Skip navigation

“Jump Start” (Johnny Jump-Up, Viola cornuta) Nikon D300, VR 105mm F/2.8G, 105mm, F/4.5, 1/60s, ISO 640, built-in iTTL Front-Curtain Flash

This past weekend my niece, Lindsay, came to visit! She is just finishing up her sophomore year at UNE in Biddeford, Maine and needed a little R&R before completing her final exams and starting her summer-long research project.

Starting next week, Lindsay will be studying nesting female Bobolinks (a medium-sized songbird) in the hayfields of Vermont. She is so very excited!

I happened to ask her if she will be photographing the birds and she casually replied,‘Yeah, but all I have is my small digital camera.’

Hmmmm, really? Well, that simply will not do!

So, I dug through our box of ‘extra’ camera equipment and found an older Nikon body, an 18-135 telephoto lens and promptly began her crash course in using a DSLR. (Here is where my experience in teaching at the community center seriously paid off).

Starting off with the basics (camera parts, attaching/removing the lens, proper handholding and camera controls) then moving on to more advanced topics (light, focus area, composition, white balance, shutter speed, aperture, ISO, etc.), she absorbed the concepts as fast as I could explain them. (I wish all my students were as quick a study!)

For me, it was amazing to have this opportunity to pass something I am so passionate about onto the next generation as well as inspiring to witness her take it on with such eagerness. Delightfully, she shares my love of critters and all things nature and we spent hours in the landscape photographing anything and everything that caught our eyes.  That girl is one smart cookie and obviously takes after her favorite aunt! 😉

I’m very proud of you, Linds, and love you very, very much! 🙂


  1. I noticed you did not offer the 600mm. 😉 You should help her out and take the rig on a road trip to photograph the colorful Bobolinks.

    The good old days of field studies. Spent weeks in the Adirondacks one summer doing a biodiversity study. Hope she brings plenty of insect repellent!

    • Ha! Yeah, you noticed that, eh? I’m a generous aunt but I’m not a stupid one! 😉

      Besides, it’s the male bobolinks that are the colorful ones and she is studying the females which are well, less so. She’ll do just fine with the set-up I gave her. She actually has to catch and tag the birds so she’ll definitely have close-up opportunities.

      Don’t worry…insect repellent and sunscreen are high on her list! 🙂

  2. Wow what an arresting photo Tracy… Fabulous!
    I love how the colours and forms are echoed in the out of focus background, and manage to draw attention to the viola in focus and not distract from it.
    Unlike your niece I’m not a “quick study”… aperture and focal lengths and just numbers in general turn my brain to mush in seconds, so it’s hard grasp to even understand the concepts.
    Clearly your niece has the genes for it LOL, Photography talent obviously runs within your family bloodlines 🙂
    I suppose she will need a tripod and a lot of patience too.
    Good for you for showing her the ropes and setting her up with the basics, sounds like she appreciates it a lot.

    • Wow – thanks Kiwi! You are very, very kind! 🙂

      This is an unusual composition for me as I was simply ‘playing around’ while showing her what my 105 macro lens can do. Her telephoto can’t get quite as close but I showed her a few tricks. She is most likely a ways away from tripods and all that but who knows? If I’ve managed to spark photography interest, she can take and run as far with it as she desires.

      I wasn’t a very quick study, either. It took me years of practice to understand just how all this works. When I slack off and don’t photograph for awhile I do tend to get out ‘photographic shape’ if you will and have to climb the curve once again.

      Nice to hear from you! 🙂

  3. That was very kind of you, M.P.! I’m sure your niece appreciated that very, very much! Luckily people don’t take note of most of my musings… well, if they’re taking my advice not to, anyway.
    AND sweet shot, by the by! 🙂

    • Yeah, I have my moments. 😉 I really think she did as she said thank you about a dozen times! It was simply refreshing to see her enthusiasm. Something we adults have to fight to keep sometimes when the doldrums of reality and life get us down.

      Thanks so much, SIG! 🙂

  4. The color of that pansy is just gorgeous! How lucky for your niece to have such a generous and caring auntie. The field study sounds really interesting; have I asked you before what she is majoring in at UNE? We may make a visit there this summer if they offer any tours the week we are on vacation.

    • I know! And they are just the crazy little pansies you are seeing everywhere right now. I think they look like little marching soldiers….well, cheery little soldiers!!

      Lindsay is majoring in Animal Behavoir and seems to be really enjoying it. We had so much fun this weekend watching all the birds and critters in the yard. It is a veritable field study right in my own backyard! 🙂

      Thanks, Karma!

  5. Nicely done!! Good on you!! Now the onus is on her to share some of those images!!

  6. Those little flowers are so cute! The dark purple petals kinda look like bunny ears 🙂

    I wish I had your teaching skills…. or maybe the problem is Melissa’s refusal to listen when I try to teach her something.

    • Thanks! These are in a pot but we have Johnny Jump-Ups growing wild all over. These little plants will grow anywhere, including out of cracks in cement or asphalt!

      Your first problem is you are ‘mom’ and not the ‘cool aunt’. 😉 Also, Linsday is 20 years old so she’s out of the phase of ‘you don’t know anything.‘ Give it some time with Mel…I’m sure she’ll come around. Most likely after she reads, sees, or hears about someone she thinks is ‘way cool’ is into photography! 🙂

  7. Beautiful photo. And a lovely, generous aunt. You have a very lucky niece. 🙂

  8. Very nicely written, Tracy. You must be realy nice in person 😉 I didn’t have to describe anything about photography to someone else (not counting my blog in) but maybe once when my sons will grow enough… who knows. And by the way, the accompanying photo is fantastic! Pansies/violets are so common flowers here that I overlook them very often. My bad, I guess.

    • Thank you, Tomas! I really do try to be. I find that kindness and generosity to go a long way and I have (surprisingly) reaped many rewards in the process.

      Oh, I am sure your sons will pick up the photo ‘bug’ from you since it will be part of their lives. (I imagine they are a fun subject, no? 😉 )

      I actually LOVE seeking out the unusual flower/plant/weed that most pass by. We have waaaaay too many photos of roses! Dandelions and pansies and etcetera can be just as beautiful! 🙂

  9. I bet you’re as great a teacher as you are a photographer! I think it’s wonderful when my son grabs my camera and see things his own way – quite differently than I do… – very inspiring and funny.

    • Aw, Truels, you are so very kind. Thank you! 🙂

      I LOVE watching children in the creative process such as photography as they don’t know about the ‘rules’ so they just shoot what looks good to them. Soak up and enjoy every moment of that as you can! 🙂

  10. it’s admirable that you are passing on you passion and talent. great pictures.

    • Wow, that is high praise! If I’ve sparked something in my niece that indeed would be a wonderful thing.

      Thank you, IT! 🙂

  11. I think that sounds so interesting what your niece is studying. I wish I could start over again and study animals and marine life. Best of luck to her!

    • Yeah, it sounds pretty cool, don’t it??

      Sometimes, I wish the same thing. When I was young, I thought about being an animal vet and a chef yet I took the engineering route (I was a ‘smart girl’). Look at me now…a photographer! Who knew!

      Thank you for the well wishes! We all could use a little luck! 🙂

  12. Hello Milkayphoto,

    It’s great! You might give her the passion of photography, maybe someday she’ll take the road to be a photographer, you never know. Nice shot! 🙂

    • Thank you, Anne! I agree! 🙂

      Whatever she dicides to do is fine with me!

  13. How very very sweet, both the beautiful image of the Johnny Jump-ups and the the opportunity to teach DSLR use to your niece 🙂 You sound like a fun Auntie! 😀

    • Thank you, Amber!

      I try. Tho, I admit it is ‘easy’ to be the fun auntie since I don’t have to discipline or worry like a parent! 🙂

  14. Love that you are passing on this passion to your niece. It is invaluable to have these free photography lessons from someone so talented!!!

    • Ha! Yeah, I guess ‘free’ is the operative word here! lol!

      You are very kind. Much appreciated! 😀

  15. Hey… got anything left in that box of extras? 😉

    The viola reminds me of one of my grandmothers… they came up volunteer in all of her flower beds. The hybridizers have ruined that though the years. The photo is excellent!

    • Ha! Actually, I have ALOT in that box of extras…just haven’t gotten around to sorting and selling.

      Yes, Johnny Jump-Ups are like that! They pop up all around here in the most unlikely places like tiny cracks in the asphalt of the driveway. (Now why can’t peonies do that? 😉 )


  16. Wish I had an aunt like you!

    Really like that shot with the flowers repeating into the background. Very nice composition.

  17. I am a big fan of the little Johnny. You’ve given it a rich, saturated look and the out of focus splashes of color behind it leave me with a happy feeling. You’ve captured the essence of the flower!

    • Thank you, Burst! The saturation of great color was already there, just needed to get it on film.

      Your comment made me smile! 🙂

  18. I love that photo, Violas are gorgeous anyway but you’ve brought out their colours wonderfully! 🙂

  19. A box of extra camera equipment eh !!… lol… Can I come and stay ??… I have to agree though, it is always great to pass on our older equipment to someone who’ll use and enjoy it… Cracking shot too.. 🙂

    • Don’t you have one too?? No? Hmmmm… some point I will be sorting through said box and listing for sale what I don’t use/need anymore. It is something I’ve been meaning to do for awhile. Would be good to get the assorted paraphernalia off to good homes.

      Thanks, Bri. Saw the hummer today. I really need to get out there and shoot! It just needs to stop raining and well, yeah, the foot still needs a few more weeks to heal fully. 🙂

  20. Well, your niece certainly has an eye and she is also very fortunate to have such a caring aunt!

    • No evidence of the ‘eye’ yet (the image here is mine), but from all indications, I suspect she indeed has one!

      Thank you, Tammy!

  21. Absolutely lovely!

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: