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winter sunset watercolor painting by michelle wiarda as seen at fine art america.

Winter Sunset Watercolor Painting by Michelle Wiarda

Are you an artist or photographer that wants world-wide exposure? If so, read on.

If you haven’t heard about Fine Art America,, check it out. Fine Art America is an online art gallery marketplace that is constantly growing. As of today there are 50,560 members. Here are the latest stats from their site. “There are currently 1,168,080 fine art prints, photo prints, paintings, sculptures, drawings, and other works of art available for sale on (including 1,253 new pieces which were added today).” Fine Art America was founded toward the end of 2007 by Sean Broihier as a forum to connect artists with collectors and other buyers, and to put the business side of their career on “autopilot”, so they can devote more time to creating art. He is said to refer to FAA as his life’s work. Thank you Sean!

You can see it’s also a great place to network with other painters, photographers and visual artists of all kinds. They comment on your work, you comment on theirs, you can have discussions, send each other messages, and you can see what is selling, what others are doing, and what is new. You can sell your original work, and/or beautiful fine art prints of your work reproduced on canvas, or on a variety of fine art papers. You can also choose from a wide array of frames, and an even wider assortment of mats. As you make your choices, an image of your artwork is shown with the mat, frame, or canvas style applied.

If you are a member, or you have checked it out,  you know how amazing it really is. You upload your work, and FAA handles the business side of things for you leaving you more time to create!

I found the Fine Art America website by clicking on a beautiful image of an osprey, the bird, that a friend of mine shared with me on Facebook, (thank you Lauren!). I noticed that the photographer had many images posted on Fine Art America, and his work was beautiful. I decided that if it was good enough for this excellent photographer, it would be good enough for me. Sure I was somewhat skeptical, Fine Art America offers so much to artists, that it seems too good to be true.

At the same time I thought, why not check it out? What did I have to lose? FAA offers a free account, but for a mere $30 a year, you get an unlimited number of uploads, your own free website, a bunch of marketing tools and widgets, visitor tracking and comment info, and so much more. You can see daily and weekly visitor totals, and you get to see where your visitors come from, and they are all over the world. How exciting is that? Through FAA you can start a blog, e-mail your clients and potential clients beautiful newsletters for FREE (just take a look at what Constant Contact charges for that service), put a shopping cart on your site from FAA that works right there within your own site, post a notification on your Facebook wall each time you upload a new piece of artwork, and your uploads show up in Google search engines almost immediately. All of this is included for a mere $30! Amazing and hard to believe. Here’s a link to my Fine Art America website so you can see what a deal this is. Michelle Wiarda Artist Website.

I joined Fine Art America about six months ago. I decided to write a blog about my experience with Fine Art America, but I didn’t want to do that until I sold something and got paid for it.

A couple of months ago I received an e-mail from FAA congratulating me on the sale of a print of one of my pieces. It turned out that a friend of mine made the purchase. I thought, perfect, now I can ask her about the quality, timeliness, and presentation of the print. She assured me that she was totally pleased with the entire experience right down to the delivery of the product.

Several weeks later I sold another print to someone I don’t know. Again, I received an e-mail from FAA notifying me of the sale. The following month I received a check in the mail for my share of the proceeds from the sales of my work. I can say, I have been full circle with Fine Art America and I am happy to recommend FAA. I am a Fine Art America advocate, and I tell as many people as possible about it, both artists and buyers.

maine lighthouse watercolor painting image.

Maine Lighthouse, one of my most popular paintings on Fine Art America.

One very important caveat, you must upload excellent quality images, if you don’t, Fine Art America will not print your orders. If you do a little research on Fine Art America, you will find that there are some people complaining about Fine Art America, and putting it down saying the artwork is bad and more silliness just because Fine Art America demanded that they give them a professional quality image to work with. I should hope that the good people at Fine Art America would make sure that an image is excellent before printing and delivering it to a buyer. They’re doing me a favor by making sure that the prints that I sell are of the best quality! I guess the complainers don’t trust the experts to decide what is acceptable for printing and what is not. Oh well, that’s their loss.

Santorini watercolor painting by michelle wiarda as seen on fine art america.

Santorini, another of my watercolor paintings that gets a lot of views on Fine Art America.

In order to upload your files they must be in .jpg or .png format, and they can be up to a maximum of 25 MB, and I cannot stress enough that they must be of professional quality. Once your image is uploaded you add the title, and keywords to it and an area is provided for you to write a little something about the piece. Fine Art America also offers a unique zoom feature that potential buyers can use to see the quality of your image easily. You can set up different galleries of your work according to content, style or whatever you want. You can rearrange your pieces as you wish. You can edit them, share them or remove them if you want to. You choose your pricing, and the format and sizes you want to offer, and FAA does the rest. I might add that they do not overcharge for their mats, frames, canvases or cards. The prices are very reasonable. I really cannot say enough good things about Fine Art America. Please feel free to add your comments, and experiences with Fine Art America here.

Go ahead, join today, 50,560 of us can’t be wrong (and are happy we did)!

Here are the images that I’m pleased and grateful to have sold through Fine Art America.

complete lovely mayhem a digital painting that i sold through fine art america.

Complete Lovely Mayhem, this is a digital painting that I sold a print of through Fine Art America.

Marblehead Lighthouse photograph, by michelle wiarda.

Marblehead Lighthouse, fine art photograph by Michelle Wiarda sold through Fine Art America.

Join Today, You’ll Be in Business in No Time! Happy Selling!

Websites for Photographers


Valuable info for all freelance, I prefer to say, CONTRACT photographers, designers and artists.

Ninety percent of small businesses fail within the first two years. With few exceptions, working for free is the fastest way for freelance photographers to

via 12 Excuses for Shooting Photos for Free — and Why They’re Bogus.

Click above to be eligible to win, but I can’t tell you what!

In a few days my store with The OpenSky Project will open. The OpenSky Project is a new, innovative way to shop. My shop will be stocked with all kinds of cool art, photo and design products. As a consumer of design software, computer equipment, art supplies, cameras, photo equipment, lenses, lights, flashes and the like, I will be making products that I use and fully believe in, available to you. I will be sharing my personal experiences with the products to help you decide which product is best for you. I love to research products and make an informed decision when making a purchase, and I want to share that with you. What better way to shop? People that you trust, that you care about, that care about YOU, bring you products they believe in.

Best of all, when you buy at my OpenSky shop, each and every purchase you make is completely GUARANTEED! You may return any purchase, for any reason, in its original condition, within 1 year for a FULL REFUND. And we’ll pay for the shipping! What could be better than that!?!

ENTER FOR A CHANCE TO WIN TODAY (tell them I sent you)! … and look for my new OpenSky shop in a few more days!!

If you’re a supplier, and want me to try your products and share them with my world, just let me know!

rear view of the tall ship bounty when she was docked at peanut island in florida.

The HMS Bounty

She’s sailed away. The HMS Bounty is heading toward Baltimore now, on to Greenport, and Newburgh, NY then to Portland, ME. Check out the schedule if you’d like to see her, and if you’re lucky, the Bounty will be under the control of pirates. (If there’s a Pirate Fest where you are.) The ship’s position on the schedule is currently 9 days out of date according to their website.

a photo of some of the pirates aboard the bounty at the peanut island pirate festival.

Pirate sightings near the HMS Bounty.

the hms bounty and the privateer lynx docked on peanut island palm beach florida.

The HMS Bounty and the Privateer Lynx docked on Peanut Island Palm Beach Florida.

When the HMS Bounty docked at Peanut Island in Palm Beach Florida, we went for a visit, of course I had my camera in tow. I brought my 100-400mm Canon L series zoom, and my 24-105mm Canon L series zoom along with me.
We not only saw the Bounty we also got to see the tall ship, Privateer Lynx of Portsmouth, NH, a square top sail schooner which is an interpretation of a privateer or naval schooner from the War of 1812, we saw the entrance to the Kennedy Bunker, and the historic Coast Guard Station.

You see the Lynx was in Florida to offer the crew of the Bounty a pardon if the ship was returned to her home port by April 5th. The crews of the two ships got friendly and decided to party! You can see more info on the Peanut Island Pirate Festival theme here

You can only get to Peanut Island by boat. We rode over on a ferry which picked us up at the Riviera Beach Marina. While we were waiting for the ferry, this hard-working sea turtle swam by us busily paddling against the current. It was not an easy task, the wind was fierce that day. He gave us a look that said, hey can you help me!

the hard working sea turtle fighting the current and wind near Riviera Beach Marina.

The hard working sea turtle fighting the current and wind near Riviera Beach Marina.

For those that don’t know, this Bounty is a replica of the original ship that was used by the British Admiralty for a special mission in 1787. That special mission was to sail to Tahiti, halfway around the world, collect sapling breadfruit trees and bring them to the West Indies so that the British plantation owners would have a cheap source of food for their workers. Lt. William Bligh led the mission, and after much difficulty in traveling they arrived in Tahiti in October of 1788. During the five months that the crew stayed, they gathered more than a thousand breadfruit trees. The crew lived onshore to take care of the trees, and became quite attached to the Tahitians while they were there.

After five months in Tahiti, the Bounty set sail with its load of breadfruit trees on April 4th 1789. Nearly 24 days later mutiny broke out. (Acting Lieutenant) Fletcher Christian, totally fed up with the continual abuse from Capt. Bligh took the ship and sailed it to the island of Tubuai. Three months later, after a failed effort to settle on the island, they sailed back to Tahiti, and left sixteen of the crew on the island, some of the crew were loyal to Bligh, some were mutineers.

Then Christian with eight Bounty crew members, six Tahitian men, twelve women and one baby, sailed off in an effort to hide from the Royal Navy. They sailed through the Fiji and Cook Islands, but didn’t feel safe there. On January 15th 1790 they came upon Pitcairn Island, an island in the middle of nowhere in the Pacific, which had been misplaced on the Royal Navy’s charts. They decided to stay on the island, they took the livestock and other provisions from the Bounty, and they burned the ship on January 23rd 1790, in the hope that they wouldn’t be found, and to keep anyone from escaping the island. The ship sits in what is now called Bounty Bay. No one found out about their dirty deed for 18 years.

approaching the hms bounty and privateer lynx at Peanut Island.

Approaching the HMS Bounty and Privateer Lynx on the ferry to Peanut Island.

The replica was built in 1960 for MGM studios’ Mutiny on the Bounty, starring that hunk, Marlon Brando. The movie studio execs had a new Bounty built from scratch, and they built her just the way she would have been built in 1760. They used the original ship’s drawings to construct the replica. The Bounty replica has starred in many productions since then, and in 1986 Ted Turner purchased the MGM film library and he got the Bounty with it. He used it in the movie Treasure Island with Charlton Heston in 1989, she also played many other roles along the way. In 1993 she was donated to the Fall River Chamber Foundation, in Fall River, Massachusetts. They began the Tall Ship Bounty Foundation, and used the ship for educational purposes.
a privateer lynx crew member sitting on her ship as we went by on the ferry.

A Lynx crew member aboard her ship.

In February of 2001, when the Bounty was in serious need of repairs she was purchased by HMS Bounty Organization LLC. They took her to the shipyard in Boothbay Harbor Maine for work. Once the Bounty was ready to go again, her first stop was to go back home to the United Kingdom. The organization keeps the Bounty sailing and uses her to teach square rigged sailing and seamanship.

the hms bounty as we approached on the ferry.

The HMS Bounty as we approached on the ferry.

You can almost feel the history as you wander around the Bounty. You find yourself wondering what life was like then. I wouldn’t have been surprised if Captain Jack Sparrow showed up and took control. Of course if you visit during a Pirate Fest, he just might!

the HMS Bounty docked at Peanut Island in Florida.

The HMS Bounty docked next to the Privateer Lynx at Peanut Island in Florida.

the privateer lynx docked at peanut island in florida.

The Privateer Lynx docked at Peanut Island in Florida.

a photo of the Kennedy bunker at peanut island.

The entrance to the Kennedy Bunker on Peanut Island.

a photo of the coast guard life saving station formed in 1936 on peanut island.

The US Coast Guard life saving station formed in 1936 when it was on Peanut Island.

a photograph of a cannon on the shore of Peanut Island aimed toward the Privateer Lynx.

A cannon on the shore of Peanut Island aimed toward the Privateer Lynx.

a photograph of several of the festively dressed pirates at the peanut island pirate festival.

More Pirates found on Peanut Island, check the hook.

a pirate that was seen on Peanut Island with the HMS Bounty.

A pirate that was seen on Peanut Island with the HMS Bounty.

a photo of two pirates playing with their pet rat.

Playing around with their pet rat.

a photo of a pirate at the peanut island pirate festival.

Another of the Pirates at the festival.

a photo of one of the pirates moving their cannon.

Repositioning the cannon for another attack?

a photograph of pirates at the peanut island pirate festival.

Is that Captain Jack Sparrow?

a photo of the view from the deck of the HMS Bounty.

A view from the deck of the HMS Bounty.

a photograph of the ships wheel aboard the HMS Bounty.

Aboard the Bounty.

a photo of the area on the Bounty where the breadfruit trees were kept.

This is where the breadfruit trees were kept alive while aboard the Bounty.

a photograph of a civilian exploring aboard the HMS Bounty.

Exploring aboard the HMS Bounty.

a photograph of the view from below deck aboard the HMS Bounty.

A view from below aboard the Bounty.

a photo of one of the Bountys cannons.

A cannon aboard the Bounty.

a photo of the view looking along the outer side of the Bounty.

Looking over the side aboard the Bounty.

a photograph of the rigging on the hms bounty.

Looking up at the rigging on the Bounty.

a photo of pirates posing for pix on peanut island at the pirate festival.

Pirates posing for photos on Peanut Island with the Bounty in the background.

a photo of a pirate at the Peanut Island Pirate Festival.

A pirate on Peanut Island that I shot.

a photo of pirates posing for a photo.

I shot all these guys too. Say Bye to the Pirates!

a photo of a pirate statue at the Riviera Beach Marina.

A pirate greeter at the Riviera Beach Marina.

Downtown Lake Worth and the Greater Lake Worth Chamber of Commerce sponsor their annual Street Painting Festival, and claim bragging rights as the country’s largest street painting festival. I believe it.

a photograph of a street painter at work at the lake worth street painting festival.

A street painter busy creating his painting.

What a fun event this is! The Lake Worth Street Painting Festival has been held yearly for 15 years, this being the 16th. I’d never been to this fantastic street painting festival. I’m happy I finally did go, I walked away with a lot of great memories.

We stationed ourselves, and our dog, near, and sometimes on, a bench that’s by the street in front of my friend Michele’s store, the 531 East Boutique, at 515 Lake Ave. If you’re in the area you have to drop in, Michele is fun and friendly, and her store, with it’s island flair, reflects her personality. In addition to many other treasures, you’ll find some of my artwork in her shop. A walk along Lake and Lucerne Avenues on a nice day is really enjoyable. It’s a friendly, laid back, fun, eclectic, artsy, environment filled with shops, and restaurants, as well as nice public park areas.

a photograph of the 531 east boutique on lake avenue

Our friend Michele's store, 531 East Boutique, many treasures, including my artwork await.

I started out heading west along Lake Avenue, looking at one beautiful piece after another. I walked to the end of the festival on Lake and came back down on Lucerne. Sunday I went in the opposite direction to check out the other side of the street. The festival is huge. Lake and Lucerne Avenues were a sea of incredible artwork in so many beautiful colors. Did you know, street painting can be traced all the way back to Italy in the 16th century? As then, crowds love to watch as the artists work on their creations.

The weather was just perfect for this event this weekend. Artists were everywhere, over 400, young and old, creating their street paintings. Bright colors, poignant themes, memorial pieces, old masters, new age, cubist, 70’s style, original artworks, you name it. It was all there for our viewing pleasure. These are no small pieces either, they take up the width of one entire side of the street. There’s a lot of time and chalk involved!

I am amazed at the effort these artists put into these beautiful, yet “short-lived”, artworks. Once the traffic is allowed to pass through again, these beautiful pieces will be history.

photo of the lake worth street painting festival 2010 looking east on lake avenue.

Looking east on Lake Avenue nearing the end of Saturday's painting.

I walked along both Lake and Lucerne Avenues with my camera in tow. Lots of people were there with their cameras. I’d love to see all of the different perspectives that were captured of these artworks. I saw photographers laying down on the ground to shoot, some holding their cameras up high above on monopods, some on top of a multi story building shooting down on the artwork, now that’s the place to be for the best shot. I got down and dusty, and tried to capture the essence of the artists in their process of creation, while showing the creation itself.

photo of a young photographer at the lake worth street painting festival.

A young photographer captures a lot of good shots of the artwork.

a photo of an artist working on his birth of venus street painting

Street painter working on his painting, from the Birth of Venus.

a photograph of a girl covered in chalk dust as she works on her street painting.

This girl got into her painting.

a photograph of a street painter painting a koi pond.

A Lake Worth street painter working on her piece.

a photo of a girl working on her street painting.

I love these bright colors.

a photo of a street painter working on his flamingo painting.

A street painter at the Lake Worth Street Painting Festival works on his flamingo painting.

a photo of two street painters working together on a painting of wonder woman.

Two street painters working together on this vibrant image.

a photograph of a street painter looking at her work.

What an intriguing piece.

a photo of a street painter working on her Haiti memorial painting

A beautiful painting in memory of those lost in Haiti.

a photo looking down the street mid afternoon at the lake worth street painting festival.

The street painting was in full swing here.

As if the wonder of these incredible artworks in progress wasn’t enough, we were totally entertained by “a drinking club with a running problem”, they had assembled for their “Red Dress Run”, the point of the run is that all participants (both sexes) don red dresses of various sorts for the run, or in this case the scavenger hunt. It involved visiting bars throughout the festival area, and drinking beers. A sighting of one of these folks was worth the trip alone! These people were a creative, lively and funny, bunch.

a photo of a group of red dress runners, the drinking club with a running problem.

The red dress group gathers to hear about their scavenger hunt.

a photo of a red dress runner looking quite stylish.

Quite a stylish number, no?

a photograph of a street painter working on his creation at the lake worth street painting festival.

An artist working on his painting at the street painting festival.

a photo of a street painting artist resting her back after working hard on her painting.

A well earned rest for the back.

a photograph of an inspiriational painting at the street painting festival.

There were inspirational paintings....

a photo of a street painting depicting the beatles at the lake worth street painting festival.

...and paintings of the Beatles.

There was lots of music being played in various areas for us all, and it was another perfect addition to a perfect day. The tunes were the icing on the cake at this super fun festival.

Leaving Sunday evening after all of the art works were finished, was kind of sad. I knew I’d never see those artworks again. Sure enough it rained last night and all that’s left are a few pieces of tape and the faded remains of several of those beautiful art works…until next year, then they’ll do it all over again. Don’t miss it!

a photograph of musicians at the street painting festival in lake worth.

The music was excellent.

a photo of several women working on their street painting together.


a photo of dogs having a great time at the lake worth street painting festival.

There were lots of dogs enjoying eachothers company this weekend.

a photo of a woman enjoying a visit with a dog at the street painting festival.

The festival was fun for dogs and people alike.

a artist poses for a photograph with his completed street painting.

The artist poses for a photo with his lively street painting.

a photograph of two children clowning around at the street painting festival.

These children were more than happy to pose for the camera.

a photo of a woman painting irises on the street in lake worth.

A woman working on her painting of irises.

a photo of a woman working on her street painting.

A street painter blending her strokes.

a photo of a street painter creating a memorial painting in memory of his friends dog.

A beautiful memorial street painting.

bird tracks in the sand

Someone was here before us.

This past Saturday afternoon was really just perfect for being outside. Not too hot, and not too cold. We’re talking about nice South Florida weather here. Apparently the birds thought so too. They were busy.

The tide was low, and the light was right for hauling my Canon 100-400mm f4.5L lens, and Canon 5D Mark II body out for a few hours of shooting.

a photograph of a mangrove branch bathed in the golden afternoon light.

A mangrove branch bathed in that great, golden afternoon light.

When stepping down onto the sand, I come across the canal and out to the water’s edge, I am always drawn to the shapes created by the big, dead, tree that stands as a sentinel at the entrance to the canal from the intracoastal. During high tide just a small part of the tree is visible, but at mid and low tides it serves as an ideal perch for all kinds of shore birds.

the big, dead, tree that stands as a sentinel at the entrance to the canal.

The Sentinel

the canal that leads out to the intracoastal waterway.

Looking back toward the canal I just crossed.

My first guest was a yellow crowned night heron busily hunting nearby. Hunting for them consists of pretty much just standing around waiting for their prey to swim by. They eat mostly aquatic invertebrates and some fish, crabs and crayfish. I have no idea why they are called nocturnal, I’ve seen them looking for food from morning until evening. This particular heron let me get very close before flying off.
yellow crowned night heron photograph.

The first guest, a yellow crowned night heron.

I continued walking along listening to the sounds of the herons up ahead, they make a funny, growling kind of sound. I was surprised by the warning call of an osprey directly ahead of me. The osprey I usually visit and photograph, I named her Koko, was hanging out in a tree I’ve not seen her in before. She was a little difficult to pick out surrounded by the foliage. I moved in as close as I dared, and stopped when she gave me the warning call. I even switched my Canon 5D Mark II to video mode and shot a few videos of her, before she took off. I got too close for her comfort.
photograph of Koko the osprey hanging out in a tree

Koko, the osprey working on keeping me at a distance.

a photograph of Koko the osprey flying away.

Koko, the osprey, says see ya later.

Walking along the water’s edge I came across these incredibly shaped pieces of driftwood that litter the shoreline. One piece in particular is about 7 feet high and maybe 15 feet wide, it looks like the skeleton of an old ship’s hull to me, but it’s really just the roots of a large tree that fell over a long, long time ago. The driftwood looked so cool, that I shot it from crazy angles, backlit, from below, and with the water’s edge blurred behind the branch shapes.

a photograph of a big piece of driftwood along the water's edge.

The huge tree that looks like the skeleton of the hull of a ship to me.

a photograph of a unique piece of weathered wood.

Here's one of my crazy, angular shots.

Glenn, an avid photographer, and friend of ours came walking along then. He started shooting that wild looking piece of dead wood too.
a photograph of our avid photographer friend Glenn

Glenn taking photos looking south along the intracoastal.

Just a bit further down, by the barnacle covered sea wall, which stands at the furthest point one can walk to, we spied a little blue heron checking us out while scouting around for a meal. This heron really showed the blue color he’s named for, and the purplish color in his neck and head was really showcased by the low afternoon light. Sometimes these birds run when they’re hunting, with those legs, it’s funny, don’t tell them I said that though.
a photograph I shot of a little blue heron checking us out.

The little blue heron checking us out.

We came across this dead branch, coming out sideways, and shooting up and out toward the water. Check it out. I thought the whitish part of the trunk looked a bit like a heron’s head as he stalks his prey. Ya think? Too much imagination, huh?
a photo of a dead tree branch that looks like a bird's head.

Doesn't it look like the head and neck of a heron?

On the way back we caught the yellow crowned night heron busily searching among the moss covered rocks for dinner. He got some too.
a photograph of a yellow crowned night heron busily searching among the moss covered rocks for dinner.

A yellow crowned night heron stalking its prey.

A little blue heron flew on shore just behind us, and as you can see he was obviously on patrol, because he was too darned interested in what we were doing. Here’s a fun fact about these guys, the male usually chooses the nesting territory before he goes about courting a female. I sure hope he’s good at decorating!
a photograph of a little blue heron that flew on shore just behind us.

The little blue heron that was very interested in us.

My pal, Koko the osprey, was not overly pleased about the fact that we had the nerve to hang around near her trees, she had to retreat to the opposite side of the intracoastal to wait us out. She did just that – we weren’t gone 20 minutes before she flew right back to her favorite spot.
a photograph of an osprey perched on a branch by the intracoastal.

Koko on the other side of the intracoastal waiting for us to leave.

A couple of ibis flew in for a landing on the big branch outside of the canal. They were quite brave while we shot away and totally invaded their space. We were really close. I guess they’re not just brave during hurricanes. These birds are the last to take shelter before a hurricane, and the first to come back when the storm has passed. It makes me want to ask them, what are you thinking?
a photograph of the ibis flying in for a landing on the sentinel tree.

The ibis come in for a landing.

a photograph of an ibis "hopscotching" to another branch.

The ibis version of hopscotch.

a photograph of one of the brave ibis posing for the humans.

One of the brave birds that posed for the humans.

I think Glenn enjoyed himself shooting in our own little wildlife refuge. He got some great shots. He needs to have a blog to show them off. Marcella came down to the seawall to see what she could see, too.
a photo of Glenn shooting and Marcella walking toward him.

Glenn shoots me, while Marcella walks over.

a photo of Marcella pointing things out to Glenn.

Marcella spots something to show Glenn.

It really was a beautiful walk along the intracoastal, but once the sun started to go down, those creepy little sand flies, also known as no-see-ums came out chomping away with their nasty little teeth. The bites from the female hurt and itch, that sent us packing. Next time, insect repellent will be in my camera bag.
a photograph looking west from the water's edge showing more golden light.

One more look at that beautiful, golden light.

It was a really, good time while it lasted though. Until next time, happy shooting.

Big Wave in Delray Beach

This is amazing for Delray Beach.

A group of young surfers heading into the ocean.

Surf's Up!

This weekend in southeast Florida was unusual in that we had waves, big 5 to 6 foot waves. Exciting stuff for all of the surfers in our area. This only happens once or twice a year, and only when the weather is just right. The weather was just right this weekend and people were loving the big, crashing waves. They were such an incredible color too, it looked like they might have gotten some of their color from the sand they picked up as they came roaring toward the shore. That picking up sand business is not such a good thing, the erosion has been out of control this weekend too.

Big waves in Delray Beach.

The wind is blowing the tops right off of these waves.

Of course I had to head out to the beach with my camera, and big, heavy 100-400mm lens which let me get in pretty close on the surfers and the surf. I had to shield my lens from the salt, the wind was kicking up pretty good out of the north. I actually just pulled the bottom out of my camera bag (it was a small one) and used it to semi-protect my lens from the onslaught of salt. Even though my camera and lens are weatherproof, I try not to abuse that. In fact, it’s a very good idea to clean your camera and lenses when returning from a shoot at the beach. You don’t want to leave all that salt on your equipment.

A surfer catches a great wave in Delray Beach on Sunday.

One of the many great waves to be had this weekend.

Surfer riding a wave in Delray Beach Florida

There were lots of waves for everyone.

A surfer riding a wave.

Another great ride on the unusual waves in Delray Beach Florida this weekend.

Surfer catching a wave at Delray Beach Florida.

The waves just kept on coming this weekend.

A surfer riding a wave in Delray Beach Florida.

Look at the color of these waves. Incredible.

A young boy riding a wave in Delray Beach Florida.

This young man is quite the surfer dude.

I can’t seem to go anywhere that an osprey might be without seeing one, so I’ve included some pix of a young male osprey that circled by me several times on Saturday and another one came by on Sunday. What a beautiful sight silhouetted against the deep blue sky.

We had a really great beach weekend. The surf looked more like Daytona Beach than Delray Beach, ok, I’m pushing it, but one can dream!

Check out the sights for yourself!

The view looking south on Delray Beach.

The view looking toward the south on Delray Beach.

A surfer catches a ride on a wave in Delray Beach Florida.

Waves, Waves, Waves!!!

A male osprey flying along the shoreline.

This osprey was busy cruising for some chow.

An osprey overhead looks down at my camera lens.

This osprey took a moment to check out my camera lens on his way by.

A young girl on the shoreline checking out the surf.

A young girl on the shoreline checking out the surf.

A surfer is hidden by the spray from the wave he's riding.


The spray is still hanging in the air as this wave crashes down.

The spray is still hanging in the air as this wave crashes down.

For me, I found it to be easier to choose a home and buy it, than it has been to try to choose decent, long-lasting studio/location monolights for photography!

How on Earth is one to make a decision?

I really had to walk away from the computer and stop looking at all the variables, and information and comments out there on this subject. It’s a very, very personal subject for many photographers. After all, it is the paintbrush one uses in photography. I know I like to have the best watercolor brushes I can afford to create my watercolor paintings.

I have been so busy for the last four days, yes—four days, researching studio lighting. Lighting that isn’t too much light, or too little for my needs. What do I need them for you ask? To shoot my watercolor paintings, so I can make giclées, to create unique fine art photographs, to shoot product, and stock photos, with the occasional studio style portrait, one or two people, head and shoulders, or outdoors with pets. The lights need to be portable. I’m not ready to get batteries to take them to the beach, but down the road I want that to be a possibility.

I’m looking at purchasing two monolights, total 1000ws or less for now. I want something I can grow into, rather than out of. That said, I talked to a few photographer friends, got their opinions and I headed off to check out what I could learn but doing research on the web. Good idea, and huge mistake. I am now, totally undecided.

By the way, I have only looked at opinions from buyers in comment sections at retailer sites, or at reputable photography forums and the like. I also watched a lot of the lighting demo video on the web made by some real pros, that helped me see many of the products in action. I checked my pro photo mags reviews and such too.

I have narrowed my choices down to Elinchrom, Photogenic and Calumet monolights, and the kits offered. There are many more great lights out there, but for me, these work. I did manage that much after reading as much info as I could absorb in my four days of research. Let me say first off, the kits that include the lights, umbrellas, stands and all, according to the comments and reviews I’ve read, leave people wanting more. They don’t seem totally satisfied with their purchases. Some portion of the kit is sub par in almost every case, and will need to be replaced. I also didn’t really want the umbrellas that most of the kits offered, I would replace them with octagonal and rectangular softboxes anyway.

So that leaves one to go out there and look for the best lights here, and the best softboxes there, and the best studio stands and backgrounds from over there. Now that’s all good too, but can you do it for a price close to that of the kits? Not really, but you can get close. Being a member of the National Association of Photoshop Professionals (NAPP) helps a lot here too. $99 a year, gets you a great informative magazine and access to product discounts, tutorials and way more. Info from Scott Kelby’s blog helped me a whole lot in this decision-making process too.

After about a good 30 to 40 hours of research, here’s what I’ve decided. I want something that has consistent color output, something that will last a long time, is durable, not too heavy, something that offers enough power, but not too much power for my space, and I want a decent modeling lamp, I read that 100 watts just doesn’t cut it. I do not want to be one of those that realizes about a month into the purchase that I should have spent that extra $500 bucks on what I really wanted, rather than settling for “affordable”. Nothing is a deal if you want to replace it six months after you buy it.

That decided, I went on to read about radio slave systems for the lighting, now I’m real interested. No cords for “Gracie” to trip over, that’s me, of course, ten years of ballet lessons and I’m still a klutz. It’s a good thing that all three of the manufacturers I looked at offer radio control of some kind.

One manufacturer offers a unit mounted on the hot shoe of your camera that apparently has too high a profile and it sticks up in your line of view. Remember now, this is according to consumer comments I came across. Range is another issue, I don’t need to shoot from 1500 feet away, or the next town over, so I think I’ll be good without that. So now I want to find the biggest bang for the buck in a quality, well-designed,  built in radio control unit, without having to buy more transmitters and transceivers, and adapter cords and so on. So, in my humble opinion, and for my needs, the EL-Skyport from Elinchrom wins for ease, design, and dollars. Although I do think the LiteLink radio option with the Calumet Travelite lighting is to be considered as well. It plays well with the PocketWizard too. Decisions, decisions.

I went on to look at the flash variability specs on these brands because it’s important to me to be able to have the widest range I can get because I plan to use these lights in lots of different scenarios. It seems to me that the Photogenic Solair wins in this category with the widest range. 8 f-stops. I really wish there were more comments and reviews from users out there about the Solair lights.

I then looked into how well each of the brands were for color consistency as one reduces the output of the light, according to the comments out there, even though I found a lot of people very happy with the Photogenic lights, many more were really happy with their Elinchrom Style 600RX lights. Again, I did find it hard to find a lot of comments and reviews about the Photogenic Solair lights. I don’t know why that is, but they do seem to be a contender. The “constant color” sounds so nice to me as I have spent hours with color correction people when working for clothing catalogs and doing color correction myself, and I know how long that process takes. I’d rather have my original shot consistently “right there” from the start, rather than having to spend hours in Photoshop “fixing the color”.

One more thing, the Photogenic Solair lights at 500ws weigh a little less than the Elinchrom Digital Style 600RX lights. Both are just under 6 lbs.

After vacillating back and forth, I’ve decided, I think, to buy the Elinchrom Digital Style Combo 600RX two monolight kit that includes only the lights, and EL-Skyport system.

Now on to the stands. There are millions, really just way too many! I like those rolling light stands, Avenger makes one called the “Baby Roller”.  Now this looks like one that ole “Gracie” might not be able to trip over. With the radio controlled lights, there will only be one wire, the plug. Yes! I chose the Avenger Century C stand for the other light. The C stand is another to keep “Gracie” out of trouble.

On to light control. I read that the Elinchrom Rotalux Octa softbox rocks, I also read that some don’t like it. It’s not too expensive so I think I’m going to get the Mini Octa softbox, which is a 39″ model. I also like the 14″ x 35″ Rotalux Mini Recta softbox from Elinchrom. I did learn that Chimera makes some fabulous light banks and when I’m able, monetarily, I’ll look into those too.

Reflectors are a necessary accessory too. I haven’t put any time in on researching them, that’s next. For now I will make due with white foam core and black cardboard.

Last decision….a good light meter. I really like the Sekonic L-358. Lots, and lots, and lots, of good comments out there about it. They say it’s accurate and reliable and well made. I’m sold. For fans of the PocketWizard, compatibility is easy. You can add an accessory that will let you fire your lights without removing your transmitter from the hot shoe of your camera each time you want to meter your lighting. The Sekonic looks like it’s fairly straight forward and intuitive to work with to me, and many buyers say the same. Now, when : ) I have an unlimited budget, I will go for the Sekonic L-758C Cine Light Meter, that’s really hot!

Oh and backgrounds, I think I’m going to go to Calumet for these, they have a good looking heavy duty stand for paper. I don’t have a space to use a wall mount or I would go for that. I did find stronger seeming background stands, but for my needs the stands Calumet offers should do just fine. Or maybe I’ll do a bit more research. I’m over it, but obsessed. For now, I think I’ve made my decisions, or I hope I have, until I run into a devastating comment regarding one of my choices, and the indecision will start again.

I just thought I should throw this out there for anyone else that might be suffering the anxiety associated with the purchase of a decent, quality lighting system and the necessary accessories. I really hope the time I put in can help others too!

And if any of you out there has anything to tell us all about this, go for it, we’re listening. Knowledge is Power!

Now back to doing what I love, enough research. I’ll let it all marinate for a few days.

Take care all!

The osprey after one of his dives into the water.

The osprey after one of his dives into the water.

My friend Norah and I took a walk along the beach this evening. The sun hadn’t set yet but it was getting ready to. It was still so very hot out, not much of a breeze either. We’re hoping things will cool off down here in South Florida soon, real soon. I know, no sympathy from those freezing up north.

Of course I brought my camera along, just in case I saw something that intrigued me. We weren’t too far into our walk when I noticed an osprey fishing with wild abandon up ahead of us. This guy was throwing himself into the water time and time again. He just could not catch a fish, but it sure wasn’t for his lack of trying.

Male osprey flying high above the beach looking for fish.

Male osprey flying high above the beach looking for fish.

I was hoping to catch the osprey in a dive. I’ve seen one dive, but I’ve yet to photograph one successfully, and tonight was no different. I got some great shots while he was flying and starting the dive, but the final descent is so fast, and the bird reverses and hits the water and pulls himself out so fast that every image I shot during this time is totally out of focus. I was shooting at 1/1000, that was clearly way too slow a shutter speed. I can see this is a challenge I will have to overcome.

The osprey beginning his dive toward the water.

The osprey beginning his dive toward the water.

Further down the beach we came across a crab that was quite busy by the shoreline. When we approached he turned right around and came after us, both claws raised. He meant business…..don’t come any closer ladies, I predict pain! I imagine having the two of us and a great big lens staring at him was pretty scary from his perspective. I did notice that crabs have eyelashes. Yup, little hairs growing out above those crazy tubular eyes. Check them out.

This crab has eyelashes, he does! Take a look.

This crab has eyelashes, he does! Take a look.

Well that’s it for today. Until next time I will be trying to catch that elusive osprey diving into the surf photo.

My friend Janet and I went to the water’s edge, wine glasses in hand, Sunday evening around 7pm to wait for the moon to rise. As I set up my photo equipment, the sky was just starting to turn that really great cobalt blue color that it gets right before dark sets in.

The moon was due to rise at 7:07 and we didn’t see anything until our friend Marlene called us over to a spot where you could see through the Australian pines, and there it was….big, beautiful and amazing. It was already 7:21 by then.

Check out the cool shot of the American flag and the moon. Janet worked hard to try to get that flag to fly and it did.

It was so nice to slow down and enjoy all that nature had on display for us Sunday evening.

For those that might be interested;

I was using a Canon 100-400 mm f4.5-5.6L series lens on my Canon 5D Mark II body, I had it mounted on a tripod and had to use manual focus, auto focus only worked for the super close ups.

Most of the shots were hit or miss. I tried different exposures until I got the ones I wanted. Even though, it was impossible to get detail in the moon and get the reflection of the moon on the clouds. I had to overexpose to get the clouds, which ends up blurring  the moon somewhat, and underexpose to get detail in the moon. I decided to combine a properly exposed shot of the moon with a good exposure of the overall shot. That worked.

The early shots, with the dark blue sky were shot at 1/40 f5.6 -1EV. The night shots were 0.5 sec at f7.1 and 0.8 sec at f5.6.


The Full Moon on October 4th.

The full moon rising and losing it's yellow orange color.

The full moon rising and losing it's yellow orange color.

The full moon behind the American Flag.

The full moon behind the American Flag.

Photo of the moon as it rises higher in the sky and reflects on the intracoastal. Great clouds.

Photo of the moon as it rises higher in the sky and reflects on the intracoastal. Great clouds.

In this photograph the moon has risen above the clouds.

In this photograph the moon has risen above the clouds.