Harvey’s Story Will Steal Your Heart

Celebration Banner with Champagne bottle and streamers

We had some exciting news this week!

Harvey’s story (and my first published short story) which had been accepted for the anthology ‘Purrseverance – Inspiring Stories of Cat Resilience and Hope‘ will be published on 11th April 2024. You can pre-order your own copy of the ebook on Amazon (Kindle) or at B&N (Nook).

  • Our friends Kitties Blue also have a story in the book so you have even more reasons to pre-order a copy!

Paper copies of the book are available on Amazon (Affiliate link).

When I see his picture I miss him all over again. He was so special.

Portrait of white cat after a pinnectomy
Closeup of a young Siamese cat face, with blue eyes.

Wellington Zoo’s Baby Giraffe Nia

Camera outline on a plain background

Today, as promised last week, some sweet captures of Wellington Zoo’s baby giraffe Nia.

In the first photograph you will see the Nia who was born in December 2023. From this picture you will not be able to guess at her size at all but, like every giraffe she has a unique neck pattern of spots which is how staff tell them apart.

According to Wellington Zoo, due to a rapidly falling population in the last few decades, these beautiful animals are now classed as ‘vulnerable to extinction‘ due to issues like habitat loss and illegal hunting. The thought of no Giraffes is too terrible to think about.

  • You can help protect their wild homes by purchasing sustainable timber and paper products marked with the FSC (Forestry Stewardship Council) logo.

In these photographs you can see how small Nia actually is as she stands beside Sunny the male giraffe. He was very protective of his small family member and I think this was because the fine weather had brought a lot of families to the zoo.

Giraffes spend up to 20 hours a day feeding, but you’re unlikely to catch them sleeping it off – Giraffes sleep the least of any mammal, and only need between 10 minutes and two hours of sleep each day.

Wellington Zoo

A favourite giraffe capture is this one. It’s almost as if Nia and Sunny are posing sweetly for the camera isn’t it? The charm of giraffes, their grace and beauty captures the heart and I always stop to take photographs of them before exploring the Zoo further.

Giraffe Portrait Settings (DSLR)

  • ISO 200
  • 200 mm
  • f8
  • 1/320

This last image below shows baby giraffe Nia and Sunny wandering up the enclosure’s slope and still the adult is looking after the small giraffe.

Thursday Post Delay

This week’s Thursday post got derailed by Toulouse falling ill. He is on the road to recovery and I will report on what happened next Thursday along with some lovely portraits of the boy.

Tongue Out Tuesday Snapshot Surprise

Giraffe on an ombre background of blue and black

This week’s short post shows how I captured some wonderful shots to share during our summer visit to Wellington Zoo. Like every good photographer I was after a unique shot but did I get one? Let me show you my tongue out Tuesday surprise including the camera settings I used.

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At the giraffe enclosure I hit the jackpot. Not only did I see a new baby giraffe, which I will share next week, but I captured the funniest shot ever (for me). An absolutely amazing giraffe having a munch of lunch.

Tips for Giraffe Photos

For those using their DSLR, I was using my 55-250 mm zoom lens as I was about four metres (16 feet approx.) away from the Giraffes on a raised platform. I got the cool shot that I know will make everyone laugh on Instagram too (dashkittenphotos) when I schedule it for Tongue Out Tuesday.

One thing you can’t see it which matters for this photograph.Visitors approach the giraffes on a raised walkway which allows them to see the giraffe from the animal’s eye level and get a good look at these wonderful beasts. The raised viewpoint allowed me to get as close as I could, then adjust my zoom lens, take a steadying breath and fire off a handfull of shots.

  • Remember that in order to get your shot, you will find you have a lot of ‘almosts’ and ‘not quite’ shots. This happens and you can delete these.

Giraffe Portrait Settings (DSLR)

  • ISO 200
  • 250 mm lens (121 mm – 2nd photo)
  • f8
  • 1/120 (320 – 2nd photo)
Giraffe looking to the right of the viewer

Find out more about Giraffes on Wikipedia

My Most Useful Canon Lens

I thought you might like to see the dimensions of my Canon DSLR zoom. This is the lens that sits on my camera most of the time (unless I am doing cat closeups) It is taller than my kit DSLR lens (which would come up to about the words Canon in this photo). It does make the camera a bit heavier but the lens can take super sharp shots and is so versatile. I use it a lot for my cat portraits and, alongside my small 50 mm lens, the pair works for me.

How Do I Rescue an Old Photo?

Brown shaded banner with a faint human figure

Have you ever discovered an old photo you had forgotten about? Or when you are out clearing out old boxes or an attic you finding unexpected faded memories? Suddenly you find yourself lost in the past as thoughts come flooding back about the day, the time, who was there?

This happened to me, and I knew that I had to do something to preserve this memory beyond the paper original. So, I started thinking. How would any of us rescue an old photo like this, if we found one, and I came up with a seriously good solution you might want to consider.

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Let me tell you how the adventure started.

I discovered, carefully preserved inside a book, an old photograph of Dash Kitten, the blog’s Founder Cat. It was, thankfully, flat but had a bit of surface damage as well as a slightly yellow tint. This image was at least nine years old and it held some lovely memories. It is one of the rare full-face portraits I have of Dash Kitten.

  • How could I restore the photo so I could share it with Dash’s many friends who still remember him with so much affection?

I wanted to adjust the portrait so it was look fresh and bright. It deserved to be more than a slightly discoloured and damaged photograph with uneven white balance but how?

I had to admit that the image needed work and even with my photo skills, I decided to call in professional help in the form of a local photography shop. I decided that I wanted a high quality digital scan as well as a good quality print, neither of which I could create at home.

Portait of a honey coloured cat looking at the camera
DASH KITTEN PRINT © Marjorie Dawson

A Print Bureau Can Revive Your Photo

Yes, I know, you can scan your image and then spend a lot of time repairing surface scratches and sharpening the image yourself. If you have the time, and the photo software, and a good photo scanner – which I don’t have.

If you are like me, you reach a point that regardless of your skills you need to refer to those with more expertise than yourself.

What I did was go to a local photography bureau here in Lower Hutt, Camera House. They are a long established print house that are busy dealing with the recent surge in popularity of film cameras and development. Shops or franchises within larger shops are mushrooming everywhere thanks to film’s return to popularity so check your closes one online.

You probably have your own treasured memento hidden in a corner somewhere. A photo of you and your first cat, you as a small child on the beach, or a formal wedding photo of your Mum or Grandma looking their beautiful best. They are fragile paper and can fade so easily. But, with the help of professionals, you can breath life into these important pieces of family history.

Film cameras are very much a thing. I was given a Kodak Ektar H35 for Christmas which I will be exploring over the coming months!

Portait of a honey coloured cat looking at the camera in front of a ghostly clock
‘Lost in Time’ © Marjorie Dawson

My Renewed Photo of Dash Kitten

The digital image of Dash was returned to me a few days ago by email and, as you can see, the results are excellent.

The surface damage on the original has been removed and the picture looks as good as new. I have so few images of Dash Kitten that if I find one it is important for me to preserve the memories as best I can. I am so happy I found it and got help rescuing the image and I suggest you consider it to. Expert help can make a real difference.

It also, on a positive note has allowed me to start doing something Bode’s Mom Sylvia suggested I do several years ago, which is make a tribute to Dash.

How Do you Work with a Photo Bureau?

Involving a photo bureau to revive an older photo is an investment of your time and money. They will be able to ‘repair’ your original by creating a perfect copy with no bent corners then return the original and any copies to you.

  • A bureau can brighten or adjust colours or sharpen tones for a black and white image.

If you are not sure how to approach a local bureau, make a list of what you would like them to do. Maybe you want them to repair a digital image and print you a couple of copies? Make a list of things you might like then get a local business to quote you for the work. You will be supporting a company in your local community and be able to ring them up if you need to for advice.

If you are in a more isolated area, research online for the requirements of a bureau who work by post. Again be specific about what you want and be very particular about the safety of your image in transit to them and back to you. Look for recommendations. A company that has lots of happy customers not just one or two (which could be friends boosting friends). Research is essential if youwant to ensure you get good service.

You may not be able to stop time, but you can preserve and share precious memories with a little bit of help, just like Dash and I.

Oh my new film camera? Here’s a picture of it.

Image of camera and a roll of film in a box

Snow Leopard Portrait

Brown shaded banner with a faint human figure

The summer weather allowed me to take a trip to Wellington Zoo and, see the Snow Leopards closeup. I visited two years ago but their ‘home’ was little more than a building site at that time so, I was keen to see the magnificent cats in their new carefully built ‘habitat’.

As it was still school holiday time it was tough to capture a really good shot of Asha and Manju due to the crowds, but I have cropped one of my images so you can see the wonderful colouring and markings of the Snow Leopard. There is a picture below that gives you an idea of its shape and size.

About the Snow Leopard Home

Rather than describe the new habitat created for the Snow Leopards, this link will take you to the Zoo site. If you scroll down to ‘Project Overview’ you can see a photo of the habitat and read how it was constructed. The image was taken with a drone camera from much higher up than visitors get to go and was taken on a much less crowded day! Otherwise I enclose a brief outline below to show how carefully it has been thought out.

I hope to return on a less busy day to take some better big cat photos which I will share here.

Snow Leopard Portrait Settings (DSLR)

  • ISO 200
  • 250 & 135 mm
  • f8
  • 1/160
Snow Leopard full length looking to the left

The habitat will emulate the Snow Leopard’s natural environment, encouraging the animals to display natural behaviours. The steep, rocky terrain will provide physical exercise by encouraging jumping and climbing. The habitat will also offer plenty of space for Asha and Manju to patrol and will include trees for climbing and scratching. The design of the habitat will allow our Snow Leopards to feel camouflaged and rest whilst still being visible to visitors.

Wellington Zoo

An Unusual Ginger Cat Portrait

Cat on brown background

This week’s short post is a lesson in what works, and what surprises you, and works in a different way.

I often tell beginners taking cat photos that the perfect photo is not always the image you expect, this unusual ginger cat portrait is a great example.Think about it. What kind of image might people expect as a ‘cat portrait’? A clear, sharp image of a cat, nicely posed and looking calmly at the camera. The light is as good as it can be, and focus on the cat’s eye is pin sharp, as this is where people look first.

But, sometimes the photo becomes something else.

An Unexpected Portrait

You end up with an image like this unusual capture of our senior ginger boy Jack (who I have showcased in a lovely cat portrait). Take a look and you will see what I mean.

Why is it different? As I said at the start, we expect a portrait to face front, and be sharp and clear but this is the opposite!

If you need to make the photo bigger it should enlarge if you click on it. This is something I am trying in WordPress, so please let me know if it works for you.

The Story Behind the Cat Portrait

It’s a shot of Jack’s back and tail as he walks slowly away up the garden path. More importantly, for me and the family, this is the first time that Jack has ventured out for a garden stroll in many months.

He had plodded past me before I gathered my wits and grabbed by camera. So it may not be perfect but it is a sweet memory and this is its whole point. A family member portrayed with great affection and a smile.

In its favour the image has a leading line that guides your eye to his receding figure and a sense of movement from his body. You can see the pink toe beans of one paw as he walks.

That’s why I am sharing it. It’s a lovely photo, and to me it matters. That is your first call when you take a photo. Not its perfection but the message it carries from you to the world.

Jack’s ‘Portrait’ Settings (DSLR)

  • ISO 800
  • 180 mm lens
  • f8
  • 1/2000

Cats and Cocktails (Book Review)

faint image of a cat looking upwards

What do cats, cocktails and cameras have in common? They are all involved in the creation of an inspiring and fascinating book of cocktails and ‘mock’tails created and photographed by a group of cat lovers on Instagram.

No, you don’t have to be on Instagram to enjoy the book, but if you are, check out the links to the cool cats who appear in the links below the photos.

Why do I love the book as a cat photographer? Because it is a source of some of the best cat photos you will see in book form this year and you will love browsing.

Best of all, the profits from the book are donated to a cat charity. You can read the recent exciting announcement below.

Who and What are Cats and Cocktails?

The Cats and Cocktails Club (CCC for short!) is a worldwide group of cat lovers on Instagram who love to create and sip cocktails. The group began to flourish during pandemic times and founders Kayla Tabish and Jenna Aviano say the group has been a source of strong and supportive friendships.

Bengal cat sniffs at a glass with green cocktail
Meowdel Credit: @memphisandcash_

The Cats and Cocktail Book

Although you all know I am a cat photographer and the images are what first took my breath away, I need to spotlight the detail and very high production qualities of Cats and Cocktails. Why? Because I believe it this is part of the book’s pleasure. This is a real book that is an absolute joy to hold, to browse though and then to use.

A team of skilled volunteers contributed to the editing, mixology, design and proofreading, and they have created a cocktail book much better than many you will find in bookshops.

Here’s why:

  • The meowdels are all cats
  • The 144 colour images are superb
  • The paper is top quality heavy paper (130 gsm)
  • Superior quality hardback format
  • Clear instructions for the 52 cocktails and mocktails
  • Printed in the Netherlands – Grafistar B.V.
  • All the proceeds have been donated to a cat charity (see below).

The cocktails are divided into seasons, so I can enjoy Summer cocktails while my US and European friends sip their Winter cocktails. Each drink has a two page spread with a stunning image and a clear cocktail recipe with a mini cat bio at the bottom as a final flourish. I love this Harry Potter themed autumnal (fall) image from valor_mystic.

Cat posing with a cocktail
Meowdel Credit: @valor_mystic
  • The bio is great chance to explore the cats’ Instagram feeds (although being on IG isn’t essential to read the book!)

Can I Take a Cats and Cocktails Style Photo?

Yes, you can!

What is inspiring about the book (for cat photographers) is that many of the setups for the photos are simple with a touch of elegance There is a bonus page of helpful tips to help you create your own cat and cocktails portrait and a fun page of bloopers and a few sneak peeks that give you insights into how some of the cat photos were taken.

I am sharing one of my favourite ‘staged’ photos below. A little more work in this one I am sure, but Zimba just nails the cool cat look!

Bengal cat enjoying the sun while sat on a beach chair.
Meowdel Credit: @lotsameows

Cats and Cocktails Fundraising Announcement

A list of the charities involved can be found on the book page. The book’s success has been such that the following announcement was posted on Instagram recently:

The Cats and Cocktails Club is overjoyed with the success of our book. Thanks to all of your support, we are able to fulfill our goal of helping cats. Mission Meow will receive a $4000 donation, which is the proceeds from US sales of our first batch of books.

We will also be donating another $4000 in proceeds from our European sales to European charities. We can’t wait for batch two so that more people can enjoy the book and more cats can be helped!

CCC Instagram

Where Can I Get the Book?

The first edition of the book sold out and a reprint is on the way. If you are interested add your name to the essential Cats and Cocktails Book Waitlist

Mastering Cat Lighting for Insta-Glory

Cat on blue background

Forget catnip and fancy costumes, the true secret to captivating Instagram photos of your cat lies in harnessing the power of light. Think of it as your secret weapon to transform your grumpy cat into a glamorous meowdel, sending likes and followers your way as people fall in love with your cat.

When posting on Instagram some people work hours to find the correct time for maximum engagement. For some of us this can be a struggle so I suggest you learn as you go and post (or schedule) at different times and on different days to see what works best for you, wherever you are in the world; Europe, New Zealand, America or maybe Australasia.

  • Research popular hashtags in your niche. What will give you that winning hashtag or shot idea?
  • Use relevant hashtags to your photos (seasonal, birthdays, events).
  • Change up your hashtags for each post. Don’t rely on the same ones every time, add new ones to your favourites.
  • Adopt a single hashtag that is not overused and make it your own. My friend Henry and his Mom use #TailWagWisdom, the name of their blog. This also speaks about what they do. Others use it but a lot of their images will be seen at that hashtag.

Embrace the Natural Glow

Mother Nature knows best when it comes to making your cat look perfect. Soft morning light filtering through your window will wrap your cat in a warm, ethereal glow. An early trip into the garden will do the same thing. This light, often called the ‘golden hour’ highlights your cat’s best features and fur. Think sunbeams dancing across whiskers or a golden halo around your cat’s soft fur.

A bright cat photograph would be the perfect #MondayMotivation or #MancatMonday #GoldenHour.

Pet Lighting for Instagram. Tabby kitten looking out of a window
Kitten by a window – natural light

Master the Art of Backlighting

Turn your cat into a magical silhouette and you might catch a lot of attention on Instagram. A simple square format image would be a stunning addition to your Instagram feed.

Remember that not every portrait has to be full face and by positioning the light source behind your cat, you’ll create a mesmerizing rim of light around their fur, adding depth and drama to your shot. This technique works especially well for those lucky enough to be owned by a black cat but every cat makes am awesome subject.

You can use #silhouette #catphotography #magicalcats #shadow #shadowcats.

Rest In Peace Cat Banner
Cat Silhouette used in a graphic.

Spotlight Stunning Cat’s Eyes

A cat’s eyes, like those of every human, are mesmerising windows to the soul. The best way to capture your cat’s eye is with a closeup such as a 50mm DSLR/mirrorless lens, or from further away with a zoom lens. This is great if your cat dislikes you getting too close with the camera. If you look closely at the image below you can see the white house and silhouetter of myself taking the photography.

On a smartphone you can use a macro facility. Check your smartphone camera to see if it has this function. If not, you may be able to use a clip-on lens for your smartphone this can be a zoom or even a macro. Yes, clip on smartphone lenses exist!

What you are looking is to capture is the ‘catch light‘ the small sparkle that makes every cat’s eyes come alive.

Macro Cat Eye Photo
Cat’s Eye Catchlight – ISO 200 50 mm F/3.5 1/400

Catchlights are the bright, specular highlights found in a subject’s eyes that are reflections of the light source or sources.


Fun Instagram Hashtags for Cats

  • #catphotography
  • #instacat
  • #meow
  • #purrfect
  • #kitty
  • #feline
  • #cutiecat
  • #catsagram
  • #mainecoon
  • blackcat
  • #bengal
  • #catjump
  • #derpcat

As a bonus on some ‘phones, you can shoot in RAW format which gives you more opportunity to adjust your smartphone photos much more later on.

A Final Note: Smartphones and Light

I need to add a helpful reflection on how recent smartphone camera technology has raced ahead to make cat lighting so much easier. In fact, its even better than a DSLR at times. Recent developments for both iPhone and Android mean they are more capable of using low light.

You can see in this sample image of Toulouse where the only light is a single lamp lower down on the left-hand side. With my old iphone 6S I would have struggled and probably failed to capture an image like this but, with the newer iPhone 12, I tried and succeeded in an atmospheric shot that looks really good.

Cat in dim smartphone light. Pet Lighting for Instagram
Smartphone Low Light

How To Backlight Your Amazing Cat

Cat on blue background

Not every feline portrait needs the spotlight front and centre. Take Miranda, for instance.

This lovely shot, bathes her in the warm glow of sunlight. The sun lights Miranda’s fur with a bright halo, turning her whiskers into delicate strands of light.

How did I create this effect, which is called ‘backlight’? Let me tell you because you can do it too.

How I Created The Light Effect

As you can see, the halo of light fur around Miranda’s fur comes from me facing the sun. This is a specific move I made to surround her with light. The light itself is behind her and above.

This kind of shot can be taken with a smartphone too. I would recommend using Portrait Mode to soften the background and make the backlighting more effective.

If you try this kind of shot, make sure you move around to find the best location for your photo. Don’t just stand and take one photo – move, adjust your location and experiment. It took me a bit of stepping from side to side and,yes, I am glad Miranda sat still long enough for me to get the shot.

Miranda’s Backlit Portrait Settings (DSLR)

  • ISO 200
  • 50 mm lens
  • f2.5
  • 1/1000

Locations for Your Special Light Shot

You don’t need a special stage or studio. You can do this in this kind of area:

  • Inside your home near a window,
  • or back of a sofa,
  • or if your cat ventures onto a table,
  • or outside in a garden or catio.

The one thing you need is bright light. Yes, you can use a flash, if you have one, but my intention was to seize a natural cat moment, as most of you would want to do. So, bright but not super strong light.

In some backlit photos you might get more of a silhouette, unless you brought in a touch of fill flash as I used in Natasha’s photograph here. But, this might be perfect anyway so take a good look before you delete any photograph.

Here’s an excellent definition of what backlighting is that you may find helpful. It’s from Contrastly:

“Backlighting, defined in the simplest of ways, refers to the main source of light behind the photography subject. In other words, the main light (or one of the main lights) is positioned in such a way that it faces the camera.

The subject is then placed in the middle of the light and the camera. This creates a certain glow effect at the edges or at the back of the subject.”

Holiday Furrocious Photo Tips

Red and gold background with gold stars and a christmas bauble in the corner

Ho ho ho! It’s the purrfectly festive Thursday before Christmas, and I am here to spread some holiday cheer with a paws-itively heartwarming cat photo roundup! Forget the frantic last-minute shopping and to-do lists for five minutes. Put on your PJs, grab a mug of hot cocoa (with extra catnip for your model), and cuddle up for a purrfectly delightful dose of cat photo and video fun..

I have cat photography and smartphone video tips for you to btowse through, including a trip down memory lane with our sweet oldster Dusty with his highly successful video series.

How To Film Your Cat Like a Pro

I have been making videos for over five years and discovered what works, and what doesn’t on a smartphone. I make videos with confidence and that confidence comes from practice. If I can do it, you can too!

This post is full of fun tips you can use to make any movie, not just pets. Allow your self to play, have fun and laugh at the wobbly outtakes (or b-roll) as you build your skills and get ready to share your video on Twitter (X), YouTube, Vimeo or Tik-Tok.

hand holds a smartphone in portrait mode with a cat photo on the screen

A Fun Cat Photo Collage Project

This is a splash of lighthearted fun with the potential to create a lovely online greeting to send to your friends, or a poster sized printable. You use the free version of design app Canva, although the Pro version works as well if you have it.

You choose the colours, the photos, the decorations, everything! This post helps you take your first steps to create your own design using the simple user friendly drag and drop interface Canva is famous for.

Screenshot of the Canva design app with a coloured background

Dusty’s Travels

If you remember the movie travels of our oldster Angel Dusty, they are all gathered on this page.

This page introduces you to his short fun and utterly sweet memories. They are a reminder that not every video has to be perfect, but a good video does tell a story. These were happy times, recording stories of joy and genuine happiness.

Find Your Photographer’s Voice

A slightly less ‘practical’ post, one that encourages you to find your own way beyond taking simple cat photos. You can move towards finding an intention to create a message, a particular kind of photograph or motif.

Your photograph can speak more than words, if it has focus and intention it can convey a message.

full face photograph of a tuxedo cat

Smartphone Cat Portrait Mode

No time for fiddly stuff? Explore the one tool on your smartphone you might have overlooked. Portrait Mode. This simple but great effect adds a soft focus ‘bokeh’ effect around your cat similar to the kind you get from a DSLR or Mirrorless camera. As you can see in the post, it looks fantastic, so give it a try.

Top tool tip. Become familiar with how close you have to be to your cat to activate portrait mode. Your ‘phone may remind you to be adjust your distance for the effect to happen.

Toulouse a tabby cat with his Blackwing pencil

Explore Black and White With Cats

If you have been enjoying cat photography then you might want to step outside your comfort zone with an expedition into black and white country. This post goes into the kind of things you want to look for, and has a quick photo tutorial that will give you an idea of how to adjust your colour photographs to black and white.

closeup of tuxedo cat looking to the left.

Make a Christmas Cat Movie

Simple tips for you to try out movie making with your smartphone. You don’t even have to make a finished movie, a few video clips is a great start with these tips,. This is meant to be low stress and fun so give it a try.

Smartphone Orientation Tips
Dash Kitten
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