Bonny Snowdon 00:06
Hello, I'm Bonny Snowdon ex-corporate person, a mother turned successful artist-entrepreneur. It wasn't that long ago though that I lacked the confidence vision and support network to focus on growing my dream business. Fast forward past many life curveballs, waves of self-doubt and so many lessons learned and you'll see ignite my thriving online coloured pencil artists community. A community that changes members’ lives for the better and gives me freedom to live abundantly, whilst doing what I love and spending quality time with my beloved family and dogs, all whilst creating my best artwork with coloured pencils, and mentoring others to do the same. But this life wasn't always how it was for me, it used to only exist in my imagination. I've created the It's a Bonny Old Life podcast to help increase people's confidence, share mine and my community’s experience and hope through fascinating personal stories. champion the other amazing humans in my personal, professional and membership community, and create another channel through which I can support others to realise their dreams. If you're a passionate colour pencil artist or an aspiring one who's looking to create their best work and a joyful life you love, you're in the right place, grab a cuppa and a custard cream. Let's get cracking. When I first started teaching, I never imagined I'd be meeting let alone making friends with people all over the world. My next guest is a photographer from Texas. She joined my community back in 2020 and has been an inspiration to so many with her generous giving of her photography knowledge. I'm delighted to be speaking today to Ruth Hoyt. Thank you, Ruth, for joining me for this interview and it's really, really lovely to see you and have you here.
Ruth Hoyt 01:47
Well, I'm flattered to be here. I always feel a little bit outside of my comfort zone because I'm a photographer, not a pencil artist or an artist, actually.
Bonny Snowdon 01:59
I mean, I consider you an artist. I've seen your work, but surely as a photographer, you're classed as an artist. I mean, your photos and everything are absolutely amazing.
Ruth Hoyt 02:10
Well, thank you. I work hard at it and I love what I'm doing. I believe that if you love your work, it isn't work and I know that's how you are as well.
Bonny Snowdon 02:21
Yeah, definitely. Yeah, it kind of gets in the way sometimes, doesn't it? Because you end up just doing it all of the time?
Ruth Hoyt 02:30
Yeah, that's right.
Bonny Snowdon 02:33
You find that with yours, then do you find that your kind of photography just takes over everything?
Ruth Hoyt 02:37
Oh, it does. I mean, my trips. Even if I'm not working with someone, it's all about photography. I'm always eyes shooting, I always have a camera in my hand.
Bonny Snowdon 02:49
Yeah. Have you always loved photography, then? Is it something that you've always done? Or was it something that your kind of, I don't know, I don't really know your back history?
Ruth Hoyt 02:59
Well, actually, I've been teaching photography for more than 30 years. So, you can say that it's been with me for a long time. But I'm at retirement age. So, it's something that I started as an adult, I always liked to draw as a kid, I was horse crazy and drew horses, just pencil. I never had art lessons or anything. At one time, I think I wanted to be an artist. But that didn't materialise. I was a Music Ed major in college. I was married and had a husband who was interested in photography. We divorced and he left his camera equipment and didn't want it. At one point my house was broken into and the camera equipment was stolen and I had to replace it. That was my insurance policy, I had to go out and replace the camera equipment. When I did that, I had no idea how to use it. So, I took a basic education class on photography and so that's how I got into photography. I joined the camera club and from there it was downhill. I knew I was going to be doing photography.
Bonny Snowdon 04:14
Okay, so that is not what I expected at all. So, it was almost like not a mistake, but you sort of fell into it.
Ruth Hoyt 04:26
I did, I did fall into it. But like everything I do if I find something interesting to do, I don't just dip my toe in the water to see if it's warm or cold. I jump in and that's what happened with me. I joined the camera club in St. Louis, Missouri, where I was living at the time and was the Rookie of the Year. They always had competitions and things like that and I got into that for a while but after a couple of years of that I said I'm not so much into the competition and I started an organisation called MONEP, M-O-N-E-P. And to this day, it's a great organisation, M-O-N-E-P.org is their website. It stood for Missouri Nature and Environmental Photographers. We met once a month, and we did not have any competitions. We didn't have any formal business done at meetings, all of that was done on the backside, we had a board of directors that did everything in the back nobody saw that. So, people who would come to the meetings would come to the meeting and be greeted by somebody, and you sit down and start talking. Then we'd have a program and somebody would be there to talk about a certain aspect of photography, whether it was about birds, or underwater photography, or Photoshop, it was something connected to photography, and nature photography in particular. But sometimes we had more general subjects. We would get all kinds of different guest speakers, a biologist, or an ornithologist, or a Photoshop guru, it just depended on what the subject matter was going to be that month. So, we would have a meeting in person and then that following weekend, we would have a weekend field trip and you never knew where we were going. Well, it was always planned. But we ran the gamut of things to do. We did all kinds of nature photography. That was quite fun. When I moved to Texas, my first class here, wanted to start a camera club, and I told them about MONEP and we decided to start a tech snap. So, we still have tech snap here. MONEP was founded in 1996 and tech snap 2001. So, they're both I'm going to say, established organisations, a lot of fun.
Bonny Snowdon 07:01
Wow. You're part of my community, and you have very kindly come in and given us if we've had like a session on photography, or Photoshop or something like that. You've very kindly come in and done a session for us, which has been fantastic. I know you and I want to work a little bit closer with doing that sort of thing as well. Maybe sort of like a prerecorded course. Obviously, you do that within the camera clubs, but is that something that you do for other people as well.
Ruth Hoyt 07:36
I'm a teacher at heart. Like you, I've got a history of teaching and coaching before I taught photography, and by the way, when I started photography, within a year and a half, I was teaching photography, it was a fast track for me. But I've taught all kinds of things. I was a Music Ed major. So, I taught piano and clarinet, I loved dogs, and had Weimaraner’s, and got into a dog showing and obedience trials and just all kinds of activities with dogs. So, I taught dog training too, just for fun. It was one of my hobbies, but I was really intensely involved in it. So, yeah, teaching photography just sort of fell into place once I knew what I was doing a little bit.
Bonny Snowdon 08:24
Yeah. So, you really are that sort of person that once you start doing-- well quite look a bit like me, actually. When you start with something and you kind of think, oh, hang on a second, this is going to be okay. Then you just put your all into it. Some people go quite slowly when they're developing their skills and everything other people are really quite stunned. It's almost like [Inaudible] and it sounds like you pick things up very, very, very quickly and if you have that passion for it, then it's about sharing whatever you've learned with other people.
Ruth Hoyt 08:56
Exactly. I mean, I teach people of all levels and skills and ages. So, in the summertime, I'm doing Youth Photo workshops and nature photo camps and things like that and the rest of the year, well, it could be anybody I do private instruction, I take people on tours and workshops, field trips, it's whatever they need. Since the pandemic, I do a lot on Zoom now, when people get a new mirrorless camera, which is the latest thing, I will do a two-hour session with them as they set up their camera, because most people don't want to read a 500-page manual. A lot of these cameras have very long manuals. So, rather than read the manual and try and figure it out and make lots of mistakes, they'll get with me and we'll do a two-hour zoom. It usually takes about two hours to completely set up a brand-new mirrorless camera. As we go through each of the menus and settings. I'm asking questions, so I know what their preferences are so I can help them put the right settings the first time around. We do it on Zoom, and I record it and as part of the fee, I send them the recording, so they can always go back and see what we did and if they want to change something, they can always call me and change it.
Bonny Snowdon 10:15
Wow, that sounds like an amazing service to have. I mean, I've got a little DSLR camera here. To be honest, I haven't I don't think I've taken it out of this bag since 2020. I do everything on my iPhone, and then I kind of get it out and I kind of look, I don't look particularly professional, but it's more of a point and shoot, and I have no idea what I'm doing at all.
Ruth Hoyt 10:43
Yeah, you've been busy doing other things so.
Bonny Snowdon 10:46
Well, I have. I find it really difficult to understand the light settings at the ISO and everything like that it doesn't seem to go in
Ruth Hoyt 10:58
Well, it takes a little bit of knowledge and practice, and you've got the composition part because you know, if you're too close to the horse, or the dog that the nose is going to be gigantic. So, you've got a lot of the skills already there. It might be easier just to put it in program. A lot of times when I'm working with someone just to get them going, where they don't know composition and all that I just say let's put it in program. So, you don't have to think about those things and we work on the basics, the focus, the composition, then once we get going, we'll bump it up a little bit, and we'll maybe put it in Aperture. I like to get people on full manuals, so they get full control of the camera and they decide how light or dark something is going to be and how much is going to be in focus from front to back. Actually, I've got a lot of years of practice at this, I was back in the dark ages of film, where you don't see what you're getting right away, you have to put the film, you have to either process it or send it off to be processed. So, a long period of time goes from between the time you press the shutter and when you see the results. When I was going digital was just starting to come in, I would get people who wanted to take my class with a digital camera and I say, well, that's fine. But when we go on our field trip, you need to run at least one roll of film through a film camera and if you don't have access to a film camera, you're going to borrow one of mine. It wasn't a question of if, it was, you're definitely going to do that. We shot slides, which it requires more precise settings than if you're shooting just film, colour or black and white film. So, we would get the sides back and we would do the review in class. So, they would see how it was filmed. A lot of times the people with digital cameras, I'd ask, okay, what was your shutter speed on that? You know, something was blurry, I'd say well, what was your shutter speed? They'd want to look at the camera and look it up in the picture nice, like yeah, but you really need to know that when you're taking the picture, not after the fact. So, I know that if I'm trying to photograph a bird and it might be moving, that I want 125 hundredths of a second or faster to make sure that it's sharp. That's part of the formula for successful bird photography. It runs the full spectrum of the people that I have as students and I'm going to say ranch guests and clients, you know people I work with on ranches.
Bonny Snowdon 13:38
I know when I look at your fantastic Instagram, the majority of your photographs are of birds, are birds your passion.
Ruth Hoyt 13:48
Well. My passion is nature and nature photography. My Instagram account is a business account and it's geared toward getting people to come with me and learn about bird photography. So, it is a niche. It is a speciality but I love photographing botanicals. I love dogs, horses, deer. I photograph everything but what I photograph the most because of my business is birds and that's what people know me for.
Bonny Snowdon 14:20
Yeah, I mean there's one photograph that really sort of stands out and I think you've got your-- I don't know whether you've got a bird sitting on your camera or you've got a bird sitting on your hand.
Ruth Hoyt 14:31
It's on my hand. Yes.
Bonny Snowdon 14:34
I think that might even be a profile picture. I love that photo.
Ruth Hoyt 14:38
It is. It's a wild bird and I was on a ranch and of course, these ranches don't necessarily have orange trees on them but this particular bird was crazy about oranges. I always bring oranges with me when I go to the ranches and I had the orange in a bucket and the bird kept going to my bucket sitting outside the photo blind and of course, that's not where we want them. We want them out on the perch, I brought the bucket inside the blind with me and the bird came down the steps and sat on the edge of the bucket, he was going to get that orange. So, it sorts of became funny, the guy in the photo blind thought that was funny, his wife wasn't photographing, and she just thought that was amazing. I said, well, you know, I bet you if you sit there, very still and hold this orange in your hand, that bird will come and land on your hand and eat that orange and it did. It came into the photo blind and landed on her hand and I took a snapshot of it, I still have that photo. She's just looking at this bird on the orange in her hand. I said, okay, well, it's time for me to set this perch up. I took the orange out with me and I told her and her husband, if that bird lands on me, would you please try and take a picture. So, she has a little video clip of the bird landing on me and eating out of the orange on my hand and he took the still picture with his longer lens. So, that has been my profile picture for a while. I need to update because I am older than that now, but I love that picture. It's one of my favourite pictures.
Bonny Snowdon 16:19
Oh, it's brilliant. The other thing I really love as well about your Instagram is that you don’t only share the pictures of the birds, but you also share an image of the settings that you use for each photo.
Ruth Hoyt 16:32
Yes, I found out about that not terribly long ago, because people are always asking what were your camera settings. My personal thought is, it doesn't matter what the settings are, it's the person who takes the picture, not the camera, if you've got the composition and you've got the sharpness, the rest will fall in place. But people are always asking, and when I heard about that app that shows the settings, I began using it because it prevented me from having to always go back and answer that question. So, I always try and include the backstory behind the photo, or how it happened or what was happening behind the scenes or something that tells you about the bird, why it pangs upside down? Or why some of the birds are very quick to come in and others are more hesitant. You listen, first, you hear them out in the brush, and then they come in. So, it's the thing about knowing behaviour, animal behaviour, bird behaviour, it helps get the photo a lot of times. So, I try and include something about what happened and how that picture came to be.
Bonny Snowdon 17:47
Obviously in Texas, well, you do have very different birds to what we have here in the UK. I mean, we don't really see the beautiful brightly coloured birds that you have there. What's the most common bird that you usually, see?
Ruth Hoyt 18:03
Oh, the green j is probably the most common there almost every time I go out. I pretty much photograph them on a daily basis. So, I have a huge collection of Green Jays and it's a tropical bird. It's blue and green and yellow and black. It's a very colourful bird. It's a resident bird, it's there year-round, and they generally look really good. They keep themselves very clean and pristine looking. Now when they moult in the summertime, nobody really comes to photograph then it's very hot in July and August. That's when they moult, so most people don't ever see a green jay without feathers on its head, it's quite comical. But that's the most common bird that I see on a daily basis. We also have northern cardinals, very bright red bird. We have thrashers and titmouse. In the springtime, we get painted buntings, which is like a rainbow bird. It's red and blue and yellow, and chartreuse, very colourful bird. So, those are probably the most colourful and common. Once the painted bunting arrives in the springtime. It's there because it breeds their nests and raises chicks. That's one of the popular birds that everybody wants to see when they come. We get a lot of tropical birds. I mean, South Texas, where I live is down in the very tip of Texas and a lot of Mexico is farther north than where I am in South Texas. So, that's why we get the sub-tropic and tropical birds.
Bonny Snowdon 19:42
So, there's one not a bird, but one of your photos that I have used as one of my tutorials which is the bobcat. You said I will choose any of the photos that you want and I was going through I was like oh my goodness because it has the most amazing eyes. It's got fantastic fur and everything, and you've got that sort of lovely, blurry background at the back of it. So, I've used that as one of my tutorials. It worked out really, really beautifully. I have to say. With something like that when you're kind of photographing like animals that I suppose could be quite dangerous. I don't even know how big a bobcat is. How do you sort of get those sorts of photos?
Ruth Hoyt 20:24
Well, bobcats are not dangerous. They're not much larger than a house cat. They might be 20 pounds, they're not very big. They're much smaller than perhaps like a coyote or something like that. But it's not too often that we get bobcat pictures. That particular bobcat the photo was taken in August. Nobody comes to the ranches in August, except a few private students. That particular summer, I had a mom and three kids, her three sons, and they came to the ranch with me in August, because she would save up once a year-- she was a single mom. She would save up and every year she would make a reservation with me to come to the ranch. So, here it is, it's an August afternoon. They're not morning people. So, the kids are on school break for the summer and so they wanted to come in the afternoon, I thought, oh my gosh, a hot August afternoon. I think the youngest at that time was Timmy. At that time, I think he was four or five years old. So, he was just a little guy. I think there's maybe 9 or 10 years spread in the age group of the kids. Anyway, so it was Jenny and her three kids with me at the photo blind in the afternoon. It's very hot, the birds are panting and taking baths and Jenny whispered, Jenny, the mom said, there's a bobcat. I hadn't even seen it; it was way off to the left out of sight. Oh my gosh, I had my 500-millimetre lens and that's meant for little birds and here's this cat, this bobcat. All I could get was half of the face in the viewfinder because the cat was so much bigger than birds. So, I would raise my camera and take the top half of the cat and then lower it an inch or so and get the bottom half and I would go up and down, up and down, I would raise my camera and take shots. Knowing that if I got two pictures where it was sitting perfectly still, that I would be able to put the two pictures together in Photoshop and blend them and that's what you use in your tutorial. That cat did eventually come in and drink and I had a smaller lens in the back of the photo blind. But for the first few minutes, I was afraid to move or make any kind of noise. It was a funny situation because Timmy the youngest was the farthest on the left. So, he was the closest to the cat when it came up to drink. It was a young cat and it didn't really know that it should be nervous about us. It was very thirsty. It was hot and thirsty. It came out of the brush and to the water hole area. Timmy with his little point and shoot camera was practically hanging out of the photo blind window, shooting picture after picture, just shooting and shooting and shooting this cat drinking. So, it was a once in a lifetime experience for these kids. Well, I should say a life-changing experience because it happened again two summers later, another bobcat came and this one came from straight across the field, like a football field, very big field. Jenny was the first one to notice, Jenny is really into this. She said there's a bobcat and I said where again. I'm observant, but she's hyper-observant. She said it's coming across the field and sure enough, I looked out there and there's this cat walking straight towards the photo blind. So, that cat I took a vertical shot of the whole body as it approached the blind. As it got closer, of course, it wouldn't fit in the viewfinder so I changed lenses but you don't see Bob Cats very often. They're very stealthy. They're cats, they're stealthy. They're elusive. They don't come out in the daytime. They're usually there in the evening. They're nocturnal, but when it gets hot in August, they're thirsty and they'll wake up from a nap and they're hot and panting and they'll come in to get a drink. So, that family got to see bobcats, two different summers, two years apart. It was very special.
Bonny Snowdon 24:58
Yeah, I can't believe that you took that incredible two photos joined, I didn't know that, I didn't know that at all. That's fascinating. I guess I can understand how it can be done. But it must have been tricky was it, to get them just to--
Ruth Hoyt 25:18
Actually, it was Photoshop that did it, I put the two pictures, I found the two that looked the same, just with the top missing or the bottom missing, put them in Photoshop under automate, and it will take two pictures and it does all the work. I couldn't believe it because you would have to know where it was to look for it and you still couldn't find it. It went under the eyes and up over the top of the nose and then under the eyes. So, it's sort of like glasses. You really cannot tell. In the originals, I've got the original files and you really cannot tell.
Bonny Snowdon 25:57
Isn't it brilliant that we've got a software like Photoshop? I've used it since gosh, the early 90s and it's coming off a long way.
Ruth Hoyt 26:10
Oh my gosh, yeah. It makes it easy.
Bonny Snowdon 26:12
Yeah. I mean, it really is a fabulous piece of software. I know that some people say they can't afford it and there are free bits of photo manipulation software out there. But I honestly haven't found anything that is worthy of Photoshop.
Ruth Hoyt 26:29
Yeah, there are some other programs, but I like Photoshop best. I mean, that's what I cut my teeth on when I started doing digital photography, and actually before digital, because we would scan our slides and then you have a digital image. I've used Photoshop for a long time and actually for $10 a month, you get Lightroom and Photoshop and all that goes with it. So, it's more affordable now. But of course, you need a computer to be able to do that and I know a lot of artists don't use computers, they use their phones, and they use maybe an iPad. So, it's a little different. Although I know you can use Lightroom and nowadays you can do a lot of things in Lightroom that used to be just available in Photoshop. So, it's come a long way.
Bonny Snowdon 27:19
Oh, it really has and you introduced me to the gigapixel. Topaz studio, Topaz labs, isn't that Topaz labs? Yeah, so you introduced me to that, which was I have to say being a pet portrait artist you tend to get a lot of very poor photos. A lot that are with animals that have passed and all of that kind of thing and you have to make a decision, do I use this or don't I use this. So, you might get something that's a great photo, but it's just sort of slightly. It's too small and you introduced me to topaz, I think probably a couple of years ago.
Ruth Hoyt 28:02
Yeah, it's been a while. We met. Well, I'm thinking we met at the beginning of the pandemic. I think I joined April or May of 2020 and I was already using Topaz. So, I don't know exactly when I talked about that with you. But then we did a program on one of your Patreon recordings. But yeah, I love Topaz. I don't use it every day, but I probably use it almost every day. It's got different components for noisy pictures or uncharged pictures; it will actually use artificial intelligence to improve the sharpness of a picture. As you said, you use gigapixel which takes a small picture and enlarges it without losing the quality of it. So, if somebody gives you an old cell phone picture of a cat that's deceased or dog or horse, you don't have to give up on it just because it's a small photo. You can make it large with the Topaz gigapixel.
Bonny Snowdon 29:10
Yeah, it's been a game-changer for me, I have to say because-- I tried, I do try to explain how it works, but I don't have the terminology. You take a small photo; you've got however many pixels in there. Then if you try to enlarge it, all of those pixels, when you usually enlarge it, all of those pixels enlarge with it. So, it's worse and worse and worse the bigger you make it basically. With topaz, it kind of fills in all the little bits in between and you get the enlargement but you also get the-- actually, it sharpens it and makes it look better than it does when it was small. So, yeah, it's been a huge game-changer for me.
Ruth Hoyt 29:51
Yeah, I use it. I don't use gigapixel so much, because I use a camera with a lot of megapixels. So, I have large images to start with. But when I work with kids, and I'm coaching, I coach kids and photographers for competitions, and we use gigapixel sometimes if they're shooting just in JPEG, and they've got a little point and shoot camera, we'll use gigapixel to enlarge it, or we'll use D noise or sharpen to clean up the resolution and improve the sharpness of it. So, yeah, it's a very useful tool, we have so many of them.
Bonny Snowdon 30:29
So coaching for competition, is that more about helping them understand their composition? How to kind of use their camera a little bit better? What does that sort of entail if you're coaching somebody?
Ruth Hoyt 30:41
Yeah, well, there are a lot of photo competitions, just like there are artists’ competitions. What I do with people, it depends on the competition and what the rules, are. When I'm going to coach somebody, I need to know what's the competition, what are the rules, let me see the website, let me find out as much as possible about it, to see how I can help them. So, I help kids and adults, there are adult competitions that are quite prestigious. So, we look at the rules together, and we see what kind of a competition it is, some of them you just turn in pictures that you've already taken. Whereas other there are some competitions here in south Texas, where you have a six-month period to take a portfolio of images and submit the whole portfolio. With those, we will have sessions, where I teach them how to review 1000s of pictures and narrow it down to the best 10. As the time period progresses, of the competition, like, let's say you've got a good picture of a cardinal, but then you take a better one. So, now you take the old one out and replace that. So, your portfolio is evolving throughout the competition. So, that's an ongoing kind of a thing with a competition that's running. But if it's a competition that says, okay, turn in your best shot, and then they have categories, we'll go through their portfolio and look for the best pictures. I'm very fast at eliminating pictures and it's not that they're bad pictures, but you want to cut to the chase and get down to the ones that are competition worthy. So, the four things that we look for, well, there's a bonus too. So, there's really five, but I teach them. Focus, if it's not in focus, it's not worth entering. Exposure, if it's too dark or too light, it's not worthy of competition. Then your composition has to be strong, you have to have leading lines, and you have to have an interesting composition. Then the fourth thing I call content, it's the story of the photo, your picture needs to tell a story. Like the bird flying into a perch, you know, he's going to be landing, the feeder out, the wings are open. An action shot generally has more content than just something sitting there. Like a butterfly emerging from the chrysalis, it's becoming a butterfly, it's going through the metamorphosis. You want a story to your picture and those are your four basic strengths in evaluating pictures. But there's a bonus factor, and I call it the wow factor. When you first lay eyes on that picture, if it has the wow factor, that's generally going to be a competition or the photo, like you liked the bobcat, you'll actually Oreo. There's something that just draws you in and makes you say, wow. When I'm teaching kids, I always like talking about that. Because when I start the program, I always start with a slideshow and talk about things and I'll put up a picture that has the wow factor. It's so funny because when it pops up on the screen, you get the wow. Most kids they're not, they're not attentive for very long. But when I do a slideshow, I generally have their attention because I try to always include wild pictures. I'll show my mistakes too. I use my mistakes as a teaching tool. A lot of photographers who teach only show their good work, but like you, I mean, you talk about making a mistake and having to erase or add another layer or oops, the eye is too large. I show my mistakes and I use those as teaching tools and it helps them relax and know that hey, we all make mistakes. It's not the end of the world.
Bonny Snowdon 34:38
Yeah, it makes you sort of seem quite normal as well.
Ruth Hoyt 34:43
Oh, I don't know I'm normal.
Bonny Snowdon 34:45
Well, you know, I made it.
Ruth Hoyt 34:46
Yeah, I know. I'm just a regular person. I carry a camera just like you and you know, I have been doing it so long that it's something I'm normally very comfortable. I still get wowed when I see things that are interesting and different. I get surprised too. I mean those kids with the bobcat that was a big surprise for them while I was just as surprised as they were. I think in trying to evaluate what makes me like what I do and never get tired of it is there's always going to be something new you learn almost every time you go out and you'll see a behaviour I'll never forget. You don't even have to go out just to be surprised. The painted bunting is a bird that I told you about that everybody wants pictures of the painted bunting. It's a little tiny bird and they eat little bitty seeds. I was at a wildflower nursery and one of the seeds that they sell for painted buntings to attract painted buntings is Texas cupgrass. The seed head has little cups with a little bitty seed in it. I brought home a pot of that. I had never seen a painted bunting in my yard and I had that pot just sitting outside of my kitchen window and lo and behold, a painted bunting came to my kitchen window to eat that cupgrass. I was so surprised because I've got acres and acres around me and no Texas cupgrass anywhere. But that little bird found that pot of grass right by my kitchen window. Surprise.
Bonny Snowdon 36:32
Brilliant, oh, that must be amazing.
Ruth Hoyt 36:36
Yeah, well, I mean, birds and other animals they're always full of surprises. You know about things because you read them. But then when you see them, that's a whole another story. Like we have cowbirds here and they lay their eggs in other birds’ nest. It dates back to the bison. When the bison roamed across the United States, the cowbirds would follow the bison because they would pick the bugs off of the bison’s back. So, they would follow the herd literally and they did not have time to build a nest incubate the eggs and raise the chicks. So, they would lay their eggs in other birds’ nests and keep on going and the other birds would raise the cowbirds. I know a lot of people hate cowbirds and want to shoot them all and get rid of them. But they serve their purpose. They're basically a parasite and they don't wipe out the other birds because if they did, they wouldn't have a host for the eggs. So, they do have their purpose. I'll never forget the first time I saw a cowbird chick coming in and came to the waterhole and its adoptive parent was a cardinal. So, you've got this, basically, a small cardinal and the cowbird is bigger. So, you get this baby bird bigger than the adult and it was following the adult cardinal around begging for food and the cardinal picked up some seed and fed the baby. The first time you see something like that it's just amazing. Nature is amazing.
Bonny Snowdon 36:42
Oh, it is incredible. Absolutely incredible. Well, I guess we have the cookies in the UK that doesn't do a similar thing. But I don't think they follow anything around. They're probably just a bit too lazy. But yeah, so they end up with sort of like laying their eggs in another bird's nest. When it comes to your camera, have you always been on one brand of camera or are they sort of swapped and changed?
Ruth Hoyt 38:40
Well, I feel it's like me living in one place, I tend to stay in one place and don't move. I lived in Missouri 40 years and then I've been here 20 some odd years and I'm sort of that way with cameras. I started out with a Nikon F3, old film camera, and I actually had learned on an F2. So, I had that camera for years and years. I still have it actually; I don't shoot it anymore. But back in 2000 is when I came to South Texas, January of 2000 and canon had just come out the few months before with the image stabilised lens and they started with a 100–400-millimetre image stabilised lens. Nikon didn't do that for a couple more years. So, when came to South Texas, I came with my Nikon equipment, but I had one canon body and one lens, the 100-400 and that's what I used for my long lens photography at the time. Since then, I've completely switched to Canon. I'm all canon. I still have Nikon and because I teach and I'm always helping people in the photo blinds photographing birds. I'm helping with their settings. I have my hands on lots of cameras. So, I'm pretty good about jumping into a menu to find a setting if it's a camera that I don't normally use. So, I'm canon, but I shoot, I help others with their cameras.
Bonny Snowdon 40:20
I mean, honestly, I literally just pick mine up and take a picture I have, I don't know whether it's because I don't have the-- I think it's something to do with math’s that I have a problem with numbers, whenever I seen numbers, or something like that. So, when you're talking about the shutter speed, and all of that type of stuff. If there's anything to do with counting or numbers, my brain just kind of goes to mush.
Ruth Hoyt 40:47
When we eventually meet in person, and I know we will, I want you to have your camera with you and in 10 minutes, you'll get it and it's not about the numbers, it's just knowing which dial to push or which button to push or which dial to turn and which way you go. It becomes automatic. Like for example, when I'm sitting with a person in a photo blind, they've got their tripod, and they've got the camera on the tripod, and they're looking out at the waterhole where the birds are going to come. What I do is I coach them a little bit at the beginning. So, we get the cameras set up and we put the settings and they don't know what the settings are and they don't know where to see them or what buttons, it's a lesson. So, they're looking through the camera and there might be a bird there, there might not it does not matter. I say okay, so go ahead and focus on the perch where the bird is going to be or where the bird is, and tell me what's your shutter speed? They'll say, well, I don't know. They'll pull their head away from the camera and try to look at the numbers on the camera. So, no, no, no, no, you don't need to look, you just need to look through your camera because it's in there and it tells you and they don't know which number is which of course and I'll say well, the bottom left number is generally going to be your shutter speed, that should be 2500, you should be able to see what 2500. If it's 1250 or 800, that's not enough, and I had to do is turn this dial to get to that number, that's all you have to do. Once they start doing that, I get them to be more efficient with the camera so that it's just a tool to get what they're seeing through the lens. So, you don't worry about the number you just worry about the setting. Well, it is about the numbers but just have to have certain things and know where they are. So, that your face is always at the camera, never looking down at the camera that waste time and you lose pictures. So, you're always with your face to the camera, and pushing buttons and turning dials and looking at things as they change and it becomes automatic within a half an hour. By the end of the session people typically say I learned so much more in these two hours than I have learned in all the years of my photography. I think it's due to just getting them to have the camera at their face and not stopping and looking at what they're doing. But just letting it become automatic, use your thumb to turn this dial, use your finger for that one. It's a lot of fun. They have fun.
Bonny Snowdon 43:33
No, I can imagine. I'm just not a technical person at all. So, I'd much prefer the simple numbers.
Ruth Hoyt 43:43
Yeah, you don't need to be technical. If you ever come to Texas, I know you were supposed to before the pandemic, but if you ever get to Texas, you got to come down and sit in a photo blind was me you would just be in heaven, I think.
Bonny Snowdon 43:57
Yeah, I really would. Because that's something that I've really wanted to do. I bought a camera to be able to go and take photos. It's not particularly, it's a very entry level one. Then I kind of turn stuff around and I get the videos and the photos at the end and go well, that's not kind of what I was hoping for. I take 1000s and 1000s of photos so I can get one that's reasonably good.
Ruth Hoyt 44:22
Yeah. Well, they call that spray and pray, you know, spray and pray. But just sitting there for a couple of hours the birds come to us so you don't have to hike on a trail and find things and then getting down. I mean, everything comes to us. So, it's sort of like armchair photography, and it's so much fun.
Bonny Snowdon 44:40
On chair photography, I'm all for that sort of thing. So, just before we finish and honestly, it's been so lovely chatting to you and kind of getting to know a little bit more about what you do and how you do it. Something that I've been asking everybody is you know with me confidence is a big thing. I haven't always been confident I've worked on my own confidence, and I try and help other people with their confidence. What's your sort of number one tip for either building confidence? Or if you're not feeling-- I don't know. I mean, are you a confident person? Do you have to do something? Have you got any strategies to be able to help people?
Ruth Hoyt 45:26
Yeah. So, I'm a teacher at heart. I've been teaching photography more than 30 years. I love working with a small group and teaching teachers, the teacher, I've always believed that the more you teach, the more you learn. But what I like to do is instil confidence in my students in my workshop, participants and the people I go in a photo blind with. So, let's say I'm teaching, how to find the aperture on your camera. I'll teach it to one kid and then another kid wants to know the same question. I'll say, oh, I just taught it to Jim. Why don't we have Jim teach you? What that does is it takes it off of me and it gets Jim interacting with Susan and Jim teaches Susan, what he just learned and that reinforces what he just learned. If he gets off track, I help him. I mean, I'm always there to watch and help. But I think that instils confidence. I'm confident, because I know I've been doing it for a long time. But it instils confidence in what he just learned. He's feeling better about, oh, yeah, she just taught me that or how to zoom. It can be anything, it doesn't matter what you're teaching, you teach it to one person, and then have them teach it to another, and then you have her teach it to somebody, then you pass it along down the line. I just feel so happy when I see that happening. Because it makes me feel like I know what I'm doing. It gives me confidence, I'm going to say.
Bonny Snowdon 47:02
Oh, I like that.
Ruth Hoyt 47:04
Bonny Snowdon 47:04
Yeah. I like that. Yeah, definitely. Like you say, if you've been listening to what you've been saying, and you've kind of taken it in saying it back out loud again, even if it's to somebody else, it just sort of embeds it a little bit more, doesn't it? You know, and it makes it more.
Ruth Hoyt 47:23
Yeah, so that's more about installing or instilling confidence in somebody else. As for me, I've been doing what I do for so long, when I'm in a new place, and I don't know the birds. That's where, I guess being confident that I already know my gear, I just have to adapt it to what I'm seeing. So, it's maybe instilling confidence in myself, you know the camera part, you just got to watch these birds or animals and figure out their behaviours and what they're doing. So, it's I guess, a lot about observation and feeling comfortable with that. Soaking it all in.
Bonny Snowdon 48:01
Definitely. I guess just taking a bit of time to kind of get a feel for everything that's new around you and everything.
Ruth Hoyt 48:10
Yeah, definitely. I mean, I like going to new places and a lot of people are certainly nervous about that. I guess, in a way I am too, I'm more excited though than nervous, I think, because I always want to learn, I think when you stop learning is when you become stagnant. So, I'm always looking for something new to do.
Bonny Snowdon 48:31
Brilliant. Well, thank you so much, Ruth, it's been an absolute pleasure talking to you. I love having you in my community and you're always so generous with your knowledge and everything around photography and Photoshop and everything. So, thank you so much for joining me.
Ruth Hoyt 48:46
Well, thank you. I'm here to help and I'm very flattered that you asked me to do this. I love your podcasts. They're wonderful. I've been enjoying those as well. So, I'm happy to be here.
Bonny Snowdon 49:00
Brilliant. Thank you so much.
Ruth Hoyt 49:02
Bonny Snowdon 49:03
I really hope you enjoyed listening to this episode of my It's a Bonny Old Life podcast. If you did, I'd be so grateful to you for emailing me or texting a link to the show, or sharing it on social media with those you know who might like it too. My mission with this podcast is all about sharing mine and my communities experience and hope by telling your fascinating personal stories, championing the other amazing humans in my personal, professional and membership community, and to create another channel through which I can support you to realise your coloured pencil and life dreams. If you haven't done so yet please help me on my mission to spread positivity and joy throughout the coloured pencil world by following me on my socials at Bonny Snowdon Academy, or by getting on my list of bonnysnowdonacademy.com. Remember, I truly believe if I can live the life of my dreams doing what I love, then you can too. We just need to keep championing and supporting each other along the way in order to make it happen. Till next time.