Sunday, November 30, 2014

Photographing Jewelry for my Etsy Shop

O.K., let's get one thing straight right off the bat...I consider myself to be a decent wildlife photographer. But still life photography is a major challenge for me. In fact, I kinda suck at it.

Every once in awhile I give it a shot...I set up a still life subject, arrange the cheapo lights I bought one day when I was feeling particularly enthused, and give it a whirl. Nothing ever seems to work out that well and I often end up on the floor feeling wretched, trying to adjust my aching crooked neck.

This past summer I opened an Etsy shop called Coconut Joy Jewelry for my handmade coconut shell earrings. I had to face facts: I needed photographs of my earrings in order to do business. And it would be better if those photographs didn't suck too badly.

My first impulse was to photograph my earrings hanging against a plain white muslin cloth. This is what I'd done years before when I put together a catalog for my wholesale accounts. I'd sold my earrings to dozens of galleries across North America in years past and that catalog, which I updated through the years, had served me well.

Here's one of the first photographs I uploaded to my Etsy shop. I photographed the earrings like I'd done for my wholesale catalog years before.

Blue Coconut Shell Earrings

Kinda blah, right? I mean, you can see them clearly enough but I think the picture's pretty boring. It doesn't sell the earrings. It doesn't make them look sexy or inviting or anything.

There were other problems. I took my first pictures outdoors in natural light. One thing about our place is, we have very little flat ground. Another problem is, we live close to the ocean and there's very often at least a little breeze, if not a stiff wind. Having earrings bouncing around at a crooked angle doesn't bode well for trying to capture a good photograph with crisp details.

I decided I had to move indoors to photograph my earrings. Our place is pretty dark though, and there wasn't really enough light to photograph properly. I had to wait for sunny days to even get close to enough light to photograph indoors, and that was a problem.

So I switched from using my expensive Canon 7D camera with 100-400mm lens to using my recently-acquired iPhone 5. Here's the result...

Yellow Coconut Shell Earrings

This shot has way too much shadow and the set-up is still pretty boring. I still photographed a bunch of earrings this way though because I was kind of at a loss at that point. I didn't know what to do to make my pictures any better.

Eventually I switched to using my inexpensive wide angle macro zoom lens which I'd had for years. I added my Speedlite 430EX flash that had mostly sat in a drawer all these years. The flash definitely helped with the shadows. I tried varying my set-ups more to bring some interest to the earrings. This worked for awhile but my lens started malfunctioning and wouldn't focus properly. Time for a new lens.

So I bought a Sigma 18-250mm lens and I'm pretty happy with it. It does decent macro shots. I photograph my earrings by the window but I also use the Speedlite for fill flash. Here are a few shots taken with this set-up.

burgundy earrings, coconut shells
Burgundy Coconut Shell Earrings

turquoise earrings, coconut shell earrings

plum earrings

So I think I'm improving and I'm definitely enjoying myself more now when I'm photographing my jewelry.

If you're in the same boat and trying to photograph your handcrafted work for your own Etsy shop, I'd suggest having a look around at your competitors to see whose photography you enjoy. I looked at other jewelry and noticed a definite trend of photographing jewelry against bowls and cups...I love that look but it didn't really suit my work. Since my earrings are made out of coconut shell, I went with a more tropical feel and use an assortment of shells and things like sand dollars and starfish. 

I know a lot of people use their iPhones to photograph their crafts and I think that works quite well for the most part however my lighting conditions are so dismal that it wasn't the best idea for me. Photographing outside in natural light is a really good long as you can pretty much rely on good weather conditions, which isn't really happening here in the Pacific Northwest. 

Anyway, it's all a work in progress. I still prefer photographing moving, living subjects but it's a challenge that I'm feeling a little more capable of meeting these days.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Hummingbird in Winter

hummingbird, snow, winter

For the first year ever, I've had some Anna's hummingbirds coming to my feeders. Unbelievably, these tiny birds stay over the winter and face some challenging conditions, to say the least. Last night we got a couple of inches of snow and it covered the hummingbird feeder. That didn't stop this female hummer from enjoying an icy beverage though.

You might wonder how these tiny creatures can survive in such extreme conditions. In order to survive cold temperatures, hummingbirds can enter a state of torpor. This state is similar to hibernation but more short-term. Hummers drop their metabolic rate to 1/50th of what it would be at their normal body temperature. While in a torpid state, the hummingbird’s heart ranges from 50 to 180 beats per give you a comparison, the normal heartbeat of an active hummer can be as high as 1200 beats per minute. In a torpid state, a hummingbird's breathing becomes irregular, with long periods of no breath at the lowest temperatures.
I usually get Rufous hummingbirds at our feeders but they leave in August in order to migrate all the way from Canada to Mexico, where they spend the winter. Now that's a sensible hummingbird! 

But I do love the occasional snowfall and it seems my Anna's friend doesn't mind either. I can see her out there right now, doing double-time at the feeder in the hour before sunset. Tonight I think I'll take the hummingbird feeders in though so that my feathered friend can enjoy some warm nectar first thing in the morning.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Black Friday Sale

sailing sailboats ocean

 For the next few days you can sail away with some great savings on any of the photographs and vintage collages in my online gallery. I'm offering 25% off until December 2nd...just type in the code BSGDFL at checkout to receive 25% off. 

By the way, nature photography and vintage collages aren't the only things that I do. This past summer I opened an Etsy shop for my handmade coconut shell earrings...more about that in an upcoming post. For now, I just wanted to let you know that I'm also having a sale in my Etsy shop, Coconut Joy Jewelry. All my earrings are 10% off until December 2nd.

I hope my American friends are enjoying your Thanksgiving weekend!

Photography Prints

sailing on ocean art

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Nature Calendars

barred owl

I admit it, I'm a bit of a calendar freak. I ended up with four wall calendars this year. Two of them are mine and two of them are by other people. We don't have much room for wall art in our little place but I can always find room for a calendar!

So of course since I love calendars so much, I also love making them. I have 16 calendars for sale altogether. Most of them are from my Life Lessons series, where I add inspirational or funny captions to my nature photography.  But I photograph some animals a lot so I end up with tons of pictures, and these animals get calendars all to themselves...these include calendars featuring hummingbirds, coyotes, owls, dragonflies, and one with a selection of some of my favorite nature photos.

I've been putting together calendars for my Life Lessons series for many years now. Here are a couple of them.

Life Lessons Animal Calendar 2015
Life Lessons Animal Calendar 2015 by funnaturephotography

To see my other calendars please go to the calendar section in my online shop, Fun Nature Photography.  

Art Prints

barred owl art

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Coffee Anyone?

squirrels, coffee

On days like this I wish I still drank coffee. I gave it up over a year ago but I could sure use a cuppa today. I probably shouldn't complain about the weather after hearing about Buffalo being buried under six or seven feet of snow...but I'm going to anyway.

Living in the Pacific Northwest takes a certain kind of fortitude once November is upon us. It's probably my least favourite month. Day after day of dismal grey skies and drizzling rain make my mood go south. This morning I woke up after a good night's sleep, had breakfast, but was too tired to go for a walk. Instead I feel asleep on the couch...for almost three hours! My husband came home from walking the dogs and I kept waking up and falling right back to sleep again. Total zombie time.

Last winter I think I finally made peace with the rain and went for long walks through the forest every other day. I think it's just the transition that I have a hard time with though. We were kind of spoiled this fall, with gorgeous sunny skies and warm temperatures. Now comes the reality of approaching winter.

So I'm very tempted to go back to my coffee-drinking ways. My problem isn't so much coffee though, it's the amount of sugar I dump in it. And I'm trying to avoid sugar too. Sigh. It's going to be a long winter.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Vanishing Sea Stars

Sometimes I feel like I should have my laptop permanently attached to my body. I could have a screen sticking out from my forehead directly in front of my eyes and my hands could be glued to the keyboard at the wrist.

When I get to feeling like that, I know it's time to take a walk. Life is too short to be always sitting in front of a computer, or a TV, or what-have-you. I'm self-employed but I'm a terrible boss. I make myself work all the time. And a surprising amount of that work involves sitting in front of a computer.

So enough! The other day I decided to walk down to the ocean to check on the sea stars. As you may have heard, sea stars on the west coast have been dying off at an alarming rate, apparently the victims of some kind of virus, with warming waters a possible factor as well. This die-off was first noticed off the coast in British Columbia in September, 2013. It now extends along the Pacific coast into Oregon and California and in the summer of 2014, populations in Alaska and Mexico were affected as well. Whatever the cause, it has been named Sea Star Wasting Syndrome.

I happen to live by a gap where the ocean narrows and the tide rips through at a fast pace. It's been theorized that fast-moving waters are a more healthy environment for starfish, as sea stars are also called.

I only saw a few sea stars that day. How sad, when they used to be so abundant they were quite often literally piled on top of each other as you can see from the picture below, taken years ago.

sea stars, starfish, starfish wasting syndrome

Sea stars were enjoying a population boom before this die-off. And of course, nature has its ways of keeping everything in balance. I recently read an article that suggested baby starfish are now being seen and are possibly making a comeback. I sure hope that's true.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Hallmark Cards License

This past summer I did a blog post about Hallmark Cards licensing my work for the second time.

Well, it's happened again! Apparently they like partying squirrels over at Hallmark because they've now licensed my shot of Tipsy and friend enjoying a cool beverage out on the back deck.

squirrels, cocktails, happy hour

So hopefully you'll be seeing greeting cards of my Happy Hour squirrels on the shelves soon. Cheers!

Photography Prints

cocktails art