Animals big and small

This Fall I took a six week class in photographing animals. I admit up front that I expected it to be about how to take an animal portrait of your dog or cat, that sort of thing. It was so much more. At the first class I quickly realized this was going to be about more than just learning to take a better pet portrait but about the interaction between humans and animals, of all kinds.

Our first outing was to a local homestead farm, Rosasharn Farm. The day was slightly damp and overcast but it didn't matter to any of us or the animals on the farm. The owner of the farm raises Nigerian dwarf diary goats, Great Pyrenees dogs, pigs and a host of various feathered fowl. The place was sprawling, we had access to everything and only had to watch carefully where we stepped or knelt. Despite any messiness, it was a great adventure. And I found it hard not to sneak one of the kids (aka baby goats) into my car! Honestly, how can you resist this face?

Twins @ Rosasharn Farm, Rehoboth, MA

The second outing had us taking pictures of foster dogs from Handsome Dan's Rescue out of Rhode Island. Our photo subjects were pit bull mixes along with one lone kitten and everyone was a real joy to photograph. It was a beautiful sunny day and it was fun to see these energetic, friendly dogs enjoying the sunshine and our company. And the work being done by this organization and the foster volunteers is really amazing.

Hobo Jack

Finally, our last outing was to Roger Williams Zoo and it wasn't one I was looking forward to at all. I'm not a fan of zoos, haven't been for as long as I can remember. I simply feel bad for the animals. Even if they were bred in captivity, their instinct has to be to roam and explore, but no matter how nice the zoo - and Roger Williams is a very nice zoo - they are still in a pen. I used the example lately that I love my house, it's a nice house and I've made it a comfortable place. But if I could only be in my house for the rest of my life and never leave it, I would go slowly mad. Maybe that analogy is too extreme but it's how I feel when I see animals in enclosures. Many in the class had the same feeling and we had discussions on it but in the end, we all seemed to realize that it's a topic with many facets.

Elephant Bathing Time
The outing to the Zoo was interesting and I enjoyed the day despite my feelings, enjoying getting to see Elephants getting bathed, the crazy facial expressions of the giraffes and trying to see the elusive snow leopard. So while I understand zoos have their place, I hope we ultimately evolve to a point as a human species where we realize that this may not be the best solution to species preservation.

The class is over now and I miss it. My fellow classmates were a great group and the final projects we each did were really interesting and diverse. I wish I could provide a link here to each and every one, really they were great. Mine is attached below. I chose to do a close up portrait of my cat, Felix. He was a cooperative subject who was paid in treats and lots of petting.

As the holidays approach, I'm planning a holiday shoot with Felix. So stay tuned… more to come. 


Oh Fall How I love Ya!

Fall is my time. I have friends who live for the Summer, I live for the cool, crisp nights of Fall that are followed by bright sunny days.

I'm especially happy this year to welcome Fall as I have the memory of sweating my butt off while taking a Landscape Photography class Thursday nights in July and August. Every Thursday it felt like it was the hottest, most humid day of the week and there I was in some woodland or beach area trying to move slow and keep the "it's hot" exclamations to a minimum. Because really, saying it doesn't make it any better and there is a point where you just have to resign yourself to the fact that you are in it, be in the moment and you'll take a nice long shower in AC later. Because really, is there anything better than a long, cool shower after spending hours in the heat, swatting at bugs and applying layer after layer of bug spray? Not in my book, no. 

I have to admit, I resisted taking this class for a while now. Not because of the fact it's in the heat of the summer but because I thought I would get bored of landscape photography after a few classes. I learned something though while taking this class. I have more stamina that I expected to deal with heat, humidity and bugs and landscape photography can be very Zen. It forces you to go slower, see things in complete and really take your time to make your best images.

And one of the most surprising things about the class was experiencing places that I've never been to in this area. I've lived in southeastern Massachusetts my whole life and thought I knew all the most interesting spots. But I was so wrong. I visited woodlands I never knew of, areas of the coastline I didn't know existed - it was fun to discover new places in my immediate area. 

So I feel like the theme of my "what did I learn this summer?" essay is this... push yourself to do those things that you least feel like doing, don't let a little discomfort stop you and be in the moment whenever possible.

Visit my website to see my top 4 images from my summer of landscape. 

2013 Summer of Landscape

And if you can, come to the "Earth, Sky & Sea" show on October 5th. Details below.


Bee Calm and Carry On

It's the first day of Fall here in New England. But all I can think of is Summer and the sunflowers.

There is a place in Griswold, Connecticut called Buttonwood Sunflower Farm and for two weeks in July it turns into a magical place with acres and acres of giant sunflowers. I spent a Saturday there in July photographing these giants, taking in their quiet majestic beauty. It's a sight to see and if you live in the area or are passing through during this time, stop and check them out!
Buttonwood Sunflower Farm, 2012
It was early that Saturday when I got there and I was meeting up with several fellow photographers to test our macro photography skills out on these golden flowers. We spread out, finding our own way through the fields, the sun starting to climb and the crowds still a few hours from arriving. Buttonwood started this event several years back and use it as a fund raiser for Make-a-Wish of Connecticut (a truly wonderful organization btw!). The memory that is the strongest of that day was the sound of the insects, bees in particular. It was so quiet it felt like I could hear a thousand bees buzzing, all happy to be there and going from sunflower to sunflower, seemingly drunk on the pollen.

My favorite picture of the day, and it was hard to choose, is this one. I call it "Glutton". And I think you can tell why. This bee was intent on collecting as much pollen as his body could carry. I love the detail in the photo and the feeling it gives you of this small creature intent on his mission to bring his bounty back to the hive.

As I was there among the bees and flowers I remembered an event sponsored by the Attleboro Garden Club, of which I'm a member. Earlier this year the club sponsored a fascinating talk, given by a local Massachusetts beekeeper and owner of Little Beehive Farm, Tony Lulek. His insight into bees, their habits and how they live was fascinating. Did you know that virgin Queen bees lay two thousands eggs a day? That, of course, the Queen is female as is all the worker bees? Fertilized eggs become female worker bees and unfertilized eggs become male drone bees (who, umm, are really just there to well, service the Queen... ahhemm). And did you know that honey bees build the hive in a hexagon shape because it's the strongest shape in nature and holds the most honey? Fascinating!

So as I was there that day, remembering Tony's talk of the bees, being outside around them felt very peaceful. After all, they were just doing their job and it hit me that those bees could have cared less that I was there, they had a mission and by golly they were going to fulfill it. After all, they have a Queen waiting back at the hive they need to keep happy. To quote a popular saying right now, the morning was really all about "Beeing calm and carrying on!"

If you want to add a little sunshine to your Fall, take a peak (a different kind of leaf peeping!) at the full gallery of images.


Mountains, Lakes, Grizzlies... Oh My!

Did you ever have a really amazing vacation, come home super refreshed and for some reason, maybe about a week later have a bit of a let down? Well, that's been me the last two weeks. After seeing the amazing, seriously jaw dropping grandeur of Glacier National Park in Montana and seeing the otherworldly Mt. St. Helens in Washington, things around home, well, seemed a bit blah. Don't get me wrong, I'm an East Coast girl, I love almost everything about this part of the country that I live in. But really, we don't have anything that looks like Glacier around here. There's no active volcano sitting locally ready to blow at any moment (there is still a "blast zone" around Mt. St. Helens ... seriously!).

So it's taken me a bit to get back to what is my normal routine; sleep, work, photography classes - you know, life. And part of the funk is feeling that while I wanted to share my pictures, somehow keeping them to myself felt like the experiences were still just mine. But that was a silly thought and sharing is caring, right?

Here is one of my favorites of all that I took. This is Bowman Lake at the upper west part of the park. I followed the map to this spot, driving a half an hour down a one lane, rutted dirt road to reach it. The whole time I was literally talking out loud to myself; "why did I do this?", "how far have I driven!?", "oh my god here comes a pickup and there's no where to pull off?!?". I was starting to worry about the state of this poor little Nissan Sentra I had rented and wondered how much coverage I have on my own personal insurance if I go off the road into a ditch when I finally made it to this spot. I wasn't the only one there but it was still a peaceful spot, everyone just seemed to be enjoying the beauty and stillness of the area. At one point I spotted a Bald Eagle flying overhead, out over the lake. I sat there for almost an hour, soaking it in, letting the stress of the drive wash away and taking a picture of the lake every few minutes.

Bowman Lake, Glacier National Park, August 2012

Another favorite might be more about what it took to get myself to one of my other favorite places in the park and the worry that around the next corner would be a Grizzly. Seriously, everywhere in the park are these signs...

Scary right? So you'd be a bit leery too if you were trying to get to a spot off of the super twisty road know as Going to the Sun Road while it's still dark (4:30am), having bats fly out of the rocky mountain walls at your headlights (one bounced off the car!) to reach Logan Pass, the midpoint and what feels like the highest spot on the road. I wanted to be there for sunrise and I was but what I realized quickly is that I was pretty much the only one there. I then got a bit wussy and only went so far down the trail because, well, I was by myself and there were more warnings not to hike alone, threat of bears and oh, a new one, mountain lions! I'm happy though that I got to see the view from up there and how the light was coming across the mountains while the moon was still visible.

Logan Pass, Glacier National Park, September 2012

Overall, there is something I realized when I was leaving Glacier. It's a destination that I'll be choosing again and again over the rest of my lifetime. Exploring beyond the Sun road, going deeper down those trails (Grizzlies or not!), taking a ride down the rivers and paddling the lakes. It's nice to know and I think safe to say, that a place that has been there for a thousand years will be there a thousand more.

For more pictures of my time at Glacier, please go to this gallery @ http://www.malundquist.com/Travel/Glacier-National-Park/25713215_gdpNZp 

p.s. I actually DID see a grizzly, from a nice safe distance (300 feet), kind of cool.

Grizzly, Many Glaciers Entrance, Glacier National Park, September 2012


Michelle's Manic Adventure

It has been awhile since my last blog, a year almost. It felt right to kick it back off while on vacation in Montana, right outside Glacier National Park. My goals are simple, see it all, photograph it all. This might be a photographer's Mecca.

I've been thinking of this trip for what feels like forever but its more like four months and the time leading up to it both work and personally was nothing short of chaos and madness. But it hit me recently that while I feel like everything is out of control it's all good. Work is crazy but I have a good job that challenges me and offers me a lot of opportunity. Personal is busy as well but of my own making as I try to continually learn more about photography though it means a lot of my free time is spent taking pictures and working them through an editing process. With all that though, where is the problem in any of that really? 

This vacation overall is a bit of getting lost and found and lost again. Something I think I'm doing everyday but at least the outcome here will be some great pictures (she says hopefully...)

RANDOM PICTURE ALERT: Driving out of Spokane on Wednesday, my colleague and I stopped by our clients Alpaca farm. Here is one of the cria's (babies) I met. So cute!


The last days of New England Hummingbirds

I'll start by saying that Fall is my most favorite season here in New England. Cool sunny days, crisp nights, beautiful foliage... it's the best. But there is one part that makes me sad, the migration of my summer friends and garden visitors, the Ruby Throated Hummingbirds that visit my feeder and flowers. As an ode to these quirky, wonderful little birds who make me so happy whenever I see them, I put together a quick video of the best of my photos from the last few months.

And as Fall leads to Winter, I'll keep this great quote about Hummingbirds (care of Papyrus Card Co) close at hand and wait for their return in the Summer of 2012.

The Hummingbird
Legends say that hummingbirds float free of time, carrying our hopes for love, joy and celebration. Hummingbirds open our eyes to the wonder of the world and inspire us to open our hearts to loved ones and friends. Like a hummingbird, we aspire to open our hearts to loved ones and friends. Like a hummingbird, we aspire to hover and to savor each moment as it passes, embrace all that life has to offer and to celebrate the joy of everyday. The hummingbird's delicate grace reminds us that life is rich, beauty is everywhere, every personal connection has meaning and that laughter is life's sweetest creation.


Photo fun with my iPhone

Over the winter I joined the ranks as an iPhone user and quite honestly have never looked back. Blackberry, who? And one feature in particular I've come to love, love is the camera on the iPhone 4. It's an 8 megapixel camera which is more than enough pixels to capture detailed images. On a side note, one thing I learned early on in my photographic journey is that the megapixel count does not make the photographer, it's up to you to have an eye to see a picture and take it. You can have the best equipment but it won't matter if you can't frame the picture right.

So in using my iPhone camera it's fun to see all the things you can do with a picture once it's taken with the help of a few cool photo apps that anyone can download and use. Check these out if you want to take your iPhone camera pics to the next level:

  • Noir - Turns your iPhone pics into cool looking film noir images. Super easy to use. Check out my cat Felix, who looks even more super cool with a noir effect added.

Felix at Rest | 2011

Filterstorm - Lets you fix your iPhone pics in multiple ways; hue/saturation, white balance, crop etc. Here is a before and after of the same picture to show you what it can do.

Beach @ La Push, WA (before) | 2011
Beach @ La Push, WA (after) | 2011

  • PictureShow - Fun app that lets you set borders around your images, turn them into black and white, apply fun filters or add text to the image.

Boston Holocaust Memorial | 2011

Each of these are under $5 a piece to download and can give your images a fun POP! Let me know if you use these how you like them or share your own apps (and images!) from your favorites.

Happy picture taking!