Episode 7 – Nancy Rose, Hubley Nova Scotia

Podcast Episode #7 – Feb 15, 2022

In this podcast interview we will be talking to Nancy Rose, a photographer, author and illustrator best known for her book series “The Secret Life of Squirrels” currently based in Hubley, Nova Scotia.

You Can Learn Photography Podcast Episode 7 Nancy Rose (mp3)
©Nancy Rose

Nancy worked as a Guidance Counselor and Family Studies teacher until she retired in 2016. Nancy grew up in Antigonish, NS, in a family of seven children where creativity was always encouraged and over the years she has pursued a variety of art and craft endeavors in her spare time. She started taking photography seriously in 2007 when she joined Flickr.com where she was inspired by the creativity and talents of photographers from all over the world. Her interest in nature and wildlife, and a storage room full of fabrics, paint, clay and craft materials merged with her photography passion when she discovered the curiosity of the little North American Red Squirrels who raided the bird feeders in her backyard. By making miniature dioramas and squirrel-size props she has created hundreds of scenarios where the inquisitive squirrels find themselves in some rather human-like poses as they search for peanuts hidden in the props. Gradually, the “secret life” of her backyard squirrels emerged. Her first “actor”, Mr. Peanuts, has been followed by a succession of cute and curious squirrels who come daily for peanuts and sunflower seeds and to check out whatever Nancy puts out on the table on her deck. Sometimes she gets a good shot right away, but more often it takes hundreds of photos to get a clearly focused shot that tells the story Nancy has in her head.

In 2013 Nancy’s humorous squirrel photos on Flickr went viral and they have been featured on numerous websites, and newspapers locally and internationally, as well as on local and national television news shows. When some of her amusing squirrel photos appeared in The Toronto Star and National Post she was contacted by a literary agent at Westwood Creative Artists in Toronto. From there her books were born and her followers grew in number. Her fifth book was published in June 2021.

Nancy’s first book, The Secret Life of Squirrels was published simultaneously in Canada and the US in 2014 and has also been published in Japan and South Korea. It is also available in a board book for the youngest readers, and in 2016 available in paperback through Scholastic Books. Merry Christmas, Squirrels followed in 2015, The Secret Life of Squirrels: A Love Story in 2016, and The Secret Life of Squirrels: Back to School in 2018. Oakley the Squirrel – The Search for Z – A Nutty Alphabet Book came out in June 2021 and a follow up about Counting and Camping is at the publishers now. Nancy is currently working on a fourth year of photos (for 2024) calendars with Workman Publishing.

Nancy does classroom visits (live, before covid) and virtual these days, via Zoom or Googlemeet. She is available to read to students of all ages. “I can talk about the roles of author and illustrator and working with a publisher. I show many of my homemade miniature props which appear in the books to show the students that art has many forms. We talk about nature and wildlife, crafting and recycling (The 3 R’s) and the 4 P’s: photography, practice, patience and persistence. After my visits students have often created their own miniatures and written stories to go with them.”

You can follow Nancy’s work and learn more at:

Some Youtube Links:
Merry Christmas Squirrels! by Nancy Rose (Little, Brown Young Readers)
Merry Christmas Squirrels! read by Patti Smith (321 Read)
The Secret Life of Squirrels read by Mr. Kirby’s Neighborhood
Squirrel with tissues Nancy Rose “Secret Life of Squirrels”

From your podcast app click on this link to the images which will automatically use your browser.

The Music snippets that you hear in the intro and outro of the podcast is from “upbeat-motivation-corporate” by M-Dewala on Pixabay Music.

February Theme Challenge – “Winter Scene”

I apologize for posting this months challenge later than hoped, due to recent computer upgrades. For this month, February 2022, the theme challenge is “Winter Scene”. The content here is similar to the Feb 2020 challenge of Snow, Frost, or Ice.

Taking photographs in the cold weather has it’s challenges; keeping yourself warm and comfortable, being careful not to fall, and keeping your gear free from condensation are all important things to consider before going out. See below after the sample images to get tips on equipment cold weather care and proper exposure to get your snow white.

Snow and can create dreamy conditions and it can help remove distractions in the landscape. Go around your area and create some images of the conditions where you live. You can even take a few of the images and create a collage depicting winter life in your community.

With ice it’s a matter of catching the right light and angle to make your images more interesting. The changing conditions cycling through snow, rain, and refreezing as well as the impact the wind has on the final result can create something very interesting.

Taking images at sunset or sunrise when it is cold enough to freeze the ocean can help create interesting images as well.

Create some memories of subjects you see in your community under abnormal conditions such as this fishing boat in the ice. If you know the owner you can always share the photo with them as well.

Equipment care: Taking your camera gear from a warm environment to the outside usually does not cause any issues, however when going from the cold back into a warm environment is where condensation can quickly form on your camera/lens and this is where it can be harmful to your gear eventually causing spots on your external and more seriously the internal lens elements which eventually causes mold. Before going in to a warm environment from the cold, place your camera/lens back inside your camera bag (your bag needs to be padded with zipper closed) this will allow your gear to raise in temperature slowly and therefore condensation will not happen. An additional protection tip is to put your camera/lens in a Ziploc bag, this will allow the condensation to form on the outside of the bag and not on your camera/lens.

Stay Warm: To enjoy your time out in the cold dress in layers with thermal socks for your feet and gloves that allow you to operate your camera and keep your hands warm. If you are in icy conditions use crampons or cleats on your boots, they will keep you from falling so you don’t get hurt or break your gear.

White balance is best set for the weather condition; use sunny, cloudy or custom. If you are not sure use auto but the result may not be as good (depending on your camera) as my previous suggestions.

Exposure: The challenge in taking a photograph in snow, frost or ice conditions is getting the right exposure. If you let your camera automatically pick the exposure you will immediately see that the snow, frost and ice is more gray than white. This is because the camera’s auto exposure is based on 18% gray, which is the amount of light reflected from a 50% gray surface. To solve gray looking snow, frost and ice, set your “exposure compensation” at +2. If you see the “highlight alert” on your display then back off the exposure compensation by -1/3 at a time until you no longer see the “highlight alert”. You will then have the proper exposure for shooting with snow or ice conditions.

The same exposure technique goes for manual mode, set your exposure until your camera meter shows +2. Then take a photo and see if you see any highlight alerts, if you do then back off the exposure by -1/3 increments until you no longer see any highlight alerts.

Your final best exposure for auto or manual exposure is usually closer to +2 than +1.

You can review the blog articles on exposure compensation and highlight alert if you need help.

Students are encouraged to develop their ability to tell a story or invoke an emotion, as well as how to plan and troubleshoot while creating their images. As such it’s important to not only create the image but to also include a “title”, and write a short paragraph about; how they came up with the idea, any interesting back ground that compelled them to make the image, and describe any techniques on how they overcame any obstacles.

As always with our monthly theme challenges we try to seek out an instructional resource, below are a number of YouTube video links to help with some hints and ideas.

Snow, Frost or Ice Photography instructional aids:
How to take amazing photos in the snow: by Gavin Hoey (3min 53sec)
Landscape Photography Tips & Techniques, Winter Freeze: by Thomas Heaton (15min 55sec)
Snow Landscape Photography Tips: by Micael Widell (10min 17sec)
Landscape Photography in the Snow, Winter in North Yorkshire by: First Man Photography (11min 5sec)

An important part of improving your photography is practice, which is one aspect of the monthly theme challenge, in addition you have an opportunity to learn about different genres, techniques and tips.