Kamping with Kota & Kuma volume 3

Well it’s time to pee on our post again, or as you two leggeds say post to our blog. (you say tomato we say woof!) Any way as you know from our last post our dog house on wheels needed some repairs, the slides that make the rooms big enough for us to stretch out were not closing properly and the refrigerator wasn’t keeping all our treats cold so mom and dad brought it to Camping World in Lake City Florida and would you believe they kept it for 4 years!!!!!! (OK that’s 4 years on the doggie calendar 1 month on two legged calendar) Mom and dad were very unhappy with Camping World, they said stuff like terrible customer service, unprofessional and incompetent. Now we’re not sure exactly what that means but all we know is that we suffered without our dog house on wheels. (Look at the photo below see how uncomfortable Kuma looks on Aunt Vicki’s couch, BOL!)

We did some fun things while we waited for our dog house on wheels to be ready, we went to the St. Augustine Alligator Farm, well mom and dad went, no dogs allowed in they say. We do not get this and we think it stinks, we should be allowed everywhere! Well at least we had a real nice hotel to stay in while mom and dad took pictures of birds. (One bed for Kota one bed for Kuma – people on the floor – BOL. The hotel is named Smart Stay and we think this arrangement is very smart BOL again!!!!!!)

This is something else we do not understand, why would they want to take pictures of birds when they could be at the dog park with us??? If anyone can explain this to us please call us on our private line 1-800-stupidhumans!

While mom and dad were at the Alligator Farm (stupid bird place we’re not allowed in with a dumb name, first of all who farms alligators and secondly why are they taking pictures of birds if it’s an alligator farm? Again use our private line if you can answer these questions) they met a good friend who also wastes time photographing birds and other wildlife instead of being at the dog park, birds of a feather stick together, BOL!!!!! His name is Chas Glatzer and mom says he’s a famous wildlife photographer, well we’re two wild and crazy pitbulls and he’s never taken our photo, seriously how famous can he be? (OMD – we bark ourselves up – human translation Oh my dog we crack ourselves up)

Now some places are a lot smarter than other places, the smart ones let dogs in. We went to a very cool place called St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. We had to be on a leash, but they didn’t say a human had to be on the other end, BOL!!!!! No we’re kidding we follow the rules even if we don’t agree with them.

We went for lots of long drives while we waited for our repairs to be done, dad never lets us drive which we do not understand, we are excellent drivers! Bear left at the really good smell in the road dad! (Growl he never listens to me)

We had lots of fun in Aunt Vicki’s, while we endured those 4 years without our dog house on wheels, she has a really big backyard to run around in, and there were some balls for us to kill…umm we mean play with.

And her furniture is very comfortable, but that pumpkin is scary!
Well we couldn’t believe it when mom and dad said our doghouse on wheels was finally ready to be picked up, neither could Aunt Vicki but you can’t blame her, dad told her “hey sis we’re gonna stay with you for a week” and it turned out to be 4 years, OK OK one month to you.

And would you believe that stupid Camping World after keeping our doghouse on wheels for 4 years they never fixed the shower doors or tightened up the screws on the trim even though they said they did. Dad said he would fix that stuff himself and mom said “oh   ” and than ran and hid his tools.

This is another thing that confuses us – when we 4 leggeds say “oh ” it’s a good thing but not when you 2 leggeds say it, again use our private line if you can help, that’s 1-800-stupid humans. So we finally said goodbye to Live Oak Florida and headed to our first kampground (remember this blog is Kamping with Kota & Kuma – mom and dad klearly do not understand the word kamping) in Ruskin Florida it’s a pretty nice place called Manatee RV Park.

They have a cool doggie area where we can run around without our leashes and there’s a really dumb dog there, never barks, runs, drinks water or plays – we do not get it but somehow mom thinks its funny.

When that dumb dog wouldn’t play with me I said “smell my but – BOL”

The best part of our stay here in Ruskin is when we went to Fort DeSoto Park, we were worried at first that mom and dad were joining the military, but then we found out it’s the coolest place with a doggie beach! You heard me a beach were 4 leggeds can run around free and go in the water and play, we had such a great time! All beaches should be doggie beaches.

Kuma was a little sacred of the water at first but i barked him into it, I’m a good coach! Dad thinks it was him but Kuma trusts me more.

We were very sad though to find out that discrimination still exists in the south, separate but equal is not equal! “We have a dream that one day 4 leggeds will not be judged by their size or breed but by the content of their character” (We stole that from a very great 2 legged Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr)

It was a great day at the beach, discrimination aside. We were exhausted from swimming running, playing and then getting a hose bath, (Yuck why do they wash off all those good smells on us? Again if you know please call our private line) so we stayed in the air-conditioned car while mom and dad went in the hot sun and got bit by bugs taking more silly bird pictures. (And people call us dumb animals – they got that backwards) 

All kidding aside we really did get discriminated upon when we were in St. Augustine. Mom and dad wanted lunch so they decided to go to a restaurant they went to a few weeks ago when they met Aunt Jean, Uncle Glen & our doggie cousin Roxie for lunch. We were so excited when they told us we could sit in the special doggie area with them and they would bring us a bowl of water and mom even said we could order our own burger. Well the place was crowded and the doggie area was full (of course it was, who wouldn’t want to have lunch with their doggies?) so mom told us to sit while we all waited for a table. We of course sat like very well behaved gentledogs, just like mom taught us to, when this man come out, he was the manager of the restaurant, big deal – nope big jerk! He looks at us sitting like gentledogs and says to mom “Do you really think you should bring those dogs in here?” and mom says “This is a dog friendly restaurant isn’t it?” and the man responds “Yes but are those dogs OK – should they be in here?”  Well mom knew just what he meant – dogs are welcome but not pitbulls – so she got mad and said “you know what you’re right these dogs shouldn’t be in a place like this and neither should I. I wouldn’t waste my money on a place like this!” and then we left. Mom was angry and then she got sad, she doesn’t understand and neither do we, why people would judge us by our looks rather than our behavior. Like mom always says “Hate the deed not the breed” Oh well we found a great place to buy food and eat it our truck.
Well we need to go rest up for our next adventure, we are leaving Ruskin tomorrow and heading to Ft Meyers and while we are there we’ll get to visit Uncle Mike Aunt Lori in Naples, Uncle Mike said he will take us on our first boat ride, that should be fun. Oh before we bark off this post what do you think of our new wheels? BOL like we’d be caught dead in that silly thing!

Well that’s about it for now, we’ll keep you updated on all the fun we’re having and all the silly things our humans do. Until then never bite when a growl will do the trick.

Love Kota & Kuma

Life on Life’s terms continues

Well it’s been 3 weeks and the “Beast” (our affectionate term for our 5th wheel) is still in the shop, currently we are waiting for a new compressor for the refrigerator to come in so we can finally get back on the road. We have spent a moment or two sulking and complaining about our current situation but more often than not we are just making the best of it, being grateful for family that has hosted us these past three weeks without a single complaint or “hey when the heck are you leaving?” and finding photo opportunities where ever we can.

We made a few visits to the St. Augustine Alligator Farm, we purchased the yearly photographer’s pass for $89.95 which allows us access to the rookery at 8 am and the ability to stay until sunset, in addition to supporting the good work of the Alligator Farm. We came at a great time as it’s baby season at the rookery, so cute and so much fun to photograph and observe.

The rookery poses quite a few challenges for photographers, to start with it is relatively small and even during the photography pass holders only hours it can get quite crowded.

There’s so much activity going on that you need to learn as a photographer to focus on a subject and not get distracted by all the activity, and at the same time be aware of your surroundings and be prepared to make a quick change so as not to miss a wonderful opportunity for an image, no easy task to master.

Another challenge you will encounter is very distracting backgrounds and foregrounds. The rookery area as mentioned is fairly small and does not provide easy opportunities for soft compressed backgrounds that as nature photographers we like very much. It requires constant vigilance in checking your camera angle, your backgrounds, scanning the image area for distracting elements and making adjustments.  

In the image above of the Snowy Egret the background was darkened in post production using NIK/Google filters. I used Viveza and selected several control points and decreased the brightness of the background, in doing this I lost some of the fine feathers on top so when I brought the image back into PS I added a layer mask to the Viveza layer, chose a soft brush, changed the opacity to about 30% and painted the fine detail of those feathers back in.

The blue sky created a pleasing background for Roseate spoonbill below, just as he landed on the perch.

For the family of Great Egrets a tight crop was chosen to minimize some of the distractions and an aperture of f8 to keep all 4 eyes in focus and at the same time adding as little depth of field to the background as possible.

One of the things we love about nature photography is all it’s challenges, it’s never the same and there are so many aspects of it that as photographers we have no control over. We don’t control our subject, the light, the backgrounds or foregrounds. We can only control how we as artists can create the images we want under the circumstances nature gives us and boy is it fun.
In addition to visits to the Alligator Farm we’ve had some backyard fun in Live Oak with a few beautiful Red-headed woodpeckers.

Wildlife photography is kind of like life; make the absolute best of what you’ve been given. Spend more time enjoying and conquering the challenges and less time complaining about them and things have a way of ending up new and beautiful.

Life on Life’s Terms

Life doesn’t always go the way you plan it,  almost 3 weeks ago we set out in our Montana 5th wheel to begin our lives as full time RV’ers. We made it to Live Oak Florida and stopped to visit Bill’s sister Vicki, she was kind enough to let us park our trailer on her 5 acre property and she hooked us up with water and electricity for a week while we got ourselves organized. Well the week went by fast and it was time to say goodbye and move a bit further south, not gonna happen, we were all set to leave and we noticed the slides on the Montana were not closing properly and the more we opened and closed them the worse it got. We made the first appointment we could get, 5 days later, then another week and a half passed before we were able to get our warranty company to approve the repair and now it will be at least another week for parts to  come in and repairs to be made. Not exactly as we had envisioned our first few weeks of life on the road, but life is best lived on life’s terms otherwise you will be disappointed most of your days.

So what is there to photograph in the Live Oak area? We found a few subjects: In this image below Bill decided to photograph this boat and palm tree as an HDR combining 3 images and then I processed it with a bit of a edge to it to add to the feel of the boat.
On our way back to Bill’s sisters house we passed this house and Bill knew he had to go back at good light and photograph it, again he chose HDR to create the image he had envisioned when he first saw the house.

Inside was just as interesting and also processed as an HDR
One last look at the house; Bill decided to use a compositional tool called framing to add additional interest to his subject, I think it worked really well, it’s my favorite image from this series.
And of course we found some wildlife to photograph as well. This barred owl was difficult to photograph as the background was very bright and the owl was in the deep shade of the forest, so I exposed for the owl, the more important element, and let the background overexpose and then toned it down a bit in post production.

We will continue to look for subjects while we are stranded in Live Oak Florida and continue to be grateful for relatives like Bill’s sister Vicki who graciously put us up while we wait on repairs. Photography is a lot like life, of course location and subject matter play their parts but your perspective is what will make or break you.

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Kamping with Kota & Kuma volume 2

Well its time to pee on our post again; or as you two leggeds call it posting to the blog. On March 25, 2017 we finally pulled out of the driveway in our new doghouse on wheels, we thought Mom and Dad would never be ready, but with a lot of barking and growling from us they got it done and our adventure began. Now we’re not sure why this blog is called Kamping with Kota & Kuma cause we’ve been gone almost two weeks and we haven’t seen a single campground; we suspect that since they don’t know how to spell camping, (Kamping) they also don’t know what it is, BOL!. We’ve stayed at two Motel 6’s on the way down to Florida and since we’ve gotten to Florida we’ve been parked in Aunt Vicki’s backyard, now it’s a real nice backyard and we like Aunt Vicki a lot but this ain’t camping. Here we are destroying her balls, isn’t that what you’re supposed to do with them, BOL!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    
It’s been an interesting 13 days, Dad got the big dog house on wheels stuck a few times, wasn’t his fault bad directions, we helped him back out of a few tight spots and it all worked out OK. We got to stop at lots of new places to stretch our legs and do our business, so many great smells, don’t know why Mom and Dad were in such a rush to get back on the road all the time, we could have stayed a week in New Jersey just smelling everything. Here we are in front of our new dog house on wheels, we love it.

Now we’re not complaining but some of the beds we slept in on the way down were a bit small for our liking, we thought Mom & Dad would be considerate and sleep on the floor but alas they did not, humans!

We met this very strange animal in Aunt Vicki’s backyard, have no idea what it is but it sure is funny looking. It has no legs or paws, we can’t figure out how it got away from us so fast. And the dogs here in Florida; they are so big, must be the water down here that grows them that way. The cats, at least, seem to be normal so far.


We are getting used to the new doghouse on wheels, it’s very comfortable and so is our truck, all though for some reason we are not allowed in the front, doesn’t seem fair to us. Tomorrow we take the big doghouse on wheels into the shop for some repairs we hope it doesn’t take too long we hate to wait, humans are so slow.


Well that’s about it for now, we’ll keep you updated on all the fun we’re having and all the silly things our humans do. Until then never bite when a growl will do the trick.

Love Kota & Kuma

It Just Clicked – Exposure The Foundation of Good Photography

Sorry it’s been so long since our last blog, we’ve spent the last few months preparing to sell our house and get our Montana 5th wheel ready to be our new home on wheels for the next few years. What an undertaking it has been, over 30 years of living in the same home it was at times overwhelming deciding what to sell, what to keep, what to donate and what just needed to be thrown away. The hardest part of this whole new phase of our lives, was by far, saying goodbye to dear friends, neighbors and family. But as one good friend pointed out it’s not goodbye it’s just see you later.
So enough about us; lets get back to some photography.

In our last issue we were speaking about getting the exposure right; understanding the relationship between iso, aperture and shutter speed and how important that relationship is in allowing the photographer to make creative choices in how their images are presented. Today we are going to discuss how do we determine a correct exposure in the first place.

Contrary to some popular beliefs one of the first things we want you to do to learn how to determine a proper exposure is to take your camera off all those program modes and put it in manual. If you learn how to use your camera in manual than you will be able to fully utilize your various program modes. Many people think its the other  way around, I’ll use program and automatic modes and then I’ll learn manual. Trust us, put your camera in manual mode and lets get a proper exposure.

So we’re in manual and our image is composed the way we want it, our meter is set to spot (at at the moment this is a somewhat arbitrary choice – we’ll talk about metering modes in another post) so what’s next. Well the first thing we need to do is understand how our camera’s meter works. All meters in cameras are reflective meters, meaning that they measure the light reflected off our subjects and they want to make everything 18% gray or neutral, the problem with that is that most things do not reflect light at 18% gray and different colors reflect more or less light – so by nature our cameras will over expose blacks and under expose whites and we certainly don’t want that, so what do we do? Well we have to make adjustments by adding or subtracting light based on the understanding of our reflective meter. So lets say we have an image of a black or dark bird, if we null the meter (set in in the middle 18% gray) then as we mentioned before our meter will, in trying try to make the bird 18% gray, over expose the blacks. So knowing this we now need to subtract light (to compensate for our reflective meter over exposing or adding light) by one of our 3 variables in the exposure triangle, (iso, aperture or shutter speed). How much light will depend on the subject. Look at your histogram (image below shows where you will should see the blacks, shadows, mid-tones, highlights and whites represented) and see where the blacks and shadows are recorded in your image, are they to the left side of your histogram yet not climbing up the wall? If not  adjust your exposure by a 1/3 of a stop (either adding or subtracting depending on where you started) and then look again continue to do this until your shadows have detail. Once you practice enough you will be able to look at a scene and know approximately how much light you will need to add or subtract to properly expose your image, you will of course tweak it  to get the exact exposure you desire.

Looking at the photo above we can see that by subtracting light (in this case a stop and a half) from our meter’s null or zero point we have created a properly exposed image of a dark bird. The dark/black colors are to the left on our histogram without clipping rendering us an image with details in it.


Our Passion
Photography is our passion and sharing our knowledge with others is our pleasure.

We delight in learning and inspiring others to learn new ways of capturing the world through the Eye of our Camera. How can we inspire you today?

  • “When people ask me what equipment I use – I tell them my eyes.”
In our next issue: Some more exposure tips
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Kamping with Kota & Kuma

Oh boy we are so excited to be posting on our very first blog post! All though in all honesty when mom said we have our very own post we thought it was something we could pee on, now that we understand the difference between a blog post and a fence post we’re still excited, just not as much.
So as you may or may not know our human parents have decided to give up all the comforts of a brick & mortar home to live full time in a Keystone Montana 5th wheel, travelling across the United States, Canada and maybe even South America for a few years. We think they are nuts, but we thought that before this decision was made, B.O.L. (Barking out loud).

OK seriously now, we are really looking forward to seeing how much fun we can have Kamping with those two and we hope that you follow along as we try to keep them out of too much trouble. Right now we are taking care of selling all their excess stuff, we keep all our toys and bones as clearly they are necessary, and we are hoping to be on the road by the end of March 2017. Once on the road our plan is to keep you posted as to where we are, what fun stuff we have seen and where we’re off to next.

We know that this is going to be an amazing adventure and we are really happy to be able to share it with you. We hope that you are obedient and that you sit and stay and follow our posts!

–  Kota & Kuma


Get out of the cold

Winter in the northeast is a great time to get out and photograph landscapes, urban scenes,  and wildlife but if your fingers are frozen, your subjects have dried up or the clouds are making for gray  & wet weather you can still enjoy some fun and fascinating photography. Get out of the cold and go indoors to a museum. Museums are a great place to experiment with lenses, try some new techniques or just have some photographic fun. It’s always wise to go online or call ahead to the museum you are planning to visit and find out about their policies on photography and equipment allowed. Some allow tripods, some charge extra for tripods, some do not allow tripods and some allow no photography at all. Each museum will have its own rules so again be wise and find out in advance to avoid disappointment.

Most museums do not allow flash photography and museums tend to be dimly lit so you will be dealing with low light situations. The use of a tripod or monopod (if allowed) will help tremendously when photographing in low light. A higher ISO will most likely be needed do to the usual low light conditions of most museums. We always use the lowest possible ISO for the conditions we are shooting in to eliminate or minimize noise. In addition, especially when tripods or monopods are not allowed, you will need to use a fast enough shutter to avoid camera shake. Many times you’ll need to be shooting at a wide open aperture to let as much light in as possible this can cause problems due to limited depth of field. As always you have to weigh the conditions you are in and the utilize the exposure triangle to give you the best possible results for the image you want to create.

The light in museums can change from daylight to tungsten, to mixed light and back again so white balance really is important to pay attention to, especially if you are shooting in jpeg. We recommend shooting in raw so that you can adjust the white balance after the fact if you’re not happy with it. In addition you have the full power of a raw capture to allow you to make better post production adjustments.

In the image above taken at the Gothic Chapel in the Cloisters in Upper Manhattan Bill used a fisheye lens to give a unique perspective to his image.

The image below taken at Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia PA is an HDR image combining three images, processed using Photomatix .

It Just Clicked – Getting the exposure right – why it’s so important

Exposure is the foundation of any good image, it determines not only the technical side of your image – how light or dark your tones are rendered but also the creative side of your image – how you want that image presented artistically. By using numerous combinations of ISO, shutter speed and aperture (The Exposure Triangle) we can create the exact same exposure yet have very different artistic representations of our image. In order to choose which artistic representation we want to express we must first understand the relationship between our ISO, shutter speed and aperture.


Creating your image!
In the image above, Augie a captive Eurasian Eagle Owl was taken at one of our Nature Photography for Women Workshops. Gen wanted to blur the background as much as possible so that the bird would pop. She chose ISO 800 shutter speed 1/160 aperture f6.3. The image was shot with a Nikon D4 and a 500mm lens on a tripod. The light was getting very low in the sky so Gen chose the higher ISO of 800, shutter speed of 1/160th was as slow as she could go without getting too much blur from movement. (you can see in his ear flaps that there is a bit of movement) And finally the aperture of f6.3 allowed her to get both eyes sharp and still blur her background. So once she determined the correct exposure (ISO, Shutter Speed & Aperture) then Gen needed to decide creatively how she wanted her image to look. Knowing how to control the exposure allowed Gen to create the image she wanted. (There are other factors that control depth of field in this image including the size of the lens, subject to background distance and camera to subject distance which we will cover at another time)
Creating your image!

In the image above of the Marshall Point Lighthouse, taken on our New England Lighthouse Workshop, Bill wanted to create an image with great depth of field so that everything from front to back would be sharp. Photographed with a Nikon D4 and a 24-120mm lens at 24mm Bill chose ISO 400 shutter speed 1/250th (camera was handheld so Bill wanted enough shutter to avoid camera shake) and aperture f11. By choosing f11 he achieved his desired results of an image sharp from front to back. (There are other factors that control depth of field in this image including the size of the lens, subject to background distance and camera to subject distance which we will cover at another time)

Creating your image!
In the image above Grace Scalzo photographed the white pelican sitting on a rock outcropping. While it was a nice scene, Grace found that the breaking waves and resulting spray were what made the picture. However as a still image, it lacked motion. So after determining an exposure by spot metering off the whites of the bird, she adjusted her settings to not freeze the water, but rather to blur it. This was accomplished at 1/15 sec, f18 and iso 100. It took several tries to get the bird’s eye sharp at this slow shutter speed and long focal length (600 mm) . The end result achieved Grace’s goals, especially showing motion because she understood the relationship between ISO, shutter speed and aperture and used them to create the image she wanted.

If you want to learn to control your exposure so that you can create the image you desire the following classes would be a great start! Click on the links below and begin creating the images you want!

Nature Photography for Women  and the Winter Education Series with classes on Exposure , Image Critique and Composition are being offered jointly by First Light Photography and Grace Scalzo Photography. Join Grace & Gen for one or all of these workshops, to sign up today call 516-965-3097 to register and take control of your images!
Our Passion
Photography is our passion and sharing our knowledge with others is our pleasure.

We delight in learning and inspiring others to learn new ways of capturing the world through the Eye of our Camera. How can we inspire you today?

“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist”
Pablo Picasso
In our next issue: More about exposure
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Winter Education Series Composition

Two of Long Island’s most accomplished nature photographers have joined forces to offer three classes designed to improve your photography from the technical to the creative. Each class may be taken independently, all though for maximum results we recommend registering for all three and we are offering a $30.00 discount if you register for all three.

Basics of Composition In photography, as well as in all art forms, there are principles that when applied, create compelling work. We will go over some basics, such as the rule of thirds, level horizons, virtual legs, lens choice, leading lines,  to list some examples, and then talk about when these basics can be deviated from effectively. We will invite you to give us some of your work which we will discuss and we will show you some of our work that illustrates these principles and when we have creatively broken them.

Dates: New Dates Coming Soon – Basics of Composition
Cost: $85.00
Deposit: $85.00

Register for this Workshop Make a Deposit for Workshop

Potential subjects:

Lodging Information:

Payment in full to reserve your place.

Click here to view more testimonials

Winter Education Series Image Critique

Two of Long Island’s most accomplished nature photographers have joined forces to offer three classes designed to improve your photography from the technical to the creative. Each class may be taken independently, all though for maximum results we recommend registering for all three and we are offering a $30.00 discount if you register for all three.

Image Critique Critiquing your own images can be challenging. You have just returned from a nature photography session or a trip with a full card. How do you  evaluate which images you keep and which need to hit the trash? Which ones might be competition worthy? We will help you with some basics such as: did you achieve critical focus, is your image interesting, how is the exposure, quality of light, is it creative, does it have impact. By the end of the session, you will have a better idea of how to critique your own work. An added benefit will be that you will create better images when in the field, having evaluated what was successful in your last outing.

Dates: New Dates Coming Soon
Cost: $85.00
Deposit: $85.00

Register for this Workshop Make a Deposit for Workshop

Potential subjects:

Lodging Information:

Payment in full to reserve your place.

Click here to view more testimonials