Picking Favorites

IMGP6489By S. J. Brown

We all have favorite things, that special gift from long ago, or a place with fond memories. Sometimes our favorite is a sentence that just glides off the tongue and completes a thought. After every photo trip Jay asks me what my favorite part of the trip was. Generally it is a brief moment when I am close to a critter and clicking the shutter button. After we arrive home when I am going through stacks of photographs he asks which image is my favorite.

My favorite moment doesn’t always yield a favorite photograph. On a recent trip to Michigan my favorite moment did yield my favorite image from the trip. I hung out with a raccoon while he enjoyed his lunch. Jay spotted him going into a trash can to retrieve the meal. He didn’t care how close I approached, he had a snack and I wasn’t a threat.

20 SJ Brown Raccoon

My favorite critter moment from a trip to Colorado was when we sat and watched a Coyote. We spotted him in the road pouncing on the hard surface. It took us a few minutes to figure out what he was doing. The road was covered with crickets; he would pounce on one, eat it and then move on to the next one.

32 Coyote

My favorite moment on a trip to Minnesota was when Jay and I helped out with a duck banning project. It was cold and very early in the morning, but it was an experience I will never forget. I was a bit busy so I didn’t get very many photos, so my favorite moment and my favorite image didn’t match on that trip.

Me Duck

Some photo trips have more than one favorite moment or image which makes it hard to choose. Hanging around in South Dakota we had several great experiences and came home with loads of great photos.

SJ Brown Deer

When we visited Maine my favorite moment was when we spotted a mother moose and her calf. It took days to find the pair and when we did it was cold and rainy, but I didn’t care. Mama was letting me get pictures of them both.

SJ Brown Moose

Sometimes it is hard to choose a favorite. I have two sisters, but I don’t have a favorite. They are very different people and each comes with their own special qualities. I have only one granddaughter, so of course she is my favorite. We share a love of critters and photography so we have many favorite moments together.
Do you have a favorite food? I have several. How about a favorite place, mine is generally wherever I happen to be. So what are some of your favorites?

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S. J. Browns coloring books feature sketches based on her photographs.

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Close up and Close Encounters is available on Amazon at


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Or get your autographed copy at S. J. Brown website http://www.sjbrown.50megs.com

S. J. Brown’s children’s pictures books are only available through S. J. Brown.

1078You can order your copies from her website http://www.sjbrown.50megs.com874


Thanks for stopping by.






The Image of Writing

imgp6507By S. J. Brown

Writers paint a picture with their words while photographers create pictures that are worth 1000 words.  Writers and photographers have a lot of things in common. Both share their passion with others, and both agonize over their craft.   

When putting together a proposal a writer looks for just the right words, while a photographer seeks out just the right image. 

Which one do you think would make a better magazine cover? 

Writers use descriptive words to place an image in the mind of the reader, while photographers use an image to place the observer in their shoes.


When working with words there is a lot to consider characters, descriptions, subtle details, and how many words are just enough.  When working with images there are subjects, angles, lighting and locations to contemplate.


Research is another necessity for both professions.  If a writer is going to create a truly memorable piece of fiction they need to know all they can about the time period, place, or professions featured in their story.  As a wildlife photographer I need to know everything I can about my subjects before I can photograph them.  In order to capture a critter on film I need to know their habits, temperament, diet and their home range.  If I can’t find them I can’t photograph them.


 The biggest challenge for both writers and photographers is marketing.  Marketing is a time consuming, confusing, necessary task. With proper marketing writers place their work in the reader’s hands and the reader in another world.   Meanwhile photographers strive to bring a glimpse of another world into people’s homes.

8-scenic The writing trade includes a number of categories like poetry, fiction and nonfiction.  Photographers tend to specialize as well.  Some of us photograph people, while others focus on landscapes or intimate floral settings, yet others like me prefer the challenge of capturing images of critters.    


Sometimes the collaboration of a writer and a photographer is vital.  Think about it, a greeting card needs the image on the front and the sentiment on the inside.  A book just wouldn’t be the same without the tantalizing words encased by the cover art and accented with the author’s portrait. 

 Whether you conjure up an image or click a shutter button always follow your passion.   

Connect with S. J. Brown on Facebook , be one of the first to see what she has been up and view her Sunday Shares.

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

S. J. Browns coloring books feature sketches based on her photographs.

CBCover Acover

Cover 3-26-23Back Cover 4-24-2013Close up and Close Encounters is available on Amazon  at


Or get your autographed copy at S. J. Brown website http://www.sjbrown.50megs.com

S. J. Brown’s children’s pictures books are only available through S. J. Brown.

You can order your copies from her website S.J. Brown

Cover All the Birds I See Cover

Thank you for stopping by. I hope I can count on you to comment and share this blog.


That Extra Mile

Me3 By S. J. Brown

Wildlife photographers have been getting a bit of extra exposure lately through television commercials and also after a biting letter to some individuals who are occupying a wildlife refuge. I would like to join the ranks of those photographers who have shared what it is really like to photograph wildlife.

Yes there are easy shots we take at parks and zoos where the critters are accustomed to people

Wood Duck

Then there are other shots we work for. This is when a photographer needs more than just skill knowledge and a bit of luck.  Wildlife photographers need to be passionate about what they do.  You need to ask yourself how bad do I want these images, what are my chances of getting the shots, and how can I increase my chances?

I traveled from West Virginia to Maine in hopes of getting a few photographs of a moose. After spending several days searching my target area I chose to travel further north in my quest.  When Jay and I arrived at our new destination it began to rain.  Undeterred I covered my camera, pulled out a poncho and ventured into the woods.  My persistence was rewarded, this time.


I have traveled to a location in North Carolina repeatedly in an attempt to capture a red wolf on film. No you won’t find a photo of a red wolf here.  Their numbers are few and they are shy.  But my quest will continue.  I have been rewarded with images of black bears in that same area.


Wildlife photography is about more than just the images. It is about a connection to the animals and their world.  It is a connection with nature that is part of us.  Our desire to experience and share that connection is why we do what we do.


Cold, rain, mud, heat, height, and wind don’t deter us. Yes we are a touch breed. We will fiercely defend the creatures we photograph and the wild lands they call home. Most of us have been snarled at, charged and lost on more than one occasion. However to me having the privilege of looking a wild creature in the eye and recording it to share with others makes it all worth it.  Why do I share?  I share my images to help others to respect wildlife, to introduce people to my world.  Yes, I sell my images but my goal isn’t to get rich or famous.  My goal is to make enough money to go out and do it again.

What makes you go that extra mile, endure a little more, and strive a little harder?

Thanks for Stopping by.

Connect with S. J. Brown on Facebook and be one of the first to see what she has been up and view her Sunday Shares.

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

S. J. Browns coloring books feature sketches based on her photographs.

CBCover Acover

Cover 3-26-23Back Cover 4-24-2013Close up and Close Encounters is available on Amazon  at


Or get your autographed copy at S. J. Brown website http://www.sjbrown.50megs.com

S. J. Brown’s children’s pictures books are only available through S. J. Brown.

You can order your copies from her website S.J. Brown

Cover All the Birds I See Cover


Sunlight Basin

105182105411111CDPBy Neva Bodin

We spent 8 days in the Rocky Mountains last week in a place called Sunlight Basin. I still carry the wonder of the rock giants that guard the lush valley and burbling mountain creek in my soul.

“Mountain Majesty” are two words that not only go beautifully together in the song, America The Beautiful, but also fully describe my feelings whenever I see a mountain. Gigantic, longstanding, awesome, peaceful, and awe-inspiring also fill my thoughts.DSCN1354

To a flat-lander, a first encounter of this area may be a shock. My husband and I first pulled our camper off Chief Joseph Highway (a picturesque road that takes one to great heights before dropping into the valley via multiple switchbacks) onto Sunlight Road six years ago. As the gravel road led us through ranch land lush with grass and protected by log fences, we wondered how wild it would really be. As the road narrowed in places to one lane, climbed to new heights with steep banks right next to the camper, led around sharp bends, and pine trees and aspen closed in, we began to fear it would be too wild! We pulled into a campsite by the creek.

Later, our mountain savvy son-in-law informed us we should have driven further! So this year, on our third trip there, we drove 15 miles into the basin, settling our campers on the previous site of a Sulfur Mining Camp. (The old outhouse—not useable anymore, is still there.)

But oh, the peace: of hearing water washing a stony creek bed as it hurried out of the mountains; the lack of man-made odors in the sweet, fresh air; the ever-changing scenery in mammoth  mountains with their razor sharp peaks that gave birth to clouds and afternoon showers, wrapped themselves in ribbons of fog at times, or glowed in the golden haze of evening sunsets.DSCN1296

DSCN1377And the wildlife, some visible, some not, but their presence known by their calls, tracks and scat. Two in our party saw a black wolf, two years ago we saw four wolves together. All of us saw moose, deer and squirrels. Night Hawks competed with Bank Swallows in the evening sky, swooping to clear the air of bugs. A young jay or hawk cried vigorously for hours to remind a parent to feed it. Multiple other bird calls filled the air. Binoculars identified Rocky Mountain Sheep and Mountain Goats near the summits.DSCN1393

An occasional huge bug helicoptered into our campfire area, just to see what we were up to. Smoke baptized us as mountain breezes swirled it around in generous amounts to everyone gathered around the rock fire ring. Ambience was no problem!

We ate like kings—some beans to remember the early trappers and cowboys, but also steak cooked over a wood fire, shrimp boiled in beer, tacos, hamburgers, brats and early morning flapjacks, eggs, bacon and hashbrowns. We rode our four-wheelers through creeks reluctant to let us through which soaked our feet with snow-cooled water. We marveled at an old gold mine that had heavy machinery still in place—how in the world did it get there, probably close to a hundred years ago, up a mountain covered in vegetation, trees and rocks?DSCN1331

In short, we melded present and past in another mountain top experience for me, out of reach of cell service, internet service and the corner store. Awe, sweet bliss.

The Tale of Mervyn and LeRoy or, What Price Story?




posted by Kathy Waller



I have never started a poem yet whose end I knew. Writing a poem is discovering. ~ Robert Frost

I have never started a post yet whose end I knew. Or a story. Or a novel. Or an essay. Or . . . ~ Kathy Waller


I am a late bloomer. Unlike Stephen King, I did not start writing stories as soon as I learned to spell.

I wanted to, but I didn’t understand how writers work. I thought I had to know everything when I wrote the first word. Writers, I assumed, created  stories and books in their heads and then put them on paper. I didn’t know any writers, but I knew my mother, who made up stories to tell at nap time.

Moose (Alces alces) crossing a road, Alaska, USA
Moose (Alces alces) crossing a road, Alaska, USA (Photo credit: Wikipedia). By John J. Mosesso, NBII [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The most memorable of her creations was the story of two little moose named Mervyn and LeRoy, who live in the Teton Mountains. One cool spring day they disobey their mothers by trekking down their mountain, hanging their clothes on a bush, and taking a dip in the lake. While they are swimming, a grizzly bear steals their clothes.

While hunting for their clothes, Mervyn and LeRoy become so cold that by the time their mothers find them hiding amongst the foliage, their teeth are chattering and they’ve turned blue all over. Their mothers take them home and put them to bed with hot bricks to warm their feet. But they both develop pea-neumonia and have to take bad-tasting medicine and stay in bed for weeks and weeks and weeks.

They are very sorry they disobeyed their mothers and promise they will never, ever do that again. And they never, ever do.

The first time I heard this story, it was obvious to me that my mother knew the end almost before she’d pinned down the “Once upon a time.” Mervyn and LeRoy reinforced my impression of writers as semi-magicians.

I retained the Writer-As-Steno-to-the-Muse idea for longer than I care to admit. Through two degrees in English and years of teaching, to be exact.

I knew that American novelist William Dean Howells said he began by creating characters, presenting them with a conflict, and letting them work out a solution. I knew the plot of Huckleberry Finn is flawed because Mark Twain allowed Jim and Huck to pass Cairo and travel farther and farther into slave territory and away from the possibility of Jim’s freedom. I accepted that both Howells and Twain exercised control over their material. I wrote page after page of literary criticism in which I analyzed novels and explained how the writers had constructed their works.

But I also knew that Helen Hunt Jackson said of her novel Ramona, “. . . one morning, . . . before I was wide awake, the whole plot flashed into my mind . . . in less than five minutes, as if someone spoke it.”*

I wrote two hundred pages explaining how Jackson carefully crafted the story of the lovely Native American woman. But subconsciously I believed that real writers, Howells and Twain included, began with that flash.

It was ten years before I considered I might be wrong and risked writing some fiction of my own. I set out with a first line–School is ruining my life.–and went from there. There was no flash. Five thousand words later, I wrote The End. A couple of months later, I wrote another first line–My grandfather thinks stop signs cause wrecks.–and another five thousand words, and another The End. Again there was no flash. Both stories won regional fiction contests. I wrote a piece of flash fiction from a photograph prompt. No flash. It was published in the online magazine Mysterical-E.

Three years ago, during a timed writing in Karleen Koen‘s class at the Writers’ League of Texas Summer Writing Retreat,

I wrote another first line–The day I found Mama stirring ground glass into the lemon meringue pie, I took the bowl away from her and called a family conference.–and, again with no specific plan, continued writing. This time, though, Karleen called time. Last year, when my critique group, Austin Mystery Writers, decided to put together an anthology of short stories, I pulled out the fragment and finished it.

I was pleased. The members of my critique group were not. “It falls flat,” they said. “You promised the reader something but didn’t deliver.” They made suggestions. One of them was so obvious I wondered how I’d missed it. I made changes, killed darlings, added a couple of thousand words, and concluded in a way that satisfied my peers.

It’s been a long road from Writer-As-Steno-to-the-Muse to where I am now. What have I learned along the way? What do I know about writing that I didn’t know before?

Not much.

From experience, I’ve learned that a writer doesn’t necessarily know the whole story before writing it. I know that writing is thinking and discovering. I know that a good critique group is invaluable for pointing out what doesn’t work and helping brainstorm what will.  I know that once I begin, words will flow, and I will feel wonderful. I know that I have told people I love writing, when I really meant I love the flow.

I know that E. L. Doctorow said writing is like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.

I know that’s fine for E. L. Doctorow and others of his ilk. But as I consider my next project, I still think I should already have a beginning, a middle, and an end.

I know all I have is a first line, an empty head, an woozy feeling in the pit of my stomach.

I don’t know how I’ll get from the first line to the end. I don’t know that I’ll get to the end.

I don’t know how creativity works. I do know it entails numerous games of Poppit and Bookworm and sometimes  lots of chocolate.

I know that lot of writers drink more than they should. I know I intend to stick with chocolate.

I know I’ve been working on this post all night, that it’s twice as long as it should be, and that I don’t have time to revise and improve it. I also don’t know how it will end.

But before it ends, I’ll tell you a mystery: One night last fall, I went to bed, turned out the light, closed my eyes, and had settled down for a good night’s sleep when a plot flashed into my mind–three points–beginning, middle, and end. It was perfect, so right that I wondered whether I had read it somewhere or seen it on Alfred Hitchcock Presents or The Twilight Zone. But I hadn’t. It was mine, my own miracle, a whisper from the Muse, freely given, no reciprocation expected.

The next morning I began writing. What was originally conceived as flash fiction grew to over thirty pages. From start to finish, the process, including peer critiques, the services of an independent editor, revision, proofreading, time-outs, cat holding, and the occasional game of Poppit, took about four months. I added flesh, but the three-point skeleton I applied it to remained straight and strong.

It was a heady experience.

And it gives me hope that someday there’ll be a flash, and another plot will come, whole, as if someone spoke it.

The End



*Evelyn I. Banning, Helen Hunt Jackson, (New York: Vanguard Press, 1973), p. 198. Not documented.


Out of consideration for my readers, I have not included links to Poppit or Bookworm. They are addictive. No one needs that kind of trouble.


Kathy Waller blogs at To Write Is To Write Is to Write and Austin Mystery Writers.

Follow her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/kathy.waller68 and on Twitter @KathyWaller1.


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