One Step at a Time

IMGP6507By S. J. Brown

This Blog began in May with a phone call from my daughter. She was looking to cross something off her bucket list and wanted me to accompany her. By the end of the call we had a plan to hike a section of the Appalachian Trail complete with tents, sleeping bags, food and water. Since my daughter like me is directionally challenged this is quite an undertaking for both of us.

Hiking TrailI originally planned to write a single blog detailing my prep for this trip and the hike itself. However I doubt anyone would sit and read a blog that long. So I am splitting this into 2 blogs. This one will cover my prep for the trip and the beginning of our journey. My next blog will cover the final leg of our trip.

The first thing I needed to do was get in shape. Yes I hike to capture critters on film. But this was a longer distance and I would be carrying everything I needed with me.

Deer I began by walking ½ a mile to the end of our street. I should mention that the hill just up from the house kicked my butt everyday for the first 2 weeks. Once I had concord that hill I began adding distance. Eventually I was up to 5 miles. Those five miles included 4 hills.

The next phase of my self imposed training was to add a backpack. I had never worn one before so I needed to get use to it. I began with my tent and sleeping bag attached. Then I added weight to the backpack each week.

At the suggestion of a friend I searched on line for hikers who had completed our route. Some made me a bit skeptical about attempting this, while others encouraged me and helped with some valuable information.

Meanwhile my daughter was training for a half marathon. I was sure she was much more prepared than me and continued to push myself daily hoping not to slow her down on our hike. By the end of August I was as ready as I was going to be.

I packed my backpack and put it on, and my heart sank. Then I remembered I still had the weights in there from my training. After removing the weights and repacking the backpack I knew this would be a challenge, but I could do this.

On the eve of our excursion my backpack was down to less than 20 pounds. We had a map of our route complete with landmarks and an elevation chart. Thanks to some fellow hikers we knew where we could refill our water bottles and where we were going to camp for the night. We allowed ourselves 3 days to complete our hike.

Hiking Start When our hiking day finally arrived our planned starting point wasn’t accessible so our first challenge was getting onto the trail. However we had my hubby dropping us off and he is really good at this sort of thing. So within minutes we were at the South Mountain Inn parking area. We strapped on our backpacks as a gentle rain fell. Just after 8 am we said our goodbyes and my daughter and I made our way onto the Appalachian Trail.

Guided by a series of white hash marks we wandered into the woods and left civilization behind and began to enjoy the tranquility of the trail. This leg of our journey had the most elevation and would be the most challenging for both of us. As the rain subsided we longed to reach our first peak and the well deserved rest we had promised ourselves. We had heard stories of snakes and bears along the trail but encountered neither. We did get a glimpse of a coyote and maybe a fox.
SJ Brown coyote

The Appalachian Trail is well marked most of the way. At the first road we encountered we experienced a few minutes of concern. We weren’t quite halfway to the shelter where we planned to spend the night; it was much too early in our journey to be lost. Finally we spotted that prized hash mark that told us we were still on the trail.

Hiking 2The next few miles were a mix of elevations speckled with occasional breaks and lighthearted chatter. We arrived at the Crampton Gap shelter at 1 o clock and decided it was way too early to stop for the night.
This seems like a good place to stop, for now. Come back next month and find out how our journey turned out.

Thanks for stopping by and letting me share my thoughts.

Connect with me on Facebook and be one of the first to see what I have been up and view my Sunday Shares.
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/sj.brown.3367

My books, Close Ups and Close Encounters, All the Birds I See, Clancy’s Cat Nap. Bennie the Butterfly and two coloring books based on my images are all available through my website http://www.sjbrown.50megs.com.

 

 

 

Sharing

S J Brown Photo verticalBy S. J. Brown

I am stealing this title from a previous post I wrote in 2015. Sharing is something I was taught to do as a young child and still do today. As a child on a daily basis I shared with my big sister, even when she didn’t want to share with me. In more recent years my sister and I have shared our memories and put them into a manuscript that we hope to publish.
S J Brown SistersAs an author I share my thoughts and experiences. As a wildlife photographer I share my images and my love of the natural world. For this blog I thought I would share some of both. I think it is more important than ever for all of us to be mindful of our wild places and the critters that live there.

S J Brown Mule DeerI think living with nature can be challenging, but so well worth it. Even when the birds get to our strawberries and raspberries before we do.
S J Brown Blue JayI think we can all do our part to help out the natural world. I do what I can be sharing my images, recycling, reusing, and reducing when I can. I flip horseshoe crabs, tag monarch butterflies, and plant trees.

S J Brown Horseshoe Crab

Each week I share a wildlife image with my social media community.

https://www.facebook.com/sj.brown.3367

https://plus.google.com/107089848958196015385

https://www.linkedin.com/in/s-j-brown-40667b47/

2 KodiakIs there something your parents taught you as a child that you still do today? Have you shard that lesson with your children?

Thanks for stopping by and letting me share my thoughts.

My books, Close Ups and Close Encounters, All the Birds I See, Clancy’s Cat Nap. Bennie the Butterfly and two coloring books based on my images are all available through my website http://www.sjbrown.50megs.com.

 

Paths Not Taken

IMGP6507By S. J. Brown

All of our lives are filled with choices. Those choices often leave us to wonder about the paths we chose not to take. Looking back there were a lot of paths I didn’t take. After spending 2 years in Cosmetology school. I decided cosmetology wasn’t the path I wanted to take. That was a good decision on my part.

I have worked as a short order cook and a waitress. Although I admit I like food and eat it daily. However working with food was another path I didn’t take, another good choice on my part.

SJBrown Sparrow

In the field there is always a path not taken that could be the perfect place to spot a fox, bear, or even a wolf. But that path could also be a waste of time.

SJBrown Wolf

This weekend I have traveled before. I hope to be sitting down with a publisher to convince him to publish “ Suburban Sisters”, a book I co authored with my big sister.

Cover, Intro EctThe last time I sat down face to face with someone in hopes of being published she loved my work, but she thought it should be made into a text book. By her estimation that would take about 30 days. I decided following that path wasn’t right for me or the book.

We all have paths we chose not to take. Hopefully the paths we did chose lead us to fun adventures and happy memories. . Feel free to share your path stories.

Find me on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/sj.brown.3367
My books, Close Ups and Close Encounters, All the Birds I See, Clancy’s Cat Nap and two coloring books based on my images are all available through my website http://www.sjbrown.50megs.com.

Thanks for stopping by

 

 

 

 

Welcome Spring

IMGP6487By S. J. Brown

Spring has finally arrived here in West Virginia. I no longer need to travel South to find warm weather and baby critters to photograph.

SJBrown 6 Crocus

 

No more hats gloves and 3 layers of clothes. Although my early morning excursions still include a hooded sweatshirt. Critters are more active this time of year that makes them easier to find. Birds are arriving in their summer home and building nests. Mammals are taking care of their newborns and reptiles are on the move heading for their mates and nesting sites.

SJBrown 1 Mama SquirrelHorseshoe crabs are waiting for the new moon in May to signal them to come ashore and lay their eggs. We also make the annual trip to the Delaware shore. This time we are taking our granddaughter with us to flip Horseshoe crabs. She loves the outdoors and has also been bitten by the photography bug. However this will be a new experience for her she will actually be touching wild critters.

SJBrown 3 Horseshoe CrabWhen you flip a horseshoe crab you get to immediately see that you have helped. Almost the instant their claws touch the sand they begin advancing toward the water. Although this is an annual event for us each year is a bit different. In addition to our original location we added another beach and a refuge to our Delaware trips.

SJBrown 4 Bald Eagle

In the coming weeks I will be visiting a favorite location in Maryland. I will be zooming in on waterfowl and their babies.

SJBrown 5 Duckling

I will also be out planting trees along watersheds in the area along with a number of other volunteers. I have begun planting my veggie garden and lots of flowers are popping up all over the yard. Yes I plan to add a few more.

Spring is my favorite time of year with fall coming in a close second. What is your favorite time of year?

As a wildlife photographer and author I have been traveling extensively throughout the United States for over 15 years. I am always accompanied by my husband and spotter in my pursuit of the next critter encounter.
My work has been published internationally in books, calendars, greeting cards, magazines and newspapers. Sharing my photographs and written words are a way to share my wildlife encounters with others and possibly inspire them to explore their creative side.
My books, Close Ups and Close Encounters, All the Birds I See, Clancy’s Cat Nap and two coloring books based on my images are all available through my website http://www.sjbrown.50megs.com.

 

 

10 Days on the Road

IMGP6487By S. J. Brown

On the eve of my latest photo trip the living room was filled with duffle bags, camera equipment and anticipation. Jay and I were hoping for sunny skies, warmer weather and co operative critters. Our plan was to take the scenic route to Texas with stops in several states along the way.
Mother Nature decided she didn’t like our planned route and was not very nice to us the first 2 days. There was a major storm heading East across the country while we headed West. When we learned this storm was spewing out tornados Jay and I decided to take a more southern route.

Jay’s job while we are on the road is to drive, spot critters, and watch my back. More than once a critter has approached me from behind while I was photographing. On this trip Jay did an excellent job of protecting me from a bear.

sjbrown1 JAy with BearIn Alabama we discovered that Alabama isn’t very good at posting signs for most of our destinations. Mississippi was a bit better at this and I was able to capture a number of critters during our short stay. Louisiana is where we spent a chunk of time. However we did have to change our plans again. Most of the locations we planned to visit were flooded from that nasty storm. Still I captured over 2 dozen species of birds, mammals and reptiles. The flooding at one refuge worked in my favor. The high waters forced the migrating birds closer to the road and within the view of my lens.

sjbrown 3 Stilt

I was able to photograph more than one alligator on this trip. One was quite intrigued by the camera, while another was more interested in bathing in the sun; a third was a bit camera shy.

sjbrown 5 alligatorWe continued our travels and ventured into Texas, our furthest most west point for this trip. After a few days we proceeded toward home. We had just 2 days to get back to the real world.

These trips are about more than capturing critters on film. They are a chance to escape from everyday responsibilities and rejuvenate. What do you do to escape? Is there something special you do just for you, for an hour or an entire day?

sjbrown 2 EgretAs a wildlife photographer and author I have been traveling extensively throughout the United States for over 15 years. I am always accompanied by my husband and spotter in my pursuit of the next critter encounter.
My work has been published internationally in books, calendars, greeting cards, magazines and newspapers. Sharing my photographs and written words are a way to share my wildlife encounters with others and possibly inspire them to explore their creative side.
My books, Close Ups and Close Encounters, All the birds I see, Clancy’s Cat Nap and two coloring books based on my images are all available through my website http://www.sjbrown.50megs.com.

My Other Life

IMGP6487By S. J. Brown

All of my online friends know I am a wildlife photographer and Author. Hubby and I travel quite a lot and visit out of the way places to get close to critters.

SJBrown FoxWhat few people realize is I have a day job. For years hubby has asked me to quit my day job and write and photograph full time. I may just do that one day, but not yet. Wildlife photography is expensive. Yes when we travel I skimp on accommodations and meals, but I still have to put gas in the car and film in the cameras and replace equipment from time to time.

SJBrown FrogWhen we are on the road I promise hubby one decent meal a day and a bed to sleep in. That means Knights Inn instead of Marriot. Our breakfast id generally served through a drive thru window and lunch might be peanut butter and crackers. However dinner is generally a nice meal.

SJBrown JayThe income from wildlife photography and writing are sporadic at best. Yes I have sold a single image for $500 dollars. I have also sold an image for $25 which doesn’t cover the cost of getting the image. The latter is much more common and that is why I work part time.

SJBrown PelicanSo what does a wildlife photographer do when she is not out in the field? This wildlife photographer is a cosmetic merchandiser. Yep I play with makeup. That means I go into grocery stores and stock their makeup departments. Then I tell the computer what I want it to send to the store and what to stop sending because it isn’t selling.
This job allows me to be done work for the week at noon on Thursdays. This leaves me over 3 days a week, every afternoon and every evening to write, photograph and submit. On our longer trips my boss covers my territory and is very glad to see me when I return.

SJBrown with PoniesIt’s actually not a bad job, I have had worse. How about you what was your worst job? What was the best job you ever had? I will be back on the road again soon, but I look forward to reading your comments when I return.

Thanks for stopping by.

My work has been published internationally in books, calendars, greeting cards, magazines and newspapers. Sharing my photographs and written words are a way to share my wildlife encounters with others and possibly inspire them to explore their creative side.
My books, Close Ups and Close Encounters, All the birds I see, Clancys Cat Nap and two coloring books based on my images are all available through my website http://www.sjbrown.50megs.com.

Connect with me on Facebook and be one of the first to see what I have been up and view my Sunday Shares.
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/sj.brown.3367

Join my E mail list and be the first to hear about my latest adventure. sjbrown.pictures@gmail.com

Visit my website http://www.sjbrown.50megs.com to view more of my images

S J Brown Photo vertical

Planning

IMGP6507By S. J. Brown

Have you ever wondered what goes into a field trip for a wildlife photographer? January is when I plan out large portions of my year. As snow piles up outside Jay and I spread books, maps and the trusted atlas on the dining room table. We have notes from shows we have watched on the public broadcasting station and migration maps as well.

SJBrown1After reviewing all this we pick a direction and plan out one trip at the time. The desired destination dictates if we will be on the road for just a few days or 10. This year’s 10 day trip will have us zig zagging from state to state and spending extra time in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas.
We budget for things like gas, food and places to stay. While we spend our days in refuges, parks and out of the way places. We need to plan to be in areas that offer food and lodging each night, but still close to the next day’s sunrise destination. I promise Jay one decent meal a day, and a bed to sleep in, anything beyond that is a bonus.

SJBrown2Before we hit the road we stock up on things like film and snacks. All the camera equipment needs to be ready to capture that magic moment when I encounter a critter. Over the years I have accumulated a number of camera bodies and lens’. This year my largest most expensive lens needed to be replaced before we hit the road. The only good thing about this is that it didn’t happen while I was on the road.
We plan out shorter trips as well. Two or three day trips include locations in Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia and North Carolina. On each of these trips I load the car with two camera bags, a tripod, raincoats, hiking boots, water shoes, and a duffle bag. Jay packs his duffle bag and the cooler. Longer trips require us to find room for additional duffle bags and food. What I may need to grab in a hurry goes in the back seat for easy access.

SJBrown3Over the years we have learned to plan for anything. Weather, traffic accidents, and lack of critters can divert us from our planned route. On a trip to Tennessee we spent very little time in the state. Instead I captured most of my critter images in Kentucky.

SJBrown4While in Main we struck out at our planned destination and traveled another 3 hours north to get shots of a mama moose and her offspring. The rainy conditions in Georgia pushed us to spend an extra day in Florida on another trip.

SJBrown5Wildlife photography is so much more than having a camera and a love of critters. However this is something I am passionate about and I plan to keep doing it for many years to come. Our next trip is just a few weeks away.

Thanks for stopping by, I hope you plan a few adventures of your own.

As a wildlife photographer and author I have been traveling extensively throughout the United States for over 15 years. I am always accompanied by my husband and spotter in my pursuit of the next critter encounter.
My work has been published internationally in books, calendars, greeting cards, magazines and newspapers. Sharing my photographs and written words are a way to share my wildlife encounters with others and possibly inspire them to explore their creative side.
My books, Close Ups and Close Encounters, All the birds I see, Clancys Cat Nap and two coloring books based on my images are all available through my website http://www.sjbrown.50megs.com.


Connect with me on Facebook and be one of the first to see what I have been up and view my Sunday Shares.
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/sj.brown.3367

Join my E mail list and be the first to hear about my latest adventure. sjbrown.pictures@gmail.com

Visit my website http://www.sjbrown.50megs.com to view more of my images

S J Brown Photo vertical

Making it better

SJBROWN author picBy S J Brown

Each of us in our own way tries to make the world a little better. Writer’s help people escape their daily woes and immerse themselves in another place and time, making the world a little better.

SJBrown1I know a number of teachers that don’t end their connection with their students when the bell rings. They run after school programs, and tutor students. They go to work early and stay late with each student they guide they are making the world a better place.

Anyone who has met me, read one of my blogs or checked out my website site knows, like most wildlife photographers I feel a connection with nature. I try to do my part of make the world a little better. At home I grow my own veggies, compost, buy reusable products, and recycle.

SJBrown3 All of my paper and cardboard waste goes to a local nonprofit that recycles it and uses the money in local schools. I buy potted Christmas trees instead of a cut one and gladly share information on being more environmental friendly with friends and neighbors.

When I clean out my linen closet the sheets, towels, and blankets go to the local humane society. Once we were settled in our home Jay and I realized we had too much furniture. Instead of taking these items to the dump or selling them at a yard sale I listed them for free on a local website. When I remodeled my office I had several sliding glass doors that a gentleman from the area was thrilled to get. I am constantly finding ways to keep things out of the landfill.

SJBrown4Away from home I work with a number of other volunteers planting trees along stream beds. I do presentations for children and adults about wildlife, sharing my love of nature. I am a member of a local gardeners exchange group. There we exchange ideas, information and plants making our little corner of the world a better place.

Occasionally I will take friends or family members out into the field with me giving them a little different perspective on the natural world. I tag monarch Butterflies and take part in citizen science projects.

SJBrown2I buy books from fellow West Virginia writers whenever I can. My little purchase wouldn’t make a difference to Stephen King, but certainly counts to them. I have begun writing book reviews as a way of helping my fellow authors get a little more exposure.
There are so many ways each of us can make things a little better for another person, a critter, or even the world we all share. Take a minute or two and share with me how you accomplish this I am always open to new ideas.

Thanks for stopping by.

As a wildlife photographer and author I have been traveling extensively throughout the United States for over 15 years. I am always accompanied by my husband and spotter in my pursuit of the next critter encounter.
My work has been published internationally in books, calendars, greeting cards, magazines and newspapers. Sharing my photographs and written words are a way to share my wildlife encounters with others and possibly inspire them to explore their creative side.
My books, Close Ups and Close Encounters, All the birds I see, Clancys Cat Nap and two coloring books based on my images are all available through my website http://www.sjbrown.50megs.com.

Connect with me on Facebook and be one of the first to see what I have been up and view my Sunday Shares.
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/sj.brown.3367

Join my E mail list and be the first to hear about my latest adventure. sjbrown.pictures@gmail.com

Visit my website http://www.sjbrown.50megs.com to view more of my images

BRRRRRR

IMGP6507 By S. J. Brown

I hope everyone has been keeping warm in these frigid temperatures. Freezing temperatures add a whole new set of challenges for a wildlife photographer. It is a bit harder to sneak up on my subjects in layers of clothes and warm boots. Warm thick gloves make it a little harder to focus the camera and hit the shutter button.

1SJ Brown Waterfall

The cold can kill camera batteries quickly. Even keeping the camera tucked into my coat doesn’t work well for long. Any pictures I take in the extreme cold tend to be close to the shelter of a car or building. So in colder temperatures I rely on luck a bit more. Most critters only venture out into the cold to eat, so they are harder to spot.

So I try to concentrate on other things while I wait for the temperature to rise. This is the perfect time of year to work on those unfinished projects. Personally I have finished 2 articles I had outlined, scanned a bunch of images, and completed a few more chapters on a manuscript. Then I laid out a print Ad What do you think? Is it too crowded? Does it make you want to check out my website?

2 Book Maniacs ADThe local critters interrupt me a lot when I am working in my office. I have 6 windows and a set of glass sliding glass doors. So every bird that flies to the feeders catches my attention. Each squirrel that wanders past the doors distracts me. Before I know it I am behind the lens and my writing comes to a halt.

4SJ Brown DoveWhen I am writing I need quiet with no distractions, no television, no radio, no family members asking questions. I tend to be more productive in the evenings when the house is quiet, its dark outside and the woodstove has the house nice and warm.

What challenges do you face in the winter? How do you tackle those challenges?

3SJ Brown Rabbit  Thanks for stopping by and stay warm.

Connect with me on Facebook and be one of the first to see what I have been up and view my Sunday Shares.

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/sj.brown.3367

Visit my website http://www.sjbrown.50megs.com to view more of my images or purchase one of my books.

Join my E mail list and be the first to hear about my latest adventure.

 

Imagining…imaging

774x1228This post is by Nancy Jardine.

Authors are often quoted as having the most amazing imagination but I’m not always sure that’s an instinctive attribute for all writers. Personally speaking, I need a little bit of help to kick start my imagination when I’m writing. Once I get that little extra push, I’m right into the scene and then my characters can take over in their imagined setting.

When I write my contemporary mysteries my imagination is helped by my memories of a place where I want to scene set. In my contemporary mystery Topaz Eyes, I used a number of locations in cities that I’ve visited. When I decided to have one of the ‘cousins’ in the story live in Vienna, Austria, I just had to turn on my memories of central Vienna and the wide open old streets popped up.

DSCF0096
Vienna 2002

But I also know that my memories can be fickle and a bit selective so in the interests of accuracy I turned to the internet to give me current photos of where  I was thinking of. That little research on the internet was useful when I was writing Topaz Eyes because the trams I was seeing in my head were red during my visit in 2002. The current ones in the area I was writing about have been the bright yellow tourist designed ‘Ring Trams’ for some years now. (c. 2010?)

www.123rf 9570038_s
http://www.123rf.com

There are still red trams operating on the original tram lines in Vienna but they’re not where my scenes are. After my research on the internet, as I wrote the scene where my main female character Keira was being pursued by her unknown stalker, I was ‘seeing’ her escaping from a bright yellow tram.

In my historical writing it’s not so easy to create visual images for my locations.  I want authenticity and credibility in my stories but I can’t look back at photographs of my places to see what that landscape was like 2000 years ago. The contours may be largely the same but the vegetation is unlikely to be similar since recent centuries of farming (since the 18th century) and forestry methods in north east Scotland have altered the original picture. That means I need to seek help from other places.

Nancy & Crannog
Scottish Crannog Centre, Loch Tay

I can add things that were already very ancient like standing stone circles of the stone and bronze ages, or stone hillforts, or stone brochs but my imagination definitely has to work a lot harder on things that were made of wood- like Celtic roundhouses and crannogs which have mostly deteriorated to nothing over the millennia.

What helps sometimes with my ‘scene imagining’ for 2000 years ago Scotland is looking at the artwork of some relevant artists  like the famous Angus McBride, or from illustrated children’s non-fiction history books of which I still have a large selection! Celts wranglers But I need to remember it’s that particular artist’s interpretation. Other artists,  archaeologists and historians may interpret things differently. And so do I!

In Book 4 of my Celtic Fervour Series, when writing about my character General Agricola thinking about the Emperor Domitian and the Senate being back in Ancient Rome, I find it a little helpful to look at ancient sculptures. The friezes, and the carved fascias of ancient buildings also give me clues as to what the environment was like. Things my character Agricola is remembering as they were almost 2000 years ago. My visit to Rome last year helps me a bit but of course, what I saw last year is only what has survived and not the Rome of Agricola’s era  in all it’s colourful glory.

SONY DSCVirtual imagining processes of ancient places are fabulous and I love to see any that are shared with me on Social Media. Looking at Pompeii, or Portus (the artificial harbour of ancient Rome), or Athens or Ancient Egypt is fascinating.

So, last week, when I saw a FutureLearn course entitled ‘Rome: A Virtual Tour of the Ancient City being advertised I just could not resist enrolling. Click the link above, scroll down to the little video window and see what’s on offer. You might like it, too but there’s not much time to enrol since it starts next week, 9th October! (I loved my last year’s FutureLearn course on Hadrian’s Wall’.)

I’m hoping this Rome course will give me some ideas for polishing my character named Agricola a little better, or that it’ll be useful for the next book in the series BUT—most of all I hope that it’ll be fun!

Guess I have to get my head down now and finish my current writing!

What are your thoughts on Virtual imaging? Do you like seeing the way gifted visual imaging creators present these ancient places?

Nancy Jardine writes: Contemporary romantic mysteries; time travel historical for early teens and historical fiction for adults. She’s a member of the Romantic Novelists Association, the Scottish Association of Writers and the Federation of Writers Scotland.

multiple new TEYou can find her at these places:

Blog: http://nancyjardine.blogspot.co.uk  Website: http://nancyjardineauthor.com/   Facebook: http://on.fb.me/XeQdkG & http://on.fb.me/1Kaeh5G

email: nan_jar@btinternet.com  Twitter @nansjar

Amazon Author page http://viewauthor.at/mybooksandnewspagehere