When I first started blogging, I quickly discovered Cee Neuner through her photography challenges. She was one of the first bloggers I followed (she has 10,624 followers), and I’ve been a frequent participant in photo challenges ever since because of her influence.
ARHtistic License: Back in the day before you contracted Lyme Disease, what sort of work did you do?
Cee Neuner: In my last year of high school (1979), I was lucky enough to be chosen to learn word processing, which was new at the time, so that actually created a good secretarial platform for me. Since then I’ve been on the leading edge of computer technology. I also have a legal secretary degree from a vocational school. Back in the days when the world needed secretaries and word processors I was highly employable. I worked basically as a word processor since my technical skills were good. In my later years I was a Sales Administrative Assistant for Mission Foods (tortilla company) and Staples (office products in their Business to Business department). I also worked as a software quality assurance tester for a couple of years, and as a tech writer.
AL: How long have you been taking photographs? How did you get started? What is it that you like about photography? Have you ever been a professional photographer?
CN: I’ve always been interested in photography. I don’t know how many Instamatic cameras I’ve bought over the years. The only thing that really stopped me from taking photos was the cost of film and the processing of it. Once digital cameras came along, I began making photography my hobby. My first real good camera had a flower macro setting and that is what hooked me on flowers. That was around 2007, and that is when I got serious.
I feel so comfortable and creative when I’m behind the camera lens, the world transforms for me. I see the world and its parts in a totally different way. I don’t have the words to explain it. It’s a magical thing.
In terms of being paid for my photography, yes, people have paid for my photography. So that does make me a professional photographer, but I don’t do it as a business. Being the introvert that I am, I don’t have a major sales presence. I have countless hours of practice both behind the lens and on post-processing, and in that sense I’m definitely a professional.
AL: Do you have any formal photography training?
CN: No, not by education in a classroom. I did take a couple local classes, but it was very informal and there was not any kind of credit given. Instead, I study everyone who takes photos and I determine what I like or don’t like about a photograph. I’m constantly learning from bloggers and other photographers. And in my opinion, I am constantly improving as a photographer as time and experience dictate. I’m always learning.
AL: You used to have some composition lessons on your blog—I think they were in connection with the Compose Yourself Challenge. I miss those. Did you ever teach photography?
CN: I just reposted that series on my blog, since the Covid virus has kept most of us inside. I thought it might help people get through the lonely times. Here is a link to the last post: CCYL: Review and Practice, Plus Left to Right Effect.
I would love to teach people how to take good and interesting photographs. To me photography is all about getting a good photo to start with. It’s less about the camera and lenses or even about the technical aspects of the camera or post processing software. It’s all about composition and what goes into capturing a good photo.
I am actually thinking next year I will bring back my Tips and Tricks and do those weekly, possibly as a challenge. Or maybe start a “Dear Cee” column answering questions about photography or taking photos, or fixing up someone’s photo. It’s still all rolling around in my head.
AL: Over the years, you’ve hosted many photo challenges. Now you’re down to four, but you’re a clearinghouse for many different kinds of artistic blogging challenges. Why do you like challenges? Why do you recommend them for bloggers and artists in all media?
CN: Challenges keep me thinking and learning more about photography and even more about taking photos of different types of subjects. I started out with basically being a floral photographer, but over the years I’ve learned how to take photos of just about anything. When on an outing with my camera, I’m always looking for something different to capture or a different way of capturing something ordinary.
Artistic bloggers love to share what they are passionate about. Challenges are a great place for them to practice and learn more. It is also a place for them to teach their art. We want to share our work with others and hope they enjoy what we do.
AL: Most of your photographs are outdoor scenes, especially of nature, like Flower of the Day. (Is that your longest running challenge?) Why do you especially love nature as the subject of your photographs?
CN: I love being outdoors. When I was really young, I lived in Northern Minnesota on the shore of Lake Superior, so I guess I just relate to nature more. I am not a city girl by any stretch of the imagination. When Chris and I lived in Colorado (near Denver) we went camping weekly in the summer in the mountains, usually at 10,000 feet. In the winters we camped on the plains in Eastern Colorado.
My longest running challenge is Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge. That challenge is actually a carry over from when I used to host a challenge on a photographers community site.
My Flower of the Day Challenge is actually one of my newest challenges. I just liked posting a flower a day since I take so many flowers photos and other people started joining along, so I turned it into a challenge. That may be why you think it was my original challenge because I’ve been posting flowers from day one.
AL: Have you ever done portraits?
CN: No. I’m really not interested in posed photography, although I would like to explore doing candid or street photography more. I find if you can capture a person when they distracted and being their natural self you get a better picture.
AL: What kind of camera (or cameras) do you have? Which is your favorite?
CN: My recent camera is my Sony A7III mirrorless full frame mirrorless camera. Chris has a Sony a6000 which is our go to camera for the wide angle lens.
I don’t keep my old cameras. I usually sell them or give them away.
AL: What camera would you recommend for a novice?
CN: It depends on what the person is wanting to photograph or what level of photographer they already are. Most modern cameras can take a great photo these days. What you need to learn is how to compose and create an interesting photograph. You need to train you eye to take the photo you see. I generally recommend a good point and shoot if you are a complete beginner, or a “kit” camera with that comes with a 24-70mm lens. That lens size varies with the manufacturer, but all of the good brands have an entry level camera that usually start around $200 USD. I always encourage people to buy the camera that is one level up from what they want. That gives them room to grow as a photographer. That is always a perfect place to start because as you learn more you can buy new lenses.
There are a few things to keep in mind: Always have your camera battery charged and plenty of space on your memory card, and learn how to hold your camera, especially if you have a longer or heavier lenses. Take your camera everywhere you go, because you never know when you will want to take a photo.
AL: Is there a photographer whom you admire? Who has influenced your work?
CN: Not really. I believe in learning from everyone.
AL: How do you set about getting the particular effect you want for a shot?
CN: I basically use natural lighting, so it’s taken me a while to work with sunlight, or heavy cloud cover. I’ve learned how to use my body as a shield from the sun when taking close ups of flowers. I don’t do a lot of post-processing. I always say if it takes me more than 5 minutes to clean up a photo, it isn’t a good photograph to start with.
AL: What is your favorite kind of lens? What camera accessories do you consider essential?
CN: I use the following lenses:
- Sony E-mount 18-200mm VR lens (general telephoto)
- Sony FE-mount Macro 90mm fixed lens (for flowers)
- Sony FE-mount 70-300mm VR lens (longer telephoto)
- Sony E-mount 10-18mm VR lens (wide angle for architecture and up-close work)
My favorite “go to” lens is my 18-200 mm. It is so adaptable, especially with someone like me who isn’t very mobile.
If you learn how to take a steady photo, you won’t need to use a tripod for most of your shots. The only time I use mine is when I take photos at night.
AL: How do you organize your photos?
CN: Okay, this will show that I am a real nerd. I’m fortunate, too. I have about 150,000 photos that I’ve kept and the number keeps increasing. (I do clean my library out from time to time.). Anyhow, I’ve always key worded all my photos. My key wording gets more detailed as the years go by. I keep all my photos on an external drive so I have easy access to all of them. I can usually find a photo I need in a few seconds to sometimes a few minutes. I also have all the photos I’ve already edited or used on my blog, so I can look through those quickly. And yes, I have backups for my hard drives.
AL: What is your favorite time of day to take pictures? Why?
CN: The only time I really don’t like to take photos is from 10 am to about 3 pm. The sun is too bright and high in the sky during those hours. Flowers look flatter and the sun is often an issue and photos can be burned out easily. If you have to work with the sun, try and keep the sun to your back or the side. I rarely shoot directly into the sun during the day.
If it is a cloudy day, which it is a lot of the time in Oregon, it is much easier to get good photos. One drawback to heavy clouds, though, is that there won’t be shadows to have fun with.
Golden hours (the hours around sunrise and sunset) are superb for lighting.
AL: Have you ever had a humorous experience taking a photo? (I love funny stories.)
CN: I don’t know if you’d call them funny stories, but I’d have the best time with doing a “drive by shooting”. We call them that because since I’ve been a handicapped person with limited mobility, we’d go out driving just to find things I could photograph from the front seat of the car, a shot I could get as we drove by. You’ve known people who brake for garage sales? Well, we’re like that with wonderful things you can find while driving around.
We see a lot on the country roads around us. One time we were behind a slow moving truck with what looked like a part of a mountain laying on its side. We followed it and found out it was a mobile climbing wall that could be rented out for carnivals and the like. It was fascinating to look at. I got some great shots of that.
Another time we were wandering around and got behind the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile. Really. I didn’t know there was such a thing. We followed it to a grocery store parking lot and talked with the young ladies who were driving it. Their job was to travel from store to store to promote Oscar Mayer hot dogs. They said they had a lot of fun going places and meeting people. Everyone smiled when they saw the wiener mobile, especially moms with young kids.
That’s another thing that fun about doing drive by shootings… I meet and talk with interesting people. Chris and I were driving out of town one day when we had to stop for a red light. Out of the corner of my eye I could see the most interesting van in a parking lot. I had Chris circle back around so I could take pictures of it, and then I talked with the artist who was creating it. His main line of work was painting store windows with notices of special sales, but just for fun he was turning his painter’s van into a moving art piece, all built out with 3-D statues and scenes. He was great fun to talk with.
AL: Is there anything else you would like readers to know about you or your work?
CN: My challenges’ home pages: