Smart Phone Nature Photography

When a friend asked Matthew and I (as well as another biologist friend of ours) to help with the Earth Day Celebration she was putting together at the Benjamin Banneker Historical Park, we were all about it.

Matthew created a poster and pulled samples of local invasive plants, our other friend put together an experiment for kids to extract DNA from strawberries, and I prepped a walk & talk on smartphone nature photography.

Here, in my professional opinion, are the basic tips for an average person who wants to make beautiful visual memories while surrounded by nature:

  • Find the Light – Where does your eye naturally go? Most people prefer soft, warm colors. Avoid harsh light and shadows when possible.
  • Think – Why this picture? Focus on the most important part of the image. Minimize distractions that may also be in-frame.
  • Change the Perspective –Where is the most interesting point of view? Try high and low angles and walk around the subject. Avoid digital zoom.
  • Steady the Shot –If a tripod isn’t available, place the camera on something solid or hold it against your body.
  • Befriend the Camera –Know your tools! Learn tips, tricks, and shortcuts for your particular camera and be ready when the moment strikes.

And here’s a Pinnable/downloadable version:

The gallery in this post are some of the nature photographs I’ve taken throughout the years. Notice that just following the rules doesn’t automatically make a photograph visually pleasing; the subject matter needs to be interesting, too!

Vintage Comics

Matthew and I have spent quite a lot of our free time lately with friends at the Nerdporium. When the owner wanted to start posting items online I got excited and quickly took over the @nerdporium Instagram. The valuable things, however, I brought carefully into my light box to show off their true beauty.

Thor 327 - First Appearance of Beta Ray Bill


Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen


First Doctor Strange

Marvel's Civil War #1

#tbt Madison, WI

#‎tbt‬ February 2012, on patrol with the Challengers in Madison, WI. I was contacted by Scandinavian Traveler magazine about using this photo in their Sept issue with a story by Tea Krulos. Working with Real Life Superheroes is one of my favorite memories and I was more than happy to dig through my old files for this frame.

Stroll down memory lane with me and see my original blog posts from my Great Lakes Alliance trip.

Wedding in a Box

Or, my wedding in a light box. I’m not one for knick-knacks or trinkets or anything in that attracts dust, so throughout the wedding process I looked for items that were reusable, disposable, or that could simply be cut altogether. So when the guests left and the dust settled the items that we were left with were(/are) extremely valuable to us.

The ridiculous owl vases are now planters in our front yard, all of our lanterns were donated to other people’s wedding decor, and I wear my shoes at least once a week. But there are still things, items that I would typically call crap except that instead of being inexplicably valuable to someone else, they’re sentimentally valuable to me. So I did what I know how to do, I put everything precious in my light box with the respect it deserves.


Welcome bag for hotel guests — bag from Etsy, card design by me, cookie by a friend.


My bridal accessories — handmade necklace and earrings, promise ring with engagement ring and wedding ring, in a glasses bag found at Michael’s.


Garlands hand-cut by my husband and sewed by my two best girls.


Set list!


All the set lists.


My mom crocheted infinity scarves for each of the bridesmaids.


RSVP cards.

That Time We Got Married

Hi friends! We hope you’ve been well in the month since our wedding celebration. We have certainly been busy and tired! In case the memories have started to fade, our phenomenal photographer Matt Miller posted a preview of our photos on his blog today. Enjoy!

facebook preview
See Matt’s blog post / gallery over at

And seriously — a HUGE thank you to friends old and new for making the day so perfect: Super Art Fight, Jukebox the Ghost, Kommie Pig, GrrChe, and of course Matt Miller!


I tried a dozen ways to start this but nothing does it justice. Two important facts about me: I hate things, but once I’m attached to something it’s impossibly hard for me to let go. Separately, I love letters/cards/written correspondence. I take great pride in the greeting cards I send, and am woefully in love with every card sent to me. So much so that I saved (almost) every card I received for the last 10-15 (the oldest might be 13) years.

Matthew returns from North Carolina this month, bringing back more furniture than he left with. He has an awesome IKEA desk so my old desk needs to go. In addition to a mass of Sharpies and some homemade Medieval Times popsicle-stick puppets, my desk is contains mostly old cards.

In order to let go of the physical collection, I decided to photograph all of them (and then the Playbills and concert programs). It felt like work more than nostalgia, which so far has made it easier to trash the collection of happiness I gathered over so many years. Here are my favorites, all overly-dear to my heart.

This is your pony.
Whenever I think “My cards must be kept forever!” it’s this one that comes to mind. From my brother Brian on my 21st birthday, he finally came through on that pony he promised me. Could you ask for a better sibling?

This creeper came from Solomon on my 23rd. He asked me for a piece of paper, markers, and scissors then returned with this. At the time I lived with Sarah, who wouldn’t let me put the card on the fridge for sanitary reasons. Solomon claims he heard a story that Tim Armstrong once did the same thing, though probably with considerably more/less class.

Multicultural Moose
This fantastic multicultural moose came from my mom last winter. She knows that my biggest pet peeve is Dad never leaving his own signature, but I’ve come to expect as much.

Will Work for Food
I don’t recognize this squiggle signature (that I guess is high school-era?), but if they’ve still got cereal and toaster strudel, I’m on my way.

Britney ain't got nothin' on you!
Another fabulous piece from Brian. I especially love the inscription “Brittney ain’t got nothing on you!” which dates this card farther back than I’d like to admit. Who would have thought I’d watch JT on Saturday Night Live so many years later?


Not technically a card, but an eerily straightforward note during my time of gauging my ears. Melinda and I used to write oddly creative letters back and forth, this one being an exception in that she failed to include a word bubble or illustration. The wax seal convinced me this came from a Medieval Times colleague, but I was instead reminded of a friend and old self-image I’ve fallen out of touch with.

Maleah Bookmark
May I first clarify that this bookmark from my brother Tony was with my other bookmarks, not tucked away and forgotten like the cards. It’s crazy having this super young Maleah pressed forever when she just turned seven and I’ve only seen her twice. Also a not-so-subtle ball joke that made me smile.


Among so many shamelessly sincere and (platonically) loving handmade cards from my dear Laura, this one may be the best. It reminded me of a long-forgotten AP US History presentation in which I sung Zoot Suit Riot, how truly fantastic our friendship is, the number of epic movies that came out while we were high school, and how much I hate riddles.


Another dog card from Tony, four years earlier than the one shown above. It’s not this card that caught my brain but the combination of this and the (unfortunately undated) card below that makes me wonder how the greeting card industry really works.


New Orleans Weekend

Last weekend Matthew and I traveled to New Orleans for the first time. One of his childhood friends got married there and we figured it was the perfect excuse to go somewhere new.

We stayed in the French Quarter, two blocks from Bourbon Street, and saw all varieties of people and events. After sadly coming to terms with the fact that we’re too old to party on the regular, we enjoyed a picnic from Swirl at Big Lake, a walk around Audubon Park, and many super-delicious char-grilled oysters from Drago’s.

Building front off Bourbon

My favorite building front between Bourbon St and our hotel.

From the green line trolley

View from the green line trolley, headed uptown to the wedding.

Lunch at Coop's

Matthew marvels at his fried shrimp & oyster sandwich from Coop’s Place.

Audubon Park, onlooking Loyola

View entering Audubon Park. Loyola University in the background. What you can’t see in this photograph is the 90-degree heat with 90% humidity.

Audubon Park

Turtle and bird, sunning themselves in the afternoon heat (Audubon Park).

Beads on St Charles, Uptown

Beads everywhere. St Charles street, Uptown near the wedding.

Christ Church Cathedral

Waiting for the wedding, outside Christ Church Cathedral.

Christ Church Cathedral

Waiting for the wedding inside the Cathedral. A gorgeous place, but too large to see or hear anything that happened during the ceremony.

Southern Yacht Club

Phenomenal view from the reception at the Southern Yacht Club.

Rob & Danielle

After nine months in Afghanistan, Rob returned to Baltimore and proposed to his girlfriend Danielle. The date, June 7th, chosen far in advance, brought rain and chill. None of this stopped Rob from taking one knee and proposing to Danielle as planned.

“Is this real?” Danielle asked, once I was revealed. Definitely a fantastic, if soggy, day.

I was fortunate enough to photograph Rob & Danielle's engagement this evening. Despite the rain, Rob went ahead with the proposal he planned months ago.

I was fortunate enough to photograph Rob & Danielle’s engagement Friday evening. Despite the rain, Rob went ahead with the proposal he planned months ago.



The ring.

The ring. Rob had to hold Danielle’s hand for the picture because she was shaking with excitement.

Portraits at Harbor East.

Portraits at Harbor East.

Sarah’s Bridal Shower

I couldn’t tell you the day I met Sarah or the moment we became friends, best friends, even roommates. However, I vividly remember the call saying “I’m engaged!”

Fifteen months later, we gathered at one of Sarah’s favorite places, Reynold’s Tavern in Annapolis–a place she and I enjoyed high tea many times–for her bridal shower. I took a few photos as a favor but still had a fantastic time.

A side table of favors, all tea related, for the attendees.

Sarah playing a “thread the needle” game where a guest moves the needle every time she’s about to thread it. Everything she says trying to get the thread through is supposed to be what she says on her wedding night. :D

Sometimes keys and knives are needed to open stubborn gifts.

The room watches Sarah open her bridal shower gifts.


Patrol, Madison

After a week of Minnesota’s superheroes I became comfortable with the idea and situation. Patrol in Madison blew my mind in a way that was probably boring and underwhelming for the RLSH involved. Here they were able to help homeless on the streets and in the Occupy camp and talk candidly with passers-by about the RLSH movement.

I walked with them for almost five hours, until well after I knew my feet were bleeding, and still they patrolled into the night afterwards. Forget what they do and where they go…what does it feel like to be with them, the presence and energy and camaraderie. Maybe, just maybe, this explains the experience a little.

Pictured left to right: Night Vision, Blackbird, Watchman, Electron, and Geist. Curiously absent from this frame is Charade.

And to prove I brought a long lens, a pause as they stop for supplies to bring the Occupy camp: