Reflections on a Spring Day

Water is a valued resource in the desert, especially in these days of severe drought. Ponds can be found in places along and near the Rio Grande River, and a variety of plants and animals are attracted to such spots. Water is life-giving.

Sometimes water can be appreciated for simple beauty. I loved the various reflections in the water this particular day – the duck, the clouds, the trees, the rocks…

Dutch Iris in the Desert

Dutch Iris

These Dutch iris were blooming earlier in May. Dutch iris are about as common as water here in the high desert of the Southwest. But sometimes the magical light, in combination with Dutch iris and water near the Rio Grande River, can produce some unexpected results. This image brought a smile to my face when I saw it uploaded on the computer. 🙂 I hope you enjoy it also.

dutch iris
Impressionistic Dutch Iris

A Two-Tailed Swallowtail Butterfly

The two-tailed swallowtail butterfly is, to me, one of the most beautiful butterflies around. It is large, very colorful, and at times almost seems to “pose” for lucky photographers.

Last Friday, May 10, was a perfect day for a lot of things at the Albuquerque BioPark. You have already seen the variety of iris that were in bloom that day. Close to where a lot of the iris were blooming, was a patch of deep pink flowers whose name I do not know, but to which butterflies were attracted. The BioPark has a butterfly enclosure, but it will not even open until the weekend of May 25. This two-tailed swallowtail butterfly is one of our native butterflies out in the open. This is the State Butterfly of Arizona, but we certainly have our share here in New Mexico (for which I am grateful). I have them in my yard, which is in the middle of Albuquerque, every summer.

Here are a few images from last Friday.

Two-tailed swallowtail butterfly
swallowtail butterfly
Two-tailed swallowtail butterfly
Two-tailed swallowtail butterfly
Two-tailed swallowtail butterfly

Here are some fact sheets, where you can compare the two-tailed swallowtail to the western tiger swallowtail to the eastern tiger swallowtail.

My personal favorite is the two-tailed swallowtail, but maybe that is because that is what I have here (and they let me photograph them 🙂 ). I hope you enjoy these.

To Watermark or Not to Watermark – Why Is This Even a Question?


If you look around at images on the internet, you may be surprised at how few images actually carry a watermark. I’m not surprised when people’s vacation or holiday pictures are posted without a watermark, but I am always more than a little surprised when serious photographers do not watermark their images before posting them on the internet.

As far as I have been able to determine from an unscientific look at other serious photographers I know, there seem to be three major approaches to watermarking images before posting on the internet:

1. those who watermark virtually every image before posting;
2. those who would never watermark an image to be posted on the web because “watermarks spoil the visual effect;”
3. those who would really like to watermark images because they see the advantages in terms of some degree of protection against unauthorized use, but are intimidated by the photographers whose thinking about watermarks has not yet made the mental transition from photographic prints to digital web images. If this third group uses a watermark, they almost apologize for it!

Most photographers I know, when selling a print, either sign the mat (if the print is matted and/or framed) or the back of the print. That is mainly so that the buyer has a record of the image creator, and also partially because reputable labs will not copy a printed image not made by the print owner. In most cases, the signature (or logo, if that is used instead) does not interfere with the visual flow of the image. And, for years, this system worked well for virtually all photographs (as well as other works of the visual arts in a fixed form).

Enter the internet, and protection of one’s images becomes something completely different. I have already discussed the importance of registering one’s copyrights for works created in the United States. But, even works with registered copyrights are likely to be downloaded and used unless people have a way to know that an image is owned by someone who cares about protecting his/her work. Well, it might be downloaded and used even if a watermark has been used, but I’ll talk about what an artist can do about that scenario in a bit.

There are a variety of ways that the creator of an image can be identified. Serious photographs embed their copyright data and contact information in the metadata of each image. Image editing software, such as Adobe’s Lightroom, make this very easy and efficient to do. Once set up, the information can be embedded in every single image exported from the software program. Great, you say. When used diligently by photographers, there should be no such thing as “orphan works,” which are creating a lot of headaches worldwide at present. And, in theory, that is true.

Unfortunately, theory and reality are not always the same thing. Some social network sites, Facebook among them, strip that information from images uploaded there and then downloaded by anyone. And, anyone can download any image on Facebook. Don’t believe it? Upload an image with all your data nicely embedded in the image, and then download it from Facebook. Now, try to find all of your conscientiously embedded data. See what I mean? Once that data has been lost, the image can appear all over the internet and no one will know the creator of the work.

Someone told me not too long ago that it would not matter, because if a photographer uploaded only low resolution files, no one could make a decent print out of it to sell. That is true. But that is only part of the issue. Many photographers make part of their income through licensing their images for use on the internet. That is, selling prints is not the only way photographers earn money in these days of the internet. Many companies find it much less expensive to license images already created than to pay a staff photographer. This is one reason there has been such an explosion in stock photography companies, which license work. If you have an image that someone would like to license, but your connection to the image is not there, there are two possible outcomes: the person seeks another image whose creator can be contacted for licensing, or, your image gets used anyway. In either scenario you, the photographer, lose money. Now, if that image has had the copyright registered, and you discover its use, your attorney can write a nice letter for cease and desist, along with a demand for payment for licensing fees to that point, and a demand for a listing of every place else the image has been used and then licensing payment for that as well. If the copyright has not been registered (assuming the work was created in the US), well, too bad. You can ask for payment, and you may or may not get it.

Back to watermarks. It is possible to remove watermarks from images, but it takes a lot more work than simply stripping embedded metadata. And, there is a huge potential liability for someone who removes watermarks from images and then uses those images. That indicates “willful” infringement. If done on an image whose copyright has been registered, the person is potentially liable for statutory damages, not just actual losses and damages, which can amount to up to $150,000 per infringement. Of course, if the creator claimed a watermark had been removed, he/she would be expected to prove that he/she had used a watermark, and there is no better way to do that than to use a watermark on every single image. It is just good business and good practice to put a watermark on every single image you put on the internet. And, you need not apologize to anyone for doing it! If anyone tries to make you feel guilty, chalk it up to ignorance on their part.

What should a watermark for use on an image to be posted on the internet contain? These are merely my suggestions. I have not yet come across an article with specific recommendations. I think it should contain a name, the same name as used for registering a work. That way, if someone wants to see if the work is registered, or if you, as an artist, register your work, all the person needs to do is search the name in the copyright records. If your name is there, it says that you are serious about protecting your work. It should contain a link to your website, if you have one; otherwise, an alternative way to contact you should someone wish to discuss licensing. It should be visible, and not easy to overlook.

Let me stress that I am talking about watermarks for images posted on the internet. If someone purchases a print, you’ll mark the back or sign the print, or something more traditionally done with photographic prints. If you license the image for internet use, part of the agreement will state whether or not the photographer is credited, but the watermark will be removed when the license is purchased. (As an aside, one of the things I like about Zenfolio as a selling site is that a watermark remains on an image until a client pays. The shopping cart clearly states that the watermark will not appear on the finished product, be that a print or a license for use).

More White Iris

Watermarks – important for the serious photographer who posts his/her images on the internet!

Some Beautiful Iris


The iris were gorgeous last week at the BioPark. For my iris-loving friends, I am sorry I do not have the names of these – they were not marked. But, I think you can still enjoy the beauty of the flowers. They were everywhere throughout the BioPark.

Yellow Iris
Yellow Iris
white iris
White Iris
more white iris
More White Iris
white and purple iris
White and Purple Iris
purple iris
Purple Iris
burgundy iris
Burgundy Iris

Copyright Registration in the United States

Copyright Registration and Protection of Artistic Work in the U.S.

Copyright laws are very complex, and they are different all over the world. This post is directly relevant only to my artist friends (photographers, painters, etc.) in the U.S. The internet has made protection of one’s work difficult the world over, although it has, at the same time, made work much more accessible, a benefit for artists.

(Disclaimer: I am a photographer very interested in protecting the rights in my work. These are some of the things I have learned and some of the things I do. For legal advice, always consult an attorney well versed in copyright law. It is complex and is in the process of changing.)

In the United States, copyright is guaranteed in the Constitution itself. It is not in an amendment; it is in the Constitution itself! This leads to a couple of interesting facts. Copyright laws are written and revised by Congress (so don’t expect changes to occur at breakneck speed these days). Perhaps more importantly, depending on your point of view, copyright cases are heard in Federal (not State!) courts (have you ever heard the expression, “don’t make a federal case out of it?” There are reasons for that expression! Federal lawsuits are very expensive and time consuming!)

I’m always a little surprised when I realize that the only people I actually know personally who have registered their copyrights in their art are the instructor (an attorney/photographer) I had for a class, “Legal Issues in the Digital Arts” and I. In the U.S., an artist owns the copyright in his/her art from the moment a work is created (unless it was a “work made for hire” or for some reason the artist transferred the copyright). In the U.S., however, an unregistered copyright is pretty meaningless in cases of infringement.

Here is the U.S. Copyright Office Circular with which every artist in the U.S. should be familiar:

Copyright Basics

Among these advantages [of registration] are the following:

• Registration establishes a public record of the copyright claim.

Before an infringement suit may be filed in court, registration is necessary for works of U. S. origin.

• If made before or within five years of publication, registration will establish prima facie evidence in court of the validity of the copyright and of the facts stated in the certificate.

If registration is made within three months after publication of the work or prior to an infringement of the work, statutory damages and attorney’s fees will be available to the copyright owner in court actions. Otherwise, only an award of actual damages and profits is available to the copyright owner.

The short and the long of it is, if you are an artist who wishes to protect his/her works against infringement, the works need to be registered in the Copyright Office. And, for full relief in infringement cases, including statutory damages and attorney’s fees, the registration needs to be done within three months of publication (consult an attorney about how the Copyright Office interprets “publication,” if in doubt) or prior to infringement.

“It is expensive” and “it is too time-consuming” are two of the reasons I hear over and over from fellow artists who do not register their copyrights.

Continue reading “Copyright Registration in the United States”

Clematis “The President”

Clematis – a beautiful vine that can have very large flowers that come in a wide variety of colors. It grows well in the high desert of New Mexico, and is one of the first things to bloom in the spring. Depending on conditions, it may bloom again in the fall, but the fall bloom rarely matches the spring bloom.

“The President”
has large purple-blue flowers, with reddish-purple anthers, making for a spectacular display at its spring bloom.

These images come from my mother’s garden on May 5, 2013.

“The President”
“The President”
Closeup of Clematis “The President”

Clematis can make a very good companion plant for climbing roses. The vine can use the rose canes for support, but does not “choke” the rose. It will bloom first, usually before rose blooms appear. It will finish blooming about the time the roses start to bloom. The rose provides the “shady feet” the clematis needs to thrive, which is important since the vine itself needs sun.

This clematis, ‘The President,’ is not planted with a climbing rose, but is planted near ‘Gold Medal.’ It is a stunning combination when the two are blooming together.

Clematis – a wonderful addition for a spectacular and early spring bloom!

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