Vanessa Hill Photography: Blog en-us Vanessa Hill Photography 2019 (Vanessa Hill Photography) Mon, 16 Mar 2020 07:34:00 GMT Mon, 16 Mar 2020 07:34:00 GMT Vanessa Hill Photography: Blog 80 120 Cucumber Falls in the Winter I went out for a nice winter visit to Cucumber Falls near Ohiopyle, PA.   Ohiopyle is one of my favorite PA parks.   It is beautiful all year round.   It was icy out, so I climbed around and took shots of the falls from a number of angles.   I limited my area to rocks I could safely climb onto.   See the remaining photos in my Landscapes portfolio under Pennsylvania.


Winter Cucumber FallsWinter Cucumber Falls Wide Ice behind the FallsWide Ice behind the Falls Cucumber Falls TallCucumber Falls Tall Wide Behind the Falls 2Wide Behind the Falls 2

(Vanessa Hill Photography) Mon, 18 Feb 2019 22:15:00 GMT
Orchids My blog has been kind of quiet lately.   Just before Christmas I came down with pneumonia, and I recently finally got out and about again.   I tried to start off easy and went to Phipps Conservatory to see their Eye Candy Bonsai and Orchid show.   Orchids are my absolutely favorite flower so I really enjoyed myself.   There are many more photos where this came from in the My Favorite Conservation Organization under Orchids.  Please enjoy!


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I know this last one is not an orchid or bonsai tree.  I really liked its tuft.  It reminded me of Beaker from the Muppets. IMG_4013IMG_4013


(Vanessa Hill Photography) bonsai orchids phipps conservatory photo photography vanessa hill vanessa hill photography Mon, 11 Feb 2019 22:03:23 GMT
Duck, Duck, Goose, in the Snow My husband and I were out for the day shopping, and left the mall right around dusk.  It had just started snowing, and we drove past a local duck pond.  I saw the pond was starting to freeze, and some geese were out on the ice.   I said, "Please stop and let me take pictures."    I felt kind of bad, because I had no snacks for the ducks and geese, and they clearly wanted some.   It's really amazing that their feathers make it so the ice cold water does not seem to bother them.   I can personally attest that when water is 23 degrees Fahrenheit it hurts.  It not only hurts, but if you are crazy enough to go under, it takes all the breathe from your body.   Go little winter ducks!!  I hope you keep each other warm in the upcoming single digit and below zero weather.  You can find a few more shots of these guys in my Wildlife album, here.

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(Vanessa Hill Photography) duck ducks geese goose pond snow vanessa hill vanessa hill photography winter Sun, 20 Jan 2019 02:56:51 GMT
Make-Shift Studio Shoot! I love winter.  It is my favorite time to be outside.   I am not fond of the heat of summer.  I got really sick just before Christmas this past year, and ended up coming down with pneumonia.   It has been difficult to not be outside, in the cold taking photos.   Actually, it has been difficult not taking photos, and honestly a little frustrating.   However, my wonder Assistant always finds a way to put a smile on my face.   Today, knowing how much I want to take photos, and that I am not quite up to going out and about, yet he set up a make shift studio in my living room.  The shoot mostly featured our African Grey, Athena.  Having an African Grey is like having a toddler.   That includes toddler like schedules.  At 8 pm on the dot she wants to go to sleep and nothing else.  At 7:30 she starts hinting to go to her room.   Since we started our shoot after dinner she was already getting cranky.    

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We put Athena to bed, and I started cleaning up and our cat Jack made an appearance, and decided to cooperate.  I was able to get a couple shots of him too.

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We are animal lovers, so we have a few pets.   Check back in the future, as I will add them to the pets gallery as I get them to participate in being photographed.


(Vanessa Hill Photography) african grey Athena parrot vanessa hill vanessa hill photography Sun, 13 Jan 2019 06:12:00 GMT
Boat-Billed Heron at the National Aviary

I am completely in love with the boat-billed heron at the National Aviary. On my most recent visit I visited the Wetlands during their morning feeding. I got to watching and photographing the heron, and he is just adorable.   I think I am going to make good use of my membership going to just visit him.   Hopefully, if this whole photography thing pans out, someday I can make a nice donation on his behalf.  Enjoy the photos.   


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(Vanessa Hill Photography) Wed, 09 Jan 2019 10:50:49 GMT
Most Excellent Christmas Gifts

Prior to Christmas I visited Phipps Conservatory and the National Aviary in Pittsburgh with my Assistant (husband) and daughter.  I had such a wonderful time visiting both places, and my Assistant noticed.  For Christmas he purchased me memberships to both the Aviary and Phipps Conservatory, so I can visit all year for free.   To celebrate I have created albums for both Phipps Conservatory and the National Aviary.   During my two visits I was able to capture these lovely photographs.

Phipps Conservatory

The holiday lights at Phipps were just beautiful.   I am looking forward to spending a lot of time in their orchid room.  They are my favorite.  Click the heading to visit my entire Phipps Conservatory album.

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National Aviary

My daughter loves birds.   I would say for most of her life every time we visit a pet store to get food for the cats or dogs she always wonders off, and we her with the birds.  After much consideration and long talks about the very very long commitment we got a pet African Grey named Athena.   I affectionately call her "Burb".   This new interest in birds lead us to the National Aviary.   I can't go on enough about how awesome the visit is.   They even have a number of animal encounters that range from a few dollars to feed an Aracari to more expensive visits to feed penguins, paint with parrots, and visits sloths or armadillos.  I am looking forward to my frequent visits as a member.


(Vanessa Hill Photography) Sat, 05 Jan 2019 02:27:48 GMT
Jumping Spiders are Adorable

For the most part spiders don't bother me. There are some that are really scary looking, but for the most part if they don't bother me I don't bother them. "But Vanessa some spiders can kill people"  Yeah and some people can kill people, too.    I welcome spiders.  They eat the other less desirable creepy crawlies.   My favorite spiders are jumping spiders.   Their giant eyes make them extra adorable.

My and my assistant were spending a normal Friday night at home.  I mean it was midnight, and he was hanging cabinets while I turned the TV up increasingly louder so I could hear it over his power tools, but for us this is normal.   I hear a call from the next room, "Vanessa!  Pause that and come here."  So I come running, thinking the worst...Jack finally figured out how to get into the Bearded Dragon tank.   He goes look!!! He points at the jumping spider. (Yep he knows how to whoo a girl, and ladies he is all mine).   I get all giddy with excite me and go, and then "Nooooo!!! My camera is in the truck!!!"  We trap him by scooting him onto the back of a paper plate.   My assist runs to the truck while I stage on the back of the plate balanced on the corner of the Christmas Ornament container (it was directly under the brightest light on the first floor).

This is what I got.   I told him for being such a great model that he was welcome to live under the couch.

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(Vanessa Hill Photography) Fri, 14 Dec 2018 22:19:21 GMT
Lake Wilhelm, Pennsylvania

I recently attended a workshop where the presenting photographer spoke about taking lemons and making lemonade when your planned photography trip does not turn out as planned. I had an opportunity to put that into action.   On Saturday afternoon I left home to a partly cloudy sky that had plenty of sunshine with a plan to take pictures of bald eagles.   I knew that spotting the eagles would be hit or miss, but decided there would be plenty of other things to photograph while I waited to see if they made an appearance.  By the time I reached Lake Wilhelm it was completely overcast, and started to snow.   I would not be deterred.  Saturday was the only day this weekend I could take time to go out and shoot.

Shortly after I got out of the truck I heard some geese, and saw a large flock coming to land on the lake.   I didn't have my tripod set up, I didn't have a test shot.  I didn't even have my settings done on the camera.   I popped on the first lens I could get my hands on, and started to shoot.   I only had a couple pictures kind of come out.

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I spotted some large raptors flying south over the lake, and decided to move to see if I could spot anything good.   While I did not get a good shot of the birds flying over head, and none chose to fish in my presence I chose to take some shots of the area.   It is a flat area with nothing to note in the winter months.  I plan to check it out again when the trees are in bloom.

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(Vanessa Hill Photography) Mon, 10 Dec 2018 15:18:24 GMT
Lake Erie, a Lighthouse, and Ice

I recently attended photo workshops facilitated by Pixel Connection in Cleveland Ohio. The put together a fantastic photo walk with Olympus.   I not only got some amazing photos, but I also found new friends.   Check out my Landscapes Album for more.  Please enjoy!

Lorain Harbor Lighthouse Ice Twig FrameLorain Harbor Lighthouse Ice Twig Frame Icy Rocks Lorain Harbor LighthouseIcy Rocks Lorain Harbor Lighthouse Lorain Harbor Lighthouse  Ice FrameLorain Harbor Lighthouse Ice Frame Ice Framed Lorain Harbor LighthouseIce Framed Lorain Harbor Lighthouse Lorain Harbor Lighthouse Ice BranchLorain Harbor Lighthouse Ice Branch Lorain Harbor Lighthouse Rock FrameLorain Harbor Lighthouse Rock Frame Lorain Harbor Lighthouse 1Lorain Harbor Lighthouse 1 Spotty SeagullSpotty Seagull Icy TreeIcy Tree Icy BranchIcy Branch Seagulls on the RocksSeagulls on the Rocks


(Vanessa Hill Photography) Mon, 03 Dec 2018 00:48:00 GMT
Pittsburgh at Night, I Do Love It

I really do love Pittsburgh at night. I have lived her for the majority of my life, and I still stare at the lit up skyline and bridges any time I pass through it at night. These pictures were taken during my final night photography class.   Our group took a walk on the South Side of Pittsburgh.   We started near Station Square, and walk a few blocks down the road, and then hiked up to the sidewalk on the Liberty Bridge for a fantastic view.

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Pittsburgh Liberty Bridge 1Pittsburgh Liberty Bridge 1 Pittsburgh from LIberty Bridge 1Pittsburgh from LIberty Bridge 1 Our trip around the South Side provide a few other interesting things to photograph.  The photographs below are an old train car tucked away near the railroad tracks, a freight train going by, and a warehouse.

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Concrete Plant 1Concrete Plant 1 Of course, if you're going to hang out on a bridge as busy as the Liberty Bridge at night, you have to light paint a bit!

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(Vanessa Hill Photography) Mon, 26 Nov 2018 09:17:08 GMT
Big Sandy Creek

Continuing to explore new places, I decided to check out a creek off of the Cheat River in West Virginia. West Virginia is absolutely gorgeous, and there are some amazing hiking spots near Pittsburgh. Big Sandy Creek is one of those spots. I wish I had gone earlier in the day, so I had more daylight to explore the creek more. The satellite view on Google maps looked promising.  Check out the Landscapes album for additional photos.

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(Vanessa Hill Photography) Fri, 23 Nov 2018 20:12:08 GMT
Savage River State Forest, North Branch of the Potomac

I was looking for a new spot to take pictures, and looking for nice spot to catch the last bits of the Milky Way that we will see this year. I pulled up my light pollution map, and found a nice spot south of Deep Creek Maryland. My trip took me into Maryland, and then over to the border of West Virginia to the Jennings Randolph Lake/North Branch of the Potomac River (depending on which state you are in). The trip was all around gorgeous, and it since it is only an hour and a half from home it was a perfect day excursion.

On the way out, I managed to make it to the overlook on RT 40 near Ohiopyle during sunset.

Sunset at the RT 40 OverlookSunset at the RT 40 Overlook RT 40 Overlook 2RT 40 Overlook 2 Uniontown from RT 40Uniontown from RT 40 For my night trip I visited the north boat ramp for the Savage River Branch, and I visited Bear Run State Park.

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The next morning we headed back to the north boat ramp, and to Bear Run State Park.

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With a fire pit available and the sound of the creek running into the Savage River, I could have spent my entire day sitting in Bear Run State Park. 

Bear Run State Park Savage RiverBear Run State Park Savage River Bear Run Creek Feeding Savage RiverBear Run Creek Feeding Savage River Bear Run State Park Creek Feeding Savage RiverBear Run State Park Creek Feeding Savage River Over the One Lane BridgeOver the One Lane Bridge

After we left Bear Run State Park we headed for West Virginia to visit the Jennings Randolph Lake/North Branch of the Potomac.  The trip there was absolutely amazing.   I stopped along to the way to get some pictures.

One Lane Bridge VineOne Lane Bridge Vine Icy Spring 2Icy Spring 2 Trout Fishing CreekTrout Fishing Creek Fishing Hut on the CreekFishing Hut on the Creek Mountain Laurel JungleMountain Laurel Jungle Stream From the Fishing HutStream From the Fishing Hut There was a park in West Virginia, but most of it was closed for the season.   We were able to access one location to get some nice shots.   I also saw the first signs of snow this year while I was there.   (It was 19F degrees the night before when I was shooting the sky.   By the time we reached West Virginia it had gotten into the high 30s F.)

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It was an all around wonderful trip, and I look forward to repeating it in the spring!

(Vanessa Hill Photography) Sat, 17 Nov 2018 11:33:46 GMT
My Gorgeous City, Especially at Night

I live in the suburbs of Pittsburgh. Except for a short time when I was a toddler, I have always lived in Pittsburgh. I have visited Boston, Houston, and a few other large cities within the United States. None of them strike me as beautiful as Pittsburgh at night.   It may be hometown pride, even though the word "yinz" makes me shudder, or it may be the combination of the three rivers, the bridges, and the skyline.   I love my city at night.

Pittsburgh Heinz Field 2Pittsburgh Heinz Field 2 Pittsburgh at Night 1Pittsburgh at Night 1 Pittsburgh at Night 5Pittsburgh at Night 5 Pittsburgh at Night 6Pittsburgh at Night 6 The Reflecting PoolThe Reflecting Pool Views of the Roberto Clemente BridgeViews of the Roberto Clemente Bridge Liberty Bridge Light PaintingLiberty Bridge Light Painting

(Vanessa Hill Photography) Thu, 08 Nov 2018 20:49:06 GMT
Seriously, I am Super Sorry about Ruining Your Hair When We Were Seven

One rainy day my Assistant and I were out taking pictures. Okay, I was taking pictures and he was humoring me. We made a round and Mingo Park, and he asked where I wanted to go next. We talked about this while driving down RT 43 in his truck in the pouring rain.  We were debating Coopers Rock State Forest in West Virginia and Ohiopyle in Pennsylvania.   Time to get there wasn't a factor, because google said 50 minutes for Ohiopyle and 51 minutes for Coopers Rock.   So we're weighing our options when we pass a sign for Brownsville, and my Assistant goes, "There is a shut down coal power plant around Brownsville some where."   

Does that man know me.  He knows I would love to explore and photograph abandon places.  However,  being picked up for trespassing, or worse breaking and entering would not go over well for me.  We decide to check the place out, but not to go anywhere that would get us in trouble.  (Seriously, though if anyone owns an abandon place and would permit me to explore and photograph you would make my life.)

So we end up at the abandon power plant on an access road that leads under a bridge.  The bridge cover was awesome, because it was still pouring.   I had my handy dandy baggies and electrical team to make my ghetto camera cover, but it such a pain to work with.   I hopped out of the truck, and began my outside the fence exploration and photography.   

I am walking off the beaten path, in the weeds under the bridge when I noticed these guys.   I had to take a picture of them.   They are the most horrible evil things you can get stuck to your hair, clothes, boots, socks, mittens, cat, or anything else that you can think of.   They immediately took me back to being 7 years old, right before third grade.   




*Hey Vanessa third graders are 8.*   Not in my day.  As long as you were 5 at some point during Kindergarten you could go to school, and boy was my mom ready for me to go to school.

Anyway... back to right before third grade.   I had just moved to a new neighborhood, and my best friend, Shelly,  happened to live in that neighborhood.  We were out together so she could show me the ropes and all the awesome places in to hang out in our neighborhood.    We were in "woods" that was mostly grass and weeds taller than we were, at the bottom of our hill.   We were kind of stuck in a tangled mess, and trying to make our way back out.  Shelly, my BFF, was picking her way out carefully.   She knew about those sticky bastards and how evil they were.   I knew nothing.   Anyway, I've never been one to carefully pick through anything.   That is not how I am wired.  If the problem requires that I jump head first into a 23 degree river, then you know I do.  I smash through everything like the Kool-Aid man, and that is how I handled our grass/weeds predicament.  She caution me, but also saw my progress and followed suit.   

In the end poor Shelly's hair had about 100 of those evil evil bastards in them.   Her mom could not do much for her and she had to cut her long, long, beautiful hair.   I know I apologized when I was 7, and she said it was okay, but seriously, I am super sorry you had to cut your hair.

Oh yeah... power plant pictures... Here you go.

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(Vanessa Hill Photography) Sun, 04 Nov 2018 20:23:57 GMT
Coopers Rock State Forest, West Virginia f you browse through my Parks album you will note there are a number of pictures tagged in Coopers Rock.   It is one of my favorite places to visit. It is a gorgeous West Virginia state forest just over the Pennsylvania state line called Coopers Rock State Forest. It is about 1 hour and 30 minutes from downtown Pittsburgh. It takes me about 45 - 50 minutes to get there from my house.

I found this destination through my husband (assistant) and his father.   My father-in-law loved to ride his motorcycle, and this was a spot he frequented.  He and my husband started going there long before we met twenty some odd years ago.   When my husband started riding a motorcycle this was one of their places they would visit.  In fact, the first time I visited Coopers Rock I went on the back of my husband's motorcycle.  We rode out with his father.  

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The roadway through the park was amazing.  I call it a magical fairyland, because when entering the park the tree tops one either side of the road just barely touch.   On a motorcycle it is almost a tunneling effect.

IMG_1093-EditIMG_1093-Edit There are a number of pull offs along the road where you can park to hike/hunt.  In fact, on our most recent trip there was a sign posted that said, "Rabbit Season" (to which I yelled, "Duck Season!"), and we saw a number of hunters along the road.  (If you have concerns about being mistaken for delicious game the forest has a "safe zone" where hunting is not permitted.)


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At the end of the road there is a overlook built from a cliff hanging out over the Cheat River.   It is absolutely breath taking.    If you are up for an adventure there is also an underlook to take a peak at the bottom of the cliff.   My personal goal is to get in enough shape to be able to hike from the overlook to the Cheat River and back (in the same day, hell the same weekend).

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If you love the serenity of the woods, or a good motorcycle ride I strongly recommend a visit.    

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Quick Route (Has Tolls):

(Vanessa Hill Photography) Sat, 03 Nov 2018 01:54:00 GMT
A Walk in the Park I've telling "My Assistant" that I would like to photograph covered bridges for a few weeks now. He is my researcher so I figured he'd have a list generated for me, and we'd travel around one weekend looking at them. Then this past Tuesday I was getting my hair done. I mentioned the same thing to my hair dresser.   She said, "You should go to Mingo Park.   They have a couple of them."   I remember some of the other photographers in my classes talking about Mingo Park, and decided to check it out.   It is absolutely beautiful.  There was also a really excellent tree with a hollow trunk that I had some fun with.

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(Vanessa Hill Photography) Tue, 30 Oct 2018 02:15:00 GMT
Taking Photos Outside Not too long ago I didn't know much about taking pictures. That all changed when I bought a Canon Rebel T6. I bought the camera so I would have something nice to take pictures at my sister's wedding in Punta Cana.

I quickly realized I had no idea how to work this new-fangled contraption. I thought, "I am a software developer.  This is a computer.  I can figure it out."   I went my usual route to learn new things....the Internet.  I read blogs, watch videos on YouTube, looked at ebooks, but nothing was sinking in.  Aperture, ISO, shutter speed, exposure, studying light it all went right over my head.   

I know I am a visual learner, so I decided to take a class.    I was determined to get out of automatic.  The local community college offered non-credit community education course, and I found a Photography 101 class.  I figured I can get the basics, and maybe learn something about my camera.  I was in for a huge surprise.   The class had an amazing instructor that was so passionate about making a great photo that he was infectious.  By the time I finished the class I was completely in love with the idea of making great photographs.   


I immediately went back to the community college website, and looked to see what other photography classes he was teaching.  I knew he had a 102 class, but it would be a couple months before it started.   I did not want to want a couple of months, I wanted more NOW.   There was a macro photography class starting in 2 weeks.   It was right up my alley.  I love being outside and in the woods.   I like taking pictures of bugs and flowers.  It sounded perfect.  I had just bought some land in the middle of no where that had a field, I kind you not a field, of milkweed.  The milkweed had plenty of monarch butterfly caterpillars (my favorite) for me to study.

I went online, and bought an amazing f2.8 100mm macro lens, and signed up for his macro photography class.   I don't think I have ever had such a great time with a group of complete strangers.  (This is a big deal for me.   I never go anywhere new without a friend.   My best friend would not be my best friend if I had not drug my poor sister to her house for a Halloween party.)   I learned some tricks macro photographers used, and I got some pictures I was really excited about.  I was off to an excellent start.


(Vanessa Hill Photography) Sat, 27 Oct 2018 02:30:00 GMT