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Elizabeth West

I'm a person who loves both words and images. A writer by profession, I'm a passionate photographer in my free time. I do not see the arts as a competitive activity, since no two people would ever create the same work even if they had the same subject. I welcome comments and suggestions from all.

Ten Tips for Photographing Pets

This time of year, many photographers are trying to take pictures of their pets wearing fake antlers, Santa hats, or other seasonal trappings. Although I don’t indulge in that sport, I do love taking pictures of my pets and other animals, and I thought I’d share some tips that have worked for me and for others.

1. Be patient. Pets don’t often pose. Sometimes they sniff your camera or your sleeve. At other times they decide to crawl under a table or fly on top of a dresser. Just wait quietly until they settle down.

<i>Scanning the Neighborhood</i> by Michael Fletcher 2. Try to capture a characteristic action or activity. If you’re shooting your pet, you know its personality. Try to take a picture that reflects some characteristic, such as curiosity, goofiness, adoration, or self-possession. You do not have to include every inch of your pet, only the parts needed to express what you’re trying to capture. This image by Michael Fletcher certainly shows how alert this little dog is!

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Playtime: Using Mirrors

I try to take pictures every day. Some days, of course, I’m inspired by something I see. At other times, I need to inspire myself and come up with an idea. This week, an idea was prompted by discovering an old discarded medicine cabinet that had mirrored doors. The doors were removable and provided me with two relatively large rectangles of mirrored glass.

One day, I decided to play with the mirrors, and it certainly was fun. First, I washed them to eliminate distracting blotches and spots. Then I tried laying various objects on them. I found that some objects are pretty boring on a mirror. For example, most thin flat objects do not produce interesting reflections. All you see are the edges. Plump or rounded objects reveal more of their undersides. If the underside is a different color from the top side, you can get interesting images. Although you can create the appearance of reflections using software, you will have far more fun experimenting with real ones.

clementine pieces
Irregularly shaped objects make the most interesting reflections, I think. It’s hard to tell where the object ends and its reflection begins. I set a half-peeled clementine on the mirror and was tickled by the result; later, I piled the segments on the mirror and liked those results as well.
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Digital Imaging Contest Winners

pix.jpgIf you would like to be inspired by photographs, take a look at the winners in the PDNOnline Digital Imaging Contest 13. I was surprised not only at the variety of work displayed there, but also at how appealing many of the images were.

PDNOnline is a monthly magazine for professional photographers, and I feared that all the images might be just ads or promotional pieces. However, photographers competed in a number of categories:

  • Advertising Campaigns
  • Portraits/Celeb/Music
  • Travel/Lifestyle
  • Fashion/Beauty
  • Personal Work
  • New Talent
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    Vintage Baseball Images

    The New York Public Library Digital Gallery has half a million digitized images from the library’s collection. This is a fascinating resource, and I drop by every so often to browse through their holdings. Now that baseball season is behind us, those having an interest in the sport might enjoy visiting “America’s National Game,”a collection of early baseball photographs from the collection of Albert G. Spaulding. Many of these show 19th century portraits of players.

    The Collection Guide gives a brief history of the collection, but it is the images themselves that caught my fancy. Click See all images to see the entire collection.

    Learning Photoshop

    For more than a year, Photoshop was the bane of my photographic world. I wanted to learn it, but each time I tried, I came away feeling frazzled, inept, and not too bright. I just wanted to master the basics. Perhaps I could learn to remove small distractions from an image or brighten a dark spot. For example, I took a picture of a couple with their dog, and an upturned chair in the background made it appear as if the dog had horns.

    Picture before PhotoshopPicture before Photoshop
    Many of my friends could use this program, so I began with optimism. First, I took a class. The instructor cheerfully zipped though his list of topics, while I watched, listened, took notes, and tried to follow the steps on my laptop. That didn’t work, though, because while I took notes, I missed details, and while I was trying to find a tool or command, he was often moving on the next topic. I finished the class but recognized that I needed to find another way to learn the program.
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