Guest Post. Lieve Snellings, Photographer and Childrens Writer.

I was delighted when Children’s author Lieve Snellings offered to share some tips on photographing nature.

Nothing gives more peace than photographing nature.

 

About 10 years ago I was introduced to the heavenly pleasure of nature photography. I was so charmed seeing all these pretty animals and birds in our Quebec garden. I had seen cats washing, but here I also saw birds, squirrels, groundhogs… doing the same. Observing them was so much fun.

hello fellow nature lovers

I don’t know if these lovely creatures have emotions like humans have, though I could hear them talk. And Margot the woodchuck (above)  started to tell me I had to publish their story, to show small and big kids that all creatures in nature are living beings and that they love to live too.  Of course, Margot wanted to play the first violin in the orchestra, but that was OK. She loved to share the attention with her family and friends.

It was Margot, who told me about Eufrazie the hairdresser and how she created a special hairstyle for every critter, also birds, when some festivity is coming up. It was exciting to see all those birds with this special haircut. I had to photograph them and share this with you all.

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Maybe you are interested in how to photograph birds too. I’m glad to offer you  here 14 easy tips:

  1. If you want to start photographing birds, you do not have to go far. It is best to start in your garden or street or a park or field in your area.
  2. It is important to get to know the behaviour of the birds you want to photograph. Around what time of the day do they show up? On which branch do they usually sit? Do they show up alone or in the company of others?
  3. Use a tripod.
  4. Hide, make use of a shelter, something you’ll not too visible. An old paravan, with an opening to pierce the lens of your camera through can also be a handy thing to hide.
  5. Don’t make sudden movements.
  6. Birds adhere to the same habits, they regularly return to the same place. Choose a spot, prepare your camera and wait until the bird returns to that spot.
  7. Set your camera to a fast shutter speed (S in high number) and the aperture or diaphragm as large as possible (F in small number) – this is to allow as much light as possible to come in and to make the shutter speed as short as possible.
  8. Take your photos in the larger format (highest megapixels) because otherwise, you lose a lot of quality when you make a cut-out afterwards.
  9. Make sure you are dressed warm enough because you may have to sit still for a while.
  10. Pay attention to the foreground and background.
  11. Birds like to fly against the wind direction to keep more control. So when you choose to photograph birds in flight, draw with your camera in the flight direction.
  12. Experiment with different points of view.
  13. Photographing birds is in fact, like top sport. Patience, exercise and perseverance are important.
  14. It is pleasant to have a bird encyclopedia or a bird app on your smartphone or tablet so you can look up which birds you just saw and learn more about them.

I wish you can enjoy as much as I did and do.

If you want to learn more about my work here is the link.   

Or you can follow me on WordPress : https://lievesnellings.wordpress.com/

Social Media links are: https://www.amazon.com/author/snellings-english

http://www.facebook.com/FotoBoekLieveSnellings

 

 

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The long and winding road.

May was busy, cleaning out the cupboard under the stairs. “It is like no man’s land in here,” she muttered. “And where is Ollie? Typical of him to dodge such a dusty dirty job.”

She stuck at it and an hour later stepped outside the small storage space to view all she had decided to chuck out, just as the front door opened.

“Hi, I have arrived in time to take the rubbish out, have I?” Ollie bent to give her a light peck on the cheek when a box full of colourful bottles caught his attention.

“We can’t get rid of these, Dad made them. ” His words sounded defensive and May bit her lip, she was tired of holding on to the bottles of homemade wines and beers.

Her voice was soft as she said it as she saw it, “well if we aren’t going to drink them they might be considered explosive by some people in authority.”

“We will test them tonight. If they taste foul we can clean the drains with them.”

So it was agreed.

At eight o clock, they sat before the tv set, ready to watch their favourite soap. On the coffee table, there was an assortment of dips, crisps and the colourful bottles. The back door opened and their neighbour and friend Liz trundled in, “my tv’s on the blink do you mind if I gatecrash your party?” She smiled at them and then looked pointedly at the assortment on the table.

“Not at all,” Ollie said scooting off to get another class and some peanuts.

“Delighted to have another person to give their opinion on Ollie’s dad’s wines and beers.”

So it began. The first bottle they declared was rank, the next a little bit better so they left the last one aside and began to drink. At 12.30 there was only one bottle left but as May declared, “My eyes are seeing four of you so I think it is time to end this party night. Ollie, will you see Liz to her front door?”

“Of course I will love. Come on Liz.” Pulling her to her feet he linked her arm and with a wave at May he left saying, “I’ll be two minutes, back in a jiffy, they don’t call me twinkle toes for nothing.”

Twenty minutes later there was no sign of him. May was worried.  She went to the front door and saw her husband and her friend arm in arm meandering across the road. Once they got to the other side, he released her arm and with a bow said, “Good night Liz.” Just then a car sped by and the blast of a horn had him wobbling on his feet.

“Ahh hang on Ollie who is going to see you across the road safely. It is like a flaming racing circuit tonight.” Liz bent towards him, linked arms and turned about.

When they got to the other side, Liz didn’t like the look of the stray moggie who hissed and spat at Ollie. “Just to be safe I’d better see you to your house now Liz, come on.”

May watched this performance happen twice. On the third occasion, she videoed it on her phone. Ten minutes of this and her patience grew thin.

She walked over to them. “Hi, Can anyone join in this walk or is it just for the lame-brained?”

“Ahh, you are funny. No. Yes, of course, you can.” Liz’s eyes twinkled at May as stepping between both of them she walked them across the road, and straight up to Liz’s front door. Not taking any chances,  May opened the door, gently nudged her friend inside, and then pulled it shut. After locking the door, she posted the key through the letterbox.

Taking hold of her husband she smiled and said, “Right let us go home.”

“I was just being chivalrous,” he said between hiccups.

“Of course you were love isn’t that why I love you as much as I do.”

Putting a broad smirk of delight on his face Ollie allowed her to lead him home.

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#Dementia

This one word is putting fear into me. My dad has vascular dementia and we are learning how to deal with another curve ball that life is throwing at us. No one is left unaffected by this horrible condition.

It is odd how often we live in blind ignorance until we are thrust into a situation and then we learn we are only one small unit amongst thousands who are learning how to cope with this condition.

I did not inherit his great intelligence and it is this intelligence that we now see fading behind a mask of sorrow and fear that he is learning to deal with. Dad was never an emotional man, he was always the calm voice of reason. The solid base. Now, this base is quivering under the multitude of questions he and we face.

So I am turning to all readers to ask for tricks and tips on how to lighten his load. His apologies are becoming more frequent, as are some silly incidents, i.e.,

Open the fridge door to discover all of the dinner dishes stacked (unwashed on the shelves).Open the  hot stove / oven door to find items of clothing sitting on the shelf being baked.

 

The washing machine last week was lined in white plastic, which I resorted to hoovering, the flakes to remove them.

Our solutions include:

We have posted notices on doors etc listing the what to do when leaving the house.

There are notices appearing on microwaves, seats, notebooks, computers as we try to make things easier for him to cope.

Remove all evidence of bills paid, as he worries about money which he no longer understands.

Have a series of carers in the house at meal times and as often as we can, we arrive in ones to nudge and coax him into a sense of normality.

So, again I appeal to all who read or notice my strange rambling blog all pieces of advice big and small will be chewed on, thought over and acted upon.

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So why post a picture of a sunflower? To give us all something sunny to look forward to, especially as Bob is asleep, again.

It’s been a funny old year.

We made some new friends, one (Willow ) who keeps nabbing my bed and lost some but lets hope 2018 is as good. (And that Maria doesn’t bring all 15 of the pups she has fallen for home with her!)

My one wish is she would stop finding all of theses silly hats for us to wear.

We don’t like them.

Happy New Year everyone.

A gift for Santa

The North Pole bustled and hummed with the sound of hundreds of elves calmly working through the last Christmas orders, while inside Santa’s house Constance Claus tried not to panic. The cause : she had no gift for Santa. Eleven hundred years of buying a present for someone makes it hard to surprise them.

Her dilemma had her in a snappy humour. It was noticed by Enda, chief elf. When he stopped to enquire for the fourth time in an hour if Constance was ok, it took all of her patience not to snap, “Course I am,” somehow she calmly nodded and smiled.

Time was running out, only twelve days to Christmas, she thought, why that is a mere flash of a few moments no time at all to create an exotic fun surprising gift.  Constance looked at Summer who was lying at her feet snoozing and dreaming. The cat’s tail twitched now and then as though she were re enacting a dream.

For the next week Constant spent a lot of her time considering a present for  the champion present giver. It was tough, but she knew if she persisted she would finally catch that elusive idea. With only three days to Christmas day she was a nervous wreck.

Finally exhaustion took hold, perhaps I should meditate on it, Constance settled down in front of the fire and closing her eyes let her mind drift. There was an awful lot of Christmas in their past, but as they flashed about in her head, time after time she returned to one Christmas. “ Problem solved”, she whispered to Summer.

Constance didn’t delay she went straight to the kitchen and began to cook and create. She worked at a frantic pace, not stopping to talk to Rudolph when he wandered in looking for a carrot. He reported back to the other reindeer “sorry guys looks like supper is going to be boring hay tonight.”

Enda overheard Rudolph’s comments and went to investigate

Constance first became aware of Enda’s presence when she counted the star shaped ginger cookies. “I could have sworn I cut out five dozen, where did the last twelve go?” She stared hard at Enda who was sitting on a stool at the table, the empty space in front of him provided the answer to Constance’s question.

“You ate a dozen?” She narrowed her eyes. “Help me make some more. I don’t have enough yet!”

Enda did as he was told and though he asked why they were baking such a lot of cookies, Constance refused to answer. When the final batch of cookies were baking, Enda slipped away to report to the elves. “She has lost the plot,”

Constance locked the door of her workshop.  “It is top secret, a Santa surprise. “ She told everyone and warned them under pain of being banished from the Christmas dining table not to go into the workshop.

Late on Christmas Eve , Constance seemed  fussier than usual.

“Constance, are you okay dear, you seem a little frazzled, ouch, Enda watch where you are shoving those extra toys.” Santa grimaced as the elf ignored him and pushed another train set into the gap in the back seat. “I wish the elves would do as I ask and sprinkle more magic dust on the toys, wouldn’t it be much better and safer if we made everything teeny tiny, just for the trip,” he finished.

“We tried that before, “ Sam replied. He was at that moment balanced on Santa’s hat and attempting to tie a sack to the back of Santa’s seat,  to anchor it.

Santa blushed and sighed, “It wasn’t my fault the magic wore off. The town square looked huge, but it wasn’t big enough to deal with the exploding growing gifts.. Lucky the reindeer were in top form and we got to hide them all on the roof tops. It was a long night.”

“It was for Bob he had to keep jumping off the sleigh to retrieve lost toys.” Sam slid down Santa’s hat, onto his shoulder, arms and tumbled onto the ground before walking away, happy his work was done.

“Well there is only so many times you can wind the clock back, so, don’t have any accidents this year.” Constance scolded as she handed him his warm gloves and fastened a hard hat over his santa hat, just in case. She wondered if she should sprinkle some pixie dust on him for a little luck then deciding it wouldn’t do any harm threw a whole sackful over him.

“Hoi,” Santa roared. The reindeers took it as his usual roar for go, leapt into action.

Constance turned about and raced back indoors.

That is strange Enda thought. Usually Constance stood watching the Reindeers fly into the sky and waited to see if their flight path would create a heart shape or a star. Tonight it was a glowing heart.

Constance finished her surprise with minutes to spare. The sun was peeping into the workshop when she made a discovery. Her present was too big to fit through the door.

“Bother, and triple bother. Now I will have to get help.” Summer stared at Constance and seemed to be smirking.

With a sigh Constance headed off in search of help. Minutes later her helpful elves, Enda, Slim, Noel and Sam stood and asked, “Why?”

“Because…well….it doesn’t matter but he will know, if he hasn’t forgotten.” Constance said with a racing heart and hoped that indeed Nick would remember.

“It won’t fit through the door,” Slim declared as he took out his tape measure and measured it for the fourth time.

“We know that you idiot.” His brothers sang at him.

“Perhaps we could take it apart and then put it back together.”

“No time”. Constance said.

“Bother, we will have to try the weave dance”. The elves sang and leapt into action.

Constance stared at them as they began to run around the giant gift. “If we run fast enough it will shrink.” They sang.

She grimaced. “ No it won’t but you guys will.”

They stopped running. “No. We are small enough.”

“Pixie dust”  Enda declared and ran to collect some. It took a while as the pixies’ were having a party before Christmas day and were not inclined to stop partying to work up a little magic dust even if it was for Constance.

However at last, with ten minutes until Santa’s arrival, they finished.

With a giant yawn each of the elves raced back to bed.

Constance sat and nibbled on a candy cane. She was too anxious to sleep.

There was a clatter of hooves, a few tired snorts mainly from Santa,  announced their return. She went to meet him and help get the reindeer settled. Bob, she saw was curled up asleep on the now very empty sack.

“Job done, all I need is a nice quiet day ..” Santa began and sighed, “but I am not going to get that am I?”

He produced a package from his pocket and handed it to Constance. She smiled, twinkled and whispered,” thank you but first I want you to see your present.”

Santa seemed to shrug off the tiredness as he walked quickly to the hall, he pushed open the door and stopped. There in the corner of the great hall sat a Santa Gingerbread House!

He put his hand on his belly and laughed, “Does it, will it?”

She smiled and said, “try it.”

Santa didn’t hesitate hand in hand with Constance he walked through the door of the gingerbread house and immediately a shimmering light surrounded it.  Ten minutes later the hammering of hundreds of elves feet announced their arrival into the great hall.

The excitement created by the gingerbread house was understandable as elves adore gingerbread however when they tried to reach out to eat a piece their hands hit an invisible wall. Inside Santa sat beside Constance with a grin on his face.  “A perfect present. You remembered what I wished for in the beginning and have been afraid to utter since… a few hours of rest in a peaceful silent room with not a yammering elf in sight. How long will it last?”

“As long as we don’t eat a piece.” She sighed and hoped the elves would forgive her but perhaps the dozens of gingerbread cookies sitting on the tables in the hall would help.

Afterall if Santa couldn’t have his perfect present once in a millennium then what chance would anyone have of ever getting their perfect gift?

The Christmas photo shoot was a disaster, all were grumpy, refusing to pose, the reason? I was working and late home.

Have a great and peaceful Christmas everyone..

Bob – The Reindeer

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It was four days to Christmas day. Mrs Constance Claus was in a dither.  Enda, Chief Elf, was no help. He was moving fast making her head spin.

“Enda, stop moving and help. Where did he come from?” Mrs. Claus was red-faced, her voice loud, both unusual for her.  Enda looked up recognised the danger signs of a temper about to blow and stopped beside her. The list of must do’s trailed across the yard and into the workshop. Elves were skipping and jumping over it. He noted Leslie’s big jump and made a mental note to include him in the hop skip and jump the barrel competition.

“From his mum.” Enda said before he thought about it.

“Woof” said the dog.

This got both their attention. “Is he talking to us?” Enda looked at Mrs C. His hat had slipped to the side of his head and it fell from his head straight onto the dogs. Delighted with this game Bob, the dog, started to dance about in a circle.

“Hey you have a note tied to your tail. Give.” Mrs. C said in her best no-nonsense voice.

Bob stopped moving and waited while the note was removed, unrolled and read. He decided to have a nap.

Mrs. C read it aloud, “Dear Santa, I would like to send you my dog to help you at your busiest time. Bob is smart he knows stuff. He is strong and he may help you to get this list to the family who live beside Bob’s house.  I put in a drawing of the family drawn by Sean. He put their list written in a bubble above our heads. Bubbles are handy aren’t they, ask Bob.”

Yours miles of smiles.

Enda snatched his hat off Bob’s head and said, “Well I never. This is a first. I wonder who this smiley guy is?”

At these words Bob sat up and stared at Enda. Mrs. C laughed “well it must be this boy Sean’s idea. It is clever and different.”

“What age is Sean ?” Enda demanded.

“Six and three-quarters.” Mrs C referred to the letter written in bright red crayon. She squinted at the letter. ”

“How did you get here?” Enda muttered.

“That is not our problem but him being here is, you know Santa is allergic to dog fluff and this is one large fluffy dog.”

At this moment Enda’s brothers, Slim, Noel and Sam arrived.  Sam bent down and hugged Bob. “Ahh, we always wanted a dog, can we keep him please?”

Bob moved between Sam and Noel.  “We can’t keep him he belongs to someone,” Mrs C said. Then she looked at the three elves. They looked sad. There were tears in their eyes. She sighed. “Okay we will find a way to keep him out of Santa’s sight. He is stressed enough without having to worry about his allergy.”

So for the next two days, Bob was in heaven. He got to meet the Reindeer,  Rudolph he knew about cos of the red nose. The reindeer are:Dasher, Dancer, Prancer,Vixen Comet, Cupid,Donner, and Blitzen.

They laughed when they learnt why he had come to the north pole. Dasher said, “you are one heavy-looking dog, you will have to sit in the back of the sleigh.”

Bob patiently explained he had come to help pull it. The reindeers thought this was hilarious. They rolled about in the snow laughing, then went back to eating. Bob left them to it and went to find Slim, Noel and Sam. They were eating dinner. “Hi Bob, would you like some dinner?”

Slim said,

Bob sat beside slim and ate a dinner of fish, potatoes and green beans. Enda noticed and shouted over, “hey he can’t eat that.”

Slim smiled then said, “Too late he has and he enjoyed every single bite.”

Bob wasn’t listening he went to sleep. He needed his energy because he had a plan to prove to the reindeer he could do anything they could do.

Next morning he got up early. When the reindeers went out for exercise they got a surprise. “What is it?” Rudolph asked.

Bob said, “It is an obstacle course you have to get from point a to point b and no cheating for this one. No flying over things. You have to run, jump, crawl and climb.”

Vixen looked madder than usual. “Climb. How can any of us climb?”

Bob didn’t answer just looked at Noel, who had helped him build the course. Bob said “Woof.”

Noel let a shout at the group. “When I say go, I mean run, walk, climb just get to the end.”

The reindeer didn’t look happy but they lined up beside Bob. Noel shouted, “Go” and they did.

The first obstacle was easy it was a simple jump over a gate. They sailed over it leaving Bob behind. He wasn’t worried. He jumped over it.  At the next obstacle a low muddy patch under a large flag the reindeers held a meeting about how best to get under it and survive. Bob lifted the edge and slide under it then he was heard grunting as he walked through the muck.

Rudolph said, “Dasher you hold up this end I will follow Bob and when I get out I will hold the other end up and you can walk through. Easy.”

Bob was now at the tree. He sat and looked back at the reindeer they were carefully tip toeing through the mucky patch. He gave a small leap on to the tree trunk and two swift strides had him onto the lowest branch. He walked onto it and then leapt to the ground landing on some nice soft hay.  Then he trotted to the finish line and lay down to wait on the group.

When they eventually got to the tree they had another meeting. “He said no flying but we could jump.” Dancer said flexing his hoofs.

“No anything over four-foot is considered a flying movement.” Noel told them.

He went to join Bob and they watched the fun. Eventually the reindeers jumped onto Donner’s back from where they stretched up and grabbed the branch, this took a while as they did it one by one. Then Donner was left stuck on the ground.

The others trotted up to Bob. “Okay you won. But you can’t fly? So how can you help us pull a sleigh.”

Bob gave a grunt. Stood up and shook the snow off his fur. Closing h is eyes he took a deep breath and floated gently off the ground. Rudolph shook his head. “Well I never. Okay so you are in. We need to fit you for a harness and teach you the signals for turning right left and flipping.”

During this time Bob heard a lot of arguing and disagreement among the elves and reindeer. Most believed they could manage without this large hairy  dog who seemed to smile a lot. The main argument was they didn’t need him. So Bob waited until they had loaded the sleigh and were doing a test run before Santa appeared.

No matter how much the reindeer dug their hooves into the snow the sleigh didin’t move. Enda shook his head. “There were a lot more toys this year than normal and the new electronic stuff is not as light as we supposed. We need help.”

Everybody swung around and looked at Bob. He walked to his spot in the middle of the group and waited while his harness was clipped in with Vixen and Cupid. Vixen snarled at him and Cupid batted her eyelashes. Bob said “woof”

When Enda took the reins in his hands this time the sleigh took off without a hitch and they did a neat lap of the north pole landing to a huge round of applause.

Christmas Eve Santa was being patiently helped into his seat by the four brothers who were shoving and pushing as normal. Slim muttered, “I thought you were on a diet Santa.”

Noel said, “he was, a see food diet.”

The giggling elves were pushing but trying not to squish the great man too much they heard the words they dreaded hearing him say. “Hang on who is that between Vixen and Cupid.”

Enda looked at bob who was wearing a light weight pair of antlers and had a bright green nose stuck over his own nose. “That is Smiley. Our newest reindeer. He is amazing you will like him.”

Then as Santa landed in his seat Rudolph gave the command and the sleigh took off. Santa’s last words to Mrs C and Enda were “But why does Smiley sound like a dog?”

 

 

Constance Claus and a fun filled Christmas.

With Christmas creeping up on me and a lazy dog called Bob who won’t help we are a bit behind, here is Constance in a rerun of a Christmas story.

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“I am  sick of red and white,” Mrs Constance Claus grumbled. Summer, her snow white cat ignored her as she was busy washing her fur.

Constance noticed the snow falling in thick clumps and the cheery red lights from the workshop didn’t lessen her bad humour.

Enda, chief elf, scurried by with the inevitible list dangling from his hand. He stopped, pivoted about and stood before Constance. “Speaking of Red and white …we are out of both,” his grin was wide.

Constance used to his sneaky sense of humor, and trickery glanced at the red ink on the white paper and said, “I suppose you mean red ink and white paper.”

“Blast,” thought I had you fooled, “but yep you are correct. Could you order some please?”

Constance smiled, nodded, and promised she would order both  red ink and white paper.

That evening Constance broached the topic of red and white with…

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#PitMad: Pitch Your Manuscript to Literary Agents & Publishers

This is a great opportunity for so many writers who feel they are wading about in the dark.

Cindy Fazzi

Photo via Visual hunt.

Do you have an unpublished manuscript? Join the Twitter party known as #PitMad to pitch your work to literary agents and publishers. On Dec. 7, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST, you may tweet a maximum of three different pitches for every manuscript.

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