The Benefits of Nature Photography In Your Home

Benefits of Nature Photography in Your Home

Sure, a long hike or a weekend camping trip are great ways to unwind and escape reality for a little bit, but why bother with all the bugs or the blisters or the sunburn when you could bring nature to you? Imagine it — all that majesty and mystery and sunlight and water contained in your own personal portal hanging on your wall. All without ever leaving your home.

The driving rain on your windows can’t dampen the sunshine inside. Do you live in Arizona? Well, THIS is called snow. Imagine it falling gently in your living room. Whatever escape you’re looking for, you can have it — all it takes is the right hook to hang it on the wall. Of course there is no true replacement to being immersed in nature, but why limit yourself when you can have the best of both worlds?

Whether you’re looking for an excuse to bail on your next camping trip or not, displaying nature photography in your home can have a real impact on your overall health and mood. Nature photography has even been scientifically proven to have mental and physical health benefits. No more camping and an anxiety cure? Sounds like a dream come true.

You can almost hear the hush of the cool morning fog enveloping this tree lined driveway near Snoqualmie, Washington. Fine Art Limited Edition of 100.

Fun Fact: Your Brain Doesn’t Know What’s Real

Apparently, your brain has the same reaction to looking at nature as it does to actually being in nature. While I feel a little guilty about playing this trick on my brain, what a cool shortcut to health and happiness, you know?

The fact of the matter is that people who live in cities and urban areas are 17% more likely to suffer psychological distress of some kind — anxiety, depression, the usual. You might be thinking you’re perfectly fine living your big city life, fulfilling your big city dreams. I’m sure you’re right. But like it or not, nature is absolutely mandatory in some capacity in order for our brains to function properly. We need it every once in a while to stay sane. Let’s face it, even New Yorkers — the definitive city-dwellers, if you will — live in a city that’s centerpiece is a huge park, meant to give them a much needed break from the high energy, high intensity lifestyle of the city.

There’s a reason why nature-based therapy is a real thing. Studies find that those who live in close proximity to nature have higher life satisfaction and a more positive outlook on life. Simply observing nature can improve productivity, concentration, and even limit the effects of stress, anxiety, and depression. Nature scenes nourish our brains in ways that the city can’t; real or photograph simply doesn’t matter — our brains respond to these stimuli in the same rejuvenating way.

Fine Art Limited Edition of 100 by Aaron Reed

Study after study show that nature lowers our stress levels and helps us feel happier. Why do you think we try to take so many activities that could be enjoyed indoors and move them outdoors? Most of us would much rather walk through a park than walk on a treadmill. I can shop at a big grocery store, but I’m much happier at a weekend farmers market in the square on an autumn afternoon.

The point is, your brain thrives when it gets a regular dose of nature. And when you can’t get out into nature as much as you might like, you might as well do the next best thing and surround yourself with it inside. Filling your home with nature photography will remind your brain of all the things it finds calming, rejuvenating, and healing about the outside world and trigger the same mental boost you might get from a tree-lined jog through the park — your attitude, your focus, and even your overall mental health will dramatically improve.

A beautiful autumn morning blanketed by fog inside the Kubota garden in Seattle, Washington. Fine Art Limited Edition of 50.

Nature Literally Heals

Quick story time. In the early 1980s, a researcher visited a hospital in a small town in Pennsylvania. The patients in the wing he visited were all recovering from gallbladder surgery in identical rooms. The surgery was simple and most patients recovered in a week or two. However, the researcher started to wonder about what caused the “or two” part of the equation. What small differences made the recovery time vary from patient to patient?

The difference was this: some rooms on one side of the hospital faced a brick wall, while others had a view of a small stand of trees. Do you see where this is going? On average, the patients with the view of the lovely wall needed an extra day to recover before getting to go home. They were also more likely to be depressed during their stay and experienced more pain than their lucky, tree-viewing counterparts. Apart from the views, the rooms were identical. Their treatment was identical. The patients were all very similar. There was no explanation other than the differing views. The bottom line: the patients who had a view of nature literally recovered faster than those stuck looking at the brick wall.

A small patch of aspen trees displaying beautiful autumn foliage with red undergrowth located near Tumwater Canyon in Leavenworth, Washington. Fine Art Limited Edition of 50.

Continued studies have found that natural environments routinely speed up the body’s ability to heal; even adding houseplants to your life can speed up the process. As pretty as that Spider Plant on your coffee table is, a houseplant can’t make you feel like you live at the base of a picturesque mountain or remind you of the babble of a tumbling waterfall every morning when you wake up. Nature photography can.

If you still need further convincing, the International Journal of Health Geographics released a study that showed that nature images even provided viewers with protection from having a stroke. Similarly, in areas with fewer trees, residents had a higher risk of stroke mortality. So, looking at nature images can literally save your life. And who doesn’t want to live longer and healthier? You might even say that investing in nature photography is an important investment in your health. Who needs health insurance or a low sodium diet when you’ve got some nicely framed trees? I really have your best interests at heart, here.

Fine Art Limited Edition of 50 by Aaron Reed

All Jokes Aside

While I’m no scientist, I do experience the powerful impact of nature every single day when I head out to capture my next photograph. I know how nature makes me feel and I want to bring that to your home. I also believe in the long history of studies that have shown us the lasting impact of regularly viewing nature images and am proud to contribute to whatever benefits — health or otherwise — you might reap from owning my work.

More than anything, my goal is to show you views of our natural world in ways you’ve never seen them before. After all, displaying nature photography in your home gives you the opportunity to make believe you live anywhere in the world. And as we previously established, your brain can’t actually tell what’s real. So, if you fill your home with dramatic images of Iceland or the majestic mountains of Colorado… in a way, don’t you actually live there?

Elevate your home with Aaron Reed’s limited edition photography print, Wild Beauty, from his Amazing Tree Photography collection. Order yours today! Fine Art Limited Edition of 50.

Elevate your home with Aaron Reed’s limited edition photography print, Skyfire, from his Newest Work Photography collection. Order yours today! Fine Art Limited Edition of 50.

Transform your space with Aaron Reed’s limited edition photography print, Colorblast, from his Abstract Nature Photography collection. Order yours today! Fine Art Limited Edition of 50.

Andre Donawa – Portrait of a Photographer

Blue Water Ridge

For many nature and landscape photographers, the need to travel to distant exotic locations is paramount to the process of being able to create a diverse body of work that has a lasting impact, surprise, and depth. Surely trips to Iceland, Patagonia, Tibet, the USA National Parks, Greenland, the Faroes, and Indonesia can yield some incredible photographs; however, what if your home is a 167-square mile island and you choose to never leave your island for photography?

Cousteau’s influence on Andre’s work is quite prevalent not only in subject but also in how “exploratory” it feels to the viewer.

Do you think you can muster what it takes to produce a body of work that is compelling, personally expressive, interesting, and creative? The subject of today’s essay, Andre Donawa, based on the island of Barbados – a country with a population of just 287,000, has set out to do just that – create a body of interesting landscape photography solely from his home island.

Andre’s photography origin story is not unlike many of our own – in 2012, he picked up the camera to take some photographs of food for his family restaurant and the magic of pressing the shutter just overtook him like a virus. Armed with a degree in biology, Andre revisited local haunts on his island with a fresh perspective through the camera. His early inspiration as a photographer was Jacques Cousteau, the famous oceanic explorer, filmmaker, and co-inventor of the modern-age SCUBA diving systems. Cousteau’s influence on Andre’s work is quite prevalent not only in subject but also in how “exploratory” it feels to the viewer. When I first came across Andre’s work, I was instantly transported to Barbados and visually invited to feast on the peculiarities of his discoveries on the coast and in the water of his island. To be perfectly frank, I was quite surprised I had not discovered his work sooner. Andre’s work is filled with personal expression and conveys a unique take on a place he has become quite familiar with.

Frangipani Skies

Certainly, a photographer can gain a tremendous advantage through the intimacy of place. Andre is no exception to this idea; however, I think below the surface (pun intended), there’s more to discover in his work. Through his imagery, I see a passionate familiarity with the subject that enriches his photographs and exudes creativity and conveys a subtle playfulness. I strongly believe that revisiting familiar locations and subjects repeatedly, while potentially boring on the surface, can force a photographer to develop a long-term relationship that will eventually yield more creative work that feels personal and expressive to the photographer (and viewer!)

The advantage of this approach is that one never truly gets tired of making images, and there is always a new challenge to explore with a familiar friend in the landscape. I have done this myself with mountain and autumn photography in Colorado, and I never grow tired of engaging with these places every single year with fresh eyes. Andre’s approach is one to take note of. I encourage other photographers to implement something similar in their own work – either through revisiting the same locations or by photographing the same subjects. The results will come over time.

Through his imagery, I see a passionate familiarity with the subject that enriches his photographs and exudes creativity and conveys a subtle playfulness.

Magic in the Mud

One aspect of Andre’s work that I have come to personally enjoy as a viewer is his wave photography, which seems to convey a multitude and range of emotions and states of being, from happy, excited, nervous, and curious. It is hard to believe that photographing waves and wave patterns from your home island can express such a wide range of emotions and feelings, but Andre has pulled it off! I’ve also come to enjoy his more intimate work that showcases interesting smaller scenes found on his coast, including stairs that seem to lead to nowhere, to a shoreline filled with a wonderful colour story and juxtaposition of the subject.

I would be remiss not to talk about two of his images that immediately struck me. The first is a visual power ballad of complexity and emotional impact showcasing massive crashing waves over a smaller wave. I was dumbfounded upon first seeing the photograph. The second is a very fascinating image of an oceanic sunset or sunrise that features waves and a wonderful colour palette.

The Great Wave

Waves of Summer

These unique and expressive images are generally only obtainable when a photographer has a very good understanding of his or her subject and has an energetic attitude towards it. I highly encourage you to think about what subjects or situations create the same in your own photography and to focus more of your energy and attention on that thing because the result will undoubtedly be an improvement in the overall impact and quality of your work. The trick is that it takes time and commitment to keep going back repeatedly, but the payoff is monumental, in my opinion.

If Andre’s work interests you, I encourage you to take a look at his book, Edge of Bim, which features photographs all captured from his island of Barbados over a 3-year period.

If Andre’s work interests you, I encourage you to take a look at his book, Edge of Bim, which features photographs all captured from his island of Barbados over a 3-year period.

These are the types of personal projects that inspire me, and I hope that it does you as well.

If you enjoyed this article and want to listen to my conversations with other great artists, consider subscribing to my podcast, “F-Stop Collaborate and Listen,” on your favourite podcatching application.

Do you know someone you feel has yet to be discovered and should be featured here? Send me an e-mail – I look forward to hearing from you.

Kenyan wins wildlife photography award

 2022 Mkapa Awards photo. (Courtesy)

Anthony Onyango is the 2022 Mkapa Awards Conservation Heroes winner. He will take home a grand prize award of $5,000 (Sh607,000), and a large, specially-commissioned stone elephant sculpture.

The winner was announced at a ceremony and exhibition held at the Kenya National Museum in Nairobi last week.

This year’s competition, which was organised by African Wildlife Foundation and Nature’s Best Photography attracted 9,500 entries from 57 countries including entrants from 16 African countries.

The competing categories include: African Conservation Heroes, Coexistence and Conflict, African Wildlife at Risk, Fragile Wilderness, African Wildlife Behavior, African Wildlife Portraits, Africa’s Backyard Wildlife, Art in Nature, Creative Digital, Mobile, Africa in Motion/Video, and two Youth Photographers of the Year, one inside Africa and one international.

Each of the category winners will receive $1,000 (Sh121,000) and a stone elephant sculpture.

The 77 prints and four videos shortlisted for various prizes will travel to other global locations throughout the year. In addition, all winners’ photographs will be displayed in large-format prints and high-definition video, along with Highly Honoured finalists at the museum in Nairobi through February 2023.

AWF chief executive Kaddu Sebunya said the competition and other strategic partnerships will help define and refine the African conservation agenda for development through these voices.

The awards are named in honour of the late former Tanzanian President, H.E. Benjamin Mkapa, for his dedication to conservation education throughout Africa, and his impactful support of AWF programmes across the continent.

“Nature photography goes beyond just taking a picture but informing and inspiring people to protect nature. It is truly an honour to be among the winners this year and it is a testament that we Africans have what it takes to emerge among the best,” Onyango said after receiving the award.


Related Topics

Story Behind the Image “Interested” – Barger Nature Photography

Polar Bear mother with her two month old cubs curiously surveying the area as they prepare to make the trek from Wapusk National Park to Hudson Bay.

It is three o’clock in the afternoon, I have been waiting four hours for a polar bear with her cubs to emerge from their den. I have three more days left until they close the backcountry lodge where I have been staying the past two weeks. The lodge that has been home these two weeks is called Watchee, a Cree word for forested ridge, located just outside Wapusk National Park located 30 miles south of Churchill, Manitoba in Canada. This will be my fifth visit to Wapusk, primarily to photograph polar bear mothers with their newborn cubs.

This type of photography requires an extreme amount of patience. Days can go by waiting for an opportunity to photograph polar bear mothers and their newborn cubs. This year has been unusual in that we have photographic opportunities almost every day. One day we stayed in the lodge and didn’t go out due to wind chill temperatures around -50 degrees C. It would not be unusual to spend two weeks here and have one or two sightings during the entire two weeks. This year has been, without question, the best year I have had for polar bear photography.

Wapusk is a denning site for polar bear mothers who come to the area in the fall to give birth to their cubs and leave their dens during February and March. Therefore, the middle of February to the mid-March is the prime time to photograph these polar bear mothers with their cubs.

This polar bear mother with her two cubs was photographed after leaving her den and preparing to make the 30 mile trek to Hudson Bay with her three month old cubs in tow. I had been photographing them for three hours as she rested on the snow with her two cubs nestled against her. It was approximately 2:00 in the afternoon when they began to move. She sat up and stretched and watched intently as the cubs played near her side. When playtime was over, she nursed the cubs directly in front of us. All during this time, the mother knew we were watching, but showed no signs of concern or stress. This is mainly due to the park regulations which require that everyone maintain a 100 yard distance from the bears and keep talking, movement, and noise to a minimum. This image was captured just as she was preparing to leave the area. She stood facing us with her two cubs on either side interested to see what we were doing. I hope you enjoy the image. More images to follow.

Alpine Lagoon ~ Desolation Wilderness

It’s been a busy few months since moving to Reno, starting a lab at UNR, making friends, skiing, biking, and welcoming a small dinosaur (parrot) into our home, but at long last Aubrey and I finally had a chance to do some backpacking over the past two weeks. Here’s a few images from our first trip.

To get back into the swing of hiking and camping we decided to take a short warmup trip to the Desolation Wilderness, an area I’ve heard of often, and probably visited many years ago, but have few memories of. The Desolation Wilderness is southwest of Lake Tahoe (just an hour from our home!), and is mostly known for the plentiful lakes. The largest and most famous, and in many ways most beautiful, is actually a shallow reservoir called Lake Aloha. I’m not sure who decided on the name, but it inspires a tropical hawaiian feeling that is surprisingly appropriate. Aubrey brought along an inner tube floaty and we took turns paddling among the many granite islands. The pine trees almost looked like palm trees, and despite the snowy backdrop, it almost felt like floating in a tropical lagoon.

Summer greenery impatiently appears as the winter snow finally begins to melt away in mid July in the Sierra Nevada.

The warm(ish) waters of lake Aloha and plentiful granite islands make for an almost tropical experience in the Sierra alpine. To get this view point I scrambled up to an overlook of polished granite.

Pollen collects along the shores of Lake Aloha in California’s Desolation Wilderness, arranging itself in gentle curves on the calm water. 

Tags: desolation wilderness, lake aloha, sierra

Complete guide to outdoor light in photography

August 1, 2022

Understanding light is an essential skill when it comes to mastering your photography, and in this complete guide to outdoor light, professional photographer David Noton guides us through the importance of light in photography, as well as some of the best times to shoot. 

Welcome to the AP Improve Your Photography Series – in partnership with MPB – This series is designed to take you from the beginnings of photography, introduce different shooting skills and styles, and teach you how to grow as a photographer, so you can enjoy producing amazing photography (and video), to take you to the next level, whether that’s making money or simply mastering your art form.

Each week you’ll find a new article so make sure to come back to continue your journey, and have fun along the way, creating great images. If you’ve found these articles helpful, don’t forget to share them with people you know who may be interested in learning new photography skills. You’ll find a whole range of further articles in this series.

My college lecturer used to assert that a good photographer could make a lump of coal look appealing with the skilful use of lighting. I never felt the need to prove his point, but my subsequent decades behind the lens have convinced me he was right. Even the Grand Canyon can look uninspiring under the flat grey light of an overcast day, whilst a view of some flat Essex fields can be transformed into a breathtaking vision by evocative dawn light.

What is the importance of light in photography?

Light is our raw material; the building block that makes or breaks our pictures. In fact, lighting is so important to the finished image that I often feel I photograph the light more than the subject.

We photographers need to see the light, and I mean really see it, feel it and understand it in all its endless forms and subtleties. When contemplating a scene the first thing to do is consider where the light is coming from. And beyond seeing what is happening now we need to predict the light that will best illuminate the picture we have in mind at different times of the day and year.

Anticipating what could happen with the light in a few minutes, an hour, later the same day, the next morning, in a few months or next year is a fundamental photographic skill. It comes with experience and is the product of every photographic vigil, productive or otherwise. Standing by the tripod watching the light paint a landscape is never time wasted.

We have the obvious time options – daylight, dawn, dusk or night. Beyond those we have the directional aspect to consider; do we want the main light to come from the front, back, side or above the subject, or a combination? Then there’s the nature and colour quality of the light: high or low, hard or soft, warm or cool? In truth, most lighting situations in the natural world are a subtle fusion, and the permutations are endless.

Guide to outdoor light – Colour temperature

All light sources have a colour temperature, expressed in Kelvin. The light our planet receives from the sun is constant, but as the Earth rotates what we receive on the surface goes through radical daily transformations.

What are the different types of light called?

  • Daylight
  • Golden hour
  • Twilight
  • Blue hour
  • Night

All have their appeal, but atmospheric conditions, the weather, our position on the globe and the time of year are all factors affecting the nature of the light painting the landscape. That’s why, after a lifetime behind the lens, I still feel I’m only beginning to appreciate the endless subtleties of natural light.

Take any photo group out at sunset or sunrise and most will be transfixed by the sun peeping over the horizon. It takes mental effort to turn away and observe the far more subtle lighting effects playing on the landscape and sky to the north or south, but that’s where the photographic gold dust lies.

Seeing it is one thing, predicting it is something else. Our ability to pre-visualise these lighting situations is what sets photographers apart. It’s a skill to be honed, so read on for details on how to shoot using various types of natural light.

Guide to outdoor light – Daylight

Chocolate Hills, Bohol, The Visayas, Philippines. Canon EOS 5D Mk II, 24-70mm, 1/40sec at f/5.6, ISO 100

At noon the overhead sunlight has had the shortest passage through the atmosphere so it is neutral in colour balance; what we term daylight, with a colour temperature of 5200K, give or take a few Kelvin. Generally speaking the hard vertical light of midday is the least favourable to work with.

Shadows are hard, contrast is high; time was I wouldn’t touch the camera after 10am and before 4pm. But ideas change and I’m confronting some of my more entrenched assumptions. Sometimes the skies in the middle of the day have billowing cumulonimbus and streaking cirrus clouds that beg to be captured.

Guide to outdoor light – The golden hour

Loch Maree and Slioch, Wester Ross, Scotland. Canon EOS 5DS R, 24-70mm, 1sec at f/11, ISO 100

The contrast between the warm highlights and the cool shadows enhances the scene with the complementary colours of orange and blue. The last golden light of a crystal-clear evening after a rain shower is perfect for revealing all the form, texture and scale of a landscape. How soft the light of the golden hour is depends on the clarity of the atmosphere. Light that is too soft can be too insipid for big views but perfect for details.

When is the golden hour in photography?

The golden hour is the “hour” just before sunset, or just after sunrise, known as the golden hour, or sometimes the “magic hour” and gives a warm glow to objects in your scene lit by this light. You can see it clearly on light buildings, where the orange contrasts beautifully with the blue sky. The length of time this lasts will change depending on the time of year, so may last less time than a full hour.

Guide to outdoor light – Night photography

The Milky Way and night sky over Lago Roca, Patagonia. Canon EOS -1D X, 14mm, 20 secs at f/4, ISO 12,800

The night sky is an enticing subject, and we have the ability to capture it in all its glory. Including a landscape in the scene as well as being in the right place at the right time takes planning, and a truly clear night is essential. The capability of modern DSLRs to work with minimal noise at high sensor speeds makes this possible.

Guide to outdoor light – Twilight

Malham Moor, Yorkshire Dales at dawn. Canon EOS-1Ds, TS-E 24mm, 5 secs at f/13, ISO 100

Minutes before the sun rises and after it sets, the light reaching Earth goes through some great transformations. Whilst direct rays are absent we are still bathed in twilight from the sun below the horizon. That twilight reaches us as the last rays of sunlight bounce off the bottom of clouds and down into the landscape, and as residual ambient light that the atmosphere has scattered. The two combine, which is why this time of day is so special and worth rising before the crack of dawn or lingering as dinner beckons to witness.

When is twilight in photography?

Twilight happens in the minutes before the sun rises, and the minutes after the sun sets, just after the golden hour. As the amount of light reduces, you’ll be able to see the colour of the scene change before your eyes.

Guide to outdoor light – The blue hour

Dawn, Loch Maree, Scotland. Canon EOS 5DS R, TS-E 24mm, 6secs at f/16, ISO 100

The residual ambient half-light that either brightens as dawn approaches or dims as dusk settles has had all of the warmth stripped from it after being bounced and scattered through the atmosphere. Its colour temperature is sky-high, well in excess of 10,000K, resulting in a very blue light, and virtually non-directional. This cool monochromatic twilight is a favourite for those hooked on seascapes with slow exposures of swirling water. It’s also the perfect light for night shots of illuminated landmarks, when the artificial lights of our towns and cities perfectly match the lingering tones of the twilight sky.

When is the blue hour in photography?

The blue “hour” is again, not necessarily a whole hour long, depending on the time of the year (and where you are located). It happens after sunset, and before sunrise, and covers the scene with a blue light. As there isn’t much light, it can stretch your camera’s low-light performance, but can give your images a beautiful look that’s different to the norm.

Guide to outdoor light – Direction of light

With such wide discrepancies dependent on our location when planning a shoot we need to know when the sun is due to come and go, and where in the sky it will rise and set. I have to admit I rely on experience, but it pays to be precise. Apps such as The Photographer’s Ephemeris and PhotoPills are handy, but I’m cautious of relying on them. We still need to ascertain which direction we want the light to be coming from to paint the landscape best – front, back, side or above.

Side lighting

Late-afternoon cross lighting reveals all of the detail and form in the landscape at Malham in the Yorkshire Dales. Canon EOS-1DS Mark III, 70-200mm, 1/6sec at f/11, ISO 100

Side lighting is my favoured default for landscape work. The low rays of a rising or setting sun slanting across a scene reveal every shape, texture and contour in the landscape. Shadows provide strong shapes and every detail from the poppies in the foreground to the distant mountains beyond is apparent.


Sun rising behind Salisbury Cathedral, Wiltshire. Canon EOS-1DS Mark II, 24-100mm, 1/100sec at f/11, ISO 100

Backlighting can often be the route to graphic impact. Shooting into the light is beset with problems – flare, exposure and contrast to name a few, but strong shapes backlit and silhouetted against a dramatic sky often have a bold simplicity that can be very powerful.

The big drawback though is any tantalising detail in the shadowy foreground will be lost. How much detail is sacrificed depends entirely on the contrast range between the rocky vegetation and the bright sky; softer light allows us to retain more foreground detail, whilst stronger more dramatic light renders silhouettes and foregrounds black.

We have strategies for tackling that immense contrast range; namely graduated filters or exposure merging, but there is a limit to what can be achieved without the loss of all credibility. In my book any such wizardry needs to be done with subtlety if believability is to be retained.

Front lighting

The exception to the rule: front lighting on Llyn Dinas at dawn, Snowdonia, Wales. Canon EOS 5DS R, 24-70mm, 1/125sec at f/8, ISO 200

Full frontal light from directly behind the photographer leaves little to the imagination; all is revealed with maximum stark illumination, usually with the photographer’s shadow thrown in, but the harsh flattening effect and lack of shadow/highlight contrast rarely shows a landscape or indeed any subject off to its best; it’s an unappealing light that I avoid like the plague.

Top lighting

Diffuse top lighting is perfect for shooting woodland and water. Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 24-70mm, 1.6sec at f/16, ISO 100

When the clouds coalesce into an oppressive grey ceiling the low-contrast diffuse top lighting can be just the job for woodland and canyons. When the clouds close in there’s also the option of turning the camera on faces; it’s the perfect light for portraiture.

Guide to outdoor light – Light on my local patch

Durdle Door and St Oswald’s Bay, Jurassic Coast, Dorset. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, 100-400mm, 13secs at f/32, ISO 100

Dorset’s Jurassic Coast is my home patch where I have the luxury of being able to choose precisely the best time of year to shoot a specific location. The east-west aspect of the coastline makes shooting most locations between the spring and autumn equinoxes unfeasible; the sun is rising and setting over the land to the north, which casts its shadow across the cliffs and beaches. In the short days of winter though, when the sun is rising to the southeast and setting in the southwest, tantalising side lighting bathes the white cliffs and coves. It’s a view I never tire of, and one that provides endless inspiration.

David Noton is recognised as a leading landscape and travel photographer. His passion for photography, travel and the world’s beautiful places are the defining influences that have shaped his life, work and his creative approach to photography. His images sell all over the world – both as fine-art photography and commercially in advertising and publishing. Visit

Tune in next week, for the next article in the series of the AP Improve Your Photography Series – in partnership with MPB.

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Japanese Garden Photography Wall Art

The Art of Japanese Gardens

Humans have always struggled to find ways of keeping in touch with nature as farming, industry, and modern cities have pushed away and fenced off the natural world around us.

Solutions to this problem have ranged from National Parks to municipal landscaping, but none have rivaled the harmony and perfect synthesis of the traditional Japanese garden. For a millennium and a half, these sculpted enclaves of nature have provided inspiration and relaxation, and today they are widely viewed by photographers, artists, architects, and more as one of the most beautiful and important expressions of art and design.

A legendary Japanese maple at the height of its autumn spendor sits on a hillside inside the Japanese garden in Portland, Oregon. Fine Art Limited Edition of 100.

The History of Japanese Gardens

Japanese gardens were first imported from China in the 6th century Asuka period, when Chinese gardening methods and design elements were fused with aspects of the local landscape. The high mountains, great forests, running streams, and deep valleys were all reproduced in miniature around the palaces of nobles, the only ones who could afford such stylistic expression at the time.

Chinese influence increased during the Heian Period (794-1185), when much of the Tang Dynasty governmental apparatus, writing system, and culture were imported to the Japanese islands. Zen Buddhism began to flourish during this period, and more complex ideas about organization, flow, and aesthetic were combined with philosophical doctrines to produce the first set of stylistic principles for garden design.

These ideas were further developed and cemented during the Kamakura Period (1192-1333), rendering these gardens more recognizable and popular. By the time of the Muromachi Period (1338-1573), they were seeing wider adoption by the public in shared and private spaces. This resulted in a profusion of new styles and philosophies, and by the Edo Period (1603-1867), garden design had become a nationwide artform, engaged in by every level of society.

Since the 1800s, many Japanese households have transformed their traditional interior courtyards into smaller gardens. Because of the spatial constraints, miniaturization is often taken to the extreme, and looking out from the rooms of the house, one has the sense of gazing out over a vast wild landscape. This importation into the home has also allowed each individual or family to design their gardens according to their own aesthetic sensibilities. Today, new creative ideas and elements are emerging all the time alongside a continued respect for and preservation of the antique gardens still standing.

A small twisted Japanese maple tree shows off its autumn color inside the Japanese garden in Portland, Oregon. Fine Art Limited Edition of 50.

Beauty By Design | Essential Elements

The many different styles of Japanese garden each have their own sets of elements and features, but there is much overlap, and some parts which are shared by all.


Water is a core aspect of Japanese gardens. Water can either be represented literally, by small streams, miniature waterfalls, small ponds, or placid lakes. Dry riverbeds are also relatively common, invoking the essence of a flowing river or paying homage to the islands’ dry season. In Zen rock gardens, sand and gravel represent water while not impinging on the spatial balance. Japanese gardens always have water, either a pond or stream, or, in the dry rock garden, represented by white sand. In Buddhist symbolism, water and stone are the yin and yang, two opposites that complement and complete each other. A traditional garden will usually have an irregular-shaped pond or, in larger gardens, two or more ponds connected by a channel or stream, and a cascade, a miniature version of Japan’s famous mountain waterfalls.

Fine Art Limited Edition of 50 – Japanese gardens first appeared on the island of Honshu, the large central island of Japan. Their aesthetic was influenced by the distinct characteristics of the Honshu landscape: rugged volcanic peaks, narrow valleys, mountain streams with waterfalls and cascades, lakes, and beaches of small stones. They were also influenced by the rich variety of flowers and different species of trees, particularly evergreen trees, on the islands, and by the four distinct seasons in Japan, including hot, wet summers and snowy winters.


One of the most stunning aspects of Japanese gardens is their botanical variety. Twisted and moss covered trees are one of my personal favorite photographic subjects. Most gardens are populated by carefully manicured evergreens, their twisting forms calling to mind windswept coastlines or high mountain passes. Cherry trees spread their rosy blossoms over rolling meadows bounded by expertly carved shrubbery. Japanese maple trees have become synonymous with the natural harmony of these gardens, and their star-shaped leaves exchange their vibrant colors with the passing of each Autumn before falling silently to rest on the soil below. Emerald mosses are encouraged to mottle the grey stones of walkways and paths.

Rocks & Sand

Rock, sand and gravel are an essential feature of the Japanese garden. A vertical rock may represent Mount Horai, the legendary home of the Eight Immortals, or Mount Sumeru of Buddhist teaching, or a carp jumping from the water. A flat rock might represent the earth. Sand or gravel can represent a beach, or a flowing river. Rocks and water also symbolize yin and yang (in and in Japanese) in Buddhist philosophy; the hard rock and soft water complement each other, and water, though soft, can wear away rock.

In ancient Japan, sand (suna) and gravel (jari) were used around Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples. Later it was used in the Japanese rock garden or Zen Buddhist gardens to represent water or clouds. White sand represented purity, but sand could also be gray, brown or bluish-black.

The Portland Japanese garden boasts multiple maple trees, but none more famous than this lace leaf maple photographed at the height of autumn. Fine Art Limited Edition of 200.


To replicate the foggy mountainscape of Japan’s high places, artificial islands are constructed in many gardens. Their tops offer stunning vistas of the miniature landscape below and their bases are often bordered by lakes and ponds, representing the ocean. These features, along with the trees, create a much more interesting and diverse topography, with many different levels and angles serving to alternatively hide and reveal various aspects of the space.

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Beneath the shady boughs and in many a hidden glen, visitors to Japanese gardens will find collections of statuary. These sculptures may depict monks, philosophers, ordinary folk, or even the Buddha himself. Like the many stones in these gardens, they too are encouraged to affect a mosaic of colored lichens and moss.

Bridges and Walkways

Not only the appearance of Japanese gardens is important, but also their presentation. Paths and promenades wind through the landscape, revealing new scenes and vistas with every turn. Allowing visitors to experience each little spot of beauty one at a time creates a much more immersive and interesting experience than laying everything out all at once. To cross the many ponds and streams, various ornamented bridges are included. The eye-catching moon bridges can be difficult to cross at times because of their profound arc, but add to the mystic ambience of the gardens.

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Some gardens, especially those constructed in the Zen tradition, may feature small shrines and temples to various deities and religious figures. Not all of these are accessible to the visiting public, but their towering pagodas or secluded refuges are a nice human touch which blend with the nature around them.


Another kind of sculpture which deserves its own section are the Japanese stone lanterns or tōrō. These can be hidden away among the shady trees and shrubbery or gathered in rows or collections along the garden paths. Traditionally, lanterns are composed of five parts representing the five elements of nature—earth, water, fire, air, and spirit. Much improvisation and creative innovation has taken place in lantern design, and not all elements may be present, but most still retain their carved base, taloned cap, and void-like central chamber.

A beautiful autumn morning blanketed by fog inside the Kubota garden in Seattle, Washington. Fine Art Limited Edition of 50.


The use of fish, particularly nishiki-goi (colored carp), medaka or goldfish as a decorative element in gardens was borrowed from the Chinese garden. Goldfish were developed in China more than a thousand years ago by selectively breeding Prussian carp for color mutations. By the Song dynasty (960–1279), yellow, orange, white and red-and-white colorations had been developed. Goldfish were introduced to Japan in the 16th century. Koi were developed from common carp (Cyprinus carpio) in Japan in the 1820s. Koi are domesticated common carp that are selected or culled for color; they are not a different species, and will revert to the original coloration within a few generations if allowed to breed freely. In addition to fish, turtles are kept in some gardens. Natural environments in the gardens offer habitats that attract wild animals; frogs and birds are notable as they contribute with a pleasant soundscape.

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The Art and Experience of the Japanese Garden

Together, these and many other design elements have been mixed and matched to derive a multitude of unique styles and aesthetics. Regardless of how they are arranged, though, a deep harmony is always achieved which has fascinated and inspired artists and the public for centuries.

Gardens have figured heavily in Japanese art since their creation. Paper prints, screens, and household items from many eras display nobles strolling alongside lakes beneath maples and cherry trees. Other works focus on the gardens themselves, reproducing quiet scenes from the interior courtyards and temple grounds that have always dotted cities Kyoto and Tokyo. Even today, gardens are often seen in manga and animated shows and movies, given meticulous detail to further publicize the beauty and history of their design.

Photographers have been especially taken with the artistic precision and attention to composition and view in these spaces. Photography is one of the best ways to capture the numerous unique perspectives and minute details of these gardens, and many professional photographers visit them throughout the year to document and capture the seasonal changes and variations in light and atmosphere. The fine artworks produced by professional photographers have also helped to drive greater appreciation for these sacred spaces across the globe.

Anyone who has visited a Japanese garden will be familiar with the sense of calm and peaceful tranquility which pervades them. Many come to see the wonders of their natural design, others to unwind, relax, and reflect. Throughout the world they are known as pinnacles of aesthetic excellence, and though much has changed since their inception, they still speak to the deeper need we all have to join our daily lives to the natural world.

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The Portland Japanese Garden

As a Portland native, the Portland Japanese Garden will always be a special place to me and one that I visit almost every year to photograph during the autumn season when the garden springs to life with color.

The Portland Japanese Garden sits nestled in the hills of Portland, Oregon’s iconic Washington Park, overlooking the city and providing a tranquil, urban oasis for locals and travelers alike. Designed in 1963, it encompasses 12 acres with eight separate garden styles, and includes an authentic Japanese Tea House, meandering streams, intimate walkways, and a spectacular view of Mt. Hood. This is a place to discard worldly thoughts and concerns and see oneself as a small but integral part of the universe.

Born out of a hope that the experience of peace can contribute to a long lasting peace. Born out of a belief in the power of cultural exchange. Born out of a belief in the excellence of craft, evidence in the Garden itself and the activities that come from it. Born out of a realization that all of these things are made more real and possible if we honor our connection to nature.

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Portland Japanese Garden Art

The Portland Japanese Garden is a natural vehicle through which to explore Japanese art and design. Art exhibitions explore ideas and aesthetics integral to the fabric of life in Japan. Introducing a wide array of artists and art forms, these exhibitions will reflect on ways we experience peace through connections to art, nature, and one another.

Of all the work I have produced over the years, images created inside the Portland Japanese Garden has been some of my most successful. The simplicity, serenity and peace found inside the garden can be brought inside your home through beautiful artwork created here. To see more and take a virtual stroll through the garden from your chair, please browse the rest of my Japanese Gardens Art Collection and find a piece to bring home to your collection today!

While fall is the season of choice to photograph this popular Japanese Maple tree, the end of summer provides fresh green growth and a distinctly difference yet equally beautiful image inside the Portland Japanese Garden in Oregon State. Fine Art Limited Edition of 100.

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16 Most photo-worthy spots in Birmingham!

Birmingham is a city in the north central region of the U.S. state of Alabama. Birmingham is the seat of Jefferson County, Alabama’s most populous county. As of 2020, Birmingham had a population of 200,733, making it Alabama’s second-most populous city after Huntsville. The broader Birmingham metropolitan area had a 2020 population of 1,115,289, and is the largest metropolitan area in Alabama as well as the 50th-most populous in the United States. Birmingham serves as an important regional hub and is associated with the Deep South, Piedmont, and Appalachian regions of the nation.

In Birmingham you will find some beautiful attractions that you just cannot miss! Places like Birmingham Museum Of Art, Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, and Ruffner Mountain Nature Center and many more. Continue reading to know more.

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The bright and beautiful, Birmingham Museum of Art.

Founded in 1951, the Birmingham Museum of Art in Birmingham, Alabama, has undoubtedly one of the finest art collections in the Southeastern United States. The Museum features a large collection of paintings and sculptures from the Renaissance and Baroque periods. There are more than 25,000 objects that represent a rich panorama of cultures from Asian, European, American to African, Pre-Columbian periods.

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Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge is 7,157 acres filled with wildlife and greenery perfect for outdoor activities.

Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, located in Alabama, is one of the best places to visit and do outdoor activities. It features a 40-acre lake where visitors could fish or just admire the sea turtles during summer. The place is also perfect for those who want to watch migratory birds as it features a migratory bird stopover.

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Visit the Ruffner Mountain Nature Center where it offers various outdoor activities and beautiful views of nature.

Ruffner Mountain Nature Center, located in Alabama, is perfect for those who love the great outdoors. The center is perfect for various outdoor activities and offers breathtaking scenery. The center features 14 miles of trails and a protected area for native flora and fauna.

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Admire the wondrous views the DeSoto State Park offers as it is situated atop the Lookout Mountain.

Visitors would surely love to check out the DeSoto State Park as it is situated atop Lookout Mountain and offers magnificent views overlooking nature. The mountain also has waterfalls and wildflowers which visitors should not miss out on seeing. The place is also perfect for various outdoor activities such as hiking and camping.

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A sandstone canyon located near Phil Campbell in Franklin County, Alabama.

Dismals Canyon is a natural gorge and is marked as National Natural Landmark because of its uncommon wild rugged character. Many native plants are grown in the canyon. There is a 1.5-mile hiking trail from the canyon floor following the waterfalls. You can also enjoy canoeing and camping here. However, camping is allowed at specific camping sites and cabins.

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A mix of nature and history awaits visitors here.

This nature preserve is not only composed of awesome natural settings filled with trails for running and hiking. There are historic mines that can be visited, albeit with certain rules or protocols. However, one of the main objectives of this preserve is to conserve plant and animal life like chestnut trees, bats, and frogs. Educating people about the value of preserving biodiversity is another goal of Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve. The natural park does this partly through the Nature Center, which has informative exhibits.

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Aldridge Botanical Gardens is a place filled with beautiful and vibrant flowers located in the heart of the busy city.

Aldridge Botanical Gardens, located in Alabama, will surely delight those who love gardening and admiring the beauty of nature. It is a 30-acre garden that features different flora and fauna which visitors would surely love to see. Different varieties of flowers are always in bloom every season. Tourists should not miss out on this garden.

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Arlington Antebellum Home & Gardens in Alabama was once a plantation and currently houses 6 acres of landscaped gardens.

Arlington Antebellum Home & Gardens, located in Alabama, is a mansion that was a former plantation house. It features an Antebellum-era Greek Revival architecture that would surely leave guests in awe. The house also features a collection of 19th-century furniture and textiles that visitors could admire and learn more about.

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Cahaba River is the longest free-flowing river in Alabama where it features beautiful scenery.

Cahaba River, located in Alabama, is famous not only due to its length where it is the longest free-flowing river in the city but also because of the beautiful views of nature it provides. The river and its surroundings are also a great place to do outdoor activities such as fishing or hiking.

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Birmingham Civil Rights Institute houses an expensive archive of documents regarding civil rights.

Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, located in Alabama, is an interesting and educational attraction as it houses an expansive archive of documents about civil rights. It also includes nearly 500 recorded oral histories of these rights. Its collections date back to the events of post-World War I racial segregation to the present racial progress.

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Sloss Furnaces is considered to be a historical landmark as it is one of the first industrial sites in the states.

Visitors should try exploring the Sloss Furnaces in Alabama as it once operated as an iron-producing blast furnace from 1882 to 1971. It is considered a historical landmark since it is one of the first industrial sites in the country. Visitors will also learn more about the country during the industrial age through this attraction.

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A place perfect for lovers of plants, art, exercise, and healing.

The foot of Red Mountain in the city of Birmingham holds a unique natural refuge that benefits different types of travelers. The Birmingham Botanical Gardens features around 10,000 plants spread across 25 different gardens. For art and photography enthusiasts, the gardens also feature original outdoor sculptures. In case gentle exercise (along with deep or casual conversations) is desired, this area has several miles of walking paths.

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A fiery god dominates this tourist attraction.

Only the Statue of Liberty is larger than the cast-iron statue of the Roman god Vulcan, which can be found at this site. The mythical god of fire and forge has an imposing presence here to symbolize Birmingham’s origins as an iron manufacturing powerhouse. The museum, on the other hand, is also noteworthy since it features exhibits on geology, metallurgy, mythology, map reading, and fine arts.

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The 16th Street Baptist Church is both a Civil Rights historical landmark and an ongoing house of worship.

The Sixteenth Street Baptist Church was established in 1873 as the First Colored Baptist Church in Birmingham. In the early twentieth century, the church relocated to 16th Street and 6th Avenue North. During the Civil Rights Movement, the church served as an organizational headquarters.

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This park is perfect for those who love outdoor activities as well as learning about history.

Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park, located in Alabama, is the perfect place for those who love doing outdoor activities and history enthusiasts. Visitors could not only learn more about the history of the American iron history in New England but also do outdoor activities. Also, the park offers stunning views of nature. Visitors would surely love the park and visiting it.

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Catch a heart-pumping football game at the outdoor stadium of Legion Field.

Those who want to watch an exciting game of football should head on to the Legion Field, where it is usually used as a venue for American football. The stadium is located in Alabama and has been named after the organization of military veterans. It also prides itself as the “Football Capital of the South,” so football enthusiasts will surely have a pleasant time here.

Visit Birmingham to book a budget friendly trip!


Philippe Cousteau to speak at library | Community

The Pioneer Library System is set to host filmmaker, explorer, advocate and Emmy-nominated TV host and producer Philippe Cousteau.

He will speak at 6:15 p.m. Nov. 11 during the “Spark a Change: Let’s Talk About the Environment” event at Norman Public Library Central, 103 W. Acres St. 

Attendees can learn more about the environment and conservation efforts through aconversation with Cousteau, moderated by Oklahoma State Director of the Nature Conservancy Mike Fuhr, whose nature photography will be revealed in an exhibition prior to the event.

Seating will be available for the first 300 attendees.

The event caps off Pioneer Library System’s PLS Reads initiative, a year-long look at the topic of the environment in which community members have learned how small changes can make a big impact on the world around them through reading, conversation and exploration.

“Philippe and his family have done so much to raise awareness for the environment and to foster regeneration and restoration efforts. We’re honored to have him in Oklahoma, to hear his story and to learn how we can work together in protecting our beautiful planet,” PLS Director of Community Engagement and Learning Ashley Welke said. 

The event will be featured as part of Norman’s Second Friday Art Walk in partnership with the Norman Arts Council.

Attendees can meet NAC Executive Director Erinn Gavaghan at MAINSITE before heading out on a guided walk to ​Norman Public Library Central.

The gathering will depart the gallery at 5:30 p.m., stroll through Andrews Park to see the “In Their Words” installation, then arrive at the library for the event. 

Inspired by the legacy of his grandfather, Jacques Cousteau, Philippe Cousteau is a multi-Emmy-nominated TV host and producer, author, speaker, and social entrepreneur.

He is the host and executive producer of the weekly syndicated series “Awesome Planet,” now in its sixth season.

His conservation efforts are focused on solving global social and environmental problems.

In 2005, he founded EarthEcho International, a leading environmental education organization. To date, EarthEcho has activated over two million youth in 146 countries through its programs.

Cousteau’s children’s book, “Follow the Moon Home,” has been chosen for the Texas Bluebonnet Award Master List. He has co-wrote “Going Blue” and “Make a Splash,” both of which have won multiple awards.

His new book series, “The Endangereds,” with Harper Collins, launched in September 2020. His latest book, “Oceans for Dummies,” which he co-authored with his wife, Ashlan, was released in February 2021.

For more information about the event at

Story Behind the Image “Gaze” – Barger Nature Photography

The riviting gaze of a lynx as he walks out of the forest and onto a remote logging road in British Columbia

This past February, I traveled to British Columbia primarily to photograph wolves. The wolves are active during the winter and wolves photographed on snow can create, in my opinion, a very striking image. Unfortunately, unseasonable temperatures and a heavy snowfall prior to my arrival, forced the local wolf population to temporarily relocate to another area. Since wolves can cover a territory of 50 square miles, given the conditions, it would be impossible to locate the wolf packs during my short visit. During the week I did hear a pack howling and barking in the distance. I had one wolf sighting but in a position where I was unable to take a meaningful image.

I was returning by snowmobile one afternoon after an unsuccessful day scouting for wolves when I noticed a lynx ahead sitting on the side of the trail. A good friend of mine was traveling with me. When traveling in the backcountry in the winter it is smart to travel with at least one other person in case of mechanical failures or injuries. We stopped approximately 150 yards away from his position, and watched as he continued to sit and eat. He was obviously not concerned with our presence due to our position relative to his. Finally, the lynx tired of eating, stood and walked into the forest next to the trail. We then moved on down the trail past where he entered the trees and stopped approximately 150 yards on the other side of his entry into the forest. I then proceeded to walk back up the trail and laid down in the snow approximately 75 feet from where he entered the forest. I knew it was a long shot, but I hoped if I remained perfectly still and did not make any noises, he might return. Sure enough, after patiently waiting 15 minutes or so, he appeared at the edge of the forest.

I slowly raised my camera and lens to my eye and began to take a few photographs. During this time, he just stood motionless in front of the forest watching. His position was such that if he sensed danger, he could quickly move into the forest using the snowdrift in front of him as cover.

After maybe five minutes, apparently realizing that I posed no threat to him, he proceeded to slowly walk out to the snowmobile trail and up the trail away from me. During this time, I held my position knowing that he would maintain a safe distance from me outside his “circle of fear”. Enter into an animal’s “circle of fear” and they will either fight or take flight.

During this time, I avoided making any sudden movements or strange noises. He walked slowly but with purpose. When he reached the snowmobile trail, he turned and walked up the trail. It was very clear to me that he did not feel threaten by my presence, since his behavior was business as usual.

As is often the case when photographing in the wild, opportunities to photograph the primary subject may not materialize. Avoid getting discouraged, keep an open mind and constantly be aware of your surroundings, and something worth photographing will appear. This trip was no exception. Besides, if this were easy, everyone would be doing it.