Photography & Digital Art by DeGruy: Blog en-us (C) Photography & Digital Art by DeGruy (Photography & Digital Art by DeGruy) Sat, 18 Feb 2017 18:48:00 GMT Sat, 18 Feb 2017 18:48:00 GMT Photography & Digital Art by DeGruy: Blog 120 80 The Kiss (and Swoon) Historically, the Poodle is a German breed, bred for the retrieving of downed game birds in the water.  The elaborate coat trims have evolved from those early days when long hair in some portions of the body helped keep the dog warm while shaved portions helped streamline its swimming in the water.


Today's trims are for looks and enhance this extremely elegant and graceful breed. 


Poodles are also extremely intelligent, argued by some the most intelligent of all dogs.   The esteemed Poodle fancier and judge Mrs. Anne Rogers Clark used to say:  “Poodles are Labrador Retrievers with a college education....


" ... My Poodle will do anything your Lab will do. After a day of retrieving in the field, your Lab wants to curl up and snore in front of the fire. My Poodle wants to be a fourth at bridge and tell naughty stories!”


I grew up with miniature and toy Poodles and have a deep appreciation for them.  My grandmother raised and groomed them; they were not show dogs but they were smart, affectionate, and made the best companions. 



I spent my childhood on the farm accompanied for several years by a miniature named "Tammy" who was up for anything we kids wanted to get into. 



Poodles have always seemed to me to be a breed that you must have a relationship with in order to get the best out of them. They're not a "hand 'em off" breed at ringside. They want to feel special, they want to have conversations, talk about their feelings, express themselves. They want intimacy. To be a real Poodle person, I think you have to understand that. I've captured a few such moments in the show ring at Grayslake, Illinois last month.



The exhibitor is Jody Garcini, the dog is GCH Huffish Born This Way.  The pair were Best of Breed and also won the Non-Sporting group that day. 

© 2017 Vicki DeGruy, all rights reserved.   See more photos from this show here:  Grayslake cluster 2017



Canon 1DX II, f/2.8, 1/200, ISO 5000

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]]> (Photography & Digital Art by DeGruy) DeGruy Garcini Grayslake Non-Sporting Poodle conformation Sat, 18 Feb 2017 18:47:49 GMT
The Yellow Shirt Collective Last month, I was privileged to serve as the official photographer at the American Miniature Schnauzer Club's National Specialty and several associated regional specialty shows, a week of intense activity dubbed "Minipalooza".   I had some childhood experiences with Schnauzers, my grandmother raised them, my aunt had one, and later on, another aunt raised them, but I had never photographed them on this level before.  Ironically, the first original oil painting I ever did, at about age 12, was a portrait of a Schnauzer's head, a picture that I still enjoy today. 

I found the dogs at the show to be absolutely delightful, friendly, willing and eager to please, yet still full of terrier spirit and ready for just about anything.  The specialty week had activities for all of them:  conformation, obedience and rally, agility, and barn hunt, and some dogs participated in everything.  I also found their people to be very friendly and down to earth, there was little of the diva behavior I sometimes encounter at these events.  On the platform, the exhibitors were easily directed, polite, and patient.  Sometimes handlers act as if they are entitled to their awards or are a little disgruntled because they didn't place as high as they expected, but this group all seemed very pleased with what their dogs had won.  Happy exhibitors make my job that much easier!

Before the show, Sonny Lelle, breeder of Southcross Miniature Schnauzers called me.  She said there would be several dogs of her breeding competing at Minipalooza and that she'd like to have a "family portrait" taken with those dogs and their owners.  No problem, I said, assuming there'd be maybe a dozen people.  We would make arrangements once we were at the show. 

I happened to run into Sonny right off the bat the day before the shows started, as I was setting up my photo area.  She told me the members of her "family" would be easy to spot since they would be wearing special yellow tee shirts when they weren't in the conformation ring.  Easy to spot was right, there were yellow shirts all over the place!   

The toughest thing about the picture was getting everyone together in one place at the same time.  There were so many events going on simultaneously and all the Yellow Shirts were either competing or helping at any given time.  Finally, with a little help from Photoshop after the fact, I was able to wrangle all 21 people and 28 Miniature Schnauzers onto my set.

I was impressed with the enthusiasm!  Usually with group shots, there is someone who doesn't really want to be there.  But not the Yellow Shirts, they all wanted this very much and several mentioned how much this picture would mean to them.   How fun to work with a group like this!  And here they are: 

© 2016 Vicki DeGruy, all rights reserved.  See hundreds more photos from this show at

Technical data:  Canon 5D MK III, f/9.0, 1/60th second, ISO 250, two Einsteins shooting through white umbrellas


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Promote Your Page Too]]> (Photography & Digital Art by DeGruy) DeGruy Group Minipalooza Portrait Schnauzer Southcross Sat, 30 Apr 2016 01:25:43 GMT
Agility Action! I've had a busy year and the blog has suffered, not because I've had nothing to say but because there hasn't been much free time to say it.  I'm very grateful for all the work this year and all the new friends I've made.

I was privileged to serve as the official photographer for the American Chesapeake Club's National Specialty in October.  I was invited to shoot all their associated events, performance as well as conformation.   It was my first in-depth experience with this sporting breed and I was impressed with their temperaments and versatility.  

DE2A3678-ACC-2015-blogDE2A3678-ACC-2015-blogCanon 5D MKIII, 70-200mm 2.8L, ISO 500, 1/5000, f4.0 © 2015 Vicki DeGruy, all rights reserved


The week began with an agility trial that was open to all breeds; along with Chessies, there was a Poodle, Border Collies, Golden Retrievers, a Lab, Malamutes, a rough Collie, Belgian Malinois.  Each breed has its own way of working, some are more graceful than others, some disagree with their handlers about how the courses should be run, but they are all enthusiastic!  Dogs love agility and their excitement is contagious. DE2A4466_ACC_2015_blogDE2A4466_ACC_2015_blogCanon 5D MKIII, 70-200mm 2.8L, ISO 500, 1/4000, f4.0 © 2015 Vicki DeGruy, all rights reserved

I love shooting action, the faster it moves the better I like it!  Agility presents several challenges to a photographer.  You need a quality lens with a long reach that's able to focus very quickly.  Agility dogs are fast, fast, fast, the photographer and camera must be able to keep up with them.  You have to determine where the best action will take place and arrange to be there to capture it, putting yourself in a non-distracting location.  Since agility courses are not designed for photographic convenience, finding such a location that also gives you access to the obstacles you want to shoot can be difficult.   When events are outdoors, the sun can be both enemy and friend as it moves around the course throughout the day. DE2A3918_ACC_2015_blogDE2A3918_ACC_2015_blogCanon 5D MK III, 70-200 2.8L, ISO 500, 1/3200, f4.0 © 2015 Vicki DeGruy, all rights reserved

I like drama in my agility shots, intense expressions, flying ears.   Catching the right moment is key, click the shutter a microsecond too soon or too late and you miss it.  I've found that it helps not to think too much when I'm shooting action; I do have to concentrate hard on what's in front of me to make sure the subject will be in focus but the actual firing becomes more instinctive than intellectual.  My finger knows when it should push the button, as long as my brain doesn't interfere. 

DE2A4104_ACC_2015_blogDE2A4104_ACC_2015_blogCanon 5D MKIII, 70-200mm 2.8L, ISO 500, 1/5000, f4.0 © 2015 Vicki DeGruy, all rights reserved























Tech data:  Canon 5D MK III, 70-200 2.8L, ISO 500, f4.0, shutter speeds 1/3200-5000
© 2015 Vicki DeGruy, all rights reserved.  See hundreds more photos from this show at



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]]> (Photography & Digital Art by DeGruy) Agility Chesapeake Bay Retrievers Sun, 08 Nov 2015 01:37:22 GMT
Winter Sunset On The Rock Prairie Thanks to the hundreds of acres of farmland around us, we have a nearly unobstructed view to the west, splendid for admiring and photographing sunsets .... except for the years when the farmer plants corn, like this year.  This past summer was just about perfect for growing corn.  They say it should be "knee high by the fourth of July" but this year's corn was close to 5 feet by then already.  And it just kept going up and up and up.  At its full height, the corn was around 7 feet tall and pretty much wiped out the whole horizon for all of summer and autumn until it was finally harvested a couple weeks ago. 

This solitary tree is one of my favorite subjects.  Until late last spring, a big old farmhouse stood near it.  It had been home to many different tenants over the decades, including my husband and I during a lengthy remodel of our house.  I don't know how old it actually was; it had a limestone basement and had been added on to several times in its long life.  It always seemed to me to have a patient benevolent attitude, a friendly house that enjoyed having people in it.  (If you've ever met an unfriendly house, you know the difference!) 

But there comes a time when the infirmities of these old farmhouses become chronic and keeping them healthy costs more than they can return in revenue.  Last spring, the farmer who owned the property tore the house down, buried it in its own basement, and seeded over the ground.  You wouldn't know now that it had ever been there at all. 


It was a sad day, tear down day, as that house was kind of an old friend, always there in a comforting sort of way.  But the demise of the house has opened up an even wider vista to the southwest and isolated the solitary tree in a perfect fashion for enhancing winter landscapes. 

Technical Data:  Canon 5D Mark II, ISO 1000, 24-70mm @ 24, f/5.6, 1/60. 

© 2014 Vicki DeGruy, all rights reserved.  See more of my work at


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]]> (Photography & Digital Art by DeGruy) Sun, 30 Nov 2014 22:43:23 GMT
Summer Winds Down 0R0C5940_800w0R0C5940_800w


This year has flown by so fast, it's September already!  It's true when they say that the older you get, the faster the time goes.   Yesterday was my 60th birthday, a number that seems quite amazing to me.  It's a strange thing that one's body gets older but the mind seems to stay young.  To me, the 1980's don't seem that long ago.  How did years turn into decades so quickly? 

September is the beginning of autumn, and 60 seems to me to be the beginning of the autumn of my life.  Thinking about how many years I may or may not have left (and how fast they're going by) is a little depressing but it's also liberating.  By this age, I've learned what's really important to me and what's not, what's worth fighting for and what's not.  I've learned to improvise, to be patient, to find workarounds when necessary, and to make do when conditions aren't what I was expecting.  And now I have a perfect excuse to do more of the things I really want to do, because time's a wastin'. 

One of my goals for 2014 was to spend more time at Rotary Gardens and so I have.  Late afternoon on a very sunny day, this tropical plant's huge leaves were backlit by the sun.  Colors have been enhanced a little by increasing saturation in Photoshop and the leaf's natural translucent stained glass look was encouraged by using the Paint Daubs filter.  I really liked how it came out.

Technical data:  Canon 5D Mark III, 180mm macro lens, ISO 1600, f4, 1/250s. 

© 2014 Vicki DeGruy, all rights reserved.


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]]> (Photography & Digital Art by DeGruy) Fri, 19 Sep 2014 02:52:27 GMT
Nature's Christmas Ornaments I didn't put up a Christmas tree this year, or do any decorating.  No special reason not to, some years I just don't.  Last year I spent several happy hours photographing the tree (see last Christmas' blog posts), but this year time seemed to get away from me and the ornaments never made it out of storage. 


But that doesn't mean there wasn't some Christmas decoration of another sort going on. 

A few days before Christmas, there was a sleet storm that covered just about everything in a thin layer of ice.  The extremely cold temperatures that followed ensured that the ice would stay awhile. 

Backlit by the sun, the ice on the trees and fences made for magnificent scenery.  Everything glittered, sparkled, and shone. 

I tried several times to photograph the trees, at different times of day, in different types of light.  No matter what I did, the results were just ho-hum, nothing special; the images looked pretty much like plain old snapshots that anyone could've taken with any point and shoot camera. 

I'm not much for winter photography, I really don't like going out in the cold.  But on Christmas Eve morning with the temperature at 9 below zero, I decided to make one more try at capturing the artistry of the ice.





I was intrigued by the thin drooping branches of the river birch in our back yard.   Delicate, even more fragile in the cold, the ice had caused many of them to break off. 

The sun shone through the ice like it was fine crystal; a gentle breeze made the branches move and sparkle.  So instead of trying to photograph the big picture, so to speak, of trees and landscape, I decided to focus on the details like the slender ice-covered twigs.

And the focus was indeed a challenge.  Auto focus doesn't like thin lines, especially when there are a lot of them and even more so when they're moving.  The camera can't decide what it should be looking at and becomes very confused.  Manual focus is the answer, but my eyes aren't so young anymore and I've become lazy with the convenience of modern cameras.

Perfectly sharp or not, the resulting images please me a great deal.  Sparkling, glittery, and jewel-like, they make me think of Christmas lights.  I love the softness of color, the bokeh created by the sun shining through the ice.  Nature's own Christmas magic!


Merry Christmas & my best holiday wishes to you all!


Technical data:  Canon 5D Mark II, 50mm L f/1.2 @ 2.0, ISO 125, 1/4000s

© 2013 Vicki DeGruy, all rights reserved.



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]]> (Photography & Digital Art by DeGruy) Thu, 26 Dec 2013 00:58:02 GMT
Winter comes to the Rock Prairie In 1978, I moved from Green County, Wisconsin, where I'd grown up, to Rock County, the next one over.   The two counties could not be more different.  Green is mostly rolling hills and very small towns; Rock is mostly flat and the population of its second largest city (Beloit) is more than all of Green County put together.   

We have a small place in the country where I've lived for more than 25 years, in an area known as the Rock Prairie.  The prairie spans nearly the entire country from east to west, as much as 18 miles wide in places.  With its deep fertile soil, it is one of Wisconsin's best agricultural areas. 

Our home is surrounded by hundreds of acres of corn and soybeans.  In the fall after harvest, the fields become vast open regions, punctuated now and then by small stands of trees.  There used to be many more trees but they've been removed over the years to make room for more crops.

The wind on the Rock Prairie is a moody and almost constant presence.  It rarely whispers and most often roars.  With nothing to slow it down, it can be merciless in the winter, turning even a minor snowfall into driveway blocking drifts.   When the snows are heavy, the wind has piled it 6 feet high and more.  It's toppled trees into our power lines and left us without heat or electricity for days.  We live only 5 miles from town but it might as well be a 100 when the snow is bad and the wind is behind it. 

But when it is calm, even a bitterly cold winter's day can be pleasant.  You can take a lot of cold if the wind's not blowing.   This photo was made on a quiet day when the air was nearly still, with a grey sky and a little bit of fog.  The light was soft, gentle, very pleasing. 

The view is looking north across the road from our house at what is left of a line of trees that once extended more than a mile back.  I walked that line of trees in the summer a couple years ago, never thinking that someday they might not be there anymore.  I'm thankful there are a few left. 


Technical data:  Canon 5D Mark II, 50mm 1.2 @ f/16, 1/125th second.  © 2013 Vicki DeGruy, all rights reserved.



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]]> (Photography & Digital Art by DeGruy) Sun, 22 Dec 2013 06:00:42 GMT
The Blooms of Childhood 0R0C2853

The scent of lilac on the breeze immediately takes me back to the memories and emotions of adolescence, the time of my life when I first began to appreciate the fleeting nature of time and the reality of mortality. 


Lilacs have always been a beloved part of my life; we had them on the farm when I was growing up, they are (or were) practically everywhere in southern Wisconsin.  Lilacs want a cold winter to do well and bloom their best, they are not often seen in the south; my husband met them for the first time when he moved here from Baton Rouge. 


There are dozens of lilac varieties, they come in all shades of purple, lavender, pink, blue, and white.  I've even heard of cream and yellow ones.  There are trade offs for some of the colors, though  -- they don't have that wonderful scent, or have just a hint of it. 


The lilac of my childhood, the one with the lovely smell, and that which grows now in my yard during my 59th spring is the old-fashioned kind, Syringa Vulgaris, the common lilac.  I have several, some grown from shoots from the older plants.  They are so easy to get started, just dig up a shoot, plant it in a new location, and within a couple years, it will give you flowers.  They don't ask for much, just full sun, adequate water, and a kind word. 


Lilacs bloom in May for a week or two, a time when students are antsy, bored with school, and anxious for summer.  I was about 15, sitting in class daydreaming, gazing out the open window at the lilacs and breathing in their scent, thoroughly enjoying them.  Those are such emotional years, every discovery is huge, everything requires drama.  The realization came to me, for the first time, that I might die of something and never get to see the lilacs again, never smell them again.  Although I already had plenty of experience with death, it always involved animals or other people, it hadn't occurred to me before that it could happen to me.  The concept struck hard and very deep, it was a coming of age of sorts, and it made me quite sad for awhile.  But it also made me realize that we must appreciate what we have, what's around us, now while it is here and while we are here to enjoy it, not later when it's gone. 


That first blush of lilac bloom each spring, the first whiff of fragrance on the breeze, always reminds me of that day.  But it's not a sad memory any more, it's a reminder to make every moment count, to take advantage of the opportunities that are around us, to appreciate the beauty and all the good things that we have in our lives right now.  I think when we do that, we become happier people. 



© 2013 Vicki DeGruy, all rights reserved.


Technical data:


Photo 1:  Canon 5D Mark III, 180mm L lens, ISO 800, f/7.1,  1/200


Photo 2:  Canon 5D Mark II, 24-70 L lens, ISO 800, f/8, 1/125

]]> (Photography & Digital Art by DeGruy) Fri, 17 May 2013 15:41:39 GMT
A Reluctant Spring IMG_0013


After a mild December and January and a groundhog that predicted another early spring, I wasn't prepared for the proper winter weather that's been blasting us ever since.  After plenty of snow in February & March, April so far has been grey, gloomy, and very very wet.  This is good news after last summer's terrible drought, but it's been bad for cabin fever -- we need to get out in the sunshine, clean up the yard, pick up sticks, all those spring chores that need doing and are actually fun to do when you've been cooped up all winter. 


The other day, I spied a bit of purple in the flower bed.  My faithful crocus, planted in the late 1980's, let nothing stop them.  That old postal motto "neither rain nor sleet ..." applies very well to them.  They may be a little slow some years, like this one, because of inclement weather, but they always show up eventually.  Spring always does come, even when it seems like it never will, because the crocus says so.  IMG_0015


These are the first shots taken with a new macro lens I bought myself for Christmas.  I've always wanted a proper macro lens; I'm excited to finally have one!  I can hardly wait for the weather to clear so I can make my first visit of the year to Rotary Gardens.  This lens will give me a new perspective, I'm sure. 


It's going to be a busy spring and summer, I think.  Many activities coming up.  The Gardens, many dog shows, and maybe a few horse shows as well.  Looking forward to sharing it with you!


© 2013 Vicki DeGruy, all rights reserved.


Technical data:  Canon 5D Mark II, 180mm macro lens

Photo 1:  f/3.5, 1/800th, ISO 250
Photo 2:  f/6.3, 1/250th, ISO 250

]]> (Photography & Digital Art by DeGruy) Thu, 18 Apr 2013 19:20:23 GMT
Old Times Revisited ... and reworked vacation_colorado_train_water-tower_artistic_630px

Not being much for winter sports, or anything that requires going out in the cold, I spend the worst of the winter months catching up on work that's been put off throughout the rest of the year and doing a few fun things that there hasn't been time for. 


Lately, I've been scanning my old film negatives of decades past, and finally got at the many boxes of slides left with me by my late parents.   It's been a walk through old memories for sure, and an enlightening tour through their memories as I see some of them for the first time. 


My parents liked to travel and Dad's favorite direction was west.  I think he would've moved to Colorado if he could and they made several trips there.  Mom was the photographer and although her camera wasn't the best, she had a good eye for composition.  I found many beautiful shots in the archive. 


Film doesn't hold up forever, though; the colors fade, the media deteriorates with time.   Digital adjustments are bringing some of them back to life, and while I do that, there are a few that beg for something more ... a little artistic license. 


This image is one of those.  A train ride through the mountains, taken during the mid 1970's, we aren't exactly sure of the date.   The original is a little blurred, shooting out the window of a moving train will do that, and the colors rather dull.  So I played with it, added some texture, some color, a few highlights, and I liked what it became.  I wasn't sure how to sign it, or even if I should, since it wasn't my photograph, but it has now become my art.  I hope Mom would approve. 


]]> (Photography & Digital Art by DeGruy) Sun, 20 Jan 2013 06:41:32 GMT
Merry Christmas! IMG_0156



Christmas Day 2012 has dawned bright, sunny, and crispy cold.  The sky is bright blue, the breeze has a bite, and thanks to a storm last week, we have plenty of snow.  A typical Wisconsin Christmas. 


I put up a tree this year.  It's always a project and I admit that some years, I pass on it.  It's a nine footer, artificial, and requires two days and two ladders to get fully assembled, lit, and decorated.  There are always frustrations involved, primarily with the lights that never seem to work the following year.  But when it's finally done, I'm always happy that I did it. 


I've always been fascinated with the Christmas tree.  I can gaze at it for hours.  I love the lights, the colors, the sheer fantasy and magic of it.  We tried LED lights once but they just don't have the warm magical glow of the regular kind. 


Some of our ornaments have a special meaning, most are just there because I like them.  Our tree never has a theme, it's an eclectic mix, a little of everything, a lot like our lives.  I've inherited several ornaments from family members who've passed away that bring back memories. 


IMG_0205 A very special one of these old ornaments is a battered little Santa Clause made of styrofoam, construction paper, and cotton.  A child's project, one of those things that they make in Sunday School or kindergarten to give to their moms.  This one was made by my late brother when he was very young, in the early 1960's.  It's been on my mother's Christmas tree every year until she died in 2011.  Now it's on mine.  Santa is faded, yellowed, and fragile, but he still survives and helps keep the memories alive.


Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy, and successful New Year.  Enjoy and cherish your families, love one another, and keep the spirit of Christmas in your hearts all year long!


© 2012 Vicki DeGruy, all rights reserved.


Technical data:  Canon 5D MkII, ISO 320, 50mm, f/6.3, 1 second


More Christmas tree photos are in my gallery:











]]> (Photography & Digital Art by DeGruy) Tue, 25 Dec 2012 17:02:55 GMT
Rotary Gardens at Christmas 0R0C9406

Whenever I need a brief escape, a little bit of heaven is just a few minutes from home.  Rotary Botanical Gardens is the gem of Janesville, an award winning 20 acre paradise of horticultural beauty.  For a pittance of an admission fee, and sometimes it's even free, I can wander through breathtaking beauty for hours.  There's always something new or different to see every time I go and I always feel relaxed and refreshed afterward.  I never get enough of it and I always hate to leave.


I love photographing flowers and you will see lots of flower portraits, many from these gardens, as my blog continues. 


Last week, I joined hundreds of other people and visited their Holiday Light Show that's open on weekend evenings through the latter part of December.  There wasn't any snow on the ground yet but it didn't matter; the night was windless and pleasantly mild, perfect for photographs. 


There were literally dozens of photo opportunities but this one ... I knew as soon as I saw it that it would be ~the~ shot of the evening for me.  The vintage lady, who is one of my favorite subjects in the garden, did not disappoint.  She is such a lovely quiet spirit; this magical setting is perfect for her.  There were no filters used to achieve the star effects on the lights and very little post processing needed.  The exposure was perfect as it was.  The lady knows exactly how to present herself. 


© 2012 Vicki DeGruy, all rights reserved.

Canon 5D Mk III, 24-70mm @ 51mm, ISO 400, f/16, 5 seconds.


For a few more shots from that evening, visit my gallery at


For Rotary Gardens' blog and link to their home page, visit

]]> (Photography & Digital Art by DeGruy) Sat, 22 Dec 2012 00:36:17 GMT
Let there be peace ... peace-on-earth

It has been such a tragic week for Americans that it's been hard for me to know what to write or even whether to write.  So many people suffered unimaginable losses; my heart aches for them. 


When my soul is troubled, I seek out things and places that will bring calm and comfort, things that will quiet my mind.  Gardens are wonderful for that.  If I can't visit them in person, I can do it through pictures. 


Avery Island in south Louisiana is just such a place.  It's the home of the McIlhenny Tabasco company and of a 170 acre garden and sanctuary with live oaks, azaleas, camellias, iris, and exotic plants from all over the world.   My husband took me there in 2003.  I took dozens of pictures with my first digital camera which wasn't much compared to what I use today. 


In 1936, friends of Mr. Ned McIlhenny, the creator of garden, discovered a 900 year old statue of Buddha forgotten and unclaimed in a New York warehouse and had it sent to him as a surprise gift.  Sitting serenely inside a modest glass enclosed temple on a small hill overlooking a long pool, it now serves as a centerpiece to the garden.  The little temple came to mind this week, an oasis of peace in a troubled world. 


Our thoughts are powerful.  The Bible (Proverbs 3:27) and Buddha both teach that we become what we think.  Turning our thoughts toward peace brings it into our lives.  That is my wish for myself and all of you in the coming year, to think kind and peaceful thoughts and help make the world a better place.


© 2012 Vicki DeGruy, all rights reserved.


For more information about Jungle Gardens on Avery Island, visit and

]]> (Photography & Digital Art by DeGruy) Thu, 20 Dec 2012 01:59:35 GMT
Joy To The World! humming-33_Joy

2005 .... A warm mid-summer afternoon in northern Kentucky, lounging comfortably on friends' front porch, watching the world go by ... and watching dozens of hummingbirds buzzing at their feeders.  I couldn't resist making my first attempt at capturing some of God's little miracles.  I spent the whole rest of the day at it (which was probably not very sociable in my friends' eyes) and brought home hundreds of pictures, most of them not very good. 


Using my first DSLR bought not long before, I was still unfamiliar with the high speed shutter function as well as the many many other features it had.  Raised on mostly manual film cameras, this miniature computer with a lens (which is what a DSLR is essentially) took some getting used to.  Part way through the session, unbeknownst to me at the time because I was too intent on my subjects, I had inadvertently thumbed the aperture dial and grossly underexposed the birds, silhouetting them against the blue sky.  A waste of an awful lot of pictures, I thought when I saw them.


These early DSLR's didn't have a lot of the capabilities of today's cameras either.  The high ISO needed to get proper exposure for the lightning fast shutter speed that a hummingbird requires produced seriously grainy images.  Overall, I was quite disappointed and thought the session had been a bust.


I didn't delete them, though, something said not to.  They languished on the hard drive for years.  I came across them the other day and was intrigued by the silhouetted shapes.  Photo post-processing tools are a lot better now than they used to be; what might be gained from trying them on these older images?  Some noise reduction, a simple vignette, and I have this year's Christmas card!


Looking at an older image with a fresh perspective can give a picture a whole new life.  This image was not was I shooting for that day, but it's perfect for the message and emotion I want to express now. 


© 2012 Vicki DeGruy, all rights reserved.


Technical data:  Canon 10D, ISO 1600, f/13, 1/1500th sec. 



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]]> (Photography & Digital Art by DeGruy) Sat, 08 Dec 2012 21:06:49 GMT
"Is this Heaven?" IMG_0163_blog "It's Iowa." 


So answers Kevin Costner in the 1989 movie Field of Dreams, set in Dyersville, in northeastern Iowa.  Rolling hills, corn fields, red checkered tablecloths, pancake suppers.  You can still find women there who know how to make a double crust apple pie from scratch. 


My sister lives on a farm a little west of there in Delaware County, an area that made national news in 2010 when the earthen dam that created Lake Delhi gave way in torrential rains, damaging hundreds of structures and draining the 9 mile lake.  The most efficient way to her house was by the road over the dam which has yet to be rebuilt.


Delaware County is most definitely rural, more than a third of its entire economic output is from agriculture.  Its population of 17,000+ has not changed much up or down in 150 years.  Many families, like that of my brother-in-law, have farmed the same land for generations.  


The Amish have had a presence in Iowa since the mid-1800's.   Recently, new communities have been established in Delaware County; one new settlement is right up the road from my sister.  Last year, on a snowless but still cold Christmas, I looked out her front window and saw this young Amish couple out for a late afternoon drive to visit friends. 


If you'd like to see why some people mistake Iowa for Heaven, visit


© 2012 Vicki DeGruy, all rights reserved.


Technical data:  Canon 5D MK II, 24-70mm @ 70, ISO 400, f/3.5, 1/160th


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]]> (Photography & Digital Art by DeGruy) Sat, 01 Dec 2012 17:56:48 GMT
Capturing the soul IMG_9754_Cavalier_blog

I absolutely love doing dog portraits!  I relish every opportunity and hope there will be more of them. 


Canine portraiture, or anything involving animals, is more difficult than photographing humans because you can't direct them as you would a person.  "Tip your head this way", "Raise your chin a little", or "Smile!" doesn't work on a dog.  They have to be guided manually with a treat, a toy, or a noise.  And they get bored very quickly.  The squeak that worked so well a minute ago is simply ignored now.  Some of them just don't like the process at all. 


With the two beautiful Cavalier Spaniels that were recently brought to me, I wanted to produce a rich classic look with deep colors and especially wanted to emphasize their large beautiful soft eyes.  I didn't use any props because I didn't want anything to distract from the beautiful face.


While her housemate seemed to know he was a star and posed like one, this little girl was unsure of what we wanted her to do.  But as is this breed's nature, she tried really hard to please us.  Her picture captures everything I was going for:  a gaze into the sweet, gentle, adoring soul that makes the Cavalier so very special.


© 2012 Vicki DeGruy, all rights reserved.


Technical data:  Canon 5D MK II, 50mm, ISO 200, f/9, 1/250th, lit with softboxes





]]> (Photography & Digital Art by DeGruy) Tue, 27 Nov 2012 23:27:14 GMT
The Colors of Autumn IMG_2353


Can any photographer resist the fall with its spectacular colors that we're treated to only once a year?  I often wish that things looked like this all year long, although I suppose we would come to take them for granted. 


This year's autumn came early to southern Wisconsin.  Despite the summer's drought, the color was spectacular but unusually fleeting.  The trees peaked quickly and because of work commitments, I didn't out and get as many pictures as I would've liked. 


When time is short but I just have to get away from the computer for awhile, I go to Janesville's Rotary Gardens.  Only a few minutes from home, it's like stepping into another world.  Constantly changing, something different to see every time, it always delights and never gets old. 


There is so much beauty all around us, one just has to stop and make time to see it.  Sometimes it's big and obvious, right in front of your face.  Sometimes you just have to look a little closer. 


Technical data:  Canon 50D, ISO 200, f/6.3, 1/60, 24-70mm @ 70. 


© 2012 Vicki DeGruy, all rights reserved.

]]> (Photography & Digital Art by DeGruy) Sun, 25 Nov 2012 02:42:41 GMT
Thankful for family portraits IMG_0180_blog Do most families gather after the holiday dinner for an informal portrait, shot by whomever remembered to bring a camera?  When I was growing up, the photographer was Grandma who rousted us from whatever position had been comfortably assumed (often napping after all that turkey) and insisted on not just one but several shots each with a different selection of personnel, i.e. just the kids, just the adults, just this or that side of the family.  It could take quite awhile and we children looked on it as an ordeal to be dreaded.  Resistance was futile. 


Looking back on those pictures, though, I'm glad she took them even though the hair styles, clothes, and awkwardness of growing up is a little embarrassing now.  Families are priceless and should be documented often. 


This portrait was shot last Christmas; it represents my side of our family, my two sisters and brother, their children and significant others.  Since then, Nick & Nichole, top row, second & third from left, have welcomed a baby daughter that I'll get to meet soon.  We'll all be gathering in a month for the wedding of Shelli & Scott, center on the couch. 


At the time, I wanted more organization to the picture, better composition, and tried to direct people toward that intention.  But this is an independent bunch and they posed where and how they wanted.  It was shot quickly and painlessly, and in the end, I really like how it came out.  It reflects who they are and what our family holidays are like these days:  casual, warm, relaxed, friendly, happy to be together. 


I'm so thankful for this family, for their unconditional love and support.  I wish all of God's blessings upon them, and upon you and your family as well.  Happy Thanksgiving to all of you, and definitely take a picture!


Technical data:  Canon 5D MK II, 2 Speedlites fired thru white umbrellas, ISO 200, f/8, 1/60, 24-70mm @ 27. 


© 2011 Vicki DeGruy, all rights reserved.




]]> (Photography & Digital Art by DeGruy) Thu, 22 Nov 2012 18:07:30 GMT
I am thankful for ... IMG_2604_Phil_630px


Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day.  I have a long list of things to be thankful for.  At the top of that list is my husband, Phil.  He came into my life almost 20 years ago and has integrated himself pretty much seamlessly. 


He is the unpaid kennel help, the lead electrician, grip, best boy, photo assistant, computer-fixer, all-around handyman, confidante, and my bestest best friend.  He provides unflagging support in all my (sometimes hare-brained) endeavors.  Couldn't live without him. 


This picture was taken during a living room practice session, just fooling around with a Speedlite and a new softbox.  Nothing fancy, just Phil being my model while I played with the light.   It's my favorite picture of him because it so captured everything I love about him. 


Tomorrow he's cooking the turkey (yes, he even cooks, too!).  We'll kick back, watch football, maybe a movie.  And give thanks to God for bringing us together. 


Technical data:  Canon 50D, ISO 160, f/5.6, 1/125, 24-70mm @ 70.  Canon 430 Speedlite inside small Lastolite EZBox.


© 2011 Vicki DeGruy, all rights reserved.

]]> (Photography & Digital Art by DeGruy) Wed, 21 Nov 2012 18:26:53 GMT
The Wonder of Dogs IMG_0354_beardie-blog Is there any other creature whose soul is so readily visible than the dog?  Right out there in front of everyone, nothing hidden, so vulnerable and open.  They offer their whole selves to us, their entire being, and ask so little in return. 


Dogs have been part of my life since I was very small, beginning with the old fashioned Collies on the farm where I grew up.  They slept in the barn, watched over the place, keep me entertained.  My grandmother raised Poodles and we even had one of those as a farm dog for a time.  She seemed to love her life, she was always up for whatever trouble we kids could get into. 


After picking the corn in the fall, the cornstalks were chopped into fodder for cattle bedding.  This fodder was piled up in the upper level of the barn, huge piles that reached the upper rafters.  My brother and I would climb up as high we could, jump onto the fodder pile, and somersault all the way to the bottom.  Tammy the Poodle was right there with us, rolling and tumbling alongside, then scrambling back up to do it all again.  She never tired of it. 


This young Bearded Collie was photographed at a fun match in 2011.  A fun match is a practice dog show where puppies learn how to be show dogs.  But make no mistake, under that perfectly groomed coat is a spirit that would love to play in the corn fodder as long as you were there to play with him. 


© 2011 Vicki DeGruy, all rights reserved.

]]> (Photography & Digital Art by DeGruy) Mon, 19 Nov 2012 22:21:06 GMT