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Feb 282013
 
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“A ship in a harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”
~William Shedd

Reaching for the Stars

“Reaching for the Stars”    A shooting star falls over Thor’s Hammer and Bryce Canyon at moonrise in Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah.  Prints available – click on print to order!

Today, February 28th, marks my 6th anniversary of my personal Independence Day, the day I walked skipped joyously out of my grey cubicle walls of Corporate America in 2007 to begin this amazing journey as a freelance photographer and writer. 

I joined Intel in September 1997, fresh from graduating from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor (“GO BLUE!”).   Brimming with excitement of “going West,” I started with the company as a software test engineer, then moved on to systems analyst and project management roles within the transportation and logistics, factory automation, and training departments.  Though I worked with so many inspirational, talented people doing remarkable things and enjoyed working for such a generous company, over the course of ten years, I realized it just wasn’t my path in life.  I was safe in the harbor, but that’s not what I was built for.

How did I know I was ready to sail my ship into somewhat unknown open water?  Almost two years of planning and preparation ensured I could make the freeing transition to freelancing.  Though scary at first, after 2190 days have passed since my escape, I still can’t believe I’m so fortunate to live such a fulfilling life.

How do you know if you’re ready to make the leap?  If the following rings true for you, it may be time to start planning your very own Independence Day:

  • Working as a one-person show in a many-ringed circus, juggling marketing, finance, human relations, manufacturing, and training tasks sounds much more appealing than staying in your current position working with clowns.
  • If the photography gig doesn’t work out, your backup plan is to serve hamburgers at a fast food restaurant, not return to your current occupation.
  • You’ve run out of dead relatives – no one honestly believes your grandmother has passed away six times since January – and vacation time.  Or perhaps you’ve used so many sick days, your co-workers think you have some highly contagious unpronounceable disease. 
  • Your desire to become a freelance photographer derives from a burning passion to inform, educate, and inspire others.  You should not make the choice to leave your current position based on lack of other employment options or the idealistic notion of what a National Geographic photographer does in the movie, The Bridges of Madison County.
  • As El Presidente of your own business, when things go right, you’re to blame.  When things go wrong, you’re to blame.  And this complete accountability and control excites you.
  • When you work for yourself, no manager will stand over your shoulder telling you what, when, and how to do your work.  Are you self-disciplined, independent, and highly motivated enough to sail your ship through the occasional fog and stormy weather?
  • Family and friends support you beyond “Wow, that’s a pretty picture, George.  You could totally sell that!”  Your moral support network willingly buys your photographic prints for the holidays, spends hours editing your articles, and cooks you dinner when you forget to eat while putting together a submission.
  • Ever heard the joke: “How do you make a million dollars as a photographer?  You start with two!”  Starting any new career, let alone one in photography, with financial debt is not a smart decision as you’ll be transitioning from a stable income to a fluctuating one.  Put off buying that expensive lens (you don’t need anyhow) and instead ensure you’re financial obligations are low.
  • You’ve already tasted the “good” life by working as a freelancer in conjunction with your current 40-hour work week and have found enough work to cut ties and independently generate income now and in the foreseeable future during self-employment.

Are you ready to sail your ship out of the harbor?  What do you feel you are built for?  Are you currently planning your own Independence Day?  

For more ideas, read my next two posts in this three-part series:

<Shameless plug> If you are seeking more guidance and help in planning a successful transition to a career in photography, please consider joining me for the Arizona Highways Photography Workshop “There’s No Business Like the Photo Business” on June 22-23, 2013.  Visit the Arizona Highways Photography Workshops website at www.ahpw.org/workshops/2013/Phoenix-Arizona-No-Business-Like-Photo-Business-Workshop-2013-06-22 for more information and to register.</Shameless plug>

Share your aspirations and success stories in the comments below, and we’ll raise a glass to you tonight as we celebrate in hopes you too overcome your fears, follow your dreams, and live the life you’ve always hoped for.  After all, Les Brown suggested, “Reach for the moon.  Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”

Thank you so much for your continued support!  Cheers to Independence Day…in February!

 

Feb 122013
 
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Ice Hoodoos

Ice Hoodoos along Ocean Drive, Acadia National Park, Maine. Prints available – click on photograph to order!

Greeting from Acadia National Park!

As a part of my current Artist-in-Residency in Acadia National Park, I am excited to be presenting “Connecting With Nature Through the Lens” program at the next SERC Institute Brown Bag session on this Friday, February 15 from 11:30 am – 1 pm at Moore Auditorium. Free to the public, but donations – which benefit solely the SERC Institute – happily accepted at the door. I know it’s a bit of a commute for the Arizona folks, but hopefully those in the Northeast, specifically Maine, can attend!   For more information, visit http://www.sercinstitute.org/brown-bag-lunch-serc-connecting-nature-through-lens.

Though I’ll be sharing more photos of my phenomenal, still-in-progress four-week residency soon, this bizarre and spectacular sunrise landscape happened yesterday morning along Ocean Drive near Boulder Beach. The peak of the recent blizzard, “Nemo,” occurred almost simultaneously with a higher than normal high tide on Saturday, causing monster waves to pound the granite-lined coast and create a wall of spray almost up to Ocean Drive! This, combined with frigid temperatures well below freezing, plastered rocks and plant life alike with a coating of salt spray along this section of coastline, creating these amazing small desert hoodoo-like formations. As if that find wasn’t enough, the glorious sunrise was one of the most colorful I’ve seen in all my days in the park!

Technical information: Canon 5DMII, 16-35mm lens at 18mm, ISO 125, f/22 @ 1.6 seconds, 3-stop graduated neutral density filter, basic post-processing.

Feb 072013
 
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During February,I’m thrilled to be participating in the month-long “Alberta-Arizona: People and Places” exhibition at the Calgary Public Library in support of the prestigious “Exposure 2013 Photography Festival” in Alberta, Canada.  Presented by the Calgary-based IRIS Photographic Society and Phoenix-based Through Each Others Eyes non-profit organizations, this photographic show features a mix of work from exchange photographers Peter Carroll, Royce Howland, Ken Ross and yours truly.

In celebration of this exciting inaugural show with IRIS and TEOE in Calgary, I’m pleased to share that one of our photographs currently on display at this exhibition, titled “Reflections at Moraine Lake” from Banff National Park, Alberta is our CMS Photography Print of the Month for February 2013!

Now thru February 28, 2013, visit our website and use coupon code FEB13POTM01 to receive 30% off any size or style of this print. As with each Print of the Month within the collection, in addition to your print, you’ll also receive a one-page write-up on the story behind the photograph, which will include specific location information, technical details, and photography tips.

If you’d like to see the print in person (and Calgary happens to be a close-by destination), be sure to stop by the Calgary Public Library!  To learn more about this exhibition, please visit IRIS website at irisphotoalberta.ca/events/2013-events/exposure-2013-exhibit-calgary-public-library/.

Jan 042013
 
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New for 2013, we're pleased to introduce our new Print of the Month Collection!

Here's how this works:  Each month, I'll select one featured photograph, and for the duration of that month only, that selected photo will be available for sale at 30% OFF any size and style print!  In addition to your print, you'll also receive a one-page write-up on the story behind the photograph, which will include specific location information, technical details, and photography tips.

To order the print of the month, visit our new 2013 Print of the Month gallery, select that month's photo, click Add to Cart, select the size and style you desire, and then enter the coupon code provided above the photograph during the checkout process.

Without further ado, I'm excited to share that our most recent photograph, titled “Winter Solstice Eve” from Canyonlands National Park, Utah is CMS Photography's very first Print of the Month!  Now thru January 31, 2013, if you use coupon code 13JANPOM1, you'll receive 30% off this print in any size and style!

UUTCY-00001

Viewed from the Green River Overlook, the sun sets over Island in the Sky district in Canyonlands National Park, Utah, USA (Prints available – click on photo to order & use coupon code 13JANPOM1 to receive your 30% discount now thru January 31, 2013!)

Jan 022013
 
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“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”
~Eleanor Roosevelt

Happy 2013 Everyone!  A new year means a blank canvas on which to create new friendships, opportunities, and achievements!  I hope you each have big dreams in mind, and perhaps even more importantly, I hope you follow them relentlessly and passionately so they all come true for you in the new year.  After all, “you can sleep when you’re dead,” right?

Whew, what a year 2012 was for CMS Photography!  Last year will go down as our busiest, most successful, and by far the most exciting year to date, with many countless “thank you’s” owed to you, as I could not do what I do without your continued support!  I feel truly fortunate to be surrounded by so many inspiring, creative, and enthusiastic people.

Some major highlights for us from last year include (in no particular order):

And just when you think you can’t have any more wild fun, 2013 shows up!

Going into our sixth year as a full-time freelance photographer and writer, I couldn’t be any more pumped for the year to come, not just because of all the travel planned and the new projects we’ll announce throughout the year, but all the great times and awesome learning opportunities we’ll share together, whether that be during our upcoming Workshops and Presentations or simply out in the field sharing some light and good laughs.

But, before we start running down the 2013 street like a bat outta hell, though, I’d like to share my favorite 13 (a lucky number for the new year!) photos in celebration of a joyful 2012.  For more inspiration, be sure to also head over to Jim Goldstein’s Blog, hes posted his traditional and ever-growing list of other photographers’ own favorites and best from 2012 for his “Blog Project: Your Best Photos from 2012.

Here goes:

1.  Winter’s Serenade, Death Valley National Park, California (January 2012)

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Cottonball Marsh area along Salt Creek in Death Valley National Park, California, USA (Prints available – click on photo to order!)


2.  Walk the Line, Death Valley National Park, California (February 2012)

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Cracked mud and stones in the Panamint Dry Lake in Death Valley National Park, California, USA (Prints available – click on photo to order!)

3. Sunrise at Boulder Beach, Acadia National Park, Maine (June 2012)

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er Beach and the Otter Cliffs, Acadia National Park, Maine, USA (Prints available – click on photo to order!)

4.  Bunchberry Dogwood, Acadia National Park, Maine (June 2012)

UMEAC-00116

Bunchberry dogwood (Cornus canadensis) at Acadia National Park, Maine, USA (Prints available – click on photo to order!)

5.  The Totem Pole and Yei Bi Chei, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, Arizona (June 2012)

UAZMV-00029

The Totem Pole and Yei Bi Chei rock formations in Monument Valley Tribal Park, Arizona, USA (Prints available – click on photo to order!)

6.  The Colorado River Flexing its Muscle, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Arizona (June 2012)

UAZGL-00082

The sandstone cliffs of Marble Canyon reflect into waves in the Colorado River near Lee’s Ferry, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Arizona, USA (Prints available – click on photo to order!)

7.  The RCMP Musical Ride, 100th Anniversary of the Calgary Stampede, Calgary, Alberta, Canada (July 2012)

ICACA-00002

Abstract view of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s Musical Ride during Stampede in Calgary, Alberta, Canada (Prints available – click on photo to order!)

8.  Reach for the Sky, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Arizona (August 2012)

UAZGL-00079

Abstract sky pool pattern in Lake Powell, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Arizona, USA (Prints available – click on photo to order!)

9.  Autumn on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona (September 2012)

UAZGC-00088

Gambel oak line the edge of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, USA (Prints available – click on photo to order!)

10.  Autumn Regeneration, Kaibab National Forest, Arizona (September 2012)

UAZKB-00016

Abstract view of a regenerating burned forest during autumn in the Kaibab National Forest, Arizona, USA (Prints available – click on photo to order!)

11.  Mother Nature’s Ice Cream, Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, Arizona (October 2012)

UAZVC-00087

Striated bentonite clay beds in the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness Area, Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, Arizona, USA (Prints available – click on photo to order)

12.  Spell of the Sea, The Big Island, Hawai’i (November 2012)

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Waves and volcanic rock along the Puna Coast on the Big Island of Hawaii, USA (Prints available – click on photo to order!)

13.  Winter Solstice Eve, Canyonlands National Park, Utah (December 2012)

UUTCY-00001

Viewed from the Green River Overlook, the sun sets over Island in the Sky district in Canyonlands National Park, Utah, USA (Prints available – click on photo to order!)

Thank you for stopping by the “You Can Sleep When You’re Dead” blog!  Let’s all make 2013 a year to remember!

~Colleen

Dec 182012
 
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We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails.”
~Bertha Calloway

As previously announced on my blog (“Buy a Print & 100% of the Profit to Help 3rd Grader Emily Beat Brain Cancer” ), I planned to donate all the profit from the print sales during November 2012 to Emmy’s Army, a fund established for my friend, Emily, who’s a third grader fighting a malignant brain tumor.

I’m so proud to report that this CMS Photography community  – from across the United States, from Canada, and even Germany – raised $1,411.06 in one month for Emily!  I wish I could find adequate words beyond “thank you” to help me express just how appreciative I am to those of you who bought a print to support this cause.  I’m equally as grateful to those of you who continue to express interest in Emily’s condition and offer your warm words of support for her and her family.   Thank you for your support – thank you for making a difference!

In a celebration of hope, life, and togetherness, in Emily’s honor, I’ve created “Emmy’s Album” below to showcase the broad variety of prints purchased to support her in her fight.  Please join me in keeping Emily and her family in our thoughts.

P.S.  If you would like to still help, please visit the Emmy’s Army fundraising campaign at https://fundrazr.com/campaigns/dLLIf to make a donation.

Emmy’s Album

 

Sep 052012
 
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One of the most enjoyable and valuable educational aspects of the Arizona Highways Photography Workshops (AHPW) – of which I’m honored to lead a number of each year – is the post-workshop critiques.  Though we conduct image review sessions during the workshop, a post-workshop critique allows participants additional time to edit and process their photographs before submitting to their instructors for additional feedback after the class concludes.

Whether we complete these productive reviews during or after the workshop, we analyze the positive aspects of each student’s images and constructively outline ideas for how to potentially improve them from a technical and artistic perspective.  Kind of like this:

What the Duck

“What The Duck” comic strip copyright and courtesy of the author and artist Aaron Johnson at http://www.whattheduck.net.

All choking and joking aside, the point of the evaluation is to go beyond answering the simple question: “Do you like this picture?”  The true value of the exercise comes in when we define in-depth we WHY like and don’t like an image, which generates new ideas to sharpen our skills and polish our individual styles from our different answers.

Earlier this week, I completed the post-workshop critique for the recent Women’s Photography Retreat at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.  Although I’ve shared image-specific comments for 45 images, I thought I’d share a summary of the three main take-away’s from this particular critique session:

The Totem Poles and Yei Bi Chei at Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, Arizona

Example:  Tilting my camera down emphasizes the sandy landscape and allows the sky to become a less dominating backdrop. By composing so that the line of bushes and the patterns from the wind-blown sand lead my audience into the frame, it helps guide the eye through the landscape towards my primary subject: the side-lit Totem Poles at Monument Valley. Do you agree?  How would you critique this image?  (Prints available! Click on photo for a direct link).

  1. “Half and half” works well in coffee, but not always in landscape images. Unless you aim for symmetry among the various elements within your frame (e.g. a reflection of mountain in a lake), placing the horizon line in the middle of your frame will only serve to divide your viewers’ attention.  Should they look at the land or the sky?  Make it clear:  If the sky is more interesting, tilt your camera up and place the horizon line at the bottom

    third of the Rule of Thirds tic-tac-toe grid.  If the land is what caught your eye, then tilt your camera down so the horizon is at least at the top third of the grid.

  2. Let there be light…oh, and a strong subject too!  Is there anything better than sitting on the edge of the Grand Canyon and recordings the rays of the setting sun break through the clouds, turning the landscape and sky into a fiery mix of orange, pink, and purple? (In more technical terms, we call this “super yummy light.”)  YES!  That same spectacular show by Mother Nature happening over a well-thought-out composition!  Good light alone is often not enough to make a great image.  Similarly, a strong center of interest without interesting light may lack shape, contrast, and mood.   To capture the best subject in the best light, visualize strong compositions first in the field, then return to work the scene when the light is just right.
  3. As “all roads lead to Rome,” all lines should lead to somewhere important.  Lines can direct your viewer to through your image, but the payoff at the end of the line shouldn’t be a one-way ticket out of your frame.  To keep the viewer’s interest, ensure the visual path doesn’t extend beyond the edge of your frame and leverage diagonal, converging, S-curve and other style lines to pull your viewer not just into your frame, but also somewhere interesting.

If you’re a past student of AHPW – not just of this specific workshop, but any of them – you have the ability to view my image-specific comments by logging into the Arizona Highways Photo Workshops Smugmug site with the password you received during your workshops and selecting the “Women’s Photo Retreat” folder.  You also have the ability to leave comments as well, so hop on the site and let’s here you’re thoughts!

If you aren’t a past student of AHPW, there’s no need for you to feel left out.  If you’d like input on one or more of your images, stop by my page and submit your shots at GuruShots at www.gurushots.com/colleen-miniuk-sperry.

In closing, I’d like to thank the ladies who submitted their beautiful photographs for critique:  Denise, Deanna, Christy, Amy, Julie, Tamara, Sue, Pearl, and Jeanne.  As Abigail Adams once said, “Learning is not achieved by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence.”  May we all embrace learning like these and all of the women who attended the Women’s Photo Retreat have.

AHPW Women's Photo Retreat:  Silly Group Photo

The attendees of the AHPW Women’s Photo Retreat having a “Zen” moment during our Group Photo.  I’m not sleeping, I’m merely practicing “Corpse Pose.”