travel photography » You Can Sleep When You're Dead: Blog by Colleen Miniuk

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May 112016

“Skull Savvy” || Photo copyright Erica Colegrove

“Skull Savvy”

Two Guns, Arizona, sends chills down my spine every time I think about my trip. It was a popular tourist stop along the famous Route 66, but now lies completely abandoned. In the 19th century, it was also the area of a major confrontation between the Navajo and the Apache. In any sense, being there alone was terrifying, but I had to go get some shots of it. Among the many pictures I left with, this shot promotes the exact feeling that I intended; which is a combination of mystery and terror. I am not exactly sure what this building used to be, but it is located to the right of the gas station as you head into Two Guns, (nowadays, it looks just like an old shack). Writing and graffiti covers everything in the area, but this skull really stood out to me. The air radiates some sort of dark presence.

Since I was too afraid to step into the shack alone, I decided to use the outer window as a frame around the dark doodle. Ironically, through the other side of the shack, a beautiful landscape of Northern Arizona is visible. The green and yellow hues of the plant life seem to balance out the dark and decrepit interior of the structure. A hint of blue from the sky peeps in through the corner of the far left window, which I think brings the entire color spectrum of the photo together.

I use a Canon Rebel t5i. I have always used Canon. I shot this particular photo with the 18-55mm kit lens. At the time it was one of three lenses that I had available, although now I have a few more from saving my money wisely. I use the lowest ISO possible, so this photo has an ISO of 100 with an aperture of f/7.1, shutter speed of 1/80 of a second and a focal length of 26.0 mm.

About the Photographer:

I realized my passion of photography from both my mother, and believe it or not, my ex. We spent a lot of time in my past relationship shooting together and I learned a lot despite not being together anymore. I regret nothing because we shared such an important role in each other’s growth as photographers. My mother is the person who pushed me to start in the first place, and who bought me my first camera body. Other than photography, I am a freelance charcoal artist. Art is incredibly important to me and always seems to find me wherever I am. In the future I want to think of a new way to incorporate both sides of my art into one, but for now I prefer to focus on one at a time. Within photography, my interest revolves around events such as concerts and also fashion photography. Although I do enjoy getting out into nature by myself when the idea of being around people overwhelms me. My ideal life would be as a paid photographer, traveling around the world to capture the essence of life. I am inspired by that goal alone, and hopefully one day will find myself doing just that.

To read more about the Northern Arizona University “Behind the Image: Guest Blogger” project on our blog, please read the introduction at take a minute to leave your thoughts and constructive comments in the Comment section below – Erica would love to hear from you!

May 112014

Photo copyright Ty McNeeley

I spent my Spring Break in Ukraine photographing the aftermath of the protests and riots that took place in February that prompted President Viktor Yanukovych to flee the country.  I was in Kiev while the Crimean referendum was taking place and I ended up with a lot of great photos from my eight days there.  Most of my trip was rainy and cold with only a few moments of relief from the winds that cut through every layer of clothing.  Because I didn’t want to spend my whole trip following self-defense forces around Майдан Незалежності (Independence Square) I took an afternoon trip to the Kiev Monastery of the Caves, an Orthodox Christian monastery where over a hundred people are buried in the complex system of underground corridors.  After being in the area where so many protestors had been injured and killed it was a welcomed change to be somewhere as peaceful as a monastery.

I knew when I arrived there that a sunburst photo would look great with the golden domes against the cloudy sky but I’d given up hope that the sun would appear that day.  The wind was blowing very hard and the clouds were moving quickly across the sky.  There ended up being one small window of time where the clouds separated just enough for the sun to shine through.  Had anyone been there to witness my sprint to the edge of the shadow of the church to point my camera at the sun while taking tiny steps left and right, I’m sure they’d have thought I was crazy.  After taking enough photos to ensure I had the shot that I was picturing the sun disappeared and didn’t return for two days.  Since this was my only tourist-like stop on my trip I spent a few hours wandering the caves with a small candle as my light source.  The silence of the tombs was relaxing and seeing the care that was taken with the mummified remains of saints was very moving.  After I finished my time there I returned to Independence Square and was again surrounded by the sights, sounds and smells of revolution.  This photo is my reminder of that amazing place and is an example that in places of hardship, beauty can be found.

To get this photo I shot at ISO 200, 1/200th and closed my aperture down to f 22 to get the burst that I was hoping for.  I took smalls steps left and right to increase and decrease the amount of sun that was visible while being careful to not stare directly at it through the viewfinder.

About the Photographer:

In my photos I wish to capture the raw elements of human nature, either through abandonment or conflict.  After seeing things in the military that I wished I could show the world, I decided to take that idea and make a career out of it.  If my work can make someone appreciate their place in the world while bringing a bit of perspective about places they’ve never been I’ve accomplished my mission.

To read more about the Northern Arizona University “Behind the Image: Guest Blogger” project on our blog, please read the introduction at

May 072014

Photo copyright Jamie Shrader

Montana has some of the most beautiful landmarks in the world.  The state is in the Western United States and has numerous mountain ranges.  We would expect this, since the states name came from the Spanish word montaña, meaning mountain.  Montana has a popular slogan, “Land of the Shining Mountains”.   The top attractions in Montana are Glacier National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, and the Montana Rockies.

I had a cross-country meet in Bozeman, Montana.  We had a day off before the meet and my coach and I decided to try to find a spot that we could drive up the mountains.  After driving around for quite some time, we finally found a way up.  We had to drive through a neighborhood and while doing that, we came across something so beautiful.  There were many horses running around in a field so I grabbed my phone and began to take many different shots of the horses with the mountains in the background.  I wanted to capture an image that would express Montana’s beauty.  When I walked over towards the horse, he ran right up to me.  I was so shocked that he was not scared of us.  The horse was perfect because he was posing for the image exactly how I needed him to be.   Having the mountains in the photo was important to me because I wanted to capture what Montana is known for.

I did not have my Canon EOS Rebel T3i camera with me, which was a huge disappointment, so I used my iPhone 5.  It was very surprising how well the photo turned out since I did not have my camera, but since I was so close to the horse, it still captured an image that I wanted.  The ISO is 50, with an aperture f/2.4 and a shutter speed 1/1550.  I later used minor post processing in Adobe Lightroom.  I took away something in the field as well as brightened the whites and darkened the shadow on the mountain.  This gave the mountain more depth.

I learned a lesson that I need to bring my camera with me anywhere I go.  I am still using this image because it has a lot of character.  The mountains with the stormy sky give the photograph good color and the horse is placed using the rule of thirds.  Some of our best photographs are taken when we least expect it, and this is exactly what happened to me.

About the Photographer:
My name is Jamie Shrader and I am a Biology major with a photography minor at Northern Arizona University.  I was born and raised in Flagstaff, Arizona and enjoy to photograph nature.  I would later like to specialize not only in nature photography, but in wedding photography as well.  I want to capture detail and exclusive beauty through my photographs. My goal is to show people something they have never seen before.

To read more about the Northern Arizona University “Behind the Image: Guest Blogger” project on our blog, please read the introduction at

May 022014

Photo copyright Chris Martin

The inspiration for this image comes from the emotion behind the place where it was taken.  Alcatraz Island, “The Rock”, is known in history for being a prison that is escape proof, and was home to the most dangerous criminals in history.  As I walked around the island, I couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of sadness with undertones of loneliness and isolation even though there were hundreds of people there.  Around the perimeter of the island were numerous photo opportunities, but as I came upon this scene where the above photo was taken I sensed something different and a sense of happiness and freedom began to take over me; with the green plants and a ferryboat representing a way of escape, yet still staying true to the history of the island with an old run down building as my main focus point.  This opposition of emotion all in one picture made it a very popular spot for other photographers there and gave me one of my favorite photos from the whole island tour.

I approached the spot of the image with my initial intent to take a horizontal picture, but no composition was quite right, and nothing captured the emotion that I felt as I stood there.  I began to walk away, but in my head I told myself that I had to stay and figure it out.  After a few moments I had the idea to flip my camera vertical and take a photo and the first one I captured was the image seen, and I loved it.

For the photo I am using a very small aperture of f/11, because I wanted as much in focus as possible.  My ISO is at 125 at 1/40th of a second.

As I took the image into Lightroom, there weren’t many changes that I wanted to make.  I cropped the image to get rid of some clutter on the right side, I boosted the shadows and brought down the highlights in order to get the most contrast out of the image.  Lastly, I increased saturation to give the greenery some nice punch and that’s it.

About the Photographer:
My name is Chris Martin, I’ve been interested in filmmaking for quite sometime, but just recently started to get into photography, and I’m slowly learning all of the subtle differences between the two when it comes to framing and composition.  The type of photography that I enjoy most is landscape and astrophotography, although I’m still learning the latter.  Also, almost every single photo I take I touch up in some kind of way in Lightroom for minor stuff, or Photoshop for more intense photo editing.  To me post processing is an artistic choice that only you as the artist can produce and even if two photographers took very similar photos, they can look vastly different depending on the post work done.  This ties in with my main goal as a photographer and that is to be different and set myself apart from the crowd.

To read more about the Northern Arizona University “Behind the Image: Guest Blogger” project on our blog, please read the introduction at

Apr 172013

Photograph copyright Shelby Irons

This image was a wonderful accident. I was leaving on a cruise ship to Venice, Italy that started out from a port in Miami, Florida. I was on the top deck hanging out with my family and enjoying the beautiful day. As the ship started leaving we passed all of these industrial cargo ships that were not much to look at. I happened to head to the other side of the deck on the top floor to get a cooler view and stumbled upon something pretty awesome. From that view, you could see the beach and the entire strip of Miami. It was filled with a ton of people enjoying the sunny day and the water was a wonderful shade of bright blue. In that moment, I decided it needed to be photographed! I ran back down to my room to get my camera and realized that our balcony had an even better view of the beach that was a little bit closer.

I started messing around with my manual settings and kept taking various shots with several different shutter speeds. I wanted to have a pretty quick shutter speed in order to capture all of the different people at the beach. Then, I adjusted my ISO because I wanted to be able to have details of the building and the beach but still capture the clarity of the water and the sky. Since it was so bright out, I kept my Aperture at F/26, and that seemed to work perfectly. After having the settings that I was satisfied with, I zoomed in and out and trying different angles of the beach. Finally, I found what I was really looking for. I was able to capture a balance of the buildings, the boardwalk, and the entire strip of the beach in the image as well. I did not even have to do much post production on this photo; the colors of the water spoke for itself! I was very proud of myself for feeling more confident with my manual settings. Trying to capture this image also taught me to be aware of my surroundings. As a photographer, I want to always keep trying to find that great angle by moving around. Sometimes it will just stumble upon you and sometimes you will really have to go the extra mile to successfully capture that perfect image.

About the Photographer:
My name is Shelby Rae Irons. I am a 21 year old day-dreamer, traveler, animal lover, and passionate photographer. Currently, I attend school at Northern Arizona University in the pines of Flagstaff, Arizona. I am pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management with a minor in Photography. I consider myself a huge people person. Being around others is when I am usually most content. My family is very important to me; they are what inspire me to do my best. I picked up a camera about 10 years ago and haven’t been able to put it down since. Photography helps me escape and is like a blank canvas that allows me to create whatever my mind dreams of. I try to captivate moments that make me happy to be alive; taking pictures of anything from trees to beer bottles but mostly people. I hope to continue to pursue photography for as long as I live. Please check out my website

To read more about the Northern Arizona University “Behind the Image: Guest Blogger” project on our blog, please read the introduction on our April 15 post at

Mar 212013

Ride With Me,” Acadia National Park, Maine (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order!)

Of all the images I’ve created thus far, the one I get questioned the most about is, by a landslide, “Ride With Me” in Acadia National Park in Maine.  I’m frequently asked, “Where was the camera?” and “And how did you snap the picture with both hands on the handlebars?”

Though I captured the image above during my second Artist-in-Residence with the park in October 2010, my visualizations for this image started almost a year earlier in November 2009 during my first residency.  In the months leading up to my first visit, I read a wonderful book by Ann Rockefeller Roberts titled, “Mr. Rockefeller’s Roads:  The Untold Stories of Acadia’s Carriage Roads.”  Concerned the “new” automobile would threaten the natural beauty and affect the quiet, peacefulness Mount Desert Island provided him, his family, and fellow community members, John Rockefeller, Jr. envisioned setting aside land to establish a network of carriage roads limited to only carriage riders, drivers, and pedestrians could utilize for recreational purposes. By 1940, a 57-mile system of carefully designed and developed carriage roads existed for exactly that purpose.

Inspired by this story,  as I turned each page, I started to piece together the kind of photograph I wanted to make when I arrived and experienced the phenomenal carriage roads for myself.  As soon as I made it to Acadia in November, I hit the carriage roads on foot or by bicycle, traveling almost every length of the 45-miles within the park boundaries.  Occasionally, I stopped to make a photograph or two or ten or fifty.  I felt I was capturing “nice,” technically acceptable photographs along the way but never truly felt I had captured something that did this unique feature within Acadia justice.

Poor Carriage Road Shot - ExampleThe photo to the right was honestly the best I brought home.  Does this inspire anyone to go to Acadia and see the carriage roads for themselves?  I’m guessing a resounding NO!!  This shot is just, well, really sad…

Now once you have a spark of enthusiasm or even a semblance of an idea, don’t give up on it!  I had the fortunate opportunity to return to Acadia in October 2010, so I had precisely 10 months to analyze what went wrong in the first attempt and design an approach that would yield the type of image I wanted to capture on the carriage roads.

I wanted to share how much fun it was to hike and bike along these paths, so I decided I would show myself in motion.  I’m not a fast walker, and so help me, I do not run ever (unless someone is chasing me or is giving away free cameras across the field…) so I planned to create the image while on a moving bike with a slower shutter speed to imply movement and speed.  I could hold the camera in one hand up to my eye while keeping one hand on the handlebars to render an OK image, but that approach seemed doomed for certain disaster for clumsy ol’ me.  I needed both hands on the handlebars, but how would I trigger the shutter?

I mulled my idea over with my husband, who promptly suggested I research what skydivers do to trigger the shutter when they throw their crazy selves out of planes with both hands free.  Hmmmm, yes…I found a company online, Conceptus, who made switches for just this reason!  So I traveled to one of their distributors in Eloy, Arizona to pick up my tongue-switch, a cable-release that would plug into the camera and would allow me to trigger the shutter hands-free with my tongue!  After just a few clicks, I knew this tool would certainly help me capture my vision!

With fresh enthusiasm for my idea, I returned to Acadia and started biking the autumn-kissed, tree-lined carriage roads with my camera strapped to my mid-section with a basic strap, my camera manually focused at infinity, my lens set at 16mm for a wide-angle perspective, and of course, my tongue switch in my mouth!  I’d bike as fast as I could downhill, experimenting with various shutter speeds to render just enough motion but not so much it looked like the stars when the Millennium Falcon went into hyperspace mode.

Six-hundred shots later– only four of which turned out to my liking – and I can confidentially say this photograph, “Ride With Me” is exactly how I felt about enjoying the carriage roads and perhaps more importantly, it conveys exactly what I wanted to share with my viewers about that special feeling.  I hope this photograph does inspire you to go to Acadia and see the carriage roads yourself!  Truly, as the title expresses, I wanted you to ride with me.

Whether you’re photographing from a bike, an airplane, or with your two feet solidly planted on the ground, remember to look at your image on the back of your LCD before you move yourself or your tripod to be sure what you’ve captured is exactly what you envisioned and wish to share with your audience.  If you don’t, you’re cheating yourself and your audience out of something very important you have to say about the scene in front of you.  Work the scene by moving your position, changing lens, using light differently, modifying your exposure settings, applying filters, or whatever else you can do to ensure you capture that vision. And like I suggested earlier, once you have an idea pop into your head or you see something in the field that excites you, don’t walk away or give up until you’ve recorded it with your pixels!

Technical info:  Canon 5DMII, 16-35mm at 16mm, ISO 50, f/20 @ 1/5th of a second, polarizer, triggered by Conceptus tongue-switch, basic post-processing.

Feb 072013

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

Dec 182012

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 to make a donation.

Emmy’s Album


Nov 152012
The RCMP Musical Ride

The RCMP Musical Ride from the 2012 Calgary Stampede in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Prints available – click on photo to order!

I’d have to look it up in the rule books, but it’s potentially sacrilegious to visit Canada and NOT photograph the world-renowned Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).  Keeping this in mind as I prepared for my July 2012 visit to Alberta in support of the first Through Each Others Eyes Arizona-Alberta exchange, I naturally put photographing a Mountie in a flashy “Red Serge” uniform towards to the top of my shot list.

But it wasn’t just a portrait of these fine servicemen and women I was seeking.  No, no, the photograph needed to tell an intriguing story about the RCMP.  But what did that mean?  Hmmmm….

After some pre-trip research, different ideas danced in my head until we arrived at the Calgary Stampede Stadium in July 2012.  There, I had the honor of seeing my first RCMP Musical Ride during the 100th Anniversary of the Calgary Stampede, thanks to the efforts of our hosts and fellow photographers Peter Carroll, Royce Howland, and Kerry Smith.

To open this historic rodeo, thirty-plus RCMP members – each riding an elegant horse  – flawlessly moved through an artistically choreographed series of formations and traditional movements within the dirt arena.  With obviously much precision, skill, and teamwork, the galloping horses and straight-backed riders holding stately flags somehow didn’t get tangled!

As I clicked away with fast shutter speeds during the event, I couldn’t help but feel all my frames were too static.  And there was absolutely nothing static about what I was experiencing!

Hastily, I visualized a new approach, one that would allow me to record the impressive formations but yet include a distinct sense of motion.  Within seconds, I set my ISO to its slowest setting (ISO 50), spun my aperture dial to its smallest (f/36), and added a polarizing filter to the front of my 100-400mm lens to slow my shutter speed down as much as possible in the mid-day light.  The result was 1/10th of a second, which in my opinion seemed a little too fast to capture the sense of movement I desired for the scene.

I tried holding the camera still during the slower exposure while allowing the riders to create red streaks and patterns.  Didn’t like it.  I tried panning – a technique where you move the camera from left to right (or vice versa) – to help freeze the riders while blurring the background.  Didn’t like it.  I was quickly running out of tricks…and time!

Then, towards the end of the performance, the troop gathered into the “Dome” formation, where all the riders form a circle and then lower their flags into the center.  Keeping my settings the same, I focused on a single rider in the front with my lens zoomed all the way out, then physically pulled the lens back during the 1/10th of second exposure (referred to as a “zoom pull” or “lens pull.”  You can also recreate this effect in Adobe Photoshop under Filter/Blur/Radial Blur).

Luckily, the combination of the slow shutter speed and zoom pull technique allowed me to capture more energy AND enough structure to provide much-needed context in this more abstract view of the RCMP Musical Ride.  Though my visualizations evolved over time, I felt this perspective successfully told an intriguing story about the RCMP Musical Ride and decided to include this photograph as one of my 20 selected prints to display during the recent Through Each Others Eyes Exhibition at the Art Intersection Gallery in Gilbert, Arizona. (Exhibitions in Alberta, Canada coming your way in early 2013 – stay tuned for more details!)

Technical info:  Canon 5DMII, 100-400mm lens at 285mm zoom-pulled, f/36 @ 1/10th of a second, polarizer, basic post-processing.