Judy Horton: Looking for challenges

It’s a pleasure to bring you the works and words of Judy Horton, (aka Fotoeffects), as 2 Guys Photo’s newest Featured Photographer.  As you’ll read, Judy epitomizes the term “avid”, when used with “photographer”, and amazingly, has only been shooting seriously for the past few years.  Her portfolio is eclectic and and her development as a photog impressive.  Enjoy!

Getting the Shot at Horshoe Bend, Judy Horton

Horshoe Bend: I realized that the only way to get a shot of the complete bend was if you were right on the edge of the cliff. I'm terrified of heights and I thought that I'd come so far and now I wasn't going to get a shot of it. Finally, in desperation, I realized that if I got down on my stomach and inched my way to the edge, I could hang my camera (with the fisheye lens attached) over the edge and get some shots. That is what I did and, unbeknownst to me, my husband took this photo of me getting the shot. This is not a self portrait, but it is, perhaps, my favorite photo of myself.

2 Guys Photo: Please tell us about yourself Judy.

I’m from Colorado Springs and have been working as a photographer for about three years.  We moved to Colorado Springs about eight years ago to be near our kids and grandkids.  In addition to photography, I love gardening.  We do a lot of camping with our family and my husband and I enjoy traveling in our small RV.  We’ve just put our house on the market and are thinking about going to full-time RV-ing.  There are so many places in North America that we would love to visit.

2 Guys Photo: How long have you been a photographer, and how did you get started?

My first camera was a Kodak Brownie.  For most of my life, my photographic abilities were decidedly below par.  About five years ago, I got a copy of Photoshop and began using photos taken by my son-in-law to play with in Photoshop.  After about a year  and thousands of hours using Photoshop, I realized that I could do better things if I had better photos.  I invested in a Nikon D200 and some nice Nikon lenses and began seriously working on improving my skills as a photographer.  Before long I was shooting several thousand images a week and was spending many hours each day processing them.

I joined the SmugMug daily community and soon realized that studying the images taken by my fellow SmugMuggers was helping me hone my own skills.  I was never much of a photographer before digital technology was available, so nearly all of my experience has been digitally based.  Digital photography made it so much easier to improve my skills because I could see what I had done immediately and take corrective action right away.  The fact that I did not have to spend a lot of money to develop all those rolls of film and that I could view and process my images almost instantly was a huge plus for me in the learning process.

Great Blue Heron by Judy Horton, in a marsh with warm light

In order to capture this shot, I had to shoot almost directly into the late afternoon sun. In order for details of the bird to show up, I bumped up my exposure compensation. I was using the 200 - 400mm lens at the 400mm setting and the shutter speed was 1/1600th second. Normally, I wouldn't have even bothered shooting the bird as it moved into the grasses, but the backlighting was so interesting that I decided to take the shot.

2 Guys Photo: What’s in your bag and what are your go-to applications for post-processing?  

I have two cameras:  a Nikon D300 and a D80.  I also have the following Nikon lenses:  10.5mm fisheye lens, 14mm – 24mm/f2.8, 24mm – 70mm/f2.8 (my general purpose lens), 70mm – 200mm/f2.8, 200mm – 400mm/f4, 60mm/f2.8, and a 105mm/f2.8. I have several tripods, although my next purchase may be a better tripod mount.  I use Photoshop CS3, Nik Software’s EFEX Pro Suite, Topaz, and a variety of other plugins.  I have not automated my workflow.  I prefer to process each image individually.  I shoot in RAW.  I do a lot of my image adjustments in the RAW processing.  Then, I open the image in Photoshop and usually make some modifications using EFEX Pro or other plugins, as well as other Photoshop adjustments.   I often do multiple versions of an image.  I then save the image as a .jpg and upload it to SmugMug.  I use SmugMug as a backup for all my processed images.  In addition, I use three external drives for image storage and a larger 2TB external drive for backups.  I also archive the images to DVDs after I’ve processed a file.

Fry Cook at Billy's Giant Hamburgers by Judy Horton

This shot was made inside a little diner in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. I love taking photos of people at work. This cook was the most amazingly efficient person I think I've ever seen and quite photogenic. Not a movement was wasted. I was directly in front of him and made the shot with my 24 - 70mm lens at the 24mm setting. The shutter speed was 1/250th second. The shot was handheld, with my arm braced on the diner bar. The diner was pretty well lit and all the metallic surfaces were very reflective.

2 Guys Photo: Judy, in looking at your SmugMug site , I see a wide range of subjects and types of photography, including landscapes, portraits, candids, action, fish-eyes, wildlife, and still lifes.  Do you have any one area of photography that you really like, and why? 

I can’t say that I have any particular area of photography that is a specialty.  I like every type of photography and attempt to improve my skills constantly in each of those areas.  In order to get more experience in different disciplines, such as portraits, model shoots or baby shoots, I’ve offered free services on craigslist.  That has proven to be a useful way for me to obtain additional models.  I have a file of places that I want to photograph and use that to select destinations for trips.  The dailies on SmugMug has been a source of inspiration.  Every time I browse the photos there, I get ideas for things I want to try shooting.  I tend to be opportunistic in terms of what I shoot.  My camera is always with me and, like many photographers, I look at the world as if I were seeing it through a viewfinder.  I guess the thing that really turns me on is the chance to capture an image that I see as a challenge for one reason or another.  The challenge might be in the lighting, the choice of shutter speed, or the ability to control the depth of field.  Or, it could be capturing a specific emotion or mood.

2 Guys Photo: It looks like you’ve done some traveling to many of America’s most beautiful locations in the west.  What travel photography tips can you share with our readers? 

We have had the opportunity to visit quite a few of America’s wonderful National Parks and forests.  I’ve learned that thinking through what I expect to see in a particular day and making sure that I have the right lenses with me is very helpful.  Our first stop is usually the visitor center, where I ask the Rangers what they think are the best photo ops in the park.  If I’m looking for wildlife, I ask them where are the most likely places to see particular animals or birds.  For example, the last time we were in Phoenix we visited the Botanic Gardens.  I remembered that the previous year there had been hummingbirds nesting in the gardens, so when we went in the front gate, I asked the person there if there were hummingbird nests or other bird’s nests that could be photographed.  He pointed to the tree behind me and showed me a hummingbird’s nest.  If I had not asked, I probably would have missed seeing that entirely.  When I bought some of my Sandisk cards, they came with a tiny zipper case that I’ve attached to each of my cameras.  I carry all of my spare cards in the little case, so I never find myself without cards.  I always carry one or two spare batteries, as well.

Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone by Judy Horton

This shot was taken in Yellowstone National Park at the Grand Prismatic Pool. This is a very large area. The pool is quite shallow and surrounded by a boardwalk. Luckily for me, on the day of our visit, there were beautiful puffy clouds in the sky. I was immediately struck with the amazing reflections and captured this shot.

One time when we were visiting Sedona, we were browsing the mall there and outside a book shop a photographer was selling his photo books of the area.  I chatted with him and then asked him if he ever took people out to places to shoot.  He said he never had but that he’d be willing to do that.  As a result, he spent one day taking me around to some lovely spots that I’d never have found on my own.

Bringing a Branch to the Missus! (Sedona) by Judy Horton

This shot is one of my very favorite shots of all the ones I've taken. We were visiting Sedona and I probably spent ten hours watching and photographing the herons building their nests. One of the good things about spending a lot of time observing the birds was that it got so that I could anticipate their behavior to some extent. I noticed that when the male was off gathering branches, just before his return, the female would extend her ruff feathers and bug her eyes out and stick her neck way out. This allowed me to get ready to capture the male as he returned with a branch.

Of course, when you are in a beautiful area, it is always good to try to shoot at sunrise and sunset times of day.  We generally try to spend a few extra days in a park so that I can maximize my chances of getting the best light or seeing more wildlife.  Of course, many people don’t have that luxury.  I always buy guide books for a park or area weeks ahead of my trip and I try to pinpoint ahead of time things that I definitely want to see and photograph.  When I’m trying to photograph birds, I generally find a spot where I’ve seen birds flying and I set up my tripod and camera and then I just wait and watch.  It is amazing what you’ll see and be able to shoot if you are patient enough to be quiet and wait.  Sometimes, I stay in the same spot for hours.  If you are going to do this, you need to be sure you’ve applied your sunscreen ahead of time.  I’ve had some painful sunburns when I forgot to do that.  If I think there may be mosquitoes, I carry bug spray, as well.

Welder by Judy Horton

I am very interested in environmental photographs of people at work. I'd always wanted to take shots of welders, so I looked in the phone book and called one of the welding companies listed. I asked if they would let me come photograph some of their folks at work and they agreed. I did bump the exposure compensation up a bit, as the lighting was very dim in the shot. I wanted most of the illumination for the shot to come from the welding. I did not increase the ISO.

2 Guys Photo: How do you stay motivated to keep on shooting?  What (or who) inspires you? 

Well, I’m certainly inspired by the talented photographers on SmugMug.  The endless variety of the photos there never fails to give me ideas for things I could shoot.  I also have a mental list of things that I want to photograph sometime and I’m always on the alert for opportunities to check one of those off.  Whenever I start to feel like I’m shooting the same things over and over again, I search online for events in my area that I might be able to photograph.  I’m interested in shooting people at work, so, when I have some time, I call business people in different professions and ask if I can photograph them.  So far, no one has ever turned me down.  They are often surprised, but they are usually pleased to be asked.  I have a lot of books about Photoshop and when I don’t have anything in mind to shoot, I like to look through some of those to get ideas.

Western Meadowlark by Judy Horton

This shot of a western meadowlark was captured near Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico. I'd been watching some meadowlarks and taking shots of them for about an hour. This particular bird had been sitting on the branch for quite a while. I was hoping it would fly off. I tried to anticipate its taking off by watching its behavior and, this time, I noticed it looking sharply off in the distance and then leaning its head out a bit. I got ready and when it moved, I pressed the shutter. This image actually won the Grand Prize in the Vickerey Earthday Photo Contest.

2 Guys Photo: Judy, what are your future photographic plans?

My husband and I are planning on doing a lot of traveling across the U.S. in the next few years.  There are lots of things that I’ve never photographed that I’d like to try:  a night cityscape, ocean scenes, surfboarders, spring tulip festivals, a visit to the Montana wildlife place for photographers, Oregon waterfalls, Muir woods, and the list goes on and on.  And, along the way, I hope to have lots of opportunities to capture people working, having fun, and just living.  In terms of equipment, I’d like to get a full frame camera, a better tripod mount, some new plugins, and, perhaps, a longer telephoto lens.  And, hopefully, my carpel tunnel syndrome won’t keep me from lugging my camera and tripod around to all those wonderful places.

Bee by Judy Horton

This shot of the bee is an example of serendipity, which plays a big role, I think, in getting some good photos. Like many photographers I know, I'm fascinated with insects and have given myself a challenge to capture the BEST photo of a bee in flight. I waited for a bee to enter the frame. I captured five or six shots and this was the best of the bunch. I still have not gotten that perfect shot of a bee in flight but I'm still working on it. And maybe someday....

2 Guys Photo: What advice do you have for someone who is either just starting out in photography and/or anyone wanting to improve their photographic skills?  

I think the most important thing is to take lots of photos.  Look at them carefully in 100% size and try to see how they can be improved.  In addition to taking photos, I think it is very important to look at the images of other photographers.  Try to figure out why their images look better than yours.  Practice taking photos where you have to control the depth of field, both to minimize it and to maximize it.  Learn (by taking lots of shots) what shutter speed is required for different situations, such as when the wind is blowing flowers around, or stopping the action of hummingbirds.  Find good books or sources on the Internet that help you understand how to use various techniques, such as flash, panning, etc.  Be critical of your own images.  Set some standards for your images and throw out the ones that don’t meet those standards.  Set goals for what you want to be able to achieve in your photography.  For example, someday, I’d like to take a water drop macro as good as one of LordV’s (one of the photographers on SmugMug).  Some of those goals may be short term, while others may take years to achieve.  But, just think of the fun you’ll have trying to meet all those objectives!

Grand Canyon, South Rim by Judy Horton in black and white, BW

The Grand Canyon is such a spectacular place, but I think it is very difficult to really capture the grandeur and huge scale. It is just so immense and amazing that most photos seem to fall a bit short. The light in the canyon changes almost second by second when there are clouds overhead. If there are a lot of clouds, the shadows can actually be rather distracting. This is not necessarily the best of my Grand Canyon shots; it is just a pretty fair example of the kind of images that I captured there. I did a fair amount of post-processing on this shot and I think that allowed me to pull out the detail and depth and show the scale of the canyon. I don't remember everything I did to this image, but I did run it through Nik Software's EFEX Pro's tone mapping filter. The final step was converting from color to black and white using Silver EFEX Pro.

~ ~ ~

Judy, thanks for sharing some of your photos, experiences and advice with us.  You have made great strides as a photographer, and created many wonderful images in just a short period of time.  I recommend everyone visit Judy’s website to enjoy many more great photos.

Thanks for visiting 2 Guys Photo.                         Posted by Ed.

About Ed Spadoni

www.2GuysPhoto.com "Thoughts and opinions, resources and experiences… for emerging photographers everywhere."
This entry was posted in Featured Photog, Images, Inspiration and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Judy Horton: Looking for challenges

  1. 2guysphoto says:

    Fantastic photos, Judy. Must say I love the first one at Horseshoe Bend. You’d have to stand right there at the edge (as have I) to understand just how long and unforgiving that fall would be if you got too close. I was squeamish there when I saw photographers standing right on the verge. I was not as enterprising as you and I applaud your approach. Next time I’m there, I’ll try it! Great gallery by the way.

    Posted by Rey

  2. Ian Soliva says:

    Wow! Amazing shots specially the Grand Prismatic Pool!

  3. Excellent interview! Lots of interesting & helpful information & some fabulous photographs…..!!

  4. Prentis Drew says:

    Thank you for alerting me to the Smugmug Daily Community. I have a Smugmug account and didn’t realize there was such a thing. Also your obvious post processing skills have urged me to get more creative with the those tools. Thanks for sharing your excellent and inspiring work.

  5. Sharkbayte says:

    Fantastic interview! I love viewing Judy’s work and now reading about her, terrific info!

  6. Kara says:

    Judy, I loved reading about your photography, and your thoughts on making images and processing. Wonderful stuff!

  7. Frog says:

    Awesome interview and great pictures!

  8. Judy is an inspiration to me! Sounds like her travel plans will bring all of us on SmugMug many more great shots. I look forward to her new images.

  9. Linda Good says:

    Wonderful interview!!! I’m always inspired by Judy’s work, and look forward to seeing what she posts on SmugMug every day!

    Lgood (Linda Good)

  10. TOMREICHERT says:


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