Photo by Leif Kjaer
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And I’m Still Learning...
I love to travel!
And I’ve been a traveler all my life. My parents took me traveling before I could walk.
I got my first camera when I was 13 - and I can’t remember a time when I didn’t use it to capture moments that I wanted to keep. And I never travelled without some sort of camera. But it wasn’t until I got my first digital in 2006 that I started to enjoy capturing subjects other than family and friends and ‘holiday shots’ – you know – the kind of shots that scream: “I was here!”
I started with a pocket digital camera, that I can’t even remember the name of - and my husband, Leif bought a Minolta Dimage Z1. I soon found out that he took far better pictures than I did, so I swapped mine for a better camera, but still a small pocket camera of some sort.
Still Leif took so much better photos than I.
So I upgraded myself to a Minolta Dimage Z5 – only to discover that my image quality didn’t improve much. That’s when it hit me: Leif WAS a better photographer! HA! He notices everything in a scene and quickly decides what to include and what not to include. He sure has that gift of ‘seeing’ what is in a scene and for choosing the best and most unusual angles.
I spent most of my time taking pictures of what I thought I saw (mind you – I can stand in front of a cathedral without noticing it!) and then returned to my computer only to find out all the things I had missed! This I usually found out when I looked at Leif’s pictures and saw all the things that he was able to capture.
But I started learning.
Traveling in the USA and Canada
In 2007 I bought my first mirror reflex camera: a Canon EOS 350D. Later I got a Canon EOS 30D, then a 40D and latest a 50D. And I also started to find out the value of good lenses. Today I mostly use a Canon EF 24 – 105 mm f/4 as my all-around lens, a 100 – 400 mm f/4.5 – 5.6 for wild-life photography, a 24 mm f/1.4 for portrait photography and a 100 mm f/2.8 macro lens.
And I started to teach myself everything I could about my cameras and photography- from A to Z and took on-line courses as well. Leif never bothered with any of that – he just went out and took awesome pictures. Lucky bastard :}!
Okay – now is probably the time to tell you all that I love and adore my wonderful husband. He is my reason for living. It’s as simple as that.
|My Cowboy, my Love -- My Life!|
Leif and I have toured the States (The Southwest is our favorite) and several areas in Canada for the past 16 years, almost every year.
|Leif and I in Sedona, Arizona|
|Monument Valley. Camera: Minolta Z5|
|Sandstorm in Monument Valley. Also captured with Minolta Z5 – and|
the first image I ever entered in a competition
We simply love the grandeur of the landscapes. Coming from a country where the highest point is 170 meters above sea level we of course LOVE the Rockies!
|Turquoise and Green. Alberta, Canada|
| Columbia Icefield Reflections. Also from Alberta, Canada|
And I’m learning.
As I’ve revealed ‘seeing’ is not my strongest point. But sometimes it seems that Heaven and Earth get together and decide that today they’re going to give me an awesome experience – to take home to Denmark with me. Another explanation could of course be that I just happen to be in the right place at the right time :)
That happened for example last year when we were on our way back to Calgary after a 10-day stay in Jasper and Hinton (Alberta, Canada). I was very keen on visiting Peyto Lake. I had heard of its beauty and wanted to see it for myself. It had snowed in the mountains the days before and this day was cold and foggy. The path to Bow Summit, from where you can see the lake, was icy and slippery. And people coming down from the Summit reported that they could barely see the Lake because of the fog. The path was long but I continued. When I stepped onto the platform and saw the lake, I also saw that the mist that had covered the lake was beginning to evaporate – disclosing the bluest lake I had ever seen.
I gasped – and so did others who were standing there. It was truly magical. I could almost hear a symphony!
I enjoyed the view for the next five or ten minutes (and took pictures of course) and then turned to walk back. When I turned my head again to see the lake for the last time, only a moment later I saw that the lake had again disappeared into the mist. I almost got goosebumps!
Peyto Lake III
Photography has also given me a new sister and brother-in-Law! It’s true. In Alberta Canada lives this wonderful couple named Laura and Dale Swan. Laura and I are both part of the “Better Photo” community and ‘met’ there. We started our friendship by talking about photography. And over the past couple of years we have become very close friends. And we’ve sort of adopted each other.
Leif and I visited our new family last year. And it was the most wonderful and unforgetable trip. And it turned out that Laura has the very same talent of seeing things that Leif has. So on this trip whenever we enjoyed the company of Laura and Dale, it was Laura who gave me all the best shots. We love them both dearly.
Leif and I are always on the lookout for breathtaking views, which of course in the States and Canada are where we find ourselves – or around the corner.
But it’s when I see an animal in the wild that I go crazy. And I must admit: I really do go crazy. I leave my brain in the car and just head out thinking that I’m safe. I simply LOVE animals! On a trip to California in 2007 Leif and I visited Sequoia National Park.
There are always places that will ‘call on’ us. And one day we stopped by the road and went only a few meters into the forest among the giant Sequoia trees when Leif spotted a big brown Mama Bear with two little cubs, heading our way. At this time my longest lens was a 70-200 mm and it just wasn’t enough! And I was so anxious to get a good shot of these magnificent animals that I forgot all about boundaries. I couldn’t get close enough.
Leif walked away from the bears, knowing that they were heading his way (why didn’t I see that?). I just moved towards the little family. At some point they were hidden from me behind some big bushes and I moved closer. In my immense wisdom I thought I could sneak in on them – or I didn’t think at all.
Suddenly Mama Bear came charging through the thick bushes – right at me – with a roar that almost blew my cap off. I never imagined that a bear could move that fast and I just stood there - absolutely still with my camera in my hands – and stared at her while she came roaring at me. I was spell bound and I was like: WOW!!!
It was awesome! I enjoyed every second of being in contact with this big animal. Why was I not afraid? Because I DIDN’T KNOW I WAS SUPPOSED TO BE AFRAID! And that’s probably what saved my life.
Mama Bear stopped suddenly - probably about ten meters before me. Her thick coat took a little longer to settle as it sort of rolled and swayed to a stop. Funny the things I noticed. Then she stood there and stared at me and I stared back.
Oh, I knew she was ANGRY. She was VERY angry. But it never occurred to me that she would hurt me – I was convinced that she just wanted to tell me to back off!
After what seemed forever, probably only a few seconds – she turned her head and the rest of her followed – back to her little ones. She continued her walk deeper into the forest. We followed her for a while – but at a more respectful distance.
Later I learned that every year many people are killed in the States by bears. And most of those “crazy tourists” are still holding a camera in their hands!
I came to realize that this moment – awesome as it was – was not one of my most brilliant moments. Crazy tourist!!
|Hmmm! This bear I captured in Yosemite|
Mamma Bear and Cubs, as they walked away from us
The next year we visited Yellowstone. Also here we met a bear. And like always I was out of the car before it stopped and before anyone else got out of their cars
This bear was alone and didn’t bother about all the crazy tourists in their cars. And he didn’t mind me. I was standing about 2½ meters from him – in the middle of the road – and he was lying on the roadside when I took this shot. He never even looked at me. I know! I took about 100 photos of him.
|Wildlife – Stop and Smell the Flowers|
Only later – a couple of years later – when we saw bears again - in Canada - did I remember Sequoia - and I am a little proud to say that when we saw bears in Canada, I kept a safer distance.
For the past six years I have been submitting my images to various photo competition sites and so far I’ve got over 400 Pictures-of-the-day, several Pictures-of-the-week, some Finalists and Pictures-of-the-month plus 3 Pictures-of-the-year. So I must have learned something!
But I am still learning!
I love to capture the beauty that constantly surrounds me and I love more than anything to watch – and photographically capture animals. I can get almost as excited about seeing a chipmunk as I get seeing a coyote or an elk. And I do respect them. Only my eagerness to capture them often comes in the way and I don’t ‘see’ their boundaries. Happily most animals will just disappear when I get too close.
And I am learning that too.
|A curious chipmunk|
|In the Wild - Marking Territory|
|Wildlife - On the Move!|
I also very much enjoy macro photography. Getting that close to an insect or a flower and later looking at them on my computer, seeing detail that I didn’t know was there is to me one of the biggest wonders of photography.
|Flower and the Bee|
|Still Holding On|
I also do portraits and find it very rewarding to communicate with other people in this way. I do like to work in Photoshop and sometimes I even do something creative.
|The Artist at Work|
|Just an Apple. Inspired by Laura’s work|
But mostly I use it to make improvements on my images.
This I’ll never stop learning.
About Kiki Kjaer
Me (photo: Leif Kjaer)
I'm 59 and married to Leif for almost 27 years. We live in Denmark; we have no kids (sadly). I’m a vegetarian, a horseback rider and have a Black Belt in Taekwondo.
|Me on horseback in Canyon De Chelly (photo: Leif Kjaer|
In my younger years I worked at a travel agency and have been all over Europe and also visited Greece, Turkey, Sri Lanka and West Africa as a tourist. But since Leif and I visited the States for the first time in 1994, it has been the States or Canada for us ever since. We love the sceneries and the wild-life and we love the American and the Canadian people.
But we also love living in Denmark – especially at this time of year when a light green carpet gently covers the whole land.
Unless otherwise specified all photography is by Kiki Kjaer.
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