Friday, May 13, 2011

And I'm Still Learning...

Photo by Leif Kjaer
Danish photographer couple, Kiki Kjaer and her husband, Leif, travel the world in pursuit of adventure and the perfect picture!  You’ll love Kiki’s humorous self-deprecating style that takes you on a journey that will keep you smiling; and all the while you will marvel at the artistry of her photography.


Thanks so much for visiting "Tales of Relentless Pursuit." If you have a free moment or two, please check out my Photography Website, Your Best Shot, and sign up for the mailing list! And also consider sending the link to this blog to your circle of friends.
Michelle Alton

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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
Everywhere Leif turns – I turn, sure that there’s something worth capturing. Mostly there is.  So he shows me where to look – and more often than not he ‘gives’ me the first – and best – shots.

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

 Peyto Lake III
New Family

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.

Capturing Wildlife 

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

Big Charmer
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.

Forest Walk

  Unless otherwise specified all photography is by Kiki Kjaer.


What do you think of the "Relentless Pursuit" series. Please leave a comment below or email me
 with your suggestions on what you'd like to see on this blog.

I need your Story!

If you have a story to post on this theme, contact me.  We have Zero stories on tap and I shall have to resort to posting my own work!  Please consider sharing your tales of Relentless Pursuit!  And be sure to take a look at my Photography site. I'd love to hear from you!
Michelle Alton



Evy Johansen said...

I really enjoyed your story, Kiki! And the wonderful pictures!

Sandy Powers said...

Kiki, thank you for allowing us into your amazing life! What great stories! The bear story freaked me out. I've been charged by a mama elk, but they don't eat people like bears do :) You are a very lucky girl!

And I especially loved the story of hooking up with your BetterPhoto friend and becoming family. I've had the exact same experience with my BetterPhoto friend-now-sister, Melissa Olsen :) Thanks again for the great read! And oh... your photography is FABULOUS!!!!

Ellen said...

Awesome and interesting story, and very wonderful photos, Kiki! The bear story was amazing, too!!

Dave Phalen said...

Seeing is an art some are born with. OPthers have tolearen it. You've obviously been a very good learner (wish I could say the same for myself). Ihave much to learn.

Loved your photographs!! The best part of BP is the community.

Joe DiGilio said...

Kiki,I thoroughly enjoyed reading your story and seeing your outstanding photography.(I'm familiar with your work from BP) You make me want to get on a plane and head for Sedona, one of my favorite places in the world too. Some of your wildlife shots make my heart beat fast.

Ron said...

Ron McEwan wrote:

Kiki, your exciting story has touched me in many ways. I don't know if Laura has had a chance to read it or not. Her Dad is ill, she is down in CA now.
It appears to me that you are a fast learner at least your images show me that. We are always perfecting but not to the point we loose the joy of hearing the shutter click. Great story and photos.

gerda said...

Hi, Kiki,

Both Dermot and I really enjoyed reading your story and seeing the images that accompanied it! It was thouroughly delightful! Maybe your next trip can take you further east here in Canada. There's lots to see and shoot here in Ontario--and in Quebec and the Maritime provinces, too!

Bob Cammarata said...

Interesting story Kiki and some really great photos!
You were VERY lucky that Mama Bear decided to just scare you a little.
It reminded me of a couple I met at Glacier NP who were chased when they got too close to an irate cow moose with a young calf in tow.
Nature can be beautiful and fascinating as well as dangerous and unpredictable.
I think that's part of its allure.

Teri said...

I just loved your story and the wonderful images that went along with it! Thanks Kiki for sharing!

SusieQ said...

Great pictures Kirsten.
love SusieQ

Kirsten said...

Thank you so much, everyone. I loved your comments.

LauraEm said...

Oh, how I loved reading this sgtory my Soul Sister Kiki! I smiled all the while! I have seen first hand how excited you get when you see wild life and I love it. You make shooting them (with your camera of course) so much fun! One of the most exciting and thrilling car rides I have ever taken was in the woods with you and Leif back behind the Banff Springs Golf course where NO TOURIST KNOWS ABOUT! Remember when we saw the fox? (Or was it a coyote? No, a fox!) Leif snapped a shot with his 20 foot lens (humor there) and then you said "I didn't see it! Leif, WHY didnt you tell me you saw a fox???" Then you JUMPED from the car and headed right into the woods to find it!! Lol...I thought maybe we'd never see you again.

Such fun and I REALLY enjoyed reading your facinating story. Your life is always filled with adventure! I am so blessed to be part of your life and even moreso to have a Sister like you.


Kirsten said...

Thank you Sweety. Part of my life's adventure is meeting you and Dale!

Nancyj said...

Kiki, your writing skills are tops with your photography skills. Your story inspired me to want to go everywhere, and take photos...even to the Universe!