Thursday, November 4, 2010

A Short Vacation to Florida

I hate to miss a sunset. Since we were still on the road to the condo, I got the sunset in the side mirror while Ken was driving.

Then Ken pulled over to the side of the road to get the Choctawhatchee Bay. It is SO much better to take a photo when the car isn't moving, especially when it's dark outside!

Monday morning, this was the sunrise from the balcony of our condo.

And there was a crane or waterfowl of some sort, waiting for his/her breakfast to appear on the morning tide.

This is the view to the West after the sun was starting to rise.

Our good friends, Agi and Bill Vetter (who were in our wedding 12 years ago) washing the sand off their feet. You can see how white the sand is and it's extremely fine. Your feet squeak when you walk on it!

The walkway to the beach ... I love the look of this with the cobblestone walk to the wood of the stairs and the free standing shower. A serene and quiet place with the roar of the surf ever present. A great way to drift off to sleep in the arms of Morpheus, hearing the rhythm of the waves crashing on the beach.

It rained on Wednesday and half of Thursday, but the Pelicans still made their forays down the coast.

And our "goodbye" sunset was tonight with this unbelieveable display of color. So we drive back home to Dallas/Fort Worth and start madly packing for the trip to Japan on Tuesday. Recharged for another cat show!

Friday, October 15, 2010

A Little Love Letter to Ken

Anniversary Tulips from Ken

I am very lucky to be married to a romantic man. He remembers our anniversary, birthdays and Valentine's Day much better than I do. We married late in life and I've only been married to him for twelve years but we've crammed a lifetime into those years!

Ken was the one who encouraged my photography. He got me a digital camera for HIS birthday! This was back in 1999. What a difference it made ... I could instantly see what I was doing wrong and could correct it, right there. Before then, I was using film and would be lucky to get one good image out of three rolls of film. Ken would ask me, "What was your f-stop? What was the exposure setting? Speed? Look at this image and tell me what is in focus?" I was clueless. But when digital came out, all the settings were there. And because of Ken, I became a Cat Photographer.

Now we are able to travel together, work together, play together, live a full life, with cats -- together. All because of cat photography. Sure, there are rough patches, but they don't last long. And it's usually me that gets bent out of shape or acts like a drama queen! But we end up laughing about it and remembering what, in the long run, is important.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Remembering Dancer by Ken Flick

It will be a long time before Helmi and I forget a little Bengal kitten called "Dancer," who we had the pleasure of photographing last Sunday at the Wichita, Kansas, show. I could feel her trembling from the moment her owner placed her on our shooting stage, so I asked, pretty sure of the answer I'd get, "Is this Dancer's first show?" We were told that, yes, this was her first show and, more than that, this was only her second day away from the home where she was born six months ago. So this little kitten was in a strange place, surrounded by the sights and sounds of a hundred strange cats, in the care of her new owner who was essentially a stranger to her, and now being handled by a strange man -- me -- in a room full of bright flashing lights. No wonder Dancer was trembling. And I'm not sure she ever stopped trembling during the entire photo session.

But I'll tell you what: this scared little kitten was so courageous and so ready to please that she let me put her through all the paces and coax her into all the poses that I would expect of the most cooperative veteran show cat. And Dancer's performance was especially welcome to us, since we had had a number of tough subjects earlier that day.

Unlike cat show judges, whose criteria for evaluating cats are strictly those of a beauty contest without the talent or personality component, Helmi and I judge the cats we shoot based upon their willingness and ability to perform for the camera. Our feline subjects earn our admiration if they are cooperative, poised, playful, good natured and photogenic.

Our job is to produce the best possible portraits of the cats our customers bring us, yet we cannot deliver on this if the cat is shy, ill at ease, cowering, camera-phobic, frozen stiff or freaked out and bent on escape. Most Oriental breeds tend to be this way and despite our best efforts and all the patience we can muster, we are seldom satisfied with what we are able to get from these cats -- and always surprised when their owners are. At the other extreme are Maine Coons, who are such easy going, eager to please, rewarding to shoot subjects that Helmi and I decided early on to get two of our own.

So, yes, we judge the cats we shoot at every show, too. And often, in the evening after the show is over or on the drive home the next morning, we will talk about the cats we shot and tell each other which ones were our favorites. And on the drive home from Wichita on Monday, it became clear that Dancer, the little Bengal kitten with the big heart, had stolen both of our hearts. Despite her understandable insecurity at being wrenched away from the only home she had ever known, she stepped up to the plate and performed at a level that a number of our Wichita cats never attempted. We don't give out rosettes, but Dancer was a big winner in our eyes. She gave the kind of photogenic performance that enabled us to win -- she made our job look easy to our customer and enabled us to deliver images the customer would like.

It is always heartbreaking news to hear that a cat we have known has died, especially when it is a kitten who has left so soon before its time. And it was even more tragic to learn this about a kitten who had so recently won our respect and affection and was still very much on our minds. But this is what happened on Thursday (yesterday) when we learned that little Dancer, who had not eaten for days and had spent the previous couple of days in the care of a vet, was diagnosed with terminal feline leukemia and put to rest. It's enough to make a grown man cry. And that's not just a figure of speech.

It will be a long time before Helmi and I forget Dancer, the brave little Bengal kitten with the big heart. The world has lost a real winner.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Bus Ads

2010 TICA Annual Cat Show Bus Ad: Persian

2010 TICA Annual Cat Show Bus Ad: Ragdoll

2010 TICA Annual Cat Show Bus Ad: Siberian

2010 TICA Annual Cat Show Bus Ad: Maine Coon

2010 TICA Annual Cat Show Bus Ad: Bengal

2010 CFA Santa Monica Cat Show Bus Ad: Ocicat

2009 CFA Santa Monica Cat Show Bus Ad: Oriental Shorthair.

This is probably my favorite bus ad because it is very eyecatching. Art Graafmans did a wonderful job of making the best use of the cat image while giving pertinent information.

If you're in California, you'll be able to see Bus Ads promoting the CFA Santa Monica Cat Show in Los Angeles, and ads promoting the TICA Annual in Santa Clara. Ken created all the ads for the TICA Annual in Santa Clara and we supplied the cat images for the CFA Santa Monica Cat Show.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Going to Japan!

Design and graphic art by Jun Hagiwara

I am so fortunate. Not only are we going to Japan to do the CFA Ruban d'or Chat Fanciers Show in November, 2010, but Jun Hagiwara created this beautiful ad for me. It shows the ten backgrounds we'll be flying with and our names for them.

This will be the first CFA show we've done outside of the United States! Thank you, Jun, for a stunning ad.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Fossil Ridge Wildlife Center - The Beginning of an 18-Hour Vacation

Click on image to enlarge. That's how you can see the giraffes!

I wanted to start this story with an image from the next afternoon. There are giraffes, zebras, deer, antelope, all in this image. The school bus that has a camoflauge paint job is one that takes people on the Fossil Rim Wildlife Center's Scenic Wildlife Drive.

Fossil Rim has 1700 acres containing 1100 animals who roam freely in areas that approximate near natural conditions. (These words are almost verbatim from the Animal Identification Guide we were given before the drive.) The animals are managed this way so that they can behave, socialize, and reproduce, much as they would if in the wild. Some are endangered, on the brink of extinction, or part of dwindling populations.

Ken and I had such a magical time here. An 18-hour vacation! But it was so packed full of new sights, sounds, smells, etc that it felt like a longer time. It was rejuvenating. Here are some of the shots I took with my small camera.

Their range is the Savannah regions of Africa south of the Sahara. Only the males have horns and an oily, musky secretion makes the Waterbuck unpalatable to predators. Their bulls-eye marking on the rump may help the young follow through high grasses.

Fossil Rim Wildlife Center has a main Lodge as well as their Foothills Safari Camp. Shown here is the Observation and Deck of the Pavillion in the Safari Camp. This is where we were to have breakfast the next morning.
The Addax.
Range: Mauritania to Egypt, western Sahara and Sudan. Critically endangered. The most desert adapted of all antelopes, an addax can live most of its life without drinking, deriving sufficient moisture from the plants it eats. Their coloring is stark white to tan with a distinctive brown "toupee." (I called that fringe of dark hair "bangs" when describing them to Ken.) Our tent was called "Addax."
Greater Sandhill Crane.
Range: Northeastern Siberia, Alaska, Canada and northern United States. Population: Stable. Most easily recognized by their call, greater sandhill cranes can be heard up to half a mile away. These cranes have the longest migratory route of any crane -- about 14,000 miles round trip. This image is a crop, but you can see a youngster if you look closely; lighter in color and to the left of the two large gray Cranes.
The Sable Antelope.
Range: Southeastern Kenya to Angola and eastern South Africa. Status: Least concern. The herd rests in an outward-facing circle to watch for danger, while young lie protected in the center. Females are reddish brown, males are black, both sexes have white undercoats. I thought this female struck a pose that looked majestic. She was grazing in a pasture between the Lodge and the Foothills Safari Camp.

European Red Deer.
Status: Least concern. Red deer closely resemble the American Elk. Males emit a powerful bubling call during mating season in the Fall. Red deer shed their antlers each year in February and regrow them quickly. One of these deer came up to the car for a handout but I didn't have any food yet.

Wildflowers in the meadows. These were in the meadow right outside our tent. The morning light is doing a nice "fringing" light on the thistle bud.

Thistle bud.

Wildflowers with the watering hole in the background.

This is our "tent!" No locks on the doors but who needs them!

Addax Tent. With Ken relaxing in front. Now you can see why they call the cabin a "tent."

View out the front door of Addax Tent.

Glassed-in shower in the bathroom.
Our breakfast! This was included in the price of our room and
below is the view we saw while eating breakfast.
Beyond the pond in the foreground is the watering hole where we saw the Greater Sandhill Crane family the night before.

This was a magical place, serene, lovely, spiritual. I would think if American Indians saw this place, hundreds of years ago, they would call it sacred. I felt a peace descend over me. I hope all of you reading this can make this journey less than 80 miles from Dallas/Fort Worth. I felt like I was on Safari, in Africa! But with air conditioning! Check them out.
If you like animals, this is a place to experience.

The next post will be the drive through the park, called Fossil Rim Wildlife Center's Scenic Wildlife Drive.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Cat and the Rat

This is Lewis, the Cat, and his pal, Squelch, a Rat. I believe, if I have my story correct, that Squelch is a Rescue! He is hairless with hair only on his tail. Lewis is a Maine Coon.

Lewis has his own page on facebook! Fleur came to me for a photo shoot in my studio for Lewis, then mentioned that Squelch might be fun to have along, too. Fleur also brought her two Trailer Rescues, two four year old cats rescued from under a trailer when kittens. These cats, Michael and Jeremy, weren't so thrilled about the photo shoot, but Lewis was a "Player!" He couldn't take a bad photograph!

Fleur said that Squelch was the instigator of a lot of mischief making in the house. I can just see that in my mind's eye!

You can see that they are buddies.

I thought this was one of the sweetest ones. It's almost as if Squelch is whispering to Lewis what devilment he is planning for the cats to get into next! It's a happy household and it was a pleasure to meet Fleur and her family.

But about teasing a rat into poses: forget about it! This guy was not interested in sound or visual teases. You can imagine Ken whipping his pheasant feather around, getting the cat's attention, with Squelch paying him no mind whatsoever. It was a hoot!

Background: Sage.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Bagral

"Cleo," an F1 Bagral (Fishing Cat x domestic shorthair), owned by Pat Harbert of OhMy Cattery.

Yesterday, we had the singular opportunity to photograph what is to our knowledge, the only known Bagral in captivity. The Bagral is a exotic/domestic hybrid breed which is a cross between the Fishing Cat and a domestic shorthair, in this case a melanistic Bengal.

For a stay-at-home cat that is not used to being around strangers or new places, Cleo was surprisingly manageable during the photo session -- especially a cat with one wild parent! We were struck by how affectionate Cleo was with her owner, Pat Harbert, constantly headbutting her - purring and visibly happy to be in her company. In fact, Cleo was so happy, that she was also affectionate to Ken and me, wrapping her body and tail around my legs and rearing up to meet my hand when I reached to pet her.

This was a large cat, far heavier than most cats and all muscle. Cleo's friendliness aside, this was not an easy shoot, primarily because Cleo was a busy cat by nature, eager to explore the new surroundings she found herself in. And eager to be all over our shooting stage, especially behind the deck when we needed her to be ON the deck so we could photograph her! She'd jump down off the shooting stage and start exploring (we were in an enclosed room), then run back to Pat for affection, purring loudly. What a treat this was to photograph and be around this happy feline!

Of the six known exotic/domestic hybrid breeds, which are in order of prevalence: the Bengal, Savannah, Chausie, Safari, Caracat, and Bagral; the Bagral is by far, the rarest. So we were priviledged to have the opportunity to photograph Cleo.

Cleo was photographed against our Background: Old Wine.

(If I had another opportunity to photograph Cleo, I'd choose Peat Moss or Black. We had to pump so much light in since Cleo is a dark cat that the background came out pinker than I would have liked. Next time... !)

NOTE: From research done after this post was uploaded, it seems that Cleo would actually be called a Viverral which is a cross between the Fishing Cat and a Bengal. But whatever she is called, she is a stunner!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

My Cat Images on Popular Photography's Website

Above: Toyger on Claret Background

Above: Oriental Shorthair on Magenta Background

Above: Maine Coon on Imperial Blue Background

Above: Japanese Bobtail on Paprika Background

Above: Family of Maine Coons on Imperial Blue Background

Above: F1 and F2 Bengal Kittens on Peat Moss Background

Above: Persian on Purple Background

Above: Abyssinian on Sage Background

Above: Selkirk Rex Longhair on Purple Background

Above: Chausie on Black Background with Marbles

Above: Bengal on Peat Moss Background with Driftwood

Above: Maine Coon from Japan on Burgundy Background

Above: Birman on Periwinkle Background

Above: Maine Coon on Peat Moss Background

Above: Persian on Green Felt Background

Above: Savannah on Serval on Rusty Brown Background

Above: Birman on Milk Chocolate Background

Above: Himalayan Kitten on Teal Background in Crystal Bowl

Above: Ragdoll Close Up on Caribe Blue Background

Above: Tonkinese on Imperial Blue Background

Above are the 20 images I sent to Popular Photography to support the Interview on "Cat Photographer."