Astrophotography, Coyotes and Ticks

by Robyn Porteen
( June 28th, 2015 )


Milky Way

Photographing the night sky has always been a fascinating adventure for me which I rarely have time to do. Living near a city and running a business has kept me from pursuing this dream. When I look at the Milky Way, I see the big picture and it really hits me how small we all really are as we are  standing on this rotating orb in the middle of this beautiful galaxy.

Cabin Driveway


My husband and I planned a trip to the Manistee National Forest in Northern Michigan to a cabin in the woods with no internet so we could unwind with our German Shepherd, Luther. I brought all of my camera gear to do some photography to keep busy. Knowing the area would be extremely dark and away from any major towns or cities,  I prepped for some Astrophotography.

Luther ready to go on Walk

Cabin Trail


We hiked during the day and made it a mission to find a field that had a decent view of the Southern Sky. Equipped with 2 of my favorite Apps, Sky Guide and Intellicast, I knew exactly which night would be clear and what time and direction the brightest part of the Milky Way would be showing. Luckily there was phone coverage or this would have had to be mapped out ahead of time and the weather might have changed as it usually does on a daily basis.


I practiced some long exposure photography on the camp fire at the cabin and out at Ludington State Park on Lake Michigan to warm up before planning a 2 AM excursion into the pitch black forest behind the cabin.

Tree Tops


My husband and dog were up for the adventure even though we had heard coyotes singing nearby the night before. There are also black bear and cougars (allegedly) in this same National Forest.

It was a beautiful clear night and 65 degrees. it was a little unnerving walking through the woods in unfamiliar territory on a narrow path. The ferns were very dense in the area and I had visions of the foggy scene in American Werewolf in London! If I had heard a growl, I would have been up the nearest tree!

When we got to the field I had my pen flashlight in hand so I could see the settings on my camera, while my husband had a bigger flashlight. I was doing 30 second exposure times and so when I said, “Go”...we turned off all flashlights and the shutter button was pressed. 30 seconds is a log time to wait in pitch black so as soon as we heard the shutter click, on came the flashlights! That’s when we saw the eyes glowing in the area in front of us. Luther was on full alert but wasn’t growling, so I bravely put us through 4 more 30 second black-outs. When the photography was done, we scooped up the gear and headed back on the 10 minute walk to the cabin. The eyes were there twice, but were not showing when we left. It was a fast paced walk back up the hill. We could feel ourselves being watched and I kept telling myself that whatever animals were out there, they were more scared of us, blocking out the fact that cougars attack hikers, and coyotes surround their prey.

Above Cabin


We arrived back to the cabin and caught our breath. I had noticed that the stars were bright right above the cabin, so I went back out about 5 feet from the door and took a couple more shots. Hearing some rustling around the side of the cabin, I scooped up my tripod with camera attached, quickly backed into the front door of the cabin and locked the door! As soon as I set down my gear, the coyotes started singing outside and they were closer than before and coming from all directions! Luther started barking at that point! It was an exhilarating night and experience! I know all you woodsmen out there are probably smirking at my cowardliness, but I am a fan of Horror and Thriller movies and that is probably what sent my brain into overdrive! Maybe I should start watching more chick flicks instead…..or maybe not.

p.s. I forgot to mention the ticks…they are in abundance this year in Northern Michigan and we counted 9 between the three of us, 2 being on my husband. Be careful out there if you go hiking.


The Cabin was a great find on called The Aubert Den, you can find it on by searching Branch Township, MI.

All Photography copyright by Robyn Porteen

This adventure has prompted me to visit all of the Dark Sky Designated Parks I can in the next couple of years! Stay tuned, I will have some astrophotography tips to share!

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How to Work a Camel

by Robyn Porteen
( June 15th, 2015 )

Wild Camel

After spending a day visiting the Dead Sea and going down some adventurous desert back trails in my rental car, I was heading back to the Old City of Jerusalem and noticed all of the camels sitting alongside the road with colorful scarves wrapped around their heads and tassels hanging off of their reins.

Camel Ride

I have never been much for riding animals. I am more of a voyeur when it comes to visiting different areas and seeing other cultures. Most of these camels looked quite content relaxing in the sand and the colorful adornments drew me in.

I decided to stop at a market (shook) that had about 10 camels lined up along the front of the building by the road. Each camel had their own handler or owner and they were advertising  rides for 20 NIS. I thought it couldn’t hurt to ask if I could photograph the camel for the same price and get some really nice close-up shots.

Pretty Camel

I walked down the line and picked out what I thought was the most colorful and cared for looking camel. I spoke to the owner and although he looked slightly puzzled that I did not want to ride but wanted to snap photos instead, he agreed.

Camel Profile

Now this camel was all mine for about 15 minutes! He remained seated in the sand and looked at me with a slight disregard, so I went to work and started photographing him. I got to walk around him and get all angles, even sitting on the ground in front of him for the lower shot of his face. The camel owners were all gathered in a group and watching me, I was probably their strange entertainment for the day. The camel just followed me with his eyes and continued to chew on his cud. I believe he even posed for me.

Camel Face

I got my “star shot” from the entire trip that day and many people have asked for this print. I felt it was more of a personal experience with this calm creature, by being able to look into his eyes and capture his essence.

Camel Angle

I now know “How to Work a Camel”!

All Photography copyrighted by Robyn Porteen

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4 ways to remember who’s who in your photos

by Robyn Porteen
( June 7th, 2015 )

Elvis Impersonator

A well-worn cliché is that a photo is worth 1,000 words. So why can’t you spare a few more?

Old photos

We’re referring, of course, to people’s tendency to shoot first and add details later. Or not, as your mom’s or grandma’s boxes of unlabeled, mysterious photos from the past will attest.

Cooking Class

It’s certainly easy to say “I know who these people are, I was there.” But as much as you’d hate to admit it, details get fuzzy on the particulars of what, where, when and who.

Digital cameras and smartphone cameras make lasting references even more of a challenge – you can’t shove them into a scrapbook with a handwritten caption, or even write on the back, like you can snapshots. Maybe you can label the datacard but that won’t tell you what’s in individual photos.

Mobile Devices

Luckily, there are more and more solutions for this, which is great for travelers who may not have the time or easy access to their PCs.

  • Apps. There are dozens of smartphone tools that insert text onto photos. Some overlay photos and create elegant script suitable for inspirational posters, like Word Swag. Others let you enhance photos with everything from cartoon bubbles to emoji, like Phonto.

  • Write it down digitally. An electronic notepad can capture your words, even doodles, on a special tablet and stylus and turn it into a PDF. You can save it in the same folder as your photos and make sure you label them both similarly.Write It

  • Pen and Paper. Reporters and photographers have done well with pen and paper for centuries, provided you can read your writing later. Jot down what you took a photo of, any details you’re likely to forget, and add them later. Or take a lesson from Hollywood “roll ‘em” clapboards and take a picture of your notebook page during your shoot—it will be an easy reference point and a backup if the notebook is lost.

  • Photo programs. Editing software like Photoshop allows you to add information about the photo, either in the properties or actually on the photo. Maybe try an official notes at the bottom of a photo, or even a silly scrawl.  (Be sure to save your original in case you ever want an un-doctored version.) The only downside is that this can take time to label each one, and might have to wait until you’re back home.



Elvis Impersonator: Copyright – Robyn Porteen
Cooking Class: Copyright – Robyn Porteen
Old Photos: Copyright - lutya

Mobile Devices: Copyright - Maxim Basinski
Notepad: Copyright - PaylessImages

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