• Backing a Kickstarter Project

    Image: Rewards for backing my Kickstarter campaign, February 2018

    A few years ago I had no clue what a "Kickstarter" project was, and when I stumbled across a project I could help fund (plus receive a really cool book), I had no idea that 2 years later I would use Kickstarter for my own creative project. If you've never used Kickstarter, let me explain.

    WHY AM I ASKING FOR YOUR SUPPORT? I created a book "Trees Are My Muse - A Tale of Love and Friendship" from a select group of photos that spanned over 10 years. It's more than a photo book; it's a story I think the trees themselves wrote. I believe in this book so much I want to get it out into the world. This creative project is all about raising the funds for a minimum print run of 100 books to go to backers.

    YOU RECEIVE A PRODUCT: You're not just sending me money for giggles. On my Kickstarter page there's a list of Rewards on the right hand side. People who wish to support me don't walk away empty handed. At all funding levels (except for the $5 level) you're buying a hardbound copy of the book. Some rewards are for the signed version, and some include a greeting card with the book. Or for the extravagant, I deliver the book and give a presentation on what this journey of mine has been like.

    YOU HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE: Your credit card isn't charged unless I reach my project goal. Kickstarter won't send you spam emails and your credit card information is secure. I will provide email updates, but you can opt out of those. And if the goal is met, you gain a book - and my gratitude.

    I HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE (KIND OF): If the project isn't funded in the 30 day time frame, I'm not charged anything. I've invested time and energy and money for an initial printing and supplies, and that's okay. I've gained experience.

    My heart, however, well, it might be a little sad. But I'll be okay in a while.

    WHERE TO FIND OUT MORE: Kickstarter has a list of frequently asked questions for backers. Find out more at Kickstarter Basics.

    HOW DO I ACCESS THE "TREES ARE MY MUSE" PROJECT?  Click HERE to access this project until March 12, 2018 at 5:14 MDT. 


  • 3 Photo Lessons from Super Bowl LII

    Image: Last Chance Colorado; copyright Mary Lee Dereske

    I'm not a huge football fan. I do, however, tend to watch the Super Bowl. After yesteday's game I thought it would be fun to see what photo "lessons" I could take away from the game. In no particular order, here are 3 photo lessons for photographers. 

    • Sometimes you take the hit. While commentators were analyzing whether the Eagles made a fair catch in the end zone, watching endless replays of the players falling to the ground and sliding past the far end of the field, I watched in utter fascination as more than 400# of combined football players slid into a row of cameramen, tripods, and cameras. The lesson? If you're serious about your work, you have to put yourself and your equipment out there and take a risk. I bet those cameramen got a good shot!
    • Persevere. The Eagles QB almost gave up the game, then after some soul searching, came back to continue playing professionally. Now he's a Super Bowl Champion. How many times have you felt like giving up? Sometimes you just need to take a break, think it over, then get yourself back into the game.
    • Just because someone else tried it doesn't mean you shouldn't.  During the game, both QBs tried a trick play where they ran down the field to recieve. The first time it didn't succeed, the second time it did. What if the second QB had said "Oh, it didn't work. Guess it's not worth the trouble." Photography is the same - every photographer has a different take on a subject. The world needs to see your take on it. Maybe it'll work, maybe it won't. But try.

    So, photographers, get in the game, take a risk, and show the world who you are!

  • No More Ansel Excuses

    Image: "Cow at the Homestead" copyright Mary Lee Dereske

    I've heard it before, and I bet you have too. It's usually a photographer explaining to a non-photographer (or sometimes another photographer), "If Ansel Adams were alive today, he'd use Photoshop."

    Or this: "Using Photoshop is just the same as what Ansel Adams did in the darkroom, burning and dodging and cropping."

    Those two sentences and their ilk? They're what I call the "Ansel Excuse." And frankly, I think it's a copout and time to quit using it.

    Ansel Adams was a master at his work during the film days. As was Jerry Uelsmann. And Dorothea Lange. And Evelyn Cameron. They told their stories and expressed their vision with the tools they chose to use. For them it was a camera, a darkroom, a travelogue, a diary. I am not sure, but I doubt any of them said "If Rembrandt were alive today, he'd choose to use a camera." They stood proudly by their work.

    Does it matter if Ansel would have used Photoshop, or any of the plethora of image processing software available today? 

    Isn't it much better if photographers look only at their own work and proudly say "This is what I've created. This is my vision of the world. I hope you enjoy it."?

    I think so. Create what you want, using whatever methods you wish, and stand by it proudly and say 

    "This is my vision of the world. I hope you enjoy it."


  • Birdsong App: Harmful Imposters

    Image: "First Born" copyright Mary Lee Dereske

    Most of us have seen beautiful images of tropical and migratory songbirds. Photographers work hard, and often use insanely expensive equipment to make the mages. The majority of bird photographers are responsible and well educated bird watching enthusiast. 

    So I was surprised to read this article on and find out that some photographers are harming birds with smartphone apps! I think it is important enough to reprint most of the article here:

    "Birdwatchers who play back birdsongs on their smartphones to attract wild birds can stop the winged creatures from performing important tasks like feeding their young, experts warn. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) says it is receiving more reports of people playing birdsong recordings so they can photograph birds or observe them up close.

    "It is selfish and shows no respect to the bird. People should never use playback to attract a species during its breeding season," said southern Wales RSPB spokesman Tony Whitehead.

    Bird expert Chris Thain told the BBC that people would be "devastated" if they realized how much harm the use of the apps can cause to wildlife.

    There you have it. Use birdsong smartphone apps wisely! And while you're at it, follow and read the weekly diary of our planet Earth.


    (Sunrise, 12-31-2017, Placitas, New Mexico copyright by Mary Lee Dereske)

    I can't even begin to list the number of web sites that tout, promote, explain, extol, and wildly encourage photographers to take on a 365 day challenge.

    So I won't (thank GOD I hear you say!).

    I WILL cut to the chase and explain what a 365 day challenge means. It is quite simply making an image every single day for a year. And it all goes back to something we've all heard since time began: PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT.

    So here it is, December 31, 2017, and you might be toying with the idea of a 365 day challenge. Some questions to ask yourself:

    • WHY do I want to do a challenge? Is it to improve my photography, to explore a theme, or because it's "what photographers do"? Know your reason and motivation and you will suceed.
    • HOW am I going to accomplish this? Smartphone? Or my "good camera"? Maybe you even want to use an instant film camera.
    • WHAT am I going to do with my photos? Post them on social media everyday and share? Or use them as part of a bigger project, like a book or documentary?
    • WHEN am I going to start? January 1 is an arbritrary date. Maybe your birthdate or other special date is more meaningful to you.
    • HOW OFTEN am I going to take photos? Maybe a 365 challenge to you is taking one day a week for an entire year to make images.

    WHATEVER you decide, remember the rules, constraints, opportunities and theme of a challenge are totally up to you. And whatever that is, that is the RIGHT challenge to have!

    Here's to a new day of photography for everyone!