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Get Out There

October 14th, 2017

Get Out There

Get Out There

Growing up, I spent a lot of time outdoors. Hunting, fishing and camping with my family was a common pastime. So when I decided to take up Nature and Wildlife Photography, I thought it would be easy to find subjects to photograph. After all, birds and squirrels are everywhere. It would be easy to sell my photographs. Well…. wrong again! My perception of the situation was far from the truth. After a couple of weeks of chasing birds and squirrels around parks, I was amazed that I didn’t have one decent image to show for my hard work. That’s when a little light bulb popped on. The only difference between Wildlife Photography and hunting is the overall outcome. If I wanted to get good quality images I was going to have to “hunt” my subject. There was one major problem, where do I go to accomplish this? I live less than thirty minutes from downtown Dallas. I do not have the luxury of having deer and bald eagles in my backyard. In this blog entry I will tell you the places I like to go to take pictures.
As a Nature and Wildlife photographer, you are not bound to any specific area or season. You have many more options for the choosing.

Your own Backyard

I’ll start out by telling you about my favorite place. It is a place that is peaceful, quit and has very little distractions. It’s a little place I like to call my backyard. I have two bird feeders. One has food for the songbirds and the other has black oil sunflower seeds. In the spring I hang three or four hummingbird feeders. I think we tend to forget that most of us have great subject matter in our own backyard. There are several advantages to setting up your backyard into your own personal bird sanctuary. For me, it is convenient. If I have thirty minutes to spare, I will grab my camera and go shoot some pictures. We especially enjoy sitting on the porch on the weekend to have our morning coffee and watching the birds. Another advantage is that it is a great place to practice new techniques. When I first got my Canon XSi, I would spend hours taking pictures in the backyard. There is no better place to learn.

City Parks and Lakes

City parks and lakes are a great place to get wildlife pictures. Squirrels and birds are abundant and usually so accustomed to people that you can catch great close-ups. Some city parks have nature trails and ponds. On the nature trails you will find a wider variety of wildlife. If you’re lucky the pond or lake will have ducks and wading birds, like Great Blue Herons or Great White Egrets. Take bread with you. The best way to get a close-up of ducks is to start feeding them. Beware though, you might have more subjects then you can handle and some of those ducks are more aggressive that you realize!
State Parks
State parks are great places to go to capture both wildlife and landscape images. Use the internet to research the State Parks in your area. I think you will find that they have much to offer. Most State Parks have a website with a wide variety of information. You can check the website for an animal species list and which season they are most prevalent. You can learn the best time to catch spring wildflowers in bloom. If the website has a map, be sure you print a copy to take with you so you can hit the ground running. It’s always a good idea to remember to take snacks and bottled water. You don’t want to miss a great opportunity because you are thirsty or starving!

National Wildlife Refuges

If you live close to a NWR (National Wildlife Refuge) you are among the privileged. They are called refuges for a reason. They were formed to protect something. Something wonderful. I have never been disappointed when we visit a NWR. The closest one to me is a refuge for thousands of snow geese and ducks migrating south for the winter. The National Wildlife Refuge System has a fantastic website. You can easily find refuges to visit in your home state. Whenever we travel, we always look to see which NWR is near our destination. Never miss the opportunity to visit one. One of the many wonderful things about a NWR, the wildlife is used to seeing cars and people. Take advantage of this! Your car can become a fantastic photography blind.
http://www.fws.gov/refuges

As Nature and Wildlife Photographers one of our goals is to capture the beauty of the wildlife and landscapes that surrounds us. Try to plan your visits for early morning and in the evenings. The Wildlife is much more active at these times and there is always the opportunity for a stunning sunrise or sunset picture. Whenever you are out, take extra care not to disturb the wildlife or scenery. Obey the rules set forth by the parks and refuges. And for goodness sakes, don’t litter. It’s tacky!
One of the best pieces of advice I can give when it comes to taking photographs is to SLOW DOWN. There is no rush. Enjoy your surroundings. Take your time, relax, sit down and look around you. Listen to the birds singing. Enjoy the fresh air. You will be amazed what you will see and hear if you just take the time to slow down and pay attention. When possible, take the family. Never miss an opportunity to teach your kids about the incredible wildlife around us. Remember, it is a privilege to be able to view wildlife in their natural surroundings. Respect it and enjoy it.

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

David

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! Ill 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.
Im 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 cant 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, Ive had the privilege and honor of being able to teach my kids some of the same things my father taught me. As Ive grown older and wiser (mostly older!), Ive realized that what I enjoyed the most about hunting was the hunt and not the kill. Thats 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. Im 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 weve gotten the intros out of the way, I hope you will continue to check in with me from time to time. Dont forget, this is interactive. I want to hear from you as well.
Please subscribe (its 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

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 photographerPASSION. Websters 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 shes 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 Ive emailed, asking for opinions, but its 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. Ive 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, its 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/. Its 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.

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


Dont forget, this is interactive. I want to hear from you as well.
Please subscribe (its 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

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.

Its 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 isnt 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 its 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 images 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



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