C2C Apps: Life Lessons Through a Camera Lens

It’s all in how you look at it.

On our last Secret Adventure, we traveled at the crack of dawn to Cades Cove, a wildly popular, beautiful area nestled at the southern end of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Each year, millions of visitors spend the 2-3 hours it takes to work their way around the 11-mile one-way road that loops the Cove. They wander through historic sites, take umpteen photos of the deer, and hope against hope they’ll see a black bear.

Traffic jams are an expected part of the experience. And if you live here, odds are good that you’ve been to the Cove, as LeAnne Jennings said: “…a bajillion times.”

So I was a little worried about taking a group up there. We’ve all done this before, right?  So what would I do for the surprise?

The surprise was Maryville College biology Professor, Dr.Drew Crain, a man with an unusually deep knowledge of the Cove, and an irresistible enthusiasm for it’s hidden treasures.

Add a few Nikon DSLR cameras, a macro and a few 400 mm lens, and you have an entirely new experience with a very familiar place.

See, it’s all in how you look at it. :)

So, eight hours, 11 miles, one brunch, a few tromps through the woods, 6 salamanders and 1000 pictures later, we’d all caught the spark.

We fell back in love with the Cove, with her salamanders and woodpeckers, her hidden paths and life-laden ponds.

And with our cameras.

Along the way, Drew taught us all kinds of things, including:

3 Simple Steps for Turning
a Good Photo
into GREAT Shot.

Thought I’d share those with you.

1. FOCUS on the EYES.

It is often said that the eyes are the windows to the soul – but I’d never realized how much that applied to photography.

Drew pointed out that you can take a picture of almost any living creature that is wildly out of focus – but if you get the eyes crystal clear – it will still work.

We instinctively seek out the eyes of any creature we find – whether it’s a butterfly on a wildflower or a baby in an ad or the cute guy in the frozen foods aisle.

It’s the quickest way we size up a situation, gather information, read someone’s intent. Call it instinct. Call it connection.

Whatever it is – it’s powerful.
And ever present.

C2C APP: Focusing on the eyes not only makes for a great photo; it also helps us read those around us.

In some ways, women do this instinctively – perhaps because we need to “read” our baby’s eyes, long before she can tell us what she needs.

But it’s really a tool we use in all relationships. We can read the eyes of a troubled teenager and know what they’re not saying. We read the eyes of a mechanic and sense whether we can trust their work. We read the eyes of a stranger and know when to be alert.

We can read the eyes of a loved one and know that we are cherished.

I’ll bet you read other’s eyes all the time, without even thinking about it. Focus on what you see there, and trust what your intuition tells you.


When you’re setting up a shot, think about what you’ll include in the picture, and how you’ll place it in the frame.

Follow the “Rule of Thirds”. Divide your photo into thirds – horizontally and vertically – then place your main subject wherever those lines intersect.

In other words, move your main subject off to the side a bit – not right smack dab in the middle of the shot.

And you’ll get a better shot if you work from really different angles – though you may not always be comfortable! :)

C2C APP: When you’re setting up the composition of your life, you should think about what you want to allow in THAT frame too.            

Be particular.

Choose things that support the picture you really want to create.

And if you’re willing to be a little uncomfortable, you’ll make some pretty cool discoveries there as well.

–Joining a group of women you don’t know, to do something you’ve never tried.

–Traveling to a place that’s completely different than what you’re used to.

–Reading a book with a different point of view, or talking to a friend with a different perspective.

Each experience lets you see things ‘from a different’ angle, and that, too, can make all the difference.

3. Use COLOR & LIGHT to add emotion.

Setting bright colors against a dark background makes a flower pop. Taking photos in slanted light – sunrise or sunset – softens a photo and changes the mood.

Light and color create emotion; they can add beauty, make a statement, move your spirit.

And improve your photo!

C2C App: If color and lighting can make such a difference in a photo, what role do they play in our daily environment?

Look around the room you’re sitting in. Do you see colors that bring you pleasure?

If not, how could you change that?  Perhaps you could add a pillow to your couch or a throw across the foot of your bed. Perhaps it’s a vase of flowers on your nightstand.

And how does the lighting in your home serve you? Does it soften the room? Or add a glare? Would a small lamp, or a candle help? Perhaps a different kind of window shade could filter the afternoon sun.

Light and color can lift our mood just as it adds to a photo. Think about how you can use this intentionally at home.

Focus. Composition. Color. Lighting.
Simple keys to a great shot – and helpful lessons for a better life.

It’s all in how you look at it!

Colorful Courageous Women

And as a gift from Dr. Drew Crain, a BONUS that makes me very happy.



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