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Introduction

October 17th, 2014

Introduction




INTRODUCTION

Do you want to become a professional nature photographer? I do!
Do you want to have your images published in top rated nature and wildlife magazines? So do I! I’ll be the first one to tell you, I am not a professional photographer but, just like you, it is my wish. My dream. My plan.
I’m starting this blog to help amateur photographers just like myself. If you try searching for “how to become a nature photographer” you will get very little.

• Step 1. Buy a camera.
• Step 2. Take pictures
• Step 3. Get published.

Seriously?! This is the advice from a “how to” article I found. If it were only that easy, all of us would be famous photographers.
The purpose of my blog is to chronicle my success and failures. My screw ups, my throw this freaking camera in the water moments, and the times when I can’t believe I finally got that shot. I want this to be an interactive blog. I want to hear your advice. Your successes. Your blunders. And maybe, just maybe, as we take this journey together, we will all become amazing photographers.
Now. Before I get too far ahead of myself, let me start over at the beginning.


ME


My name is David Cutts and I was born and raised in the great state of Texas. As a child, I spent many hours hunting and fishing with my father. Over the years I grew to have a deep appreciation for the outdoors and a love for nature and wildlife. As an adult, I’ve had the privilege and honor of being able to teach my kids some of the same things my father taught me. As I’ve grown older and wiser (mostly older!), I’ve realized that what I enjoyed the most about hunting was the hunt and not the kill. That’s when I
picked up my camera and fell in love with photography.

In 2009, while my wife and I were on our honeymoon in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, we were blessed to see one of the most beautiful and exhilarating sights. Standing in the middle of a valley, amidst a light snow flurry, was a magnificent bull elk. We pulled the car over to the side of the road and I grabbed my Canon K2, 35mm camera. I was snapping pictures as fast as I could. The elk was a mere forty to fifty yards away. I think I took two rolls of film in about 5 minutes. I’m not kidding! We stood in awe at the sheer beauty of the moment. We watched the elk for about 30 minutes. The light finally became too low and the snow was falling harder. We packed up the car and headed back to our cabin. The next morning we dropped the film at a drug store to be developed. An hour later we picked up the developed pictures. I could hardly wait to see how they came out. Imagine my disappointment to learn that out of 48 pictures, not a single picture came out. NOT ONE! To this day, I still get a sick feeling when I look at those pictures. As you can see, the pictures were just awful.

Now, in my defense, you have to remember, it was late in the evening and there was snow mixed with frozen rain. As bad as the pictures were, this is where everything changed. Sitting in our rented Impala, looking at those horrible forty-eight pictures of one of the most awe inspiring moments of my life, it was then that I decided I would learn how to become a photographer.


Now that we’ve gotten the intros out of the way, I hope you will continue to check in with me from time to time. Don’t forget, this is interactive. I want to hear from you as well.
Please subscribe (it’s free!) to my website at http://david-cutts.artistwebsites.com/ for future updates. Just click on “subscribe” and follow the instructions.

Until next time, keep the sun to your back and your lens cap off.


David

My Camera

October 17th, 2014

My Camera





Before I purchased my camera, I did hours of research on which camera was best for my needs as an amateur nature and wildlife photographer. I narrowed it down to two cameras. I found a retailer that had both cameras and looked at each camera carefully. If you are going to make a career in nature and wildlife photography, you have to like and be comfortable with ALL of your equipment. It doesn’t matter if it’s Canon, Nikon, Sony or Kodak. If you’re comfortable with the equipment, it does all the things you need it to do, and it produces good quality images… then that’s the one for you.
Let me tell you about what I currently use and some of the equipment needed, for us to become the successful nature and wildlife photographers we want to be.

My Camera


With the modern age of digital photography, I highly recommend a DSLR (Digital single-lens reflex) camera. But, if you’re just getting started and your budget is tight, look into getting a good quality point and shot camera. There are several on the market that are more then capable of producing fantastic images. Tracy uses a Sony Cyber-Shot (DSC-WX70). It has 16.2 mega pixels and 5x optical zoom. This camera does not have the best zoom, but it takes great quality images and won’t cost you an arm and a leg. It is more then capable of taking great nature and wildlife photographs. For versatility though, a good DSLR can not be beat. A DSLR gives you the ability to change lenses whenever the need arises. Lenses range from macro to super telephoto lenses.
I personally have been shooting with a Canon XSi for two years now and I am still discovering all of its bells and whistles. It is light weight and easy to handle. I have taken approximately 13,530 images with the Canon XSi and it has yet to disappoint me. I absolutely love my camera and I am very happy with my decision. I would highly recommend this camera to anyone looking for a great intermediate DSLR Camera.
Whichever brand of camera you choose, be sure it’s a camera you can learn to use efficiently. In other words, do not go out and buy a top of the line professional DSLR camera that you have no idea how to operate.



Camera Reviews



Canon XSi http://www.digitalcamerareview.com/default.asp?newsID=3433&review=canon+rebel+xsi+450d

Sony Cyber-Shot (DSC-WX70
http://www.digitalcamerainfo.com/content/Sony-Cyber-shot-DSC-WX70-First-Impressions-Review.htm

I’ve said it before and I will say it many more times… I am not a professional. These are just my opinions. I apologize for not being able to give you more insight on all the great cameras on the market today. As of today, Canon and Nikon still have not contacted me to try out their new equipment. I’ll keep my fingers crossed! Bottom line? You need to make your choice based on your own likes and dislikes. Not mine or any other person with an opinion. Remember, if you don’t like your camera, it’s hard to stay motivated to spend hours in the field taking pictures!

In my next post I will continue to talk about equipment such as lenses, tripods, camera bags and other odds and ends.

I would really like to hear from you and know what your thoughts are on the blog so far. Not only am I not a professional nature and wildlife photographer, but I am a long way from a professional writer too.

Until next time, keep the sun to your back and your lens cap off.


David


Please follow me at:

Google Plus
https://plus.google.com/113398497360105829756/posts/p/pub

Twitter
https://twitter.com/CuttsNaturePics

The Must Haves

October 17th, 2014

The Must Haves

THE “MUST HAVES”


In the future I will be posting blogs about the type of equipment I use and why it was the best choice for me. Before you go spending tons of money on the latest camera and the biggest lens, there is one thing you must have if you want to become a successful photographer…PASSION. Webster’s defines passion as a strong liking or desire for or devotion to some activity, object, or concept. Photography is what I think about when I wake and, many times, the last thing I think about before I fall asleep. Just like in any good thing in your life, you must have passion. Without it, you might as well be sitting on the side lines, watching your life instead of living it. Your passion for photography should drive you to want more. It should drive you to try to get the best images possible. Without it, you will have a very hard time becoming a professional nature photographer.

Another “must have” is knowledge. We all lead hectic lives. Who has time to go to school? Who can afford school?? Luckily, we have one of the greatest tools at our fingertips. The internet. Sometimes progress is a good thing! One of the first things I did when Tracy and I returned from Tennessee was get on the internet and learn as much as I could about photography. I spent hours upon hours reading every article I could find on Nature and Wildlife Photography. I can attribute nearly all my education (so far!) to the internet, magazines or field manuals. Knowledge is power. Knowledge of photography is what will elevate you to the next level. Knowledge is what makes you strong, in any endeavor. Tracy grew up in a library and she is always saying you can learn just about anything from a book. Remember, knowledge is power. Never stop seeking knowledge.

The final “must have” to become a Nature Photographer is a good support group. I know for a fact that I would not have gotten this far without the support of my family and friends. My wife, Tracy, has always encouraged me to move forward with this career. Even when she’s sick and tired of listening to me talk (she calls it yammering) about Nature Photography, she is always encouraging. I have amazing friends too. I have lost count of all the pictures I’ve emailed, asking for opinions, but it’s been a lot. You will be surprised how a little encouragement and support will lift your spirits and keep the passion burning.
Another great support system is an online forum or photography group. I’ve had the privilege to meet so many talented photographers, from California to Crete. When I first started posting pictures, I received great suggestions and, some much needed constructive criticism. I have to admit, sometimes the critiques stung. Just remember, it’s all for the best and try not to take it too personally. There are critics that know what they are talking about, and then there are just critics. You got to take the good with the bad! My favorite forum is at http://www.all-things-photography.com/. It’s a fantastic website with great Photographers.

I can not stress enough that in Nature photography, or any career you choose, if you have passion, you continue your education, and you have a strong support group, you stand a good chance for success. Please keep in mind that your success can only be measured by you. Maybe taking beautiful pictures for the sole enjoyment of you and your family is how you measure success. Just having that moment of bliss as the sun comes up when you find your perfect shot is all you need to feel successful. I feel a bit of success every time my images are sharp.

I’ve said it before, and I will say it again. This is my experience. I am not a famous, wealthy photographer (wouldn’t be so bad though!). I am just a guy who loves to take pictures and wants to share what he’s learned so far.


Don’t forget, this is interactive. I want to hear from you as well.
Please subscribe (it’s free!) to my website at http://david-cutts.artistwebsites.com/ for future updates. Just click on “subscribe” and follow the instructions. You can also follow me on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/CuttsNaturePhotography.

Remember; keep the sun to your back and your lens cap off.


David

My Lenses

October 17th, 2014

My Lenses




Hi Again! In this blog entry, I will discuss some of the other photography equipment I currently use. I haven’t used a lot of different equipment. Not nearly as many as I would like. I do a lot of research on each new piece of equipment that interests me. The internet is a great tool for research and product reviews.


My Lenses



Since I shoot with a Canon XSi, all the lenses I currently use are made by Canon. Here is the list of lenses I have in my bag.

Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM Super Telephoto Lens. This lens is amazing. This Lens allows me to get some great close-ups. It produces clear, sharp images, especially when used with a tripod. However, it is also light enough to get great hand held photos.
http://reviews.usa.canon.com/3798/7314/ef-400mm-f-5-6l-usm-reviews/reviews.htm

Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III. I really enjoy this lens a lot. It’s versatile and easy to use. Before I bought the 400mm this was my “go to” lens. It has fast auto focus and produces super sharp images. I’ve lost count on how many trees I have banged this lens against, but it is still going strong. I have to give this lens an A+ for durability.
http://reviews.usa.canon.com/3798/7445/ef-75-300mm-f-4-5-6-iii-reviews/reviews.htm

EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS. This is the kit lens that came with my Canon XSi. I have to admit this is probably my least favorite lens. However, I do use it quit a bit. I like the zoom that still gives you the wide angle for your landscape images. Tracy continually tells me I need to take more landscape pictures, so there seems to be a good chance I’ll be using this lens a lot more.
http://www.usa.canon.com/cusa/consumer/products/cameras/ef_lens_lineup/ef_s_18_55mm_f_3_5_5_6_is_ii#Reviews

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II. This is my newest lens. I haven’t had the chance to use it as much as I would like, but I have high hopes. It has amazing image quality for a very reasonable price. It almost doesn’t get any better than that. If I had one complaint about this lens, it would be that its light weight design tends to give it a slightly “cheap” feel. However, after processing a few pictures from this lens all doubt goes away. The Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II is a fantastic lens.
http://www.usa.canon.com/cusa/support/professional/lenses/ef_lenses/ef_50mm_f_1_8_ii#Reviews


Have questions? Feel free to email me or contact me on Facebook. I would really like to hear your thoughts and opinions on my blog.

Until next time, keep the sun to your back and your lens cap off.


David


Please follow me at:

Google Plus
https://plus.google.com/113398497360105829756/posts/p/pub

Twitter
https://twitter.com/CuttsNaturePics

Keywords

October 17th, 2014

Keywords




Keywords


Now that we have taken and perfectly composed a few beautiful images, there is one important step we must do before we throw them online for the world to see.

It’s our goal to sell our images to the general public. But that raises a question, “How does the public find us and our images”? The answer to that is “keywords”. Keywording is a tool used to assign or “tag” words that describe your image. Keywords allow buyers to search for and find your images online. Just as importantly, this builds your exposure on the web. Most photo sharing sites and search engines use keyword recognition to help people find your images.

I keyword all my images during post-processing. Keywords are stored in the Metadata of your image. To put it simply, Metadata is the information about an image that isn’t in the picture itself. It includes time and date stamp and camera settings such as aperture and exposure. Metadata is embedded in the image as an .exif (exchangeable image file format). To access the metadata using Photoshop CS5, open your image as usual, go to file, and then click on “file info”, this will open up a dialog box. Click on the description tab at the top. Halfway down you will see a box labeled “keywords”

There are three types of keywords we should be concerned with.

Descriptive – Words that describe what is actually happening in
the photo.

Location - Describes that exact location that the photo was taken.

Conceptual – Words that describe the mood, ideas or emotions
in our image.



Here is an example of some keywords I used on one of my images.



Title: Bluejay Portrait
Location Keywords: Texas, backyard, garden, birdfeeder

Conceptual Keywords: Happy, free, wild

Descriptive Keywords: David Cutts, Cutts Nature Photography, “Bluejay Portrait”, bird, blue, portrait, jay, bluejay, beak, close-up, avian, profile, wildlife, perched, nature, feather, plumage, black, grey, isolated, white, birding, songbird, watchful, perch, observant, vigilant, eye, stripes, feathers, berries

Notice that I have added my name, my company name and the title of the image in the descriptive keyword section. Always add these items when keywording. This will associate the image to your name and company. Adding the title of the image will allow people to search for your images by title.

Unfortunately, keywording an image can be a time consuming process. I used to spend hours trying to think of words to describe my images. A few months ago a friend of mine was nice enough to share a keywording website with me that has greatly reduced the amount of stress involved in keywording my images. Because it is the Holiday Season and it’s a time for giving, I will share this site with you.

http://www.mykeyworder.com

This site is by far the easiest way to keyword your images. To use it, all you have to do is type in a single word or phrase that describes your image and click on “Find Keywords”, and BAM!! It gives you a list of words that describe your image. The only work you have to do is go through the list and uncheck the words that do not describe your image and then click on the “Export Selected Keywords” button. The site will then generate a list. All you have to do is cut and paste the list of keywords into your image’s metadata. Done!

Remember, keywording is an essential part of getting your images seen on the web. If it is done correctly, it will greatly improve your odds.

I would really like to hear from you and know what your thoughts are on the blog.

Until next time, keep the sun to your back and your lens cap off.


David



Please follow me at:

Google Plus
https://plus.google.com/113398497360105829756/posts/p/pub

Twitter
https://twitter.com/CuttsNaturePics