April Challenge: Birds… Entry #3 Using Your Car as a Blind

It seems that rebeKah has unknowingly been using her vehicle as a blind and these photos just prove that it works!

“I cannot pick just one!  While sitting in my vehicle looking for potential bird shots in the trees ahead I glanced behind me after quite some time of sitting in wait and was greatly surprised to spot this wren making trip after trip to this broken parking barrier pipe at Lake Grapevine.  Under the cover of my vehicle blind I was treated to this wren energetically making a nest in the pipe.  It is quite ironic to me that I’m looking in wait at the trees only to be missing lots of great action closer by in an unexpected area.”

(Photo by rebeKah)

(Photo by rebeKah)

(Photo by rebeKah)

(Photo by rebeKah)

(Photo by rebeKah)

(Photo by rebeKah)


April Challenge: Birds… Entry #2 Birds Terrify Me!

Evil Birds “I know my name is Robin but birds terrify me!! Birds are evil I tell ya!!”

This is how my e-mail from Robin Z. began.  And then she got brave and sent me two bird photos with this message: “Attached please find the bird pics for the April Challenge. I found two birds that didn’t terrify me. A trip to the Fort Worth Zoo with a 3 year old and a 4 year old was all it took :)”

#1 – Flamingos…whoop! Who can’t love a pink bird?

Flamingos (Photo by RobinZ.)

(Photo by RobinZ.)

#2 – Bald Eagle. Sitting high up in a tree looking so majestic.

Bald Eagle (Photo by Robin Z.)

Bald Eagle
(Photo by Robin Z.)

April Challenge: Birds… Entry #1 Crazy Larry and Dirty Mary

Our first entry is from none other than CrAzY Tess and she has done it again…

Crazy Larry and Dirty Mary

Due to too many pictures of birds that I accumulated in my two years as a photographer, I could not decide “as always” what to submit. Finally, I decided to submit something that is special to me and a I feel as a big accomplishment not just to me but also to my husband Nick.

I apologize ahead for sending few pictures, but each one of these is special to me.

Living in the country is fun and if you love animals, you will end up adopting everything. All of our three spoiled kids (Dogs) are adopted from being stray. We adopted pretty much everything until we find a home for these animals that were being abandoned or lost. To name a few, we adopted a bird, cow, horse, dogs and the last one that broke our hearts for he/she died was a baby bunny we named Sam. Sam for Samantha or Samuel, for we don’t know the sex of that little thing.

Almost two years ago, my husband found this bird we named Crazy Larry on the ground that fell from a flimsy tree branch that his mama made the nest. We read that once a person touches a bird or even their nest, the mom is going to abandon the baby bird or the nest. Knowing this, we adopted this little thing. The first picture is Crazy Larry when we first got him. He was the ugliest little bird I ever seen. We gave him water using a medicine dropper and made use of the tons of grasshoppers that we had. It was a challenge on how to take care of him, but we tried our best. Crazy Larry is too little but can eat up to 8 grasshoppers per day on the first few days that we got him. The number of grasshoppers he eats went up to 30 per day at one month old from adoption (No wonder why birds are natural insecticide).

Three weeks later, Crazy Larry started to jump but don’t know how to fly. One day my husband was outside of his “man cave” where we put Crazy Larry and found him on the ground. He picked him up then put him back to his cage. The moment my husband placed him back to his cage….. confusion…Crazy Larry was there. It was another bird after all. Then Dirty Mary was born. The question whether they really are female or male is not definite but it looks like we are right with their sex based on their features.

A month after, Dirty Mary started to fly inside of the man cave but still goes back inside of the cage (we keep the cage’s door open), but not Crazy Larry. Probably because he was so dependent to us due to the long time that we have him.

Flying Practice: The problem was, Crazy Larry doesn’t know how to fly. So here comes my crazy husband…. Just imagine a 225lbs man trying to teach a bird how to fly. It was absolutely hilarious. Slowly he tried to pick Crazy Larry up and kind of gently drop him in a short drop and gradually increase the height of the drop until finally Crazy Larry learned how to fly. Slowly he and Dirty Mary will fly around the man cave then goes back in to the cage.

Sad Moment: At six weeks, Dirty Mary flew away and did not come back but we knew that she was safe for she flies like a normal bird. Crazy Larry flies outside and his flying ability improved tremendously but still comes back to inside of his cage and greet us every time we arrived from work, it was such a sweet feeling. Seven weeks later, when my husband came home…..no Crazy Larry was around. We are so sad, at the same time happy for him for he belonged to the wild. Until now, every time we see a bird like Crazy Larry and Dirty Mary, we wonder whether it is one of them.

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Green Screen Photography by Marylin

Following our trip to shoot the butterflies, Marylin shared with me the fact that she has been learning to do green screen photography.  I have heard of this, as many portrait photographers use this technique to “transport” their models to another place but have never before explored the technique.  I’m sure you will enjoy Marylin’s explanations and examples of her work.  Being the techy in the group, I think we have a lot to learn from her and I so much appreciate her taking the time to share this with all the crazies!


There are many different programs out in the market for green screen photography and videography. Some of them are more costly than others. Of course, it all depends on your budget and how serious you are about green screen photography.

Now days, many movies and commercials are made using this technique. You can have models/actors in a studio in California and a snowy or rainy Paris scene would be playing in the background. Photographers are also using it more because it reduces the cost a studio rental and/or traveling to places with beautiful landscape backgrounds. There is also a market out there of backgrounds and overlays.

Since I am absolutely crazy, approximately 3 months ago I became interested in experimenting with green screen photography. The truth is that I did not want to spend too much money; but it sounded to me much better than paying for therapy. So, I researched the topic a bit and chose to buy a program called Green Screen Wizard. The program is available for Windows and Apple platforms. I had no idea if I was going to like it or if it was going to be very difficult to learn. I watched all the videos shown on the Green Screen Wizard web page and decided to go ahead and purchase the basic program which is the Green Screen Wizard Full version.


One of the features that I liked about Green Screen Wizard is that you are able to buy the basic version and they will offer you credit if you want to upgrade to the Pro Studio Editor, Air Brush, and/or to the Pro Batch/Event. This last version appears to be used mostly by those who want to have a business using this type of photography technique at events. They also offer a plug-in for Adobe Photoshop.

With Green Screen Wizard you may also choose a package that includes a green screen. However, I had already purchased a different package from a store called Cowboy Studio located in Allen, Texas. The package was on sale and it included 3 large muslin screens (black, white, and green) with a metal stand. It also included 2 umbrellas, 3 tripods, 3 sockets, and the 3 fixed lighting bulbs. A couple of weeks after, I found out that fixed lights were not very good to photograph children. The fixed lights are better to shoot inanimate objects.

Given the fact that my craziness was also driving me to be interested in experimenting with portrait photography, I also bought strobe lights and wireless remote sensors (which attach to my camera, to the strobe lights, and even work with my Nikon 800 Speedlight Flash). The brand name of all the equipment I bought is Cowboy Studio, just like the name of the store. It is not a known brand name. But, I have to admit that their prices are affordable and the merchandise is of pretty good quality. Interesting enough, when I was in Florida, a photographer introduced me to Cowboy Studio. Then, I found out that the store was near to where my family lives in Texas.

You can check their web page and see what they have to offer.  www.cowboystudio.com

I like to go there in person and ask questions.  That is how I found out about their inexpensive wireless remotes for studio strobe lighting and that fixed lighting is not good for photographing children because they move too much.

Going back to topic of green screen photography, when I tried the Green Screen Wizard, a day later I went ahead and purchased the Pro Studio Editor version because I wanted to use the editing features.

I have only been using green screen photography for about a couple of months and I really like the technique. One can be pretty creative with it. I did not have enough backgrounds to use with the program (even though it comes with some backgrounds and overlays), I just went online and downloaded free high definition backgrounds and/or wallpapers and began using them with the pictures I took with the green screen. A couple of important tips I can offer is that the green screen should not have any wrinkles and that the lighting is extremely important with this technique. DO NOT have your subject wear anything GREEN. Because of course, whatever they are wearing will become part of the background you are using.

I would like to share some samples of my “best models”: my grandniece and grandnephew. I included one sample of the before and after in order for you to get an idea of what it looks like prior to adding anything to the picture.
Green Screen Photography

Here is a slideshow of some of Marylin’s green screen shots…

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Tess was kind enough to take for me a background picture at the Forth Worth Botanical Gardens when some of the CWPC members gathered there to photograph butterflies. I did not have a wide angle lens with me and I asked Tess to take a picture of an area which I knew I already had a green screen shot that I wanted to use with that background.

Marizel at the FW Botanical Garden (Photo by Marylin) (Background Photo by Tess)

Marizel at the FW Botanical Garden
(Photo by Marylin)
(Background Photo by Tess)

Green screen photography is a fun technique. I really love it. If you want your creative juices to flow, go for green screen photography! The best thing about it is that it is really easy to do!

Thank you Marylin for taking the time to introduce us to this technique!

The Blood Moon Shines and Tess is Prostrated?

I tell you… the girl is crazy! Now, she was the one who told me about this celestial happening… the blood moon (total eclipse of the moon) but when I googled it, I found out she was a day off and fortunately I let her know; otherwise, total frustration or prostration would have set in at about 2AM!

It went through my mind that I should drag myself out of bed around 1:00AM and give it a shot but then reality struck and I decided it was pure nonsense, that surely someone would shoot it and save me the aggravation of going out in the chilly night air, so with that, I snuggled under my quilt and fell sound asleep.

And just today, I got an e-mail from Tess and she said I could share it with you.

“I was awake since 0100 this morning. I’m so tired right now. Anyways, woke up with my camera settings ready as the net recommended (M, ISO100, F11). OK, before I went to sleep the equipment was ready so I would be ready this morning.

So excited with the freezing 31degrees outside, bundled up, then ready to go outside. DUH! My settings did not work… I panicked that I sweat so bad. After tooooooo many tries (from manual to AV, TV, P, C and bulb), all did not work. I was so prostrated that I only have a few out of 500 something pics, the rest are all “delete, delete, delete”. Oh my! It was a disaster. Nick felt so sorry for me and worst that he cannot help. I was going in and out of the house to figure out what settings to do.

It was a little creepy when it totally went “Total Eclipse”, it’s like that you were in the movie.

Blood Moon (Photo by Tess)

Blood Moon
(Photo by Tess)

(Click on photos to enlarge)

Pretty much all of my pictures are not salvageable.

Tonight Nick called me from work and told me that the moon is beautiful. Took more pictures and after more than 100 something tries, I finally got a decent one.

Full Moon (Photo by Tess)

Full Moon
(Photo by Tess)

Why is it so hard to take a picture of some things? It was.

Crazy experience. Next time I will come prepared.

Lesson learned:
1. Never trust what the Internet says until you prove that what they are suggesting works.
2. Practice using the camera’s setting before trying to take a picture of the moon.
3. Be patient
4. Bundle up and use insect repellant.
5. Use tripod
6. The most important one… Eat before you hear your stomach growling with hunger. LMAO!”

NOTE TO ALL CRAZIES: To catch the next blood moon… mark your calendar for October 8, 2014!

The Crazies “Catch” Flutterbies!

It was two years ago when Tess and I ventured to the Fort Worth Botanic Garden to shoot the butterflies at their exhibit in the conservatory.  It was Tess’s first time to shoot butterflies and what a good time we had.  It was also at that time that the CWPC came into being. 

Fast forward to the present and it is amazing how the club has grown and I personally have gotten such joy out of seeing all the great challenges you have undertaken over that time period and how you have excelled in your photography, not to mention all the fun times we have had together!

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This year Tess, Kristen P. and I headed to the butterfly exhibit. Tess was decked out with her butterfly necklace and her butterfly ring. Geez… I wonder what she will wear if I tell her we are going to photograph bats?

We met Marylin shortly after arriving in the conservatory.  Instantly our cameras fogged as we entered the tropical environment with heat and humidity.  They did have a hair dryer for photographers to use to hasten the process of clearing the fogged lenses.  Upon arrival I started talking with a gal who approached me.  At first I thought she was a volunteer there to welcome guests when in fact, she too was visiting the exhibit.  Had a wonderful chat and in the meantime, my lens fog cleared and I was ready to start shooting. 

Diana also visited the exhibit at another time and submitted her photos as well.  This type of exhibit is a fun way to “capture” the butterflies as you are not chasing all over a huge garden to find them.  Some are more difficult to photograph as they seem more flighty.  The Blue Morpho was the greatest challenge, and usually the larger the butterfly, the better results you might have.  We shot with a variety of lenses.  I started shooting with my 100mm macro but preferred my 100-400mm simply because it gave me the distance factor.  I think Tess did a lot of shooting with her 100mm macro lens.

Diana shared her experience… “I shot me some flutterbies today with my daughter! That was amazing!! Those darn blue ones were too elusive but I think I got a few good shots of some.   I used a Canon 55-250 zoom lens but did have some trouble with really crisp focus on several of the shots. I still have a lot to learn with this  camera….so constructive criticism is welcome!  I did not have any trouble with my lens fogging up in the warmth and humidity (that I was aware of!).  That was certainly a lot of fun and I am looking forward to doing that again!”

Linda also sent a butterfly shot that I will include in the slideshow.

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By lunchtime, we were hot and tired and decided to head to Terra Grill for a Mediterranean buffet lunch in Fort Worth.  Tess and I love that place!!  Marylin offered to drive and it was fun getting to know her better.  Now, Marylin is the techy one in the group and she proved it when we arrived and were checking in at the restaurant.  It would be just a few minutes until a table was ready and by the time we were seated, Marylin had downloaded all of her photos from her camera to her I-pad wirelessly!  We no sooner sat down and she passed her I-pad around to show us her photos!  Incredible!

Marylin has some wonderful ideas for the club to keep us up-to-date on the technology available and we are planning on putting together some special programs to share with you about this, thanks to Marylin’s generosity.  I will cover this in more detail in another blog entry.  This is a work in progress!

Butterfly Tile by Marylin

Butterfly Tile by Marylin

Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful butterfly images and be looking for them in the wild now that warmer weather has arrived!

March Challenge: Signs… Entry #14 Wildlife Rd.

A special thank you to everyone who entered the sign challenge. You captured a great variety and it was fun! Our next challenge will be to shoot birds and I look forward to seeing what you find.

Following this submission, I will be showing some photos of butterflies that you may have taken at the Fort Worth Botanical Garden and will be featuring one of our members. For those of you who made it there and want to share your butterfly images, please send them my way if you have not done so already.

I will end this challenge with one from the Men’s Auxillary… from Lorraine’s husband, Mike. Mike is an avid photographer and if you will refer back to Lorraine’s entry for the challenge, she did make mention of his bird on a sign that he had taken in the past. Mike said I could post it along with his explanation, and I think we can learn a lot from his explanation. Technology has improved our chances of getting the best shot possible over the years.

“This is the photo of the bird on the street sign that Lorraine mentioned to you. I took this at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge in April of 1994. It isn’t the sharpest image as I took it hand-held with a budget 500mm lens without image stabilization. It was taken on 100 ISO film and the lens is f/8 when wide open, so I figure the shutter speed was no faster than 1/250th S. I still play with the lens occasionally, but it is manual focus and manual aperture. I have to open the aperture manually to see to focus then close it back down to shoot.”

Wildlife Rd. (Photo by Mike)

Wildlife Rd.
(Photo by Mike)

Thanks Mike for sending this our way!

March Challenge: Signs… Entry #13 Hungry and Thirsty, and Need to Relax

I had a lovely phone call today from Marylin as well as her sign entry and a bird for the next challenge.  The gal is on a roll!

This is what she had to say…

“Sorry about the delay in sending you something.  After a month of  obstacles, I was able to shoot a couple of pictures.  I am sure everyone will notice that the ones I chose for the March Challenge show that I was hungry, thirsty, and needed to relax. LOL.

Grandy's (Photo by Marylin)

(Photo by Marylin)

I took the first picture when I arrived at the restaurant Fish Shack, in Plano.  Excellent food!  It is right next to a Grandy¹s.  The sun was just setting at that time.  Then, when I went inside the restaurant, I saw the sign of the beer and I decided to have one while I waited for the take out.  Excellent beer also!

Ziegen Bock (Photo by  Marylin)

Ziegen Bock
(Photo by Marylin)

Then, before leaving the restaurant, my grandniece decided to pose for me.  As you have mentioned before, she is an excellent modelŠ..and she is only 5 years old!”

(Photo by Marylin)

(Photo by Marylin)

Thanks Marylin for your fun entries!

March Challenge: Signs… Entry #12 Out of the Ashes

This entry is from Diana…

Well, late again.   I went out to get a nice bird picture for the April challenge, but the wind was blowing and no birds were out. I decided to still make a short outing of it and got some great shots of my dogs, some flowers, and the clouds and trees. On my outing I went by the church down the road that sparked a memory, so I snapped a picture of their sign. I called it “Out of the Ashes”.

Here is the story behind this picture……
Several years ago, while working as a volunteer firefighter, we got a call about a structure fire. It was just down the street from me, so I bolted out the door and met my fellow firefighters there with the truck. Since it was in the wee hours of the morning, there were no people in the structure…….fortunately no one was injured. I geared up and made my way, with the help of other firefighters, into the burning building. As things began to go from bad to worse, we evacuated the building and we into control and contain mode. The roof collapsed in a huge plume of smoke and glowing ash. I carefully added water to the only this that was left standing…..the sign.  The owner and his wife came to the scene, and through tears they vowed to rebuild. This building housed the small congregation of The Center Point Christian Church. As I waked through the smolder debris, among Hymn books, bibles, and charred pews, I thought of all the saved souls that have entered its doors.  This picture is the same sign that I carefully hosed down…..it still stands today, in front of the rebuilt church…..that is filled to it’s little capacity every Sunday.
Out of the Ashes (Photo by Diana)

Out of the Ashes
(Photo by Diana)