Flower Portraits + Unsolved Mystery

Erika Swafford Flower Portfolio 2 Comments

I consider these photos flower portraits. That is my approach versus just taking a picture of a flower. It’s different, at least in my head. But this series comes with a mystery, too.

Flower Portraits + Unsolved Mystery - read more at

When we first built our house years ago, I planted a shrub in front and it blooms every spring. It has these fragrant pale pink flowers and I love it. It’s sooo pretty! It has been a central part of the front of our house and always makes a good show.

Sadly, I don’t know the name of it!

When we bought it, the shrub didn’t have a tag on it to say what it was. I have tried looking on the internet on and off for years but still haven’t run across it.

So if you recognize this shrub please let me know!

Kind of sounds like a missing person, ha! Well, I’m dying to know what this plant is called. It really just bugs me that I can’t figure it out.

Flower portraits of a spring shrub by Erika Swafford.  Find more at http://erikaswafford.com/
Flower portraits of a spring shrub by Erika Swafford.  Find more at http://erikaswafford.com/
Flower portraits of a spring shrub by Erika Swafford.  Find more at http://erikaswafford.com/
Flower portraits of a spring shrub by Erika Swafford.  Find more at http://erikaswafford.com/
Flower portraits of a spring shrub by Erika Swafford.  Find more at http://erikaswafford.com/
Flower portraits of a spring shrub by Erika Swafford.  Find more at http://erikaswafford.com/
Flower portraits of a spring shrub by Erika Swafford.  Find more at http://erikaswafford.com/
Flower portraits of a spring shrub by Erika Swafford.  Find more at http://erikaswafford.com/
Flower portraits of a spring shrub by Erika Swafford.  Find more at http://erikaswafford.com/
Flower portraits of a spring shrub by Erika Swafford.  Find more at http://erikaswafford.com/
Flower portraits of a spring shrub by Erika Swafford.  Find more at http://erikaswafford.com/
Flower portraits of a spring shrub by Erika Swafford.  Find more at http://erikaswafford.com/

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5 Nature Photo Projects You Can Do Without Leaving Your Yard

Erika Swafford Photo Projects 0 Comments

Photo projects are fun ways to hone your skills and try out new tricks. Nature photo projects are easy because you don’t have to go far to find nature. In fact, you don’t even have to leave your yard. Here are five projects you could do without leaving the comforts of home.

Flowers

Do you plant flowers in your yard? Photograph them! We use to have some Bleeding Hearts flowers in our yard.

You may even find some wildflowers that are sneaking into your yard. Make them feel welcome by taking their portrait.

And you could even photograph the lovely flower bouquet that your someone-special gave to you. Or buy yourself some flowers – then you can pick out which ones you’d most want to take pictures of! And they’ll add some beauty to your home, too.

Your Pets

Do you have pets? They make great subjects for photos. But be warned – they may not always cooperate with you. When my cats see me with a camera aimed at them they decide to investigate by coming toward me. “Don’t move!” means nothing to them.

The Sky

Clouds, stars or just the great blue sky can be really interesting to photograph. Clouds are constantly changing so you’ll never get the same photo twice. If a storm is coming, don’t forget your camera!

Also, you can photograph the colors of the sunrise and sunset. If you can manage to get up early enough, a sunrise is a truly magical experience when the world is still quiet. Watch the sunrise or sunset with your special someone. It’s really romantic, too!

Wildlife

Remember how I said that your pets may not cooperate with your photographic endeavors? Wildlife will be even less so BUT it can be worth it if you are patient and sneaky. Or if you find something that isn’t that scared of you!

Like this Praying Mantis. She was so regal and poised that I HAD to take her picture. While she was aware I was up to something – she kept following me with her eyes – she didn’t seem to mind my presence.

(Why do I think this one is a “she”? Just a hunch. And I’ve heard that female mantises eat their mates soooo…you know.)

If you have a lens that makes it so you can zoom in from far away, that will help with wildlife tremendously. If not, just practice being stealthy and start impersonating statues. Move slowly and be patient.

Trees

Trees are wonderful subjects for photography because they don’t move much. And don’t forget the leaves! They come in all shapes and colors depending on the season.

Any other ideas? I’m sure there are more. These at least will get you started. Go for it!

See ya,

P.S. Leave your ideas in the comments below!

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Moody Sunrise at Blythe Ferry

Erika Swafford Sunrise Sunset Portfolio 0 Comments

My husband found Blythe Ferry on his way to work during the fall one year and thought it would be a really great place to take pictures of the sunrise. It used to be a ferry before a bridge was built that goes over the Tennessee River. I love when he finds places like this for me to take pictures! And he wasn’t wrong about Blythe Ferry.

There was a storm the night before so when we first got there, it was just black outside. It started out as this dark red glowing light in the darkness. It was surreal because it was still so dark. Gradually it turned into this very colorful and vibrant sunrise. The clouds from the storm made it so much better by adding texture to the sky and giving the colors a place to play.

If you just stand and watch the sun come up you might think it takes f-o-r-e-v-e-r but, trust me, if you’re taking pictures it goes by really quick!

Moody sunrise photos by Erika Swafford.  See more at http://erikaswafford.com/moody-sunrise-blythe-ferry/
Moody sunrise photos by Erika Swafford.  See more at http://erikaswafford.com/moody-sunrise-blythe-ferry/
Moody sunrise photos by Erika Swafford.  See more at http://erikaswafford.com/moody-sunrise-blythe-ferry/
Moody sunrise photos by Erika Swafford.  See more at http://erikaswafford.com/moody-sunrise-blythe-ferry/
Moody sunrise photos by Erika Swafford.  See more at http://erikaswafford.com/moody-sunrise-blythe-ferry/
Moody sunrise photos by Erika Swafford.  See more at http://erikaswafford.com/moody-sunrise-blythe-ferry/
Moody sunrise photos by Erika Swafford.  See more at http://erikaswafford.com/moody-sunrise-blythe-ferry/
Moody sunrise photos by Erika Swafford.  See more at http://erikaswafford.com/moody-sunrise-blythe-ferry/

How awesome was that? It’s my favorite sunrise to date. Do you ever watch the sun come up? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

Chat soon,

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View the Eclipse Safely – 4 Easy Ways

Erika Swafford Creative Adventures 0 Comments

As a nature photographer, I’m very excited to watch the eclipse. I won’t be photographing the event this round because I want to see it with my own eyes first. Here are a few ways you can watch this amazing cosmic event, too.

Hands down, the eclipse glasses are the best way to view the eclipse. But if you don’t have them, there are several other options to still watch the magic happen. I found 4 ways that won’t damage your eyes. I decided to try them out so you can see how it would work.

4 Easy Ways to View the Eclipse - click here: http://erikaswafford.com/eclipse-safely/

View the Eclipse with Paper Plates

First, there is the paper plate method. You could use any other kind of card board but paper plates I’m sure paper plates are much easier to find and less work than cutting up a cereal box. This method has the added bonus of being able to use it to have a snack party after the eclipse!

If found that the size of the “sun” was rather tiny using this method but it would do in a pinch.

View the Eclipse with Paper Plates - click here: http://erikaswafford.com/eclipse-safely/

Check out this link for details on how it’s done:
https://www.timeanddate.com/eclipse/make-pinhole-projector.html

View the Eclipse with a Box

Second, there’s the pinhole box method. This one sounded like so much fun I had to try it! I like this one over the paper plates because you can block some of the extraneous light with the box and the “sun” is bigger. Out of all the methods I tried (besides the eclipse glasses) this one is my favoriate. Granted, it probably looks funny to have a box over your head but it’s worth it!

Here’s the view from the pinhole box I made:

View the Eclipse with a Box - click here: http://erikaswafford.com/eclipse-safely/

This is the box I made:

View the Eclipse with a Box - click here: http://erikaswafford.com/eclipse-safely/

Check out this link for details on how it’s done:
https://www.timeanddate.com/eclipse/box-pinhole-projector.html

View the Eclipse with Upside Down Bionoculars

Third, there’s the binocular method. When I was a kid, I remember there was an eclipse. My brother and I tried to use the binocular method to watch the it. This way is similar to the paper plate method except you use upside down binoculars instead of a plate with a pinhole. To me, this way seems harder to do but does project a fairly large (and bright!) image of the sun.

View the Eclipse with Binoculars - click here: http://erikaswafford.com/eclipse-safely/

Check out this link for details on how it’s done:
https://www.timeanddate.com/eclipse/binoculars-telescope-projector.html

View the Eclipse Online

If all else fails, or it’s cloudy, watch it online! There will be live feeds showing the eclipse online so don’t worry it if you’re stuck behind a desk or can’t get any of the above methods to work to your liking. Enjoy the show!

Here’s Nasa’s live stream link:
https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/eclipse-live-stream

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Work in Progress-Flower Photo

Erika Swafford Behind the Scenes 0 Comments

Photos are always a work in progress. As a behind-the-scenes kind of person, I thought it would be fun to show you the progression of a nature photo from start to finish. Taking the photo with a camera is just the start. The rest of the magic happens when I edit the photo on the computer.

See this work in progress that shows how Erika Swafford edits a flower photo from start to finish.

The first photo below is straight out of the camera, completely untouched. Think of this as how your face looks like without any makeup.

See this work in progress that shows how Erika Swafford edits a flower photo from start to finish.

In this second image I’ve lightened it up a little and pumped up the color a notch or two. Not so much that it looks like a cartoon but just enough to make the colors pop out more.

See this work in progress that shows how Erika Swafford edits a flower photo from start to finish.

In this third image I’ve made some changes so that the image has more depth to it and doesn’t look so flat. I’ve also corrected the color as there was a slight color cast to it before.

See this work in progress that shows how Erika Swafford edits a flower photo from start to finish.

In this final image I darkened parts of the image so they fade into the background more. This helps draw the eye to the main subject better.

See this work in progress that shows how Erika Swafford edits a flower photo from start to finish.

Once the image is edited to my liking I save it. I’ll do any cropping later since it depends on the project I use the image for. Canvas prints require more room around the edges. Pinterest images need to be vertical instead of horizontal. And I may even decide to put a quote on it later, too.

See this work in progress that shows how Erika Swafford edits a flower photo from start to finish.

Sometimes, I do a few more steps in my editing process. Some photos may have a hideous bug squatting on a petal or there’s trash floating in the water of a gorgeous water sunrise scene. Those distractions are edited out because you wouldn’t actually want to hang that kind of thing on your wall. Perhaps I’ll show how I do that in a future blog post. It’s a lot of fun, actually!

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The Secret Truth About Stress by Erika Swafford

The Secret Truth About Stress

Erika Swafford Life, Quotes 0 Comments

Everyone knows what stress is. But let me put it in a different light and show you how it’s a mind game you are playing with yourself.

Are you stressing yourself out?  Learn the secret truth about what the cause of stress - it's not what you think is causing it!  Go to http://erikaswafford.com/secret-truth-stress/

The Scene
Two men in suits are fleeing through the woods while being shot at. One of the men is hampered by the heavy metal grill he’s dragging behind him. The other man with him is telling him to let it go, arguably so they can actually escape the people chasing them.

“Let’s just sell it on Letgo.”

He takes a photo, posts it on Letgo, and half a second later a buyer shows up in a helicopter with the money to take the grill off his hands.

I love the Letgo commercials because they show how silly humans can be about not letting go of something that is now holding them back, often at their own peril.

I’ve found that stress is actually one of things that we sometimes don’t want to let go. In fact, we are choosing to be stressed.

Yes, you are stressing yourself out!

I’ve noticed in myself and others that we stress ourselves out when we start thinking things like, “This situation shouldn’t be this way! It isn’t fair! This is ridiculous! This can’t be happening! I can’t handle this!”

Basically it’s having a tantrum in your head and it prevents us from dealing with the situation productively. The sooner you let go of those stress-inducing thoughts, the sooner you can get through the situation and/or find a solution.

To help turn your thoughts around about stress I thought I’d share some mind-blowing quotes along with some of my favorite nature photos. Share the ones that resonate with you!

Are you stressing yourself out?  Learn the secret truth about what the cause of stress - it's not what you think is causing it!  Go to http://erikaswafford.com/secret-truth-stress/
Are you stressing yourself out?  Learn the secret truth about what the cause of stress - it's not what you think is causing it!  Go to http://erikaswafford.com/secret-truth-stress/
Are you stressing yourself out?  Learn the secret truth about what the cause of stress - it's not what you think is causing it!  Go to http://erikaswafford.com/secret-truth-stress/

Let Go of Stress with Meditation

Meditation can help with stress and getting your mind into a happier place. I’ve tried the meditation where you try not to think about anything but I fall asleep.  I do enjoy a good guided meditation, though. I’ll listen to a guided meditation while doing my hair in the morning if I’m feeling in need of a boost. Might not be the right way to do it, but it’s the way that works for me.

Check out this meditation if you really need a laugh to let go of your stress: F*ck That-A Guided Meditation.

Do you need to let go of stress? What thoughts are running through your mind when you are stressing yourself out? Let me know in the comments below.

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Photo - Sleepy Morning in the Mountains

Photo – Sleepy Morning in the Mountains

Erika Swafford Landscapes 0 Comments

Sleeping in. Oh, yes, I am! Some people don’t do the sleeping in thing on the weekend. I’m pretty sure those are called morning people! Okay, have your fun. I like sleeping in!

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Photo - Japanese Maple Flower

Photo – Japanese Maple Flower

Erika Swafford Flowers 0 Comments

Look at something tiny today. Really look at it and see the itty bitty details that you wouldn’t notice if you hadn’t been looking for them. Look hard enough and you’ll stop time itself. Go on, try it. It’s fun!

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Photo - Hidden Waterfall

Photo – Hidden Waterfall

Erika Swafford Landscapes, Waterfalls 0 Comments

It’s fun to find hidden places like this in the woods that only a few people can or would see. Sometimes it takes quite a bit of hiking to find a special place that’s like an oasis in the desert. I sat here for ages enjoying this waterfall. Best photo trip ever!

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