Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Texas White Christmas!!!

I know that snow is pretty normal in other parts of the country but to us, in Texas, it's a once-a-year thing, if we're lucky. And usually, not this much snow! I used a flash to catch the snowflakes and then layered the image to decrease the overexposure in the foreground. It's a magical thing and I've never experienced a White Christmas in Texas since coming here in 1992!

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

P.S. I heard on the weather channel here that the last time it snowed for Christmas in Dallas was 1926!

Surprise Visit

We were briefly visited by a young Hawk this Christmas Eve afternoon! By the time I came back with my big camera, he was gone.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

The Flick Cats, left to right:
CH Earendil Nox "Nox," Solid Black British Shorthair Neuter;
Coonalley Eggzaklee Mr Happy Tail "Zak," Blue and White Maine Coon Neuter;
Coonalley Quintus Magnus Gravitas "Quin," Black Smoke Maine Coon Neuter; and
RW SGCA & GP Earendil Sky "Sky," Solid Blue British Shorthair Spay.

This image was created in 2004 for our New Year's Card (we didn't make it in time for Christmas that year). The Brits were 7 years old and the Coons were 3 years old. Not telling you all how old Ken and I were!

Whatever your family celebrates this holiday season, we wish for all of you a healthy 2010, that your dreams are in the process of coming true, and that you are surrounded by those you love.

Ken and Helmi
Nox, Sky, Zak & Quin

Background for this shot: Paprika

Saturday, December 19, 2009

WANTED: Rare Breeds

Click on the poster to see an enlarged version! Ken made up this poster for me as we recently have been asked by publishers to supply ALL the breeds ... and I'm missing some or only have two examples of the breed in other cases. However, I did get two more Napoleons at the Corpus Christi TIFS show a week ago (thanks, Lonnie and Dawn Lott!).

If you have one of these breeds I'm missing, please check my show calendar (click on "Calendar" at the right) to see if we'll be at a show near you. Then email me and I'll get approval from the Show Manager and send you a sign up form.

Monday, December 7, 2009

High Key Christmas Card Attempt

This is a high key image of a white Persian on a white background, used for the cover of KOT magazine, a cat magazine in Poland, for their April issue in 2008.

I first heard about "high key" from other photographers ... loosely meaning that the image's midtones are high on the exposure scale, or bright and white. To me, high key images look very elegant. Therefore, I wanted to make a Christmas Card in 2002 that used whites, pale blues, silvers and lilacs to showcase our cats. Unfortunately, I didn't realize that having two essentially black cats would not be in keeping with "high key" ... live and learn. So the above was the result.

After Ken and I shot this (it took days to create the set and then shoot, with a tripod, the cats, two by two), I decided to stick to the more saturated and low key looks that we're known for.

Background: we used white background paper for this shot.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Lighter Than Air

Leospride Easy Street of Wild Beach "Easy,"
a 4 month old Brown Spotted Tabby bred by Robin Chamberlain and owned by Melissa Bruise of Wild Beach Bengals.

Once in a run of photo shoots, you have that lucky shot when you review your images and you see the unusual. In the photo above, "Easy" gave me that shot. Only one of his paws is touching the ground and it's his left front paw on the box. The other nice thing about this image is that with a Bengal, photography showing off the coat is mandatory, so the more stretch you can get out of the cat, the better -- as stretching will show off the shape of the rosettes (in this case) and the pattern, acreage, contrast of the coat, as well as the musculature of the cat and the dynamics of action.

"Easy" was photographed at the 2009 TICA Annual in Orlando, Florida, USA.

Thanks, "Easy!"

Background for Easy: Peat Moss.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Congratulations to Bengals Illustrated

Congratulations to Brigitte McMinn, Editor of Bengals Illustrated, for winning two awards from the Cat Writers Association (CWA) recently! I am thoroughly impressed with Brigitte's work as the graphic design and reproduction quality of her magazine won out over many mainstream magazines from the CWA. You can read more about this at

And thanks to Jan Harrell for bringing me Induna, above, to photograph for her 2008 Christmas Card at the Waxahachie Show last November. Jan brought the "wild" Christmas ornaments and I placed the ribbon on Induna, who was such a good boy and held the pose while I walked back from the shooting table to my area with my camera and took the shot.

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas and Seasons Greetings to all our friends and Gentle Readers out there!

Background used for Induna in this shot: Claret.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Cats Know When You're Sick

My sweet husband and sweet Brit, Nox, sleeping through Ken's fever yesterday afternoon.

Cats know when you don't feel well. The proof is right here. Nox is not sleepy yet is making sure he is comforting Ken who is in his third day of an upper respiratory infection. The fever broke this same afternoon and, although weak as a puppy, Ken was much better last night. This morning, no fever, but I'll keep an eye on him! I'm relentless in making sure my Cat Wrangler gets well!

Thanks to all of you for your good wishes for Ken's speedy recovery. Our cats are making sure that happens!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Trifecta, and Gratitude

When Ken and I were driving back from Florida, we spent the night at my sister's house in New Orleans. The next morning, we stopped for cafe au lait and beignets at Morning Call. It's a ritual with us since we both had lived in New Orleans at different times in our lives.

Next to the Morning Call, in Metairie, is a little newsstand. It's been there years and years. I mentioned to Ken that I'd like to see if they had the latest issue of Cat Fancy magazine as well as the latest issue of Cats USA. I needed an extra issue of Cats USA for my archived magazine covers. This is what I saw when we went into the bowels of the store:

A few years ago, one of my goals was to have the cover of an Annual. An annual is either Cats USA or Kittens USA. The annuals stay on the stands a year so the exposure is twelve times that of Cat Fancy magazine. It took me until 2008 to get the cover of an Annual: Cats USA 2008. So when I saw these three magazines together, I had to take the shot. I asked the proprietor of the newsstand for permission, which he gave. Then I photographed it, bought the 2010 issue of Cats USA, gave my business card to the proprietor, and left smiling. Ken called this "the Trifecta" ... three in one.

I have to admit I'm still like a little kid when I get a cover. It is still hard to believe that less than ten years ago, I was just starting out, photographing cats for a living.

As Thanksgiving is just next week, I feel a need to express my appreciation and gratitude. I am grateful for the friends I've made in the cat fancy, in photography and the relationships of people in publishing who have all turned out so enjoyable. My life is enriched -- and it began, and continues, with cats.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Sunrise, Sunset

Sunrise, Tuesday, 3 November 2009, looking straight out from the beach.

Sunset, Tuesday, 3 November 2009. Standing on walkway to beach. Clouds make all the difference!

Sunset, 2 Nov 2009. Preston on steps preparing to set up his tripod to photograph the sunset.

Sunset, Monday, 2 November 2009, Blue Mountain Beach, Florida.

One of my favorite shots of Preston photographing the sunrise at Blue Mountain Beach.

Ahh, this was absolutely lovely. This was sunrise at the lake at Grayton State Park on Wednesday, 4 November 2009. We stood on the bridge and photographed the tall pines. This shot was taken before the sun rose and was dark, but turned out to be more than what I originally thought.

Looking West away from the sunrise at the lake in Grayton State Park. We were fortunate to have a full moon for this trip.

Ken doesn't drink beer often, but the first evening we arrived, he enjoyed one. You can see the sunset in the background, reflected in the glass doors.

So that's the end of the First Annual Cat Photographers Creativity Workshop and Retreat!

Saturday, November 7, 2009


Double click on image for a larger view:
The stairway to the Gulf from the condo, taken by Ken and me and Kirk and Preston to photograph sunrises, sunsets, and go for walks on the beach. This shot puts a smile on my face. I fed the seagulls from the bottom landing yesterday. What joy. I could almost fly then, myself.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Room with a View

We went to Florida for our Anniversary! Here is the view of the ocean, the Gulf, actually, from our balcony. What a restful, serene place.

And from inside the common room, or living room, looking out the sliding glass doors to the patio. Preston Smith joined us, flew into Fort Walton Airport late Sunday night where we picked him up and brought him back to the condo.

Here's Preston, setting up his tripod, preparing to shoot the sunset from the beach. More to follow, later.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Florida on my mind ...

All photos by Ken Flick in this post
Note in a bottle.
In the ten years since I began photographing cats for a living, our only "vacations" have been a couple of days stolen during the return trip from some cat show destination. Most recently, that involved recovering for two days on the beaches of the Florida panhandle after doing the TICA Annual in Orlando, Florida. Just being there in this, our favorite vacation spot before I became a cat photographer, triggered a flood of memories. This is where Ken and I were married -- barefoot on the beach -- in October of 1998.
Although, as weddings go, we spent very little on this one -- by all accounts of those who attended, this was a celebration that was as cherished a time for them as it was for us.

Our wedding invitation came in a box. Inside the box was a square booklet, hole-punched, with ribbon ties. Inside the booklet were images of the beach, the above note-in-a-bottle picture, our wedding rings, our kitties (on the back of the last page -- why cats? Why not? They were and are a large part of our life!), a map of the area, and words Ken wrote. The booklet was seen as soon as you opened the lid of the box. Once you removed the booklet, you could see the box had compartments.
In these compartments were the following:
(1) a glass test tube with a rubber stopper containing turquoise sea water;
(2) a clear plastic rectangular box containing the white sand that this stretch of Florida is famous for along with some shells and sand dollars we bought at a shell store in Florida during our reconnaissance trip;
(3) a one sheet invitation which we created on brown paper, typed, individualized, and stuffed into a small bottle (a miniature of the one in the photo above); and
(4) an RSVP form with self addressed and stamped envelope to return to us, letting us know if the recipient was planning on attending a week long wedding feast and the ceremony itself. The RSVP also asked what at which airport the invitee would be arriving, date/time, and flight number so we could have them scooped up and delivered to the beach house we rented for a week in Dune Allen Beach.

This wedding invitation box was mailed out to a small number of our old and dear friends across the country. The note in the bottle, above, was printed as the first page of our wedding invitation.

Photo by Ken Flick
Looking down the beach.

Photo by Ken Flick
A shot of the dunes dividing the Gulf (which you can't see) from the lagoon in the foreground.

Photo by Ken Flick
Here is another shot of the dunes from almost the same vantage point but at sunset.

Photo by Ken Flick
One of my favorite shots of Florida: the water and waves.

Photo by Ken Flick
Standing out in the Gulf and shooting back at the beach.

The white sand is so reflective that you can get a sunburn from it in no time if you aren't careful. But it is the sand that gives the water that beautiful jewel-like color and crystal clarity. In the summertime, there are little tiny fish who swim close to shore and nibble at your ankles in the surf. I think they are exfoliating your calves and ankles, or else they are getting food from the sand you've whipped up with your feet as you walk in the water. Once you get past the breakers and are swimming, they don't bother you. One of our close friends is freaked out by them, but to me, they tickle!

Ken and I are looking forward to going back down to this area and celebrating our anniversary, albeit a little late. At sometime in the future, I will photograph the invitation and post it. I am very lucky in that I have a very romantic husband who is also a writer!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Everybody Focus ....

Sometimes, the most interesting images of kittens are when they are not interested in looking at the camera, but doing their own "thing." These guys above, 8 weeks old and brought to me for photos by Cari and Pete Tucker, is a good example of that. They look soft and fuzzy and only one of the eight is looking at the camera. That they are all facing forward was a big plus for me!

Another example of none of the kittens looking at the camera!

And here we have the majority looking at me, thanks to Ken teasing them toward the lens. These little guys were eager to please, but they weren't quite sure what we wanted them to do! It was a hoot. I love photographing kittens. They have no fear and are fascinated by stimulus. Plus they look so cute! The publishers usually want the cat or kittens to be looking in the lens of the camera and will take that pose over an action shot.

Thanks to Cari and Pete Tucker for bringing over their 8 week old litter of eight Maine Coon kittens for me to photograph! And thanks to Ken for teasing them so well!
Background for this Maine Coon litter of eight: Claret.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Blue Shoot: Mishikoonz 8-week old Maine Coon Kittens

Here's Mishikoonz Stripey, an 8 week old Black and White Maine Coon male.

And here is the whole group! Five Black Silver Classic Tabbies with White and three Black and White Maine Coon kittens from Mishikoonz. Cari Tucker and her husband, Pete, brought them over for their first photo session. Pete was a quick study and turned out to be a very good "Tosser" as well as Kitten Wrangler, making sure there was no "air" between the kittens and prompting them to walk across the photo table.

This was Cari's first litter of Maine Coons so photo documentation of each kitten was very important. What sweet little Coonlets ... it was a fun shoot!

The Background for this sitting was Cobalt Blue.

Tomorrow I'll post a shot from the Claret Red sitting.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Happy Halloween

"Tanstaafl Cashmere," a young Black Maine Coon female, shot at the TICA Gulfport Mississippi Cat show in January of 2003 with small pumpkins that Ken and I brought to the show just for this sitting.
Background for Cashmere: Black

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

On Your Mark, Get Set ....

This is a Ruddy Abyssinian, "Nobgoblin" intent on getting the pheasant feather that Ken is using to tease him across the shooting table. Abys are wonderful photographic subjects: their fur is ticked, like a squirrel's, which makes their musculature more defined for the camera, they are VERY active cats and not afraid of being photographed or new situations. Ken calls them "monkeys on crack" ... because they are all over the shooting table. To get a shot of an Aby in a formal posed position is very difficult. An action shot is much easier! I love their look: inquisitive, curious, in the moment, and affectionate. They have a sweet face and always play in an entertaining fashion.

Nobgoblin was a good example of the activity of this breed. His back leg and tail were actually out of frame so I had to do some cloning of background to make the image publishable.

He was photographed at TICA's 2008 Jersey State Cat Show in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, USA.

Background for Nobgoblin: Sage

Friday, October 9, 2009

Maine Coon Kittens on Purple

Here are the kittens from the Saturday shoot on our Purple Background, one with a butterfly added during post processing (since they're looking up at the cat tease which Ken is holding out of frame), and the other, below, is a shot with the trunk. The trunk is very dark so another layer of the same shot was added with the trunk lightened. In this layer, everything but the trunk was erased so the kittens were the correct exposure but the trunk didn't look black!

Ken and I are working on developing a future post about what happens during retouching. For example, tails were added to the kittens on the ends to create a more pleasing image.
We don't usually bring this trunk on the road to cat shows, but we do use it for studio shoots.
Background: Purple.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Five 10-Week Old Silver Classic Tabby & White Maine Coon Kittens

Yesterday, an old customer and friend of mine brought over five 10-week old Silver Classic Tabby and White Maine Coon Kittens for Ken and me to photograph. We needed some kittens to "stand" on a title, "Cats on Blue" for an ad we're doing - or to be a panorama at the base of the ad, so I composited the group shot with (left to right) 2 kittens, then 2 kittens, then five kittens, and finally, a two kitten shot. You can click on the image and see it much larger.

Above is one of the males from the shoot. We were very pleased with the ease at which these kittens played with the cat tease Ken used to get them to look at the camera.

We shot some more on our Purple background, but that will have to be posted later.

Background for these Maine Coon kittens: Imperial Blue

Saturday, October 3, 2009

New Cover on Russian "Cats.Info" !

I recently found out that I have the cover of a Russian cat magazine, "Cats.Info." I asked how to say it in English since I don't have the keyboard for the Cyrillic alphabet and I don't understand Russian anyway, even if I did! The above image is Sheryl Koontz's Safari cat, Marechal Xspotica, a 10 month old F1 Black Spotted Tabby Safari female.

Below are some of the other images published in the October 2009 issue.

Wildkatz Bwana Bushwah, an F1 Brown Ticked Tabby Chausie Neuter, bred by Sandra Cassalia of Wildkatz Cattery.

ZenDada SunDog, a Brown Marble Tabby Bengal male, bred by Julie Gracie Moseley of ZenDada Cattery, on our Sage background, above.
Willowind Shekinah Glory, an 18 month old Black Spotted Grizzled Tabby Chausie female, bred by Tammy Isaacs of Willowind Chausies, photographed on our Imperial Blue background, at left.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

“What Camera Should I Buy?”

Recommendations from my experience
followed by hardware options from Ken.

Enough people have asked me, "What is the best camera for me to get?" that I have decided to put some information in my Blog. Here are some points I would like to make before Ken goes into the technical information and some hardware choices:

If you're asking me because you like my cat photos, I would first have to say the camera is the least important factor – in my images or yours! What is most important? Your eye and the light. Your eye - because you first have to “see” an image that pleases you and you have to “see” what does not belong in the image. The light - because that can make or break an image - no matter how perfect the choice of subject or the composition. You can develop your eye as you go through the process of taking pictures IF you take the time to evaluate your images and decide how they can be improved. Then follow through with what you've learned. Lighting will be the subject of a future post.

Think about what you want to use your camera for. Shots of your family (human or feline) to put on your website or email to friends? Travel photos? Kitten shots for print and website? Documentation of your valuables at home for insurance purposes? Large prints to hang in your home? Subjects aside, the choice can come down to whether you only need low resolution images for the Internet or or high resolution images for large print applications. Maybe you need both. But the camera you would want would be dependent on the end use.

Go to a few retail stores and feel the cameras you are interested in. Feel what it is like to take a picture. Look at the buttons and controls. Does the placement make sense to you? Is it too heavy? Does it feel good and solid in your hand? Do you need a tripod to hold it? J You will find that some cameras feel better FOR YOU than others. This is an individual decision. You cannot ask your brother-in-law or friend to make this determination for you. Their hands are different.

RTFM. Read the manual.

Memory cards can travel between camera types. Get two to three memory cards for your camera. Purchase a card reader if your computer does not have a port in which to insert your memory card. I prefer to have mid range storage of images; otherwise, I tend to use a memory card as a filing system and spend too much time clicking through images I should have downloaded to my computer.

Batteries are usually camera proprietary specific lithium ion rechargeables. Get a minimum of two, so one can be charging while you’re using the other. I like to have three: one in the camera and two for backup. I also purchase two chargers: one for the road and one for home, but one may be plenty for you.

You’ll need a camera case to carry your camera, memory cards, card reader (if necessary), camera manual, batteries and charger, plus filters and lenses (for SLR cameras). Buy the smallest camera case that will hold all this gear. Remember, the smaller the camera case, the more likely you’ll bring it with you.

IF YOU DON’T HAVE YOUR CAMERA WITH YOU – YOU WON’T TAKE ANY PHOTOS. So make it easy on yourself! Take your time purchasing this equipment. I’ve found that I will take my small camera everywhere, but my large SLR camera only on expressly planned field trips or professional assignments. Have you seen a photo opportunity where you thought, “I wish I’d brought my camera?” For my women friends: leave your purse at home and carry your keys and driver’s license in your camera case. When an opportunity arrests your eye or attracts your attention be prepared to capture the moment. Get a camera that is handy to have with you.

Now for Ken’s logical technical portion and recommendations:

(Ken here)

Maybe you regard yourself as a hobbyist snapshooter who would like the enhanced capabilities of a "good" camera that can take very nice photos of a variety of subjects and you like the idea of a pocketable camera that's easy to have with you for whatever photo opportunities life happens to serve up. You enjoy taking pictures for the results (having competently captured a subject or moment that was important to you), but you really just want to press the shutter button. You don't want to get involved in the details of the process, like setting f-stops and shutter speeds -- or even learning what those things are and what they do. Reading user's manuals makes your mind glaze over. You just want turn all that technical stuff over to the intelligence that's built into the camera. You're not interested in trying to do indoor or other low light photography without using the flash that's built into your camera and you can't imagine why anyone else would either. And you can't foresee the time when you would want any prints made that were bigger than 8x10.

The camera for you is one in the compact category of fully automatic cameras called "Point-and-Shoot". If taking pictures on anything like a regular basis is really not your thing and you find that you only haul a camera out on holidays, vacations and family get-togethers, then just about any brand name camera sold today will suit your needs. Go to Best Buy and find one for $150 in a color that catches your eye or one that feels good in your hands. You'll be happy with it. If you want to reinforce your choice with an expert opinion, go to the Digital Photography Review website and read the review and comparison of nine Budget Cameras (under $150) or just cut to the chase of this exhaustive piece and go to the Conclusions and Ratings section at the end. Here's the link to the whole thing:

But if you enjoy taking pictures more frequently and aspire to get better at it, and if you want a camera with capabilities you can grow into without having to buy a bunch of lenses and accessories and master a lot of technical stuff, then consider spending a bit under $300 and getting a really great compact Point-and-Shoot camera: the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3. This model is two generations beyond the Lumix TZ3 that Helmi has been shooting with on a daily basis for about two years now when we're not doing studio photography of cats. It is, in my view, the best reviewed and most capable pocketable point-and-shoot available right now. In fact, it is the camera that Helmi will be shooting with shortly, because I just bought one for her on Amazon a couple of days ago for $279.99.

Below, are a couple of pictures of the ZS3 and a link to the Amazon pages for the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3: Scroll down to the user reviews and see how those who own this camera rate it.

For an expert opinion of how the Lumix ZS3 stacks up against competing cameras in its class, click on the link below for a comparison test of Compact Super Zoom Cameras by

But maybe you've had a Point-and-Shoot digital camera or two and you're ready to move up to a Digital SLR. Maybe you used to own this kind of camera back in the days when they used film. Maybe you still do, and you want a digital model that can take advantage of your collection of lenses. If that's the case, do some research and make sure these modern digital bodies can actually use your lenses, then buy the same brand of camera as your lenses.

Otherwise the choices are wide open. There are a number of brands of DSLRs and probably no bad ones, but I would suggest you stick with one of the two premier brands: Canon and Nikon. They are consistently ranked the best and they offer the widest selection of lenses and accessories. Which one of these you choose comes down to a Chevy vs. Ford, Toyota vs. Honda argument. Each of these camera brands has their fans and both are good choices.

Below are photos of the two best entry level DSLRs and Amazon's links to them. First, is the Canon XS for $499.95:

. . . and the Nikon D3000 for $558.53:

NB: these prices were from on Friday, 25 September 2009. Most do not include shipping (an additional $10-15) and all are subject to change almost daily.

Prospective customers -- even those who are not that keen on technical specs and discussions of capabilities -- are strongly urged to READ THE REVIEWS by Amazon customers and see what is said about a camera by those reviewers whose skill levels, aspirations and intended photography subjects closely match their own.
We long ago committed to Canon and have enough invested in lenses and related gear that we are not apt to switch brands anytime soon. So I mostly keep track of the new models from Canon and among these, I am currently impressed with the capabilities of the Canon T1i (for the serious/aspiring amateur) who is ready to step up from the entry level offerings and has a bit more money to spend on a camera. This one is selling for $799.95 on Amazon. Here's a photo of it and the link is below the picture:

PLEASE NOTE: All images of cameras are copyright and/or the camera manufacturers.

For a more professional opinion of these cameras, compared to their competition, go to the camera reviews at Digital Photography Review. These reviews are quite extensive and may well be far more detailed and technical than most novices care to digest. If that's the case for you, then just read the Introduction page for each camera and then skip down to the Conclusion page. Here's the link:

One more thing: when considering a point-and-shoot camera, it is easy to get caught up in the megapixel (MP) race and believe the more megapixels, the better. But don’t be seduced by high MP counts. “Noise” (grainy visual static) is the dark secret that comes with high MP counts in little point-and-shoot cameras which have tiny sensors (the chip that records the image) compared to DSLRs. In fact, the low noise capability of DSLRs with their far larger sensors is one of the best reasons for moving up to this type of camera.

(Helmi here)

In May of 2000, I started shooting cat shows with a point-and-shoot camera. An Olympus C-2000Z (2 MP). This was a high res camera for it's day when three megapixels was the best there was in a $3 to $4,000 DSLR. It wasn’t until almost five years later in March of 2005 that I got my first DSLR (Canon EOS 20D) to use professionally. Yet, I had full pages and magazine covers using 3 MP point-and-shoot cameras. I'm saying this to prove that the number of megapixels need not be over 5 for most anything you want to do, short of poster size prints ....

But again, it’s not the camera, it's your eye and the light! About which ... more later.
A NOTE: For those of you who are inspired to do a little more research on your camera purchases, Diana P. Keat wrote to remind us that there are a couple of other good sites for this that are perhaps a little more accessible to the less-than-hardcore photography buff than DPReview. These are
Check 'em out! Thanks, Diana.