Photography – The Golden Hour #VantagePoint

A few weeks ago, I was approached by someone from about my photography. They’re a camera company with a new technology that sounds quite interesting, but since I don’t actually have a photography blog, I was rather surprised they’d stumbled across it.

I primarily think of myself as a writer, but photography really is my second passion. When they asked if I’d like to take part in their #VantagePoint project it was such an interesting project I said yes.

The challenge was to pick my favorite location to shoot and share my favorite photo from that location and tell a bit about why I picked that location and photo.

I debated what my favorite location was for quite a while. I have a deep love for Stratford, Ontario and have taken hundreds of photos of both the charming little town and the surrounding countryside. Nova Scotia was also a favorite place because of the incredible rocky streams and waterfalls. The Great Lakes were also a contender because being near them is truly my happy place. But in the end, I chose my parents’ property.

They own fifty acres, most of which is fields and woods. It’s a really lovely contrast to the areas near the house, which are beautifully landscaped. When they bought the property from my grandma and built the house twenty-five years ago, it was a bare field with woods ringing the outskirts. They’ve planted trees (with an emphasis on native species) and made beautiful vegetable and flower gardens. The house is tucked back on an angle and the driveway curves around to reach it. As you pull in the driveway you pass some clusters of trees. To the left and right are fields with wild grasses. Next, you see the small barn and two horses grazing in the fenced in pasture. Next is the vegetable garden. And then you see the house and garage. Although only a few decades old, the house seems much older. Flower gardens ring the house and in the height of summer, it’s absolutely stunning.

The variety of subjects I can shoot on that property is what makes it so appealing. I can shoot both the wild fields and cultivated flowers. I can find an endless array of textures and shapes to do close-up shots. The area changes drastically throughout the seasons, and there’s always something interesting to point my camera at.

It was difficult to choose my favorite photo, but the one I finally settled on is a great example of what the property looks like in late summer as the sun begins to set. Photographers refer to that time as the “golden hour” when the light is softer and warmer-toned. It gives everyone and everything a magical glow.


This particular photo was taken a few years ago. Friends met me at my parents’ house and we had a bonfire. If I remember right, it was to celebrate the engagement of friends of ours. It wasn’t a planned shoot, but I happened to grab my camera and took a handful of photos of the light, the sunset, and then the bonfire.

Although the golden hour makes everything look more beautiful, it can actually be quite difficult to capture especially as it starts to wane.  The photo can be washed out or too warm in tone, with no cooler tone to balance it out. The shadows can also be tricky. When I caught a glimpse of the sun peeking through the trees and highlighting the leaves that were just beginning to turn yellow, I knew I needed to photograph it. But capturing that was difficult.

I took a handful of shots that didn’t quite manage to get the right balance. It wasn’t until I stepped further to one side and only caught the edge of the sun in the frame that I got that perfect blend of warm light and interesting shadow and texture.

I shot it using my Canon Rebel XTi, which I’ve owned for maybe 7-8 years (I had a Canon Rebel G before that when I shot with film). I used my favorite lens, a Canon EF-S 55-250mm zoom.  It’s a really versatile lens and I find I use it most when I am shooting a wide variety of subjects. In this particular case, I was zoomed all the way out to 55mm, but if I’d wanted a close up shot of the light through the leaves of the tree I could have zoomed in to get a very tight shot. I absolutely love that flexibility.

In the end, I picked the photo because it perfectly captures the mood of that evening and the feel of the property. Sometimes it takes dozens or hundreds of pictures to get that perfect shot. And when you’re racing against the setting sun to capture the light it adds an extra challenge.

But getting that perfect shot makes it totally worth it.

Note: If you’re curious to learn more about’s new camera, stop by their site. It uses a really interesting new technology. One drawback of my Canon is the size and their camera does promise DSLR-technology in a much smaller package. I am definitely intrigued by the idea.

Disclaimer: I wasn’t compensated in any way for this post.  I just found the project and camera interesting and enjoyed the chance to discuss my photography.





Personal Photography – Zoo Trip

In early July I visited the Potter Park Zoo with one of my closest friends.  With as busy as we both are these days, we don’t get to spend much time together.  But we’re both trying to make an effort so when she said she was going to be in Lansing on one of my Fridays off, I shuffled my plans around and made it happen.  She had been planning to bring her two boys to the zoo and Potter Park is great for smaller kids.  The Detroit Zoo is amazing, but it’s the kind of place you need to spend a whole day at to do it justice.  And for two kids who aren’t yet in kindergarten, it’s just too much to tackle.  You can spend a couple of hours at Potter Park and feel like you’ve seen most of it, and the boys had a blast.  I took a ton of pictures of them too, but here are some of the ones I took for myself.  Along with all of the animals, there are some pretty flowers and plants.


The animals were gorgeous too and I had fun playing with my zoom lens to get interesting texture shots of the peacocks that roamed the zoo and of the tigers.  There were porcupines, a grey wolf, rhinos, a bald eagle, and otter.  FYI, otter are VERY difficult to photograph.  Sometime I am going to have to go back and take some pictures of them when I’m not helping wrangle two little boys who are at least as slippery as an otter!


I am several months behind on posting this one *ahem* but in May my husband and I finally tackled the massive project of landscaping the front yard.  When we moved into the house eight years ago, the yard looked pretty awful.  The bushes out front were long overdue for pruning and were scraggly and uninteresting.  The awning was hideous.  And the rose bushes along the west side of the house were overgrown.  That first year, we took down the awning, pruned the rose bushes and did enough work on the flowerbed that we could plant tomatoes between the rose bushes.  We also ripped out the overgrown bushes in the front because the house looked better without anything at all, even if it was very bland.

Ever since that first year we’ve been eager to improve the front of the house.  In a neighborhood filled with beautiful old homes and incredible landscaping, we felt like ours was out of place.  We’ve been dreaming and planning what we’d do, but it was never a top priority.

After the horrible ice storm last winter the city had more tree branches than they knew what to do with.  They chipped it up into mulch and offered it for free to any city resident.  It got us thinking about the spring yard work we planned to do.  When we went to the home improvement store to get supplies, we checked out their landscaping blocks and found them on sale.  While they weren’t the fancy-shmancy ones we’d been drooling over for years, they were very nice and within our budget.  Like many of our house projects, landscaping the front of the house was a rather impulsive decision.  We’d been planning what we wanted to do for years, but hadn’t planned to do it right then.  However, we knew we’d never find the supplies at a better price, so we jumped at the chance.  On a Friday night we bought the blocks and set them up and the following day my husband and a co-worker picked up mulch.  On Sunday we got a load of topsoil and Monday (Memorial Day) my parents came up to help.  Originally, they’d just planned to help us do some weeding, plant tomatoes, and fill a few hanging baskets with annuals but they were happy to help us get some major work done.

It was exhausting, but by the end of the day we had two half-moon raised flowerbeds in front of the house filled  with well-fertilized soil, landscaping felt, mulch, and some flowers.  We planted hostas, astilbe, a rosebush, and a dwarf hydrangea.  We added the landscaping items we’d collected over the years.  We filled hanging baskets with annuals and a couple of containers with pansies, herbs, kale, and lettuce.  We planted tomatoes in the west bed between the roses, peonies, and bleeding heart.  And then we collapsed.

There is plenty more we need to do.  That obelisk trellis will have clematis climbing up it someday.  The bronze ceramic sculpture (actually a garden stool) will be turned into a fountain.  And there will be a lot more flowers.

The next major project for the house is going to be having a new roof put on.  *groans* It’s the one project we aren’t going to do ourselves.  We just got an estimate for what it will cost and while we do plan to get a few others to be on the safe side, it’s right in line with what we expected.  Painfully expensive.  But a roof isn’t something we can mess around with and it will make a huge difference in the curb appeal of the house.  We’re going to get rid of the hunter green and go with a dark charcoal shingles.  After it’s done, we’ll paint the shutters and front door black.  I think it’ll look nice against the siding, and make the landscaping take center stage.  Oh, and we HAVE to replace that ugly, rusted railing off the front steps.  I’ve been eager to do that since we moved in.  The new one will have cleaner lines and be a nice glossy black.

What projects have you been waiting to do since you moved into the place you live?

Stratford, Ontario

I’ve pretty much been going non-stop since last December.  Work and writing don’t leave much time for relaxing so I made a conscious choice before I left for a long weekend in Canada.  No phones, no internet, no laptop, no writing … for three whole days.  The idea was painful.  Forcing myself to leave my laptop at made me twitchy.  I love writing.  Deeply.  But I know if I’m not careful I will burn out and that won’t do me any favors as a healthy human being or as a writer.  So I loaded my tablet with books, turned off the internet, grabbed my camera, and headed to Canada!

Stratford, Ontario  is a beautiful town.  It’s home of the Stratford Shakespearean Festival, an amazing series of plays held from April through October in the four theaters in town.  Primarily performances of William Shakespeare’s plays, they also perform musicals, one man shows, and other interesting dramas.  Starting when I was eight years old, my parents took me every year.  Once I met my husband, he came as well, and with few exceptions, I have seen at least one, often two, plays there every year.


Lake Huron, crossing the Blue Water Bridge from Pt. Huron to Sarnia

Normally, we go in September or October and after going at the end of June this year, I can honestly say I much prefer going in the fall!  It was in the high-70’s and muggy that weekend and I am much happier when it’s 65 and drizzly.  Still, I had a wonderful time and I am eager to go back next year.



Festival Theater

The performances are always incredible.  This year we saw King John and King Lear, neither of which I’d seen before.  King Lear was especially heart-wrenching and we decided we might need to end the weekend on a high note next year and see a musical!  It’s difficult to turn down the opportunity to see Shakespeare’s tragedies performed so well though.


Guest House

For many years, we’ve stayed in a pretty little guest house in town.  It’s like a bed and breakfast (without the breakfast) and it’s a charming little place.  The room is comfy, the shower is nice and roomy, and it’s a fantastic price.  The owner was an elderly woman who, sadly, passed away this spring.  Her daughter is still running the place and although we’ll miss the owner, her daughter did a lovely job.

York Street Kitchen (not my photo)

Since breakfast isn’t included, we always go to a cute little restaurant called The York Street Kitchen.  The photo above is from when it was located on York St.  It has since moved Erie Street but is every bit as delicious as ever.  It’s a funky little place that I absolutely adore and I can’t believe I didn’t take a photo of it!  We’ve probably eaten everything on the menu at least six times but it never disappoints and we always go back for more.  One of my favorites is the H.M.S. Pinafore, but anything with smoked salmon is a winner in my book!

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We were there Friday through Sunday, so in addition to the plays we went out to dinner.  Raja, an incredible Indian restaurant where I had sweet chili spiced duck, is NOT to be missed and neither is Pazzo Taverna, an Italian place that we ate at twice because it was so good.  Incredible mussels and thin crust pizza, along with a cucumber herb martini that I would really like to re-create at home.  In addition to eating our way through town, we strolled the gardens, shopped downtown, browsed antique stores, and checked out an art festival.


We went crazy at a wonderful tea shop and I stocked up my usual bag of black currant black tea and tried out a new flavor of green and white tea blend flavored with grapefruit.  I also picked up a few bags to give as Christmas gifts, which felt a little odd since I was shopping in June rather than September.

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Oh, and if you ever get a chance to visit, this shop is a little slice of heaven.  They have dozens of infused olive oils and vinegars to sample. Chocolate balsamic vinegar and green chile olive oil is incredible together.

There is plenty to do in town, and one of these days, I am going to take a tour of the backstage and costume warehouse.  My inner theater nerd is so geeked by the idea but I’ve never managed to squeeze it in.

Oh well, there’s always next year.

Lake Huron, crossing the Blue Water Bridge from Sarnia to Pt. Huron.

Personal Photography – Easter

Well, I’m only two weeks behind with the Easter pics, so that’s an improvement, right?

Because it was such a late spring, there wasn’t much in the way of plants and flowers outside, except for the daffodil bed, so I took advantage of what my parents grow inside.

Oh, and that wooden carved egg?  My dad made it for me.  He’s made one for me almost every year since I was a kid so I have dozens of them.  Hmm, maybe when I (eventually) set up an office for myself that’s a little less makeshift, I’ll hang a shelf just for them, because they’re much to pretty to hide in a box and only bring out at Easter.  This year the wood was from a cedar tree that grew on my grandma’s property, so that makes it extra special.

Personal Photography – Winter Ice Storm

These three photos were taken at my parents’ house.  They live in the country and there are always birds in the trees outside the back of their house.

These are from the first day of the ice storm.  It was while I was out on a walk taking these photos that we lost power.  Most houses in the area already had lost power early that morning but we didn’t lose ours until late afternoon.  As frustrating as a five day power outage was, I was so glad I was able to take pictures of the ice.  I am thrilled with the way the photos turned out.

And these are from the morning of Christmas Eve before we went to my husband’s office to shower.  I was exhausted and frustrated and grumpy, but it was still so, so beautiful that I had to stop and take some photos.

Personal Photograpy – Late Fall

Other than the 45 minutes in the car on the way to my parents’ house, I stepped away from writing on Easter.  It gave me a little time to take some spring photos.  Of course, tonight when I went to edit those photos I realized I still have a pile of photos I took in the fall and winter and I thought I should get a least of a few of those done and share them with you.  Enjoy!