Category Archives: conservation

every day is earth day

“Be the change you want to see in the world.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)

On Thursday morning, I will be driving to Cherokee, NC to attend a NANPA Spring Regional Event.  The location is in the Great Smoky Mountains.  From the advance material for the event, the photo tours will be in a variety of locations and elevations.  A change of scenery will be good for both my spirit and my photography.  The views will be spectacular whether I am at the higher elevations or in the lush valleys with beautiful flowing streams.

It would be easy to go into descriptions of those areas, but that’s what I hope to do with the photographs from the trip.  My challenge is going to be to take the time to “see” what is around me and try to capture the beauty with the camera.  Taking a lot of photos is a solid practice but being selective about what to shoot is key.  Some basic guidelines I try to follow on every shoot include:

  1. Be aware of what is in the frame, many great shots can be ruined by an object that wasn’t noticed
  2. Look for interesting perspectives, don’t shoot everything from a standing position, don’t hesitate to sit on the ground or move about to find an interesting perspective
  3. Pay attention to the edges of the frame, sure you can crop later but try to avoid taking photos without regard for the edges because you can crop later, recompose the shot if possible
  4. Notice the separation of objects in the frame, sometimes a step to one side or another, or changing your angle can make all the difference in how the objects in the shot relate to each other
  5. Bracket each shot, what you see with your eye and what the camera records are often not the same
  6. Shoot a scene in a variety of aperture settings, variances in depth of field can be subtle but very important to nail the shot you want
  7. Remember you are painting with light, bright and dark areas can present some difficult exposure issues, be prepared to make adjustments if possible, in some cases you might need to note a location and shoot it at a different time of day
  8. Be considerate, if you are with a group, don’t hog a great spot or obscure the view of others around you, polite goes a long way
  9. Have fun, your feelings are transferred to your images, take time to find the “wow” and shoot that

Note to self: The above list is for you to remember, don’t get out there and just start snapping away.

The short list above is probably included in recommended practices in many photography articles and publications.  Every now and then, I need to remind myself about the basics.  Is the above list all encompassing?  Of course not, I hit some high spots.  Photography as an art involves paying attention to detail.  It’s easy to become overwhelmed in a new location and forget the basics.  It’s also easy to become so comfortable with a location and forget the basics.

reflection of spring at Turkey Creek

reflection of spring at Turkey Creek

In the shameless promotion section of this post, some of my work at Gerry Daniel Photography was fortunate enough to have a feature that was shown on “Wake Up Alabama” this morning.  My sincere thanks to Rick Jackson for creating the feature, to the team at “Wake Up Alabama” for the air time, and to CBS 42, the local CBS affiliate in Birmingham, Alabama for allowing Rick to produce the segment.  It was filmed at Turkey Creek Nature Preserve, a land tract that is part of Alabama’s Forever Wild Program.  There are a number of these beautiful natural areas that have been designated as “Forever Wild” and there is a list of others that are being considered.  Alabama has an amazing variety of terrain, wildlife, plant life, and unique ecosystems.  We have abundant waterways throughout Alabama.  Keeping the waterways fresh and clean is an ongoing effort by a lot of dedicated people throughout Alabama.  Other photographs from Turkey Creek can be seen in the Turkey Creek Nature Preserve gallery.

Let’s go with something that has a good rhythm. The song is “Tightrope” by Yeasayer from the album “Dark Was the Night” which was released in February 2009, features a variety of artists, and will benefit the Red Hot Organization – an international charity dedicated to raising funds and awareness for HIV and AIDS.


“Some have greatness thrust upon them, but not lately” ~ Frank Dane

spring flowers, 4/15/2010

spring flowers, 4/15/2010

It was a beautiful day in what has seemed like a long week.  The light was nice late this afternoon.  Tomorrow morning will be an early start to try and capture the morning light as the sun rises at Ebenezer Swamp in Shelby County, Alabama.  The photographs from this afternoon are all downloaded to my computer, I have only processed a few.  The flowers in the two photographs in this post were very small but size and beauty are not dependent on each another.

more small spring flowers, 4/15/2010

more small spring flowers, 4/15/2010

The title of the song for this post is “Lately” from the album “Keep Your Eyes Ahead” by Helio Sequence.

rave on



On February 14th, 2009, I arrived in Santa Fe for a week-long workshop on landscape photography at the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops campus, taught by Eddie Soloway.  The workshop was a wonderful experience and the facilities are both beautiful and first class.  The experience in Santa Fe deserves a separate post.  It had a profound impact on my approach to photography.

Today, one year later as I write this post, it is interesting to take a look back at the past 365 days.  One lap around the sun brought many changes to my life.  The sum of those changes are weighted towards the positive.  It would be tedious to get into the details.  You can breathe easy, I am not going to get into the journey at that level.  To try and prevent losing subscribers by boring them to death, I will just hit a few of the bigger events.  The funny thing about the bigger events is that they didn’t take place in isolation.  A series of moments, some interesting, some mundane, some happy, and some sad are the elements of any lap around the sun.  As a photographer I have the gift of capturing some of my moments with a camera, freezing and preserving them.

From the day when I arrived in Santa Fe last year to today, the following is a short list of highlights and lowlights.  As mentioned, the week in Santa Fe will get its own post at some point, it was an experience that will stay with me for a lifetime.  Almost one month to the day after arriving in Santa Fe, I was “downsized” from a job I had help for nine years.  Unfortunately it was an experience I shared with many people all over the United States.  At the end of April, I became a grandfather for the first time to a beautiful baby girl born to my oldest son and his wife.  So many people have asked me some version of , “What’s it like to be a grandfather?”  It still amuses me that I am the father of three sons, so adding another level is more amusing.

Sidebar: If you don’t know me, you very well might misinterpret what I mean by being amused about being a father.  I have three of the most incredible sons anyone could ask for, I have tried very hard to be a good Dad, but I am still me and it’s my nature to laugh about life.  Clearly it’s more complicated than that but you know that.

In June, my middle son got married to a wonderful girl/woman.  They are happy and doing well.  My youngest son is attending college and doing well.  In the grand scheme of things, I lost a job of nine years but have much to be happy about.

My search for another job was an interesting journey that resulted in me deciding to pursue photography as a career.  The bubble wrap is barely off that decision, so it’s too early to tell how it will go.  In the course of seeking a job in my former career path (my degree and the last 15 years of my life had been spent in information technology) I met some wonderful people.  One of those people is Tina Westbrook who is a talented photographer.  She is also a talented writer with a major book release coming up next month for “Letters from Alcatraz, Forty Years Later” which is her first book that is not about photography.  It’s going to be a huge success and she has asked me to photograph the events surrounding the release of the book.  Tina also writes a blog (Eastcreek Photography, Where Thoughts and Images Collide) which I recommend.

In addition to Tina, a very good friend of mine introduced me to another talented nature/conservation photographer, Beth Maynor Young.  Beth invited me to the initial meeting for a group called Conservation Photographers of Alabama and I am honored to have a chance to contribute through my photography.  It’s an important cause and close to my heart.  Beth took an interest in my photography and I appreciate her help more than I can say.

Over the past year, I have become friends with a successful and talented fashion photographer in Los Angeles, Melissa Rodwell.  Clearly Melissa and I are in different areas of photography but I have learned a lot from her and appreciate her support and encouragement.  Melissa writes a blog that I recommend to anyone interested in photography (Fashion Photography Blog).  She is a tremendous resource ad a wonderful person.

Over the past year I have photographed many beautiful locations, including parts of New Mexico as well as the natural beauty in my home State of Alabama.  The locations in Alabama  featured Turkey Creek Nature Preserve, Perry Lakes Park, and Ebenezer Swamp.

In December I published my first book that features a collection of my photographs of water lilies.  You can see it and buy it here (“a collection of water lilies, part one” by Gerry Daniel).  As I write the post today, the Dream Hat Photography Blog has been revamped and relocated to its own domain.  The new website for my professional work (Gerry Daniel Photography) has been created, is live, and is not complete, but it should always be evolving.  Last week I sent out my first newsletter.  In a moment of shameless promotion, please subscribe to my blog, my newsletter, and recruit others to subscribe.  It would help me very much to expand my subscriber base.

The span of a year included the support and encouragement of so many people in my life.  The group includes my inner circle of friends, my family, and my friends from SmugMug.  My thanks to each one of you for being a part of the continuing saga of Gerry.  Traveling along my road is not always the well traveled path and I have been known to wander.  I’m lucky that some have chosen to take the chance and be a part of the ride.

What about the next 365 days?  Hopefully I can carry the positive momentum forward and follow my dream of being successful with my photography.  My work needs wider exposure and I am looking for opportunities to exhibit my photographs.

Of course, there is always the blog post music selection.  The song is “Rave On, feat. Zooey Deschanel” from the album “Hold Time” by M. Ward.  It’s a great cover of a Buddy Holly song, listen to it, you’ll be glad you did.

secret meeting

Trees Against the Winter Sky

Trees Against the Winter Sky

So many things swirling around, on the edge of beginning this run with my dream of doing something creative and meaningful for a career/job/life, the days are full of details.  They say the devil’s in the details, but if he’s any kind of manager, he has his minions dealing with the details.  People that know me and/or have been around me in a workplace environment know that I hate meetings.  Like a lot of things, I am sure they are well intentioned but that doesn’t make them necessarily productive.  Over the course of my professional life, which covers a lot of years (don’t try to add them up), the number of productive meetings I have attended would be a tiny fraction of the total number of meetings.

If you asked people and they were honest with you, I think they would feel pretty much the same way about meetings.  They fall into what people regard as a necessary evil, some might argue they are an unnecessary evil.  I just view them as generally evil.

Nice little rant Gerry but what does this have to do with photography?

It may or may not have something to do with photography but since the blog gives me a forum for my thoughts, I may veer off onto tangents.  It keeps things interesting, at least for me.

As I post photographs from Gerry Daniel Photography to the Smug Mug Daily Community, I have an idea that some people haven’t connected the guy that posted for a couple of years as “Dream Hat” and now the guy that is posting as me (Gerry Daniel).  If they have made the connection, maybe they just are not finding some of my more recent work very compelling.  For the record, I post to the Daily Photo Community because I enjoy the activity, not for recognition.

That last paragraph was more of a sidebar, you know, stream of consciousness and all.

One of the cool things about being a new company and a company that is basically small.  It’s pretty much me but with input from some great people in my life which I love and appreciate.  The month of January was jam packed with activity and February is following suit.  Just this week, I sent my first newsletter email.  The response has been very positive and I am excited about options that it will add to being able to connect with people that are interested in keeping up with this wild ride.  There is a subscription form on Gerry Daniel Photography and if you go to the home page there is a link to the subscription form and all that is required is an email address, the other fields are optional.  It is called “Insight Newsletter” and if you have suggestions on a better names, please send them to me (let’s keep the suggestions clean, this is a business after all).  So if you are not subscribed, please go to my site and register/sign-up.

There is a group of conservation focused photographers in Alabama that are getting organized to help use our photography to promote important efforts to preserve and protect some of the beautiful natural areas throughout Alabama.  It’s my understanding that the group is currently working on their recently launched Forever Wild Campaign  Its photographers are building a visual database of the Forever Wild properties across Alabama in order to provide powerful photographic tools to enhance the efforts of conservation organizations in support of the Forever Wild Program.

I am looking for places to exhibit my work both to have it seen by more people and also to give me an opportunity to sell some of my photographs.  If you have some connections and/or can get me in touch with people that could help me make that happen, I would appreciate it.  In terms of location, I am open to having options in various parts of the United States, I am not limited to the Birmingham, Al area.

Thanks to everyone that subscribes to my blog, I am continuing to try and do everything I can to increase my subscriber base.  As always, if you can recommend me to others, I would appreciate it.  The same goes for my fledgling newsletter.

Secret meeting is a reference to the meetings I have had over the past couple of months with various people to talk about my plans and get valuable input on my efforts.  It’s also a reference to….wait for it….the song for the post.  The song “Secret Meeting” is from the album “Alligator” by The National.  Go ahead, listen to it, you need a break and good music will make you feel better.

Thanks for the love and support.

Photographing Waterscapes

Over the weekend, I had an opportunity to take photographs at Turkey Creek Nature Preserve.  It is an area consisting of 466 acres that is owned by the Alabama Forever Wild Program.  You can visit these sites to learn more about this beautiful area and the important work being done by dedicated people to preserve, protect, and conserve some important areas throughout the State of Alabama.

As a photographer, water fascinates me in many ways.  The vast majority of the photographs I took at Turkey Creek Nature Preserve involved water.  That isn’t to say that there wasn’t plenty of breathtaking woodlands to photograph, but I was focused more on the water.

The past week had included some heavy rain and the water levels are high from a fall that has been very wet.  The moving water plus the colors of the surrounding vegetation reflected in the water offered many beautiful options for photographs.

One of my standard methods when I shoot is to bracket each shot with three different exposures.  When shooting a subject like this, shooting the same scene with a variety of aperture settings and try to find the most interesting version when I am processing the shots.  For clarity, a tripod is a must as well as a cable release for the shutter.  It goes a long way to maintaining a steady camera to insure clarity.  The photographs that were taken on Sunday were almost all shot at ISO 100 to reduce noise.

As I write this post, I have a number of photographs from the two days of shooting that have yet to be processed.  What has emerged is a series of images that I am calling waterscapes.  Based on a quick Google search, it is a term that has already been used by others and seems to fit this group of photos.  In many of these shots, the images are almost abstract in appearance.  You should know that I have not altered the color in these photos other than to remove the color cast by setting my black, white, and gray points.  With the long exposures and the movement of the subject, the resulting image is not what we see looking at the scene in real time.

You can find many of these images on the Dream Hat Photography site in the Turkey Creek Nature Preserve gallery.  Depending on when you visit the gallery, you should know that it is sorted to have the most recent photos at the beginning.

It’s nice to have a song to go along with a post, something for the mood.  The music is part of the soundtrack that is my life.  My choice to match the peaceful mood of the location of the photographs is a song by one of my favorite artists, Greg Laswell.  The song is titled “And Then You” from the “Three Flights From Alto Nido” album.  If you are not familiar with his music, I encourage you to buy the album, every song is a pleasure.  A few months ago I had an opportunity to see Greg Laswell play a show at WorkPlay Theatre in Birmingham, AL.  The show was opened by Elizabeth and the Catapult who played a great set.