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Sunday, January 21, 2007

Visit with Julie Zickefoose

We went photographing at sunset on Sanibel

Julie giving her talk, she's a very engaging speaker

Julie Zickefoose's new book, Letters From Eden— a Year at Home in the Woods


Julie on the Sanibel beach photographing a Great Blue Heron at sunset

My photographs of gulls in flight, I love the long graceful wing dipping from pink to gray

The dark gull silhouette is suspended in orange air, sun at right

another gull, the sky has turned persimmon

The light faded to pastels as the sun dipped behind the clouds, making a threesome composition — heron, gull, sun

The Great Blue, head plumes flying like a flag against the half-a-pink-pie sun

and then all cleaned up and out for dinner, we prevailed upon the waiter, like tourists, to take our photo.

Julie Zickefoose, talented artist and writer, came to Sanibel Island, FL for a talk and book signing for her new Letters From Eden book. We went to hear her talk and later hung out and did some photography together, then had dinner. What an enjoyable time!

During her talk, Julie showed some of the wonderful illustrations from the book and read a sampling of entries. The book is a collection of essays that take place over eight years on her "eden", the farm in the Applachian foothills of Ohio that she shares with her husband, children, and, of course, her canine companion and frequent blog subject, Chet Baker the Boston Terrier. Julie is a compelling writer and her essays are richly imbued with her own feelings and reactions to her nature experiences on the farm. Julie had a long line of fans for the book signing.

At the end of the day, I took Julie out for some photography fun at a sunset spot on the end of Sanibel, called Blind Pass. We got there just as the golden orb was sinking into the sea. I noticed a man feeding some gulls (a no-no on Sanibel) but it presented an opportunity for me to try and grab some flight photos of gulls against the rosy-gold glow. For you photography geeks out there I will mention my camera gear and camera settings. I was using a Canon 1 D Mark II camera, sometimes with a 1.4 teleconverter and Canon 300 mm IS lens, hand held. Most photos ranged from 400 to 500 ISO, f 5.6 and from 1/800 to 1/2000 sec.

There was a wonderful Great Blue Heron on the sand, head plumes blowing. The sun began to morph into a half pie as it dipped behind the horizon cloud. Julie, who has a Canon Rebel XTi and was using a shorter focal length lens, was down low in the sand, a good idea to frame birds against a setting sun. One of the great things you can do in lowered light situations is to bump up the ISO setting on your camera. By getting off the auto settings in the camera, onto the AV (aperature priority) setting and opening up the aperture (note: a wider aperature means a lower number, such as 4.0, 4.5 , 5.0, 5.6) more light is let in, shutter speed increases, resulting in less blurry photos. I love to teach others about photography and it was fun to share this information with Julie, who is still a newbie with her camera.

After sunset, we went out to dinner at Traders and had delicious seafood. Julie said she likes to take advantage of all the fresh seafood available here, which is harder to come by in the Midwest. We have alot in common, as we are also in the book business and we, as with Julie and her husband, Bill Thompson, III (editor of Bird Watchers Digest) have land that we love that is rich with nature. We talked about how Julie's learning photography might affect her art — I think it will make her a better artist. Keep on taking photos, Julie!

Photos © Lillian Stokes, 2007

6 comments:

Mary Richmond said...

Hi--I just came here through Julie's blog--great pictures! Both of you! And I use and quote your books for reference all the time--including an article I just wrote on groundhogs for the Cape Cod Times. I'm an amateur naturalist and artist living on Cape Cod who writes two weekly nature columns for local weeklies--and I just want to say "you do such great work" Nice to know you have a blog....

Mary said...

THANK YOU for commending Julie's creative talents. Her book is held close to many hearts and her blogging community waits for her posts nearly every day. She's a tremendous writer and artist and we look forward to more of her lovely stories and art to appear on bookshelves in the future.

Lillian and Don Stokes said...

Hi Mary Richmond,

Thanks, so glad you enjoy our books and blog. Good for you for writing two weekly columns,impressive! It helps spread the word about how important nature is.

Lillian and Don

Lillian and Don Stokes said...

Hi Mary,

You're welcome. We talked with her about a follow-up book and that certainly is on her mind, we think it's a great idea.

Lillian and Don

Liza Lee Miller said...

I enjoy your blog and Julie's. I have a new camera myself that I am learning to use and will use your advice to push myself to play with settings beyond the "auto" setting. I would love to see you write a book about how to photograph nature, birds in particular! It's a compelling hobby but advice from experts would be so helpful! Just a thought! Keep up the good work -- and love your corgi pictures. My parents have a stodgy old male corgi whom we adore! He'll be coming for a visit today!

Lillian and Don Stokes said...

Hi Liza,

Glad to hear I have inspired you to go beyond "auto". The auto setting is so seductive, it makes you think you don't have to think. But there is so much fun and ability for you to control the photo you want if you dip your toe in the "creative settings" as Canon calls them, the settings on the other side of the dial, such as AV.

I would love to write a book on photography, I have learned so much and enjoy sharing with and encouraging others. It will have to wait a bit because Don and I are working on a major field guide to North American Birds right now.
Meanwhile, I will share what I can about photography on my blog.

Oh, and give the Corgi a pat for me, they are such amazing dogs!

Lillian