, f/5.6, 1/40.

ruby-throated hummingbird

The juvenile male does not hover long before drinking. And he usually drinks without harassment from the adult birds. I read that at some point, the female will begin treating juveniles like other birds who invade her territory and begin chasing them from the feeder. I guess it prepares them for territorial issues they will face as adults!

ISO 800, 200mm, f/4.0, 1/40.

juvenile male ruby-throated hummingbird

The youngster sometimes peers directly into the camera. Or so it seems!

ISO 500, 200mm, f/4.0, 1/160.

female ruby-throated hummingbird

The adult female (white tail feathers, no red spots on throat) tends to hover in front of the feeder for several seconds before, during, and after feeding. While hovering, she looks up and turns her entire body left and right to survey the area. I think she has claimed this feeder as her own, since males rarely show up here. When they do, she chases them all day.

ISO 800, 220mm, f5.6, 1/60

ruby-throated hummingbird near feeder

One of the female’s quirks is to investigate the area under the opening of the feeder. She moves all around this area,  poking her bill and extending her tongue as well. I have no idea why she does this, but I think it is interesting. Update: Thanks to a comment by one of the readers of this post, I think it is likely she was looking for an insect snack!

ISO 640, 200mm, f/4.0, 1/160.


Male Ruby-throated Hummingbird

A male started feeding at the window feeder yesterday! The female strongly objects to sharing her personal food source, but manages to drink when she is not engaged in territorial battles. All the birds look healthy and will soon begin their migration to the western states of America or Central America. I will miss seeing them every day!

Canon 60D, ISO 640, 200mm, f4, 1/250

Click on the photos to enlarge.

male ruby-throated hummingbird

male ruby-throated hummingbird


Juvenile Hummingbird

Finally everything came together! First thing this morning, I set up my tripod, metered, and waited for hummingbirds to come to the feeder. They visited briefly several times, but I was unable to get a manual focus. Finally a young male Ruby-throat hovered, then perched. He stayed for about a minute, which allowed time to focus manually and take continuous photos. See the small red spot on his throat? Juvenile males develop spots in August and September. During his first molt, he will obtain the iridescent red throat of an adult male.

Canon 60D, ISO 500, 200mm, f/4.0, 1/80

Click on the photo to enlarge.

juvenile ruby-throated hummingbird