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Shooting Kids At The Beach

I’ve learned a thing or two recently from lugging my DSLR and a couple of toddlers down to the beach for a quick photo shoot. I thought I’d share with you some tips to save you a little heartache and hopefully ensure that you’ll end up with some fun memories of the day. (Please note: most of these are pretty obvious, but seeing as I’m 8 months pregnant, I’m currently quite prone to ignoring the obvious.)

My first bit of advice is to pick your arrival/photo shoot time carefully. I know this is not always possible when dealing with kids’ schedules and other people tagging along, but it really is essential in getting the best light for the shoot. Preferably you would be able to go in the morning when the light is soft or in the very late afternoon/early evening during magic hour when the light is just, well, perfectly magical.

Unfortunately, I was unable to follow my own rule and ended up at the beach right smack at noon when the sun was at its brightest and harshest. Because of this, I got a lot of photos like the ones above, with dark, contrasty shadows and overexposed backgrounds. I had to do a lot of touch-up in Photoshop on the levels, colors and shadows, and even then, the photos are only mediocre (well, besides the adorable subjects!).

My second bit of advice is to bring someone along with you to wrangle the kids as you shoot. I did this, but not successfully. I had a friend there, but she was also holding her 5-month-old baby, so she wasn’t the best candidate to run after the toddlers when they got frighteningly close to the moving water that this mom just knew would wash them away at any moment. Since my friend was not able to be right there by their sides (just out of the frame, of course!), I ended up with two very soaked and muddy 2-year-olds and a lot of back shots as I ran after them making sure they kept their distance from the tide and making sure my camera didn’t get soaked. This is not an ideal photo shoot situation. Bring a baby-free friend, is all I’m saying.

Lastly, have fun and play it by ear. If the kids are having a blast in the mud, but you wanted clean white shirts, just try to remind yourself that kids and life are messy and a very sandy photo at the beach is a perfect way to reflect that. Remember to just let things happen naturally or you’ll end up with a bunch of staged shots and forced smiles. Another important part of this process is deciding to leave at the right time. Our trip was quite windy and with soaked toddlers, we realized that sometimes a half hour beach trip is all you (and they) really need.

You might not get the shots you dream of every time you head to the shore, but if you remember some of these tips for photographing, hopefully each time you try it you’ll capture some great memories. Happy shooting!

How to Take Great Photos of Black Pets

When I worked as a pet photographer, pet owners with black pets would often come in with no real expectations of good photos. They’d often tell me that they realized their pet was black so they didn’t expect a good picture, just a picture. While volunteering with animal rescues, I’ve had several volunteers complain that black pets always end up looking the same: like unadoptable black blobs. Your beloved pet is no black blob! There are a few tips and tricks that I’ll share with you to help make black blobs a thing of the past. Lighting

The biggest problem I often see in black blob photos, is that there was insufficient lighting. While you can’t always have optimum lighting, it helps. I find bright to moderate sunlight to be best. If you can take some photos outdoors, you’ll have a great chance at getting some good highlights. The sun will help to highlight your pet’s coat and eyes. In a dark room the features of your black pets won’t be well defined. In the sunlight, you should be able to see the eyes, nose, mouth, and fur clearly. If for some reason the pet cannot go outside for a photo, professional lighting works much better than a standard flash.

Your standard flash (the inbuilt flash on your camera) isn’t generally going to give your black pets well defined features. However, don’t rule out the indoors. Usually two are more lights are sufficient to provide some decent highlighting. If you don’t have access to photography lighting equipment, those halogen lamps for construction work are fantastic for the price. Make what you have work too. Use the most brightly lit room you have available as long as it still gives your pet some highlights. You can add in extra highlights in the eyes in PhotoShop later, but the other highlights are much more difficult to add in. Backgrounds

This may seem obvious, but I see it done a lot. Don’t put a dark pet on a dark background! When I worked as a pet photographer, pet owners would often come in with two pets that they wanted to have photographed together. Let’s say someone brought in one black cat and one orange tabby. They’d often ask for the black backdrop with the tabby, but then for the photo together they’d want it to have the black backdrop as well. That’s just asking for trouble. Use a lighter backdrop for black pets so that they don’t disappear from the photo completely. A white or pastel colored backdrop would be a good choice. If you’re outside and have access to great natural backgrounds, just watch to make sure those aren’t too dark. Green grass or plants often work well as backgrounds that aren’t particularly dark. A forest in the background however, might not prove to be the best choice. Even if the background will be blurred out, the general color scheme matters.

Get in Close

Taking a headshot of a black dog is much easier than getting a good full body shot. Try starting out with some close ups of your pet. In a close up photo, you’ll see more of the details. On the face there are generally more details available to stand out as well. You’ll want to clearly see the eyes, ears, nose, and possibly the mouth if you want your pets mouth in the photo. There are less details available generally on the rest of the pet’s body. You’ll have more to work with on close up shots of your pet.

Take Several Photos

Try out different lighting settings to see what works for you and your pet. Try various backdrops and locations if possible. It’s a good idea to use your digital camera at least initially, so that you can take endless photos and see the results almost instantly. Notice the differences to see what works and what doesn’t. If you can adjust your camera’s contrast, do so. If you can’t make adjustments on your camera, you’ll just have to work with the lighting that nature gives you.

It’s All About the Eyes

For black pets especially, you want the eyes to be highlighted and expressive. Generally, the eyes are the first thing people notice on a photo of a black pet. If you have to, add some highlights to the eyes in PhotoShop. With black cats, you’ll generally always have to fix the eyes at least a bit. Getting a photo of expressive eyes can be difficult, but that’s why you’re shooting several photos. If the eyes are expressive, they’ll stand out more.

So say goodbye to your black blob, and hello to your beautiful black pet! Try going for more light and a background with good contrast. Get in closer to show more of your pet’s detail and don’t forget about the eyes. Take several photos so that you can see the effects of different lighting and so you’ll be more likely to have a good photo or two. Don’t settle for black blob photos when you can do better.

Choosing The Right Reptile

Choosing The Right Reptile For You Owning an exotic is always a big responsibility. Reptiles, in particular, are very diverse and each species has it own special requirements in order to survive in captivity. It is important that you select a reptile that is best suited for you and your lifestyle. Here are some things that you should consider before selecting the right reptile for you: Be aware of the potential adult size of the reptile you will choose. Making sure that you have the ability to house something that large. Baby iguanas are very cute when you purchase them, but five years down the road will you have space for a five to six foot lizard? This is also a very important consideration with snakes.

You may start with a two foot long python but in five to eight years where do you keep, and what do you feed, your new eight to ten foot, 150 pound snake? Keep in mind that some reptiles are very long lived and may even outlive you. There are tortoises that live 75+ years. Some reptiles, such as chameleons, are more difficult to care for and, as a result, have a shorter life span. A decision should be made whether you are interested in a display pet or a new member of the family. Many reptiles become extremely stressed when handled frequently. The added stress depresses their immune system, suppresses their appetite, and predisposes them to diseases.

If you are looking for a cuddly member of the family always choose a captive bred reptile and one that can be accustomed to a lot of handling. Research what your reptile’s diet will be. Is its food easily available in you area and at all times of the year? If it is a carnivore, do you feel comfortable feeding live or pre-killed animals? A small snake may be eating mice now, but when it reaches adult size it may need rabbits or chickens. Luckily there are a lot of businesses that provide frozen prey items or live crickets and worms. Research any special requirements your reptile has. Chameleons like to have their water supplied via misting or drip systems.

Rainbow boats require a high humidity. Uromastyx prefer higher temperatures. Are you able to provide a suitable environment for your reptile? You can start by reading out section on Reptile and Amphibian Care for information on caring for these pets. Help yourself out by starting with a healthy animal. It is very easy to feel pity and try to rescue a poor doer, but save yourself the heart break and very expensive veterinary bills. We always recommend a captive bred reptile (most common reptiles are now captive bred). They thrive better, are less likely to have parasites, are less flighty, and are more accustomed to captive diets. Pick one that is not thin (good muscles on legs and pelvic region for lizards and turtles or along the back on snakes), no bowing of any of the limbs, not missing digits, not dehydrated (eyes are not sunken in, no mucus strands in the mouth, no wrinkled skin), and are not lethargic but are moving around the cage and exploring.

It is always a good idea to have your new pet examined by a veterinarian who can help you evaluate its health. Also, purchase your reptile from a reputable supplier who has experience with reptiles and ask questions. How are the reptiles housed? Do they carry reptile supplies? How much does their staff know about reptiles? The overall idea of selecting the right reptile for you is to be informed prior to making a selection. Read books and magazines or explore the internet (be a little cautious about where the information comes from) on the reptile that interests you.

If this is your first reptile, start with an easy keeper such as ball pythons, king/milk snakes, leopard geckos, bearded dragons, and box turtles. Also research common diseases and problems of the reptile you select so that you can prevent or catch any problems early. Reptiles do things slowly. They get ill over a long period of time and take just as long, if not longer, to recover. It is a lot easier to treat a disease when it is caught early. Good luck with your new reptile!

Persian Rugs Collection

Within the basic weaving process, rug makers incorporate a lot of variety. With over 300 different styles of rugs, it makes sense to know the two basic categories of handmade rugs; tribal, and city, and the specific styles that they incorporate – nomadic, village, workshop, and master workshop. Nomadic rugs are produced by nomads and semi-nomadic tribes whose lifestyles have traditionally revolved around breeding sheep and weaving. Little has changed throughout the centuries, and the rugs made today by this group remain true to their ancestor’s rugweaving methods and designs. Rug making within this group is usually a female activity and is an expression of the artistic, cultural and religious heritage of the tribe.

In nomadic tribes, rugs are floor coverings as well as bags, seating, and other home furnishings. Today, these rugs are very popular due to their bold colors and the primitive designs that are now extremely fashionable. Favorite styles of nomadic rugs include the popular Gabbeh, Qashqai, Shiraz and Lori. The term ‘Village Rugs’ is applied to a broad category of rugs that share common features of construction, character and design. Village rugs fall somewhere between nomadic and workshop rugs. They can be very beautiful and intricate in design, but most possess the rougher or coarser weave associated with nomadic rugs. They tend to be sturdier and are usually made of good wool.

Village designs vary greatly and draw both from nomadic and workshop designs. The most popular designs are prayer-rug medallions and repeating geometric forms. Some popular styles of village rugs include Bakhtiari, Baluch, and Hamadan. Workshop rugs are just that, made in workshops, usually in a main city. They are distinguished from village and nomadic rugs by their finesse and appearance because of the way they are made. A weaver usually works from a design laid out on paper or under the direction of an overseer who systematically calls out, the color of each knot as it is required. This process takes away from the spontaneity of a random design, however more technically exacting designs can be achieved. Workshops employ both men and women and exceptionally talented weavers can earn great acclaim and financial rewards.

The rugs that have been produced in the last 30 years are among the finest ever made. In Iran and Turkey, each workshop group has developed its own style. Some of the best-known workshop rugs include Heriz, Kashan, Kerman, and Tabriz. Master Workshop rugs are the most esteemed, and typically, the most expensive of all Persian rugs. The term ‘Master Workshop’ is applied to workshops that consistently produce exceptional rugs under the direction of a master weaver.

Master workshop designs are very elaborate and sophisticated interpretations of classical themes. When evaluating a master workshop rug, look primarily for technical and aesthetic perfection. The knotting should be very fine and even throughout. Patterns and motifs should be symmetrical; exact in size and spacing with colors that are even and consistent in tone. Some of the styles that can be found at the master workshop level include Isfahan, Qum, and Nain.

Area Rugs Collection

The origin of carpet weaving in Europe is obscure, although some European countries did produce flat weaves and tapestries more than a thousand years before the introduction of pile carpets. Evidence shows that Oriental carpets were first imported after 1000 AD, so the technique of pile-knotting would at least have been known if not immediately imitated. You can visit our european rugs mall at rug stores. The spread of pile carpets throughout Europe can be traced to the presence of the Moors in Spain, the Crusades (11th to 13th centuries), the travels of Marco Polo (1254 – 1324) and the embassies of Venice from the 13th century onwards.

It was also helped by the colonial expansion of Portugal which began in the 14th century, with later settlements in the Persian Gulf (1509), Goa (1510) and Japan (1542) before the country was conquered by Philip II of Spain in 1580. One of the oldest fragments of European pile carpets is preserved in the Schlosskirche at Quedlinburg in the Harz mountain region of what was formerly East Germany. This is a portion of a rug known to have been made in the time of the Abbess Agness (1186 – 1203) and which must have originally measured 24 feet by 20 feet.

On it, we see rows representing scenes of Martianus Capella’s Marriage of Mercury and Philology. It was woven using the single knot like the one used in Spanish carpets, although no link with Spanish weavers has been determined. In 1255 when Eleanor of Castile married Edward I of England, she brought with her many fine Spanish rugs, which are said to have come from Cordoba or Granada.

In most of England, however, rushes and hay were strewn as floor coverings, even in palaces and large houses up until the early 17th century. Some lords were even reported to have the hay rugs changed everyday. Paul Hentzer, a German traveler, wrote that he personally saw hay strewn on the floor of Queen Elizabeth’s presence chamber at Greenwich Palace in 1598. Gradually, the wealthier British started using pile rugs throughout their homes.

In old European paintings, all depicted floor coverings resemble Oriental carpets, which is not surprising since Europeans were importing Persian rugs long before they themselves learned the craft. Many believe that Venice imported rugs from Asia Minor in the 15th century and that Europeans from all over preferred Oriental rugs. By the end of the 17th century, Persian and Turkish carpets were among the highest valued possessions in Europe. Kings and emperors would give silk Persian carpets to other political leaders as gifts to gain their ally or friendship.

By the mid 18th to 19th century almost all countries of Europe were weaving rugs of their own. The top producers were Spain, France, Poland, Italy, Great Britain, Germany, Austria, Holland, Romania, as well as Norway, Sweden and Finland. Today, handmade European rugs are rare as the industry cannot compete with the quality and cost of labor of Oriental rugs. Instead, some European countries such as Belgium have developed significant machine-made rug industries, mainly after World War II.

Heart of My Heart Pet Boutique

We are a State Licensed, Veterinarian approved and recommended, 4 Paws Up-Pet boarding house. Our boarding house is in view from our home that sets back in the woods in a private, serene location. Our large size indoor/outdoor dog runs have a 4’x 4’ private eating and sleeping areas and a 4’x 10’ social outdoor area. Extra large run 8’ x 4’ private eating and sleeping area and a 10’ x 10’ outdoor area. The indoor areas are separated by walls so our guest’s eating and sleeping areas are undisturbed by their neighbors. The outdoor area of each run is separated by chain link fence where your pet can socialize without contact.

They will also have full view of the woods and can watch deer, rabbits and squirrels play. (They love to tempt our guests) Our horses that share their home with these critters are no exception to this game. It can be entertaining to them as well as us. We also have individual 10’x10’ cedar filled shaded play pens for extra outdoor playtime or for just lounging.

There is lots of room here for walks and leaving a mark on the world (which is one of our most popular activities). High quality food and treats provided although you are welcome to bring your own. We provide Eukanuba premium, Iams chicken or lamb and Purina foods. (If bringing your own food and treats they must be brought in a re-sealable container.) Medications are given at no added charge. (medications must be labeled clearly with pet’s name and dosage) Bathing is available by request if you would like your pet bathed before pick-up.

Price is quoted when you check-in your pet. If your pet has a grooming appointment scheduled while they are being boarded, we will be happy to drive them to and from their appointment provided it is within the city limits. Current Vaccinations, this includes: Distemper/combo, Rabies and Bordetella. Proof of vaccinations is required, no exceptions for your pets safety and others. Your dog should be on a routine worming schedule and must be free of fleas and ticks. We recommend using frontline or advantage on your pet during boarding and using a monthly wormer with heart worm preventive at home. To aid in keeping our facility flea and tick free, we do a routine check on all guests at the time of arrival. Any guests showing signs of fleas or ticks will be treated for them at the owner’s expense. We appreciate your understanding and cooperating in helping us keep our guests and premises “pest free”.

To view our boarding contract, click here…Boarding Contract and Agreement. You are welcome to bring a bed and toys so your pet will have familiar or favorite things while he or she is away from home. Rawhide chews have been known to be a choking hazard, so we do not allow these types of treats. We have approved bones, chews and toys available for purchase if you need them. Caring for your pet is a privilege and we do the very best to keep a clean well cared for facility where they can feel comfortable and well cared for. Most importantly we strive to maintain a safe atmosphere and our standards and services go above and beyond what our state license requires. Large – medium – small breeds $10.00 daily. Prices remain the same if we supply food and treats or you bring your own.

Extra large run for any size or breed $15.00 daily for 1 dog, $20.00 – $30.00 daily 2 dogs depending on size. Standard fees also apply to long term boarding. We feel in this situation your dog’s care requirements increase to keep them happy and healthy. A daily charge will not apply on the day of pick-up if you pick up your dog before 12:00noon. All of the services we offer are included in our daily fee. No added charges will apply unless you request chew toys, a bath prior to pick-up, your pet is treated for fleas/ticks or if they decide to eat part of our building. 24374 Park Dr. Lebanon, Missouri 65536, just off of Interstate 44.

We are 20 minutes from Bennett Springs State Park, 30 minutes from Lake of the Ozarks and 1 hour from Osage Beach Missouri. 2 hours from Branson Missouri, 1 hour from Springfield Missouri. We are approximately 40 minutes from Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri and care for the pets of many new soldiers and students moving to the area. We realize your traveling hours may be unusual and will try our best to accommodate you upon your arrival when pet housing is not available to you. We are scheduled to be closed on the following dates: Currently not Available Boarding is available most days of the year including Holidays.

6 Steps to Setting Up Your Freshwater Aquarium

As a fellow fish hobbyist, I understand the desire to want to have an aquarium at home. Although they can be beautiful, relaxing and therapeutic, they can be a lot of work. I am writing this article to share with you, my 6 step process to freshwater aquarium setup that will be easy to maintain and give you unlimited enjoyment for years to come.

1) Your first step is choosing which type of fish you want to keep in your fish tank. When choosing your fish, you will want to do some research on the types of fish you are interested in. If this is your first aquarium, I would suggest a hardy fish, like a black tetra as they seem to withstand varying ph levels, which can happen in new tanks.

2) After you have chosen the fish for your tank, think about whether you will have live plants or artificial plants. If you want live plants, you will need to choose plants that will thrive with your fish. Be careful, as if you choose a plant that is particularly tasty to your fish, you might not have aquarium plants for very long. You also might want to choose some plants that are native to your fish’s natural environment as creating an environment for your fish as close to its natural environment will help your fish thrive that much more.

3) Your next step is choosing your tank. Typically, aquariums are made of either glass or acrylic. I prefer acrylic as they are much more durable, especially if you have kids. The will not shatter upon impact and you are able to drill holes in them with more ease, as you may be required to do for certain types of filtration system. The most important part of tank selection however, is the size. This is critical to the survival and success of your fish and other inhabitants. A rough estimation is about an inch of fish per gallon. Although this is a good estimation, there are still things you need to keep in mind like the size of your fish as an adult, not as a baby, as they often come in the pet store. Also, once you have your tank full of substrate, plants and decor, you can expect to have about 15% less water that what the tank holds. Last thing to keep in mind is that and inch long slender fish is not the same as an inch long full-bodied fish. The full-bodied fish will produce more waste thus requiring more space.

4) The next step will be to choose the type of filtration system you will use. There are three main categories of filtration; Biological Filtration, Mechanical Filtration and Chemical Filtration. I would suggest you choose some sort of biological or mechanical filtration. Chemical filtration is mostly used temporarily to remove toxins in your tank that biological and mechanical filtration systems can’t remove.

5) Next will be to put your tank together add water and cycle your tank. All you need is fresh tap water that has been conditioned with a product like Aqua Safe or Start Right. I do not recommend distilled water as it lacks nutrients that fish need. Cycling your tank means to cultivate a bacteria colony in your filter. This is essential to maintaining healthy nitrate levels. Basically, when your fish expels waste it creates ammonia in your tank. These bacteria’s turn the ammonia into nitrite which then turn it into nitrate.

You can do this by using an old media from a tank that has an established bacteria colony in the filter. I.e. You could use and sponge or floss from another tank filter to establish the new growth in your tank. You will have to take repeated water tests to make sure that your water has stabilized to a safe environment for your fish. Remember to test the water before cycling to get a more accurate reading. The time for this process will vary. It is important to keep in mind that the bigger your tank, the longer this process will take.

6) Well, once you have completed all these steps, you are ready to introduce your fish into your tank. Remember to do this slowly. If you are planning on having multiple species of fish, try one species at a time and let them adjust before introducing

3 Important Tips for Taking Care of Your Tropical Fish

If you are one of the millions of Americans with a tropical fish aquarium or pond then chances are you are looking for ways to make sure your fish enjoy a long, healthy life. For the most part, tropical fish are easy to take care of and require very little additional care outside the basics. However, there are a few things you should know that can dramatically extend the lifespan of your tropical fish, no matter if they enjoy a small 3-gallon fishbowl or a 1,000-gallon aquarium.

  • The most important thing for freshwater fish is that you keep their habitat clean. Under normal circumstances, a filter will do the job just well. However, there are times when it can seem as though the tank or pond gets filled with algae or waste faster than you can keep it clean. This is often caused by a filtration device that is not sized correctly for the capacity of the tank. In most situations, you want your filter to completely clean the water every 4-6 hours. This represents the equivalent of up to 4 complete cycles of the water in a 24-hour period.

While you are checking out filters at your local store, be sure to also look into slugs and other creatures that can co-exist with your tropical fish and help clear out the algae. This is especially important in outdoor ponds or tanks where algae tend to grow faster due to direct exposure to sunlight. They are relatively cheap and do a great job that otherwise would be a manual task for you to complete!

  • Next, let’s talk about food. Now, you and I, well we tend to eat a lot – we are a society that loves our food! However, the same isn’t the same for most tropical fish. In fact, in normal circumstances most varieties of tropical fish only need to be fed once or twice a week. The most common cause of death in household fish is over-feeding. Keep in mind that if you keep your fish in an outdoor pond that you may need to adjust the feeding schedule as the fish will also obtain food from nature – bugs and other flying insects that may make their way into the pond.

  • Finally, keep in mind that most fish enjoy a warm environment. If you live in a cold climate you should make sure that your tank or pond is equipped with a heating device so that during colder weather you can keep it at a steady temperature. The ideal temperature will vary for your particular variety of fish, but rarely should you let the temperature of the water dip below 75 degrees in most circumstances.