Dec 30, 2012

Boston First Light

Magical twilight colors combined with the Boston Skyline and landmarks like the Prudential Center, John Hancock Building, Custom House of Boston, and Boston Harbor Waterfront have become one of my favorite photographic subjects when I am not occupied with Nature Photography. I find it amazing when night and city become one for a few minutes and the city lights arise while the sky turns beautifully turquoise. First Light Boston is tomorrow and it inspired this picture collection of some of my favorite Boston skyline photographs:

More Reading and Photo Tips you may enjoy: 

Twilight City Skyline Photography Tips

Painting with Light like Georgia O'Keeffe 

15 Flower Photo Tips and Photography Inspiration

Dec 28, 2012

The Butterfly Effect


Last August I traveled to Southeast Florida and visited Butterfly World in Coconut Creek near Boca Raton and Delray Beach. The butterfly garden was an incredible experience; what a fantastic place to escape to for a full morning or day and get lost with a camera. Seeing butterflies of every type and color flattering around the beautiful aviary was simply a joy. I spent about 3 hours pursuing insect macro photography at the garden. At first I equipped my Camera with a Canon 100mm macro photo lens but ran into limitations of composing frame filling images since the butterflies took off when I got too close crossing their comfort zone. The Canon 70-200mm lens provided a handier approach and adding a Canon 1.4x teleconverter made it a much more pleasant photo experience at up to 420 mm focal length. In order to compensate for the longer lens and resulting slower shutter speeds adjusting the ISO setting to 200 was a must. A large aperture setting (small f/stop, 5.6 and less) not only supported my quest for that faster shutter speed but also created a shallower Depth of Field. A shallow depth of field is mostly desired when photographing wildlife, birds or bugs and supports beautiful isolation of the main macro photography subject against the blurred background. Unfortunately Butterfly World does not allow the use of tripods or monopods any more and hand-holding the camera gear became quite its own challenge at times. The butterfly garden is well stuffed with knowledgeable and the friendliest workers; they happily pointed out the secrets of the garden and also explained to me that the watering system is very delicate and piping easily breaks. In earlier years when photographers were allowed to bring in tripods they often damaged a lot of water piping while positioning tripods behind the railing. Hence, tripods and monopods were forbidden at one point and we, as photographers, now have to make the right camera adjustments to allow for hand-holding high quality photos. 

In the first butterfly picture the colorful Birdwing Butterfly was beautifully hanging off a little shrub branch and I remember being extremely exited, thinking about this exceptional find and figuring out how to transform this amazing nature setting into a piece of fine art photography that does not let a viewer pull away and move on. Isolating and composing the subject on the branch against a calming background was my highest priority. I therefore composed the butterfly picture in front of a sunlit bush that was 3 to 4 yards behind the subject. Choosing a large aperture setting (small f-stop) of f/4.0 resulted in an exposure time of 1/200 second allowing the capture of this butterfly image with the calming backdrop in blur. The second butterfly picture shows a photo of a Blue Morpho resting on a blade of grass near ground level. By moving back and forth, left and right I found a final pleasing composition that worked for this image. I than patiently waited for the butterfly to open its magnificent blue wings but it refused to grant me that wish and picture that day. On the bright side it provides a perfectly fine excuse for a warm Florida escape this winter, flying to Miami, renting a car and staying a few days near Butterfly World. The aperture in this second picture was f/4.5 at ISO200 resulting in an exposure time of 1/100 sec. The second butterfly photo was purposely underexposed by 1/3 of a stop to boost and saturate colors. Dust spot removal, minimal contrast, lighting and color saturation adjustments were made during post processing before sharpening the final images of the Butterflies.

More Reading and Photo Tips you may enjoy: 

Love Jigsaw Puzzles and flowers? 

Favorite Flower and Gardening Quotes 

Painting with Light like Georgia O'Keeffe 

15 Flower Photo Tips and Photography Inspiration

Dec 27, 2012

Macro Photo Art and Insect Quotes

This blog features a fine collection of some of my personal favorite insect Macro Photography Art. The inspiring selection is showing butterflies, moths, flies, grasshoppers, and dragonflies in their natural habitat  that make for beautiful and interesting Wall Art Decoration. Pictures were taken in wildlife sanctuaries throughout amazing Florida and the New England state of Massachusetts. Lots of patience and applying limited Depth of Field settings were only 2 key elements from my practical Macro Photography Tips that allowed for those compelling macro photo images.


"You can take all the sincerity in Hollywood and place it in the naval of a fruit fly, and still have room left for three caraway and an agent's heart" Fred Allen


"After 12 years, the old butterflies came back. Well, I guess at my age you call them moths." ~ Franco Harris

"Butterflies are self propelled flowers." ~ R.H. Heinlein


"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science." ~ Albert Einstein


"Grasshopper always wrong in argument with chicken." ~ Bertrand Russell

"In my world, everyone's a pony and they all eat rainbows and poop butterflies!" ~ Dr. Seuss

More Reading and Photo Tips you may enjoy: 

Love Jigsaw Puzzles and flowers? 

Favorite Flower and Gardening Quotes 

Painting with Light like Georgia O'Keeffe 

15 Flower Photo Tips and Photography Inspiration

Dec 26, 2012

Puzzling Times

As earlier announced this year I partnered with Maynard's, LLC and compiled a fine collection of my flower photography images in a 1,000 piece high quality, interlocking puzzle: "Flowers in Bloom". I finally had a chance and some quite time to start the puzzle and enjoying it tremendously ... it is challenging and so much fun!

The puzzle comes with a twist that makes it so much more fun to piece together. The twist is that the images on the box do not exactly match the images on the completed puzzle. The puzzle twist was developed to enhance the jigsaw experience and with hidden images and a new twist around every corner, the intent is not to make the jigsaw puzzle more difficult, but to make the whole experience more enjoyable. This 1,000 piece puzzle twist measures 26 5/8" x 19 1/4" when completed and the compilation of flower images from my Fine Art Photography Gallery can be beautifully framed thereafter.

Dec 25, 2012

Photo of the Week

Every week I choose one of my favorite photographs of the week from my Fine Art landscape, cityscape, flower and macro photography collection and offer it throughout that week at a discounted rate. Inspired by the incredible artist Georgia O'Keeffe, this week's photo of the week on sale is Pink Sensation, blooming pink orchids at its most beautiful over white.

Starting today through the week of 26 December 2012 this pink orchid flower photography picture from my Flower Photography Gallery, available as art photo print, acrylic print, metal print or on canvas, is on sale.

Dec 12, 2012

Be Tax Savvy – Tax Tips for Artists

From guest blogger Helen Schussler, CPA


If you produce art to sell you are in the art business. If you sell your art, you need to report your income to the IRS. For artists just starting out, the first hurdle is to prove you are in business, in other words, that you have a profit motive. This is important because if you do not have a profit motive, you are engaged in a hobby and “hobby loss” rules apply. The “hobby loss” rules are not tax advantageous.

I had a client who was a doctor and also played the bass. One year he organized a gig with his band at a local bar. He was paid $4k by the bar. Between paying for equipment rental, paying some of the musicians and other incidentals, the gig cost him a little over $4k. He was fine with that because he really was doing it just for the fun of it and was happy that at least it wasn’t costing him anything. 

In January of the next year the bar sent him a Form 1099 showing non-employee compensation of $4k. The Form 1099 is an IRS form prepared by the person who paid you, in this case the owner of the bar. One copy of the form goes to the IRS and one copy goes to you. My client wasn’t concerned about the form because he figured no tax could be due on no income. He had netted less than zero income on the performance. He didn’t even mention it to me; the story came out when I was working on his tax return in February and called to ask about the Form 1099.

Music for my client was clearly a hobby, not a business. Although you can take deductions for the expense of a hobby, those deductions are limited and, sometimes, depending on your income, not allowed at all. You can never take a loss from a hobby. My client was very surprised to find out he owed $1k in tax on the $4k earnings from the gig. 

If you engage in your art to sell it and make money you are in business and different rules apply. You are considered self-employed and file a Schedule C with your annual income tax return. Schedule C is the page of your tax return where self-employment income and expenses are reported. If expenses are greater than income you have a loss. The expenses are not limited and the loss is not limited. The loss can be used to reduce any other taxable income you have, for example wages you have from your day job.

In order to benefit from the self-employment rules and not fall under the hobby loss rules you need to be sure you really have a business going. Make sure you have a separate checking account and credit card that you use only for business expenses and that any earnings you make get deposited first into that business account. The IRS frowns on the commingling of funds. If you take money from your business account for groceries and from your personal account for paint supplies, it starts to look like a hobby. Worse is if you do not even have separate accounts to begin with.

Other ways to prove a profit motive is to exhibit your work, advertise it and of course, actually make a profit from it. An activity is presumed to be engaged in for a profit if it is profitable three out of five consecutive years. (For a new business the first two years may show deductible losses, but you should start showing a profit by the third year. If you don’t, you may still have a valid business; it just may be more difficult to prove.)


Once you have established a profit motive, you want to get the benefit of all your deductions. The mileage deduction is often overlooked. If you have to drive for your business, keep a log of miles driven. I suggest keeping this piece of paper right in the car. Whenever you take a trip for your art, write down the date, the destination, the purpose and the number of miles driven. Each mile is a 55.5 cent deduction for 2012.
If you use part of your home as a studio or office you can take a deduction for that as well. The deduction is calculated based on the percent of square feet used for the business compared to the whole home. Just be careful, the space must be used exclusively for the business purpose. 

Things you do for education or to stay current in your field are also deductible: ticket expenses to plays for a playwright, art periodicals, museum fees, etc. Other common deductions include travel, office supplies, art supplies, website maintenance, etc. Equipment you purchase, like a camera, is also deductible, but over time. You usually cannot deduct the entire cost in the year of purchase, but must depreciate the cost of big ticket items over the years you use them.


Now that you are up and running and clearly making a profit, you need a plan for paying your taxes. The IRS expects to be paid along the way. You generally can’t wait until your return is due on April 15th to pay your taxes. If you receive a Form W-2 as an employee, taxes are taken out and paid to the IRS over the course of the year. If you are self-employed, you are responsible for paying that tax to the IRS in four quarterly estimated payments. These payments can be made in equal installments and are due in April, June, September and January (not exactly equal quarters, but that is how the IRS does it.) So if you estimate that you will owe $2k in tax you should pay $500 each quarter.

You can also “annualize” and pay as you earn. That means if you make nothing from January through November, but do really well in December, you pay no tax estimates April, June and September, but pay all in the fourth quarter (January of the following year.)

The quarterly payments, of course, are estimates. As long as you pay 90% of the total tax due you will be o.k. and will not have to pay any interest or penalties when you file your return in April. The IRS also will not charge interest or penalties if you have paid in 100% (or 110% for higher earners) of the tax that was due in the prior year. So if you owed $5k in tax for 2011, and you have paid in $5k in tax in 2012, you may owe more in April, but you will not owe interest and penalties. You can find instructions for calculating the tax due here >>> f1040es.


Lastly, it is important for artists not to overlook retirement planning. If you file a Schedule C for your self- employment income as an artist, you can set up a SEP-IRA. You can set up a SEP-IRA even if you participate in a 401K plan at your day job. The tax advantage of having a SEP is you can take a deduction for the amount you deposit into the SEP account and the money grows in the account tax deferred. You don’t pay any tax until you take withdrawals when you retire. Withdrawals taken at retirement age will likely be taxed at a lower rate.

The amount you can deposit into a SEP-IRA each year depends on your self-employment income. For 2012, the maximum you can contribute is $49k or approximately 20% of your self-employment income, whichever is less. If you contribute to your 401K at your day job, total contributions for both the SEP and the 401K cannot exceed the $49k. So max out your 401K at work ($17k for 2012) and if you can afford to put any more away, put it in a SEP.

I hope this has been helpful. I have skimmed over these important topics to give you an introduction to the tax issues you may have to deal with. In my next blog I will discuss the tax implications of donating your artwork to charity and leaving artwork to your heirs. Please leave any questions; I will try to respond to everyone.

IRS Circular 230 notice: In order to comply with requirements imposed by the IRS, I must inform you that any U.S. federal tax advice contained in this blog is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of (i) avoiding penalties under the Internal Revenue Code or (ii) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any transaction or matter that is contained in this blog.

Dec 10, 2012

Marketing Tips for Selling Photography and Art Online

Selling art online is no picnic. Online marketing and selling takes a serious time commitment and lots of self discipline to build into an already busy daily life. However, an online presence, selling art online and offline, and marketing art online present endless opportunities for valuable exposure and additional sales income. Some tips that worked for me:

Tip #1: Devote certain times of the day to Online Marketing. During this time you interact and communicate with your followers. Organization and time management skills are crucial. Try planning your daily, weekly, monthly routine in advance and maintaining a check list. A good old "to do" check list works wonder: check and respond to emails in the morning, lunchtime, and/or evening, write a blog post, two or three depending on your inspiration, market and share new/old pictures, blog posts, and announcements with your online audience, respond to comments, questions and interact online with others.

Tip #2: Do not get sidetracked by internet temptations wasting your precious time online. Reserve a good amount of time for creating new art and photography. There is no better marketing than creating new artwork and sharing them with your audience, followers and fans.

Tip #3: Enhance your brand recognition by consistently creating excellent Photography Artwork and strong pieces to show off online and offline, e.g. compelling compositions and well executed technique. If you create artwork that is close to your heart and that you like most likely others will do.

Tip #4: Make a local mark first and search for local ArtFairs, Galleries or Group Shows that fit your artwork. Once successful, you may be able to emerge nationally or internationally. Share your successes in well written blog posts, online press releases, announcements and in a Newsletter.

Tip #5: Be professional and present your artwork in the best possible way. Build a professional web presence that matters; a professional looking Web Presence with beautiful artwork organized in easy to navigate galleries will go a long way.

Tip #6: Maintain and increase your website traffic since it directly relates to exposure and sales. Drive traffic to your online galleries by using free marketing tools like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn or StumbleUpon. Post links to your exhibitions, news, galleries, pictures, events, or blog.

Tip #7: Connect with other artists, collectors, buyers and admires through Online Social Networking.

Tip #8: Write a regular Art Blog where you discuss your techniques, what inspires you, the background of your latest piece or what you are working on.

Tip #9: Be patient because it takes a lot of hard work and plenty of hours to get your work shown, bought, and collected.

Tip #10: Finally, have a good time and enjoy the journey!

Dec 5, 2012

6 Step Guideline for Better Photography

Creating beautiful Macro Photos involves not much more than a little bit of thought and good habits. The following 6 basic photo tips will get your photography to the next level and build confidence. These 6 step guideline will provide you the biggest bang for the buck … love to hear your feedback and results after applying one or all photo tips!

Step #1: Utilize the Rule of Thirds as a Starting Point for Your Composition

Don't use the Rule of Thirds as a set rule; more as a guideline or starting point for a more interesting and pleasing photographic composition. In Landscape Photography it is best to place the horizon in accordance to the importance of the sky; with dramatic sky formations placing the horizon in the lower third will give the sky more preference, for images with stronger foregrounds and weaker cloud or sky formations a horizon in the upper third of the image is more preferred. Usually locating the horizon in the middle makes a photo ordinary and static. An exception to the just said would be a grand landscape lake reflection. It is easy to apply the same approach to Flower Photography where laying the focus or point of interest within the flower at one of the four intersections has great impact by leaving room for the viewer to explore the image but also to be drawn back to the focus point.

Step  #2: Apply the appropriate Depth of Field to your Photograph

Depth of Field or DoF relates to the parts of a photograph that are in full focus and show acceptable details. We, as photographers, have control over the amount of depth of field in a photograph and depending on our photographic or artistic goals we may vary 1 or all of the 4 factors that determine a shallow or extensive depth of field: Focal Length, Subject Distance or Magnification, Choice of Focus Point, Aperture or f-stop camera setting >>> Learn More.

Step  #3: Use a Sturdy Tripod for Better Sharpness and Higher Picture Quality

Besides cameras and lenses, a solid tripod is one of the most important investments for a nature photographer. High quality nature photography is rarely achieved when hand holding your camera. A tripod is essential for low light photography during the morning, evening and twilight, for shooting wildlife, for macro photography and for experimenting with impressionistic or abstract photography. It not only steadies your shooting equipment for maximum image quality, it also will help you discover the world of photography. You are more likely to step back, think and compose a photograph. Prior to shutter release one should always ask yourself: do I have a straight horizon, do I have sufficient depth of field or shall I close the camera aperture setting to maximize depth of field, how will this setting impact my photograph, are there distracting elements in the foreground or background of my composition, do I even have a composition?

Step  #4: Set up your Camera for Exposure Bracketing

Exposure is one of the most important camera and lens functions that a photographer needs to understand and master when pursuing photography. A correct exposed photograph conveys an image of clarity that retains details and colors in all areas of interest including light or dark areas. Correct exposure is always subjective and while I prefer a slightly underexposed image that boosts colors and saturation, others may not.
Correct exposure is a fine combination of ISO, shutter speed, aperture and lens settings. Understanding how these 4 elements come together is crucial for exceptional photography. 

One way to evaluate correct exposure is the use of a histogram. With the help of the histogram we can determine and easily check for a correct exposure and adjust accordingly. Understanding a histogram may be overwhelming for some and there is an easier way to study and understand the impact of the 4 elements on exposure. Check your camera manual and set it up for exposure bracketing. 1 stop or even 2 stop brackets will do to study the impact. Exposure bracketing will allow for the camera to record 3 photos each time you take a picture. Start out by choosing a 1 stop bracket. The first picture will be taken at the base setting, the second photo will be under exposed by 1 stop and the third will be over exposed by 1 stop. Not happy with your results, close down the gap to 1/3 or 2/3 stops and retake the photograph. Digital photography is a great learning tool because mega pixels are free and a hands-on approach always works better than all the theory in the world. During post processing one can select the best exposure in accordance to the personal experience and scenery.

I almost always photograph in Aperture Priority Mode and at my lowest ISO setting which then provides me with the appropriate exposure time. Since I usually use a tripod I do not need to worry about slow exposure times. In more difficult lighting conditions I select exposure bracketing to ensure I achieve a correct exposure >>> Learn More.   

Step #5: Shoot, shoot, shoot and Turn Home Field to Your Advantage

Explore your local gardens, parks, wildlife sanctuaries or nearby National Parks to work and enhance your photography skills. Once perfected locally one can pursue nature photography out of the comfort zone and away from home. Invest the saved money into a sturdy tripod and higher quality lenses. Keep shooting and practicing at your own pace and time, allow errors and learn from them; be inspired by others and develop your own photographic style. Learning by doing is key and learning not only from our mistakes but also from our successes is very beneficial as it is in every other job and industry >>> Learn More.

Step  #6: Take Advantage of Exceptional Lighting Condition

Photography is often referred to as painting with light.  When we talk about painting with light we talk about the process of creating a photograph.  Photography derives from the Greek where photo means light and graph stands for painting.  It is up to us photographers to evaluate the quality, quantity, direction and how we can manipulate light to our advantage for exceptional photography >>> Learn More.

More Reading and Photo Tips you may enjoy: 

Love Jigsaw Puzzles and flowers? 

Favorite Flower and Gardening Quotes 

Painting with Light like Georgia O'Keeffe 

15 Flower Photo Tips and Photography Inspiration

Dec 3, 2012

Pink Sensations

Creating Floral Photos over black is always a lot of fun. The other day I got my hands on a pink miniature orchid. It was a great find and allowed me to add a few more images to my existing orchid Flower Fine Art Photography gallery. Our dining room window faces east and provides exceptional morning light bouncing off my neighbors' walls into our dining room. As a base for the flower I use a chair and books that I place in front of the window. Because I prefer working with natural light I use white cardboards to direct light towards the floral when it is facing away from the window. Adjusting the white boards to explore the impact on the lighting and better control the light on the flower is a great learning experience. It is a very delicate process and one has to watch carefully to notice the adjustment for maximum impact. Sometimes I am still caught by surprise on its affect and how it positively enhances the quality of a picture. In the final floral close up photograph of this pink orchid I positioned the flower in the best possible way that allowed the right amount of back-lighting leading to a more pleasing floral image. I chose a small aperture setting (large f-stop number) of f/32 that provided sufficient Depth of Field and an exposure time of 8 seconds. During post processing steps I removed dust spots, minimally adjusted lighting, contrast and color saturation before sharpening the final macro photography image of the pink orchid "Pink Sensations".

More Reading and Photo Tips you may enjoy: 

Love Jigsaw Puzzles and flowers? 

Favorite Flower and Gardening Quotes 

Painting with Light like Georgia O'Keeffe 

15 Flower Photo Tips and Photography Inspiration

Dec 2, 2012

Photo of the Week

Every week I choose one of my favorite photographs of the week from my Fine Art landscape, cityscape, flower and macro photography collection and offer it throughout that week at a discounted rate. Inspired by the incredible artist Georgia O'Keeffe, this week's photo of the week on sale is Blushing Orchids, blooming pink orchids at its best over white.

Starting today through the week of 02 December 2012 this pink orchid flower photography picture from my Flower Photography Gallery, available as art photo print, acrylic print, metal print or on canvas, is on sale.

Nov 29, 2012

Boston Skyline Charles River Reflection

The other morning I revisited one of my favorite Boston Skyline Photography locations at the Charles River on Memorial Drive near the Mass Avenue Bridge and MIT. I like this spot because it provides a good view of Boston landmarks such as the Prudential Center and the John Hancock building. The Massachusetts Avenue Bridge spans from MIT over to Boston and leads the viewer into the city. The weather forecast called for a little bit of clouds and lots of sun that day. I was hoping for a beautiful morning sky filled with pink clouds above the Boston skyline landmarks. There was little to no wind that allowed for a wonderful sky and skyline reflection in the Charles River. At twilight the magic slowly but surely unfolded and the sky beautifully became alive. I was intrigued by the soft hues of dawn over Boston and how it reflected on the Charles River. Clouds became more visible and abundant while I kept photographing. Unfortunately the clouds had moved out of the frame once they turned pink that morning but instead I was able to photograph an unique tranquil Boston scene that has a minimalist feel to it and that I love.