Telling The Whole Story

This is about telling the whole story in photos. Some of them will move on to stock and some are just great for Flickr, Facebook and educational purposes.

Let me backtrack a little though.

I’m on a little bit of a stock hiatus. Okay just the photo part. This is because my long lens crapped out on a coastal shoot and I still managed to shoot a couple thousand images and video clips so my friend pointed out that I should send in my lens and force myself to actually get the images and videos edited for stock while I was “grounded”.

That lasted for 10 days. Then I decided to make do with my really bad 75-300 unstabilized kit lens. UHHHHGGGGG……

So now I am telling the whole story of what happens after a big forest burn. (In regards to woodpeckers).

I took a day off from sitting in the gloom and editing photos to get outside with my Audubon group and go birding. I usually get a bunch of great textures while I’m out and this was no exception. Burn areas make some cool ground patterns.


We went out to the burn areas to look for woodpeckers. After a burn the woodpeckers come in for years and pull the bark off the wood and dig out the bugs. In the first year it’s pretty amazing.

While this looks bleak and barren with no life, it’s fooling you. In the 3 hours we were there, we counted over 100 woodpeckers. In some areas the drumming sounded like rain falling.


The littlest woodpeckers, Hairy, Downey and White-headed woodpeckers, have smaller beaks and so they go for the thinner bark on branches first. You can see on this tree that they have pretty much left the trunk alone but stripped the branches.

I have several trees with woodpecker activity in my stock portfolios and they sell sometimes.


Since I do sell a fair amount of bird images, it was great to catch this little male Hairy woodpecker trying his best to impress the little female who was hanging out in the same tree.


Since I was using my back-up long lens AKA “The worst lens Canon Ever made.”, I had to drop most of the color out and only color pop his red spot, because the chromatic aberration was serious enough that camera raw and PS5 could not touch it. Black and white can sometimes fly okay with stock agencies, but chromatic aberration is HUGE on the list of things that will get your image rejected.

Here is the female and I left her totally black and white since she’s all black and white in the first place. She does look pretty impressed with him now doesn’t she?


So, here we go, telling the whole story of devastation, renewal and love in the forest in four photos ( the other one is just showing you some nice textures you can grab in burn areas.)

Be on the lookout for both story lines and textures. As soon as my nice lens comes back from the shop, I’m going back to so some videos there!


Pre-visualizing Your Shot

One of the keys to success in stock photography is pre-visualizing your shot.

What exactly does this mean? You likely do it more than you think.

Pre-visualizing your shot is when you have a picture in your mind and you do what it takes to make it happen. You think about where the light has to be, how the object has to be positioned and all the other things that make the shot you have in your mind’s eye. Mostly when you pre-visualize your shot you have some control over it.

I had this one stuck in my head. I wanted it. I cannot, however, control the weather.


The Grass Valley church in snow.

I will say that often the shot you are pre-visualizing does not end up being your favorite one when the shoot is over, because we are creative souls and once we get to playing around one idea leads to another and so on.

Now I will give you a little story about faith and pre-visualizing your shot 🙂

Several years ago, I like many people, fell in love with the Grass Valley church. This is the most photographed church in Oregon and you can read more about it here.

Photograph Oregon Abandonded churches.

Well, I’ve had this idea in my head, really more of an obsession. I wanted a shot of it in snow, actually in hoarfrost. The problem is, it rarely snows there and hoarfrost requires an inversion, which is even more rare there. Also, it’s 130 miles away from my house and there are no real business there to call and ask if it’s snowing. There is another church and they have been kind and patient with me when I call.

Every time there is a big storm in the state…..I call.

“You got snow?”

“Nope, we got rain.”

(sigh) “Ok, thanks.”

I do this a two to three times a month in the winter. I’m sure they hang up and say “There’s that crazy lady again looking for snow here.”

When it comes to pre-visualizing your shot, this one had me…….BAD.

Saturday December 29th, was my birthday. I started the morning with a sunrise shoot from a helicopter (Which is another post). It was pretty cool and on my way home, I had an idea. Since it was my birthday, God maybe, if I ask nicely, could give me an inversion and snow in Grass Valley, so, I asked.

I got home and realized there was no place in Grass Valley I could call on Saturday and ask about  snow. I decided on the next town, Moro. I called many places only to get disconnected numbers.

Then I called the country market.

“You got snow?”


“You got snow there? I want to come from Bend and take pictures, but I need snow.”

“Lady….do we have SNOW? Here? Yeah WE GOT SNOW.”

(She didn’t sound very thrilled about it.)

“Whooo HooO!”


I called my photo buddy and said “Hey there’s snow in Moro and maybe Grass Valley! You should drop everything and go with me.”

She said. “Let’s DO IT! (She’s pretty awesome like that.)

So we did.

It was very snowy and bright and sunny in the desert…..ImageShaniko was lovely.


We got about a mile out of Grass Valley…when we drove in to the inversion. The trees were lacy and stark white and everything was shrouded in freezing fog.

Including….the church.


Whooo Hoooo!

I did get to pay back a little. When I was thigh deep in snow at the doorway of the church, I heard a sound inside. When I first looked I thought I saw a fat gray rat, but it was a pair of quail foraging in the leaves for food.

I carry a bag of birdseed in my camera bag, what could I do but give it all to them?


Happy Birthday to me!

Make The Best Of A Bad Day

Always cary your camera. It gives you a chance to make the best of a bad day! (Thereby turning it into a not so bad day.)

Last year a friend talked me in to doing a holiday show at a senior home. Pretty much all we did was talk to each other and buy each other’s stuff because all the seniors were sleeping and no one else came.

In this case I had blown glass and not photography so I left my husband to watch stuff and snooze (It was that bad) and I took off around the grounds with my camera to shoot stock. I can always make the best of a bad day as long as I have my camera.

I shot patterns on quilts, the hands of the man playing the piano, flowers, woodgrains from the guy who made exquisite cutting boards and on, and on and on.

This was a catered affair and I wouldn’t let anyone touch the food until I photographed it. (Be firm, be in control I say….It helps that we have seven adult children and I can wave a knife.)

Most of the images from that day I sold to a private client that I have, but this one I uploaded to Dreamstime.

Stock Image Fruit Plate

Stock photograph of fruit plate

This next image I took while on one of those trips to Home Depot when your husband decides must happen while you were just supposed to come along to “run a few errands” and you have a TON of work to do at home…….and now you need to make the best of a bad day….because you aren’t going to get anything else done.

It sold today as well.

Home Depot Holiday Bokeh

Home Depot Holiday Bokeh

The Olive Garden knows exactly where I like to sit to get the best light because when it’s not Home Depot, it’s The Olive Garden that usually derails my day.

In this case, it was another place but this salad sells on a regular basis.

Chicken Salad Stock Image

Chicken Salad Stock Image

One of the other events that used to be okay but not my favorite things, but my husband LOVED….was the Tour Of Homes. Then I discovered stock photography. This last year I went without my husband because he had to work. The Tour of Homes is a license to photograph bedding, furniture, textures, homes, table settings etc, etc, etc. I LOVE it and it makes me plenty of money. Faucets seem to be a decent seller.

Tour of Homes Kitchen Sink

Tour of Homes Kitchen Sink

All in all, as I said in the beginning, it’s easy to make the best of a bad day if you have your camera and have a contributor account with places like Shutterstock, Dreamstime and Fotolia!

Organization and Back Up

Two of the most important things in microstock photography are organization and back up of your images and keywording documents.

As Robert Agli wrote in our last Cascade Camera Club newsletter “There are only two kinds of computer users, those that have had a hard drive fail and those that will have a hard drive fail.”

Mine failed last week. (You may or may not have noticed the gap in posts.) Let me say, it was the second failure in a few months because I replaced the first failed one with a spare that was as old and had been beaten up almost as much, so I knew it was a stop-gap and was pretty tight about backing up. The advantage I suppose, was that I learned all the stuff that was little surprises the first time, so when I had this second failure I remember things like, where to find the patch to make the camera raw reader read my T3i files.

Back to the main point of organization and back up. (I’m still dealing with the residual trauma here of starting over.)

I have my stuff backed up on a big fat external hard drive. I had, of course, some most important files on my desk top, not backed up, but was able to recover them and even that taught me a lot. Had I lost them, it would have been a lot of work thrown away, or, I would have had to pay a boatload to get it back.


For you MAC users who don’t know this, if your MAC fails and you have another MAC and a firewire, you can boot up the damaged unit holding down COMMAND and the letter T and it turns your damaged unit in to a giant external hard drive and you can try and pluck files off. To the other computer (or in this case I also had an external hard drive jacked into the second computer.) The third one is to keep me amused on Facebook while I did the other stuff.

Here’s my advice on organization and back up:

Back Up

  • Get an external hard drive that is dedicated to timely back up. By timely, I mean, something like Time Machine (MAC) that schedules a daily, weekly, whatever back up. I’m sure there are Windows apps for organization and back up as well.
  • Have an offsite storage source. If your house is burning down or burglarized then you will be happy you didn’t have all your stuff there. Invest in something like Carbonite or iCloud as an offsite back up source for organization and back up. The downside to this is slow upload/download times should you need recovery.
  • Some people’s alternative to this is to store a separate external hard drive somewhere else, a safe deposit box or Mom’s house. The down side to that is lack of timely back up.
  • Get another external hard drive and back up the timely one. External hard drives fail too. Nothing lasts forever.
  • If you don’t use a keywording program or keyword metadata, back up your keywording documents as well.


    • However you do it, keep your images organized. Microstock is a volume business and it can get quickly out of hand. When you first start you might be pulling old images from places and you want a record of what was accepted and rejected so you don’t annoy the reviewers by resubmitting images that were rejected.
    • I use Bridge. I tag the images and I go back in and tag which agencies they are on as they are accepted. I also store the images in folders by year and month. That way I can coordinate them with the agency’s acceptance date in my portfolio.
    • When I’m keywording I use word. (I know, I should use a program but I like it that way). I have a monthly list. I use black for the first agency, blue for the second and green for the third. That way if I don’t get everything done in one sitting know which images got keyworded for which agency. If I see the text string in blue I know that Dreamstime and Shutterstock got keyworded but I need to finish Fotolia.

Even a small amount of time spent on organization and back up of your microstock images will save you a lot of hassle in the long run. We are so blessed to have this industry to help us make extra money but realizing the limitations and weaknesses of it are part of the package!


Making The Cut

This gallery contains 6 photos.

Finally today, I once again get to celebrate making the cut for the Dreamstime monthly photo contest. I’ve entered plenty of times but only had a photo accepted one other time. The benefits to making the cut are that your photo immediately moves to Dreamstime level 5, which means it immediately sells for more money […]

How To Make A Burning Ice Cube

Want to learn how to make a burning ice cube? Here you go!

Late last night my friend pointed the virtual finger at me when she tagged me in a photo of a flaming ice cube and said…….nothing really, just my name, but I knew she was throwing down the gauntlet. I got up off the couch and in my jammies I said, I can do THAT…and it took me a half hour or so.

My first wick was too thin, then the second one soaked up all the water. I soaked the third one in Permafrost that should have burned because that stuff’s 100 Proof but NO.

The successful one I soaked in olive oil.

Now I’ll tell you how to make a burning ice cube.

Start with an ice cube. If you want one that is completely clear then you have to make special ice. Here’s how.

  • Use distilled or filtered water.
  • Boil it.
  • Let it cool.
  • Use silicone ice cube trays if possible.
  • Freeze it.

Here’s what you’ll need to make a burning ice cube.

  • Ice cube
  • Ice pick or something metal thicker than your wick.
  • A wick (I used cotton ¼” closeline.)
  • Olive oil or candle oil.
  • Lighter

With the lighter heat up the ice pick or whatever you’re using. Make a hole in the ice cube in the middle. This might take several times to get one deep enough.

Pour the water out of the hole. Stick the wicking in and measure.

Cut off the wick so that it is about ¼ above the top of the cube.

Put the ice cube back in the freezer (Without the wick) while you get the rest of the shot ready.

Soak the wick in a little bowl of olive oil.

Go set up your shot. Get your camera on the tripod etc.

Go back and get your ice cube. Put the wick in it. Set it up where you want it….Light it up.

How to shoot a burning ice cube

For this shot I used my 18-55 kit lens on a black plate in a dark room with a black backdrop.


ISO 400

1/6 sec

No flash


I had a tiny little white laser keychain light that I shined for a brief instant on the cube.

Now you know how to make a burning ice cube! I would say “Don’t try this at home.” But, that’s where I did it and you know you want to try it 🙂

Next I’m going to get some ethanol from Home Depot and coat the ice cube then refreeze it and try to light the whole thing.

I’d stay out of my ice trays if I were you.

I have a new page up on on the basics of shooting microstock and how to get started.

Happy Trails,


Getting Started

Golden Candle Bokeh

This is my first post on a blog sharing with you my love of stock image photography and the process of getting started in stock photography.

Tips & tricks and the daily job (and yes, it is a job) of stock photography.

To give you the brief run down. A few years ago my job ended abruptly when the boss hijacked the payroll and thought we were all going to continue to work for free.

At almost 50 (now past that), it was next to impossible to find a decent (or any) job. I had always been able to fall back on being a glassblower but with the economy in the toilet, no one was buying trinkets. At least not enough people to pay our bills. If I had to do something else, it should be something I love. I chose stock photography. I mean who doesn’t like photographing cookies? (and then eating them, of course.)

Getting started in stock photography was a no brainer. My Dad worked in the Sears camera department when I was born. As a kid he taught me all the aspects of film photography and we developed images in the bathroom.

A few years back my husband had bought me a digital Rebel, for which I had longed , but was totally ungrateful for when he surprised me at Christmas with it. My job had me working 100 hours a week and flying all over the world. Now, you would think that would go well with a nice camera, but I was too rolled up in the craziness (that’s a book, not a blog) to see that part. So, the poor Canon Xsi sat in a box for a couple of years unless I randomly pulled it out and used it as a large Point & Shoot. So really, I had the equipment I needed for getting started in stock photography. (Hahahhah…there’s never ENOUGH equipment.)

Armed with a decent camera and no real idea of how to use it, actually, I thought it was broken because the back screen only displayed an array of data. I did the only thing I could…I enrolled in a “Getting to know your DSLR class” at the local college. I’ve since used that camera up (yes, you can use up a digital camera) and upgraded to this one (and if you want to know why it has a vintage FD lens on it click on the image.) I shoot close to 1000 images a week with it.

Canon Rebel T3i with 50mm FD lens

When the instructor went around and asked what people’s goals were for the class they said stuff like “better vacation pictures” and  “more fun with the grandkids”. When he got to me I said “I want to be a stock photographer.” His eyebrows shot up. When he was finished he pointed at everyone else and said. “I can help you.” He pointed at me and said “You’re on your own! Those people (he meant the image reviewers for stock agencies) are pixel peepers!”

We’re now good friends together in the local camera club and I directly credit (or blame depending on the day) him for my acceptance into several stock agencies.

Now I do have a decent portfolio with daily sales in several agencies, the two biggest (and by that I mean most profitable) being Shutterstock and Dreamstime. I also am the hostess for Photograph Oregon, an information site on where to go in Oregon for great photography experiences.

Stock photography is a lot of fun (until you get to the keywording) and it allows me travel and still pay for stuff like gas and more camera equipment.

As you follow me in my journey I hope you learn something and watch me grow into the living wage realm.

It is kind of fitting that I’m starting this blog today on the anniversary of one of the photos that got me accepted and helped me in getting started in stock photography.

Christmas donkey

Christmas donkey

Thanks for getting started with me.

The Green Smoothie Revolution

green smoothie

Since I plan on making this a daily (as possible) blog about my life as a stock photographer let’s start with today.

Stock photographers kind of develop an “everything’s fair game” mentality. (Later I’ll do a post on how to not alienate your family.) Breakfast is always a good fodder for the lens.  Especially a pretty green smoothie from the green smoothie revolution

While pretty omelets and bowls of oatmeal garnished with brown sugar and raisins are super nice to sell, one of the downsides of stock photography tends to be that we eat what we shoot and I’ve manage to gain back 13 of the 65 pounds I lost. At 5’2” I can’t afford to slip back up to that hefty 289 pounds I topped out at.

Now don’t get me wrong. All that weight was an accumulation from having five kids and raising seven kids, but the life of a stock photographer is a lot of photographing food, eating it, and then sitting on the couch editing, uploading, describing and keywording photographs.

Also, my dog, Bo, is getting chunky too. He’s a young guy so why make his life shorter? I’ve heard said, If your dog is fat you’re not getting enough exercise.

Time to change it up. My new stunningly beautiful, healthy daughter-in-law, suggested green smoothies. Well really, who doesn’t take advice from someone who looks like this? (Keeping in mind I am not a wedding photographer, their’s,  Tim Hardy was great.)

Ken and Crystal Sanders

I did a little research and this green smoothie revolution seemed workable. I’m a low level diabetic so I have to check out things a little closer.

I started Thursday morning, yes, Thanksgiving. Why? Well, we were going to be cooking all day so why clutter up the kitchen with my normal 2 eggs, sausage and toast deal. Also, I really did plan on overeating for dinner so I felt a lot better about breakfast being a blended spinach mess. I’m Episcopal, which is like Catholic lite…so a little penance is mentally sound.

I posted a picture of it on Facebook and one of my cousin said “Yeah our toilet overflowed too.” Humph….I really suppose I needed to make it look a little more appetizing so today I moved it to the studio, which is the shot at the top of this post.

Now, you don’t need a fancy studio to shoot stock. I have a small one, this one from Cowboy Studios , but you can use your kitchen counter.

However, if you look at this one, in the base of the glass you will see my husband in a red shirt upside down. You want to avoid this. I’ll have him hold a piece of paper in a strategic place to fix that but right now I really am getting hungry so I’m going to drink that smoothie.

Green Smoothie stock image lesson

Cheers. Here’s to the green smoothie revolution and photographing it for stock.

…as for exercise, Bo and I are marching in the Sister’s Christmas Parade today where I took the picture at the bottom of my first post.