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Light Pixie Studio – Sharyn Richardson » Preserve your memories | fine art portraits that tell a story | photographs and paintings by Sharyn Richardson | Light Pixie Studio | What do you want to remember? | worldwide

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Southwestern Wisconsin in the winter is cold. Colors are muted but there to be found. In the bottom of the creek bed are ancient sedimentary rocks cast there by massive forces, worn down by wind and water, tweezed apart by swelling frost. Green mosses thrive in all months while grass grows slowly under the snow.

Nighttime lit by the moon or Sylvania casts golden shadows and bounces lens rainbows into the blue-dark sky.

Some creatures are built for speed even in their heaviest coat. (Click any image to see them full-sized)

The Frog Whisperer


This little girl is eight years old, a math whiz, and full of imagination! She loves any play that involves swinging, soaring, jumping, pretend flying. Land, sea or air, she’s quite at home. This marvelous little person watches butterflies in her spare time and is a devoted follower of all small creatures. Her favorite colors are anything bright!


This painting, The Frog Whisperer, shows what really happens in this child’s day-to-day world, not once, not twice, but over and over again. Yes, she is patient beyond anything you’ve ever seen. And she’s quietly purposeful enough to gentle a bullfrog into her hands.


It’s always a pleasure to enjoy her company with never a dull moment!

  • Jo Preston - Beautiful subject and beautifully captured! You are so gifted Sharyn! Mike and I are sitting here admiring your work. What a treasure for this young girl to take with her into her grown up years. Hope she keeps the spirit you see here.ReplyCancel

Here’s my newest commission and another Best of Breed animal. Meet Northwynd Everlasting “Sprite” who was born a tiny 4.6 ounces but grew into a star. Last year Sprite took the highest honor a purebred Pembroke Welsh Corgi can achieve in winning the Pembroke Welsh Corgi Club National Speciality!  With a sparkling career of many awards she’s a credit to her pedigree and to her breed, the product of a noble line, sired by a champion and mother to a pup who is already winning highest honors.

This painting shows baby Sprite looking at her puppy self in life’s mirror. Looking back at her and at us is the adult Sprite with her National Speciality ribbon adorning the frame.

There are two recognized corgi breeds, the Pembrokes and the Cardigans. The royal Windsors prefer the Pembrokes and actively encourage the breed. To win the National Speciality is the ultimate Best of Breed recognition for the dog and moreover for the breeder, owner, and trainers. In this case one dedicated woman wears all these hats. When asked what best describes all the work and worry, the years of commitment leading to Sprite’s success, she answered with the words that now title this painting.

Nature can be fickle then turn on season’s dime to pay back for all the trouble. 2012 was a droughty year and when the rains finally came in July some benefitted while others were just a little too south or received just a little too little and late.

Then came blazing September with fiery reds and oranges and golden in intensities and shades that few can remember! They say it’s the drought that gets the credit. Nature’s apology for making trouble!

I fly a small airplane that takes us far and wide. It doesn’t fly very fast but lets us explore the scenery slipping past underneath. This is a Fiery Maple Arch that I wouldn’t have discovered but for flying over a lucky route and a stunning quarter-mile long driveway in a hidden valley. See what we saw in the second photo below.

Fiery Maple Arch

Fiery Maple Arch

Imagine beautiful countryside in every direction, then tucking over a ridge to find a fairytale farm with a long, manicured avenue of maple trees, balanced, symmetrical, ablaze! Such good work should be rewarded! To thank those who planned and cared for that archway, I sought them on the ground with the gift of an enlargement. In my coming and going underneath their arch of trees, I found a paradise of color, their own special place, worthy of their work and a certain reward. For them of course, and for me as well!

Above the Fire

Leah Collected is my newest work. In process for several months it is finally delivered. The subject is a bay-colored Morgan horse and several times over Grand National Champion in Dressage, sometimes known as horse ballet. Dressage has several levels and standards required in competition where the highest level of skill, intelligence, strength, and difficulty is known as Collection. So at the peak of her career Leah was a dressage master of being collected.

Master of Horse Balley

Leah Collected

Notice Leah’s characteristic bay coloring of brown body with soft black nose, legs black at the bottom, black mane, ears outlined in black. Her ears are pricked forward now as she gallops her way through the water ahead but in a moment they’ll move back to listen intently to her rider.

At 28 years of age Leah is finally retired. She has some health issues but is just as sweet of disposition and intelligent as ever. Her caring owners stopped riding her last year. This scene in the river really happened and it’s the way Leah’s family wants to remember her — running freely, full of life, soaked with the joy of plunging headlong into river water with her best friend — a permanent, tangible memory of this very special horse.

A personal footnote: My life doesn’t leave much time for the care and feeding of livestock. We have a lovely philosopher cat who lives inside with us and a dozen big goldfish in the summers that get transferred to a deep year ‘round pond each fall. Our one indulgence is a small airplane named Fire Horse, so in that sense we do have a horse with wings! Leah is the fourth real horse I’ve painted in 2012 and I learned a great deal in several conversations with her owner, about horse ballet, about horses in general, and about this lovely girl in particular. I thoroughly enjoyed the entire process and the challenge of it, but especially exploring the way the human heart can fall completely in love with a horse. Thank you for that, Leah, and to your family who loves you so much!

  • Robert L. Creekbaum - Hi Sharyn
    What a beautiful picture, it looks so real.
    You did a gorgeous job–you really have the talent. Keep up the good work. Jo said to tell you hi backReplyCancel

I’d never heard of the Rainbow Bridge until recently. In context of planning this painting it was abundantly clear what was meant. That a meadow full of beloved pets might exist where they wait patiently and playfully for their beloved owners is both comfort in grief and a wish for love and companionship. How touching to imagine it! The preciousness of life is what this touches so be sure to squeeze the good from today and everyday.

Keisha and Cubby: Waiting at the Rainbow Bridge

 Keisha at left was described to me as the couple’s favorite dog of all, a constant friend and companion, full of joy and eagerness, sweet of disposition, joining faithfully in morning walks and loyal always. At right is Cubby who, owned by a distracted neighbor, knew a very good thing in the happy company and care to be found next door. In their place now is Ruby, a solidly round little pup who fills today with her antics.

This painting was to be a surprise birthday gift for the man but his wife was too enthusiastic to wait a month to give it. That and a lucky circumstance allowed me to be present in the gallery to see his reaction for myself. That makes this painting especially meaningful to me as well. To translate someone’s loss into a special memory is my own little piece of paradise, a painted poem.

For anyone who has ever loved an animal friend, here then is the poetic prose entitled Rainbow Bridge written by an unknown author sometime in the last twenty to thirty years:

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.
When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together.
There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.
All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.
They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.
You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.
Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together

“Freckles is my good friend. When we ride it feels like flying on wind. I wonder if Freckles feels me like a pair of new sprouted wings?”

This painting was commissioned by the young woman’s other friend to recognize an important achievement and to acknowledge a special place in the heart.


The snowmobile part of the portrait–that is, a far more complex structure to paint than the young college student astride it.

I enjoyed the working session when we talked about his machine and reference photos were taken. It seemed to me that he did as well. In this case it was his smile that captured my attention–not too much, not too little, but just right. I referred to it as his generous smile which equally fit his personality. I like young people, especially the hopeful, ambitious, forward focus of youth engaged in building the future, a credit to their families and a joy to their friends.

In the several months of work on the portrait, I learned a lot more than expected about the physical structure of such a snow machine. No, I’ve never ridden one and it’s a far cry from the airplane I pilot. Great color and curvy lines to appreciate though! Snowmobiling has been a big part of the young man’s life and for him it’s the best thing about winter. In his own words,

“It’s freedom from everything, just being able to go out riding and not really knowing where you’re heading. Finding new places to go is the best part . . . pretty much, snowmobiling is my most favorite hobby.”

Since the machine and the freedom it represents is such a value to the young man I worked hard to get it right.


As for the young man I would call him brave to sit for his portrait with a stranger. Ander is of Scandinavian root and references bravery. His other name suggests fame so perhaps somebday he’ll make a name for himself as a brave man.

Ander’s Son

  • Light Pixie - Thanks, Jo! Your generous words are always food for my soul!ReplyCancel

  • Jo Preston - breath taking…jumps off the page as if alive. You are amazing!ReplyCancel

Boscobel Spring

20mm f/8 1/180sec ISO200 with the Canon EF-S17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM

The cold, short days of dark winter in southwestern Wisconsin have given way to brighter spring. Light in every sunbeam seems especially welcome.

I’ve been reviewing archives from the spring of 2010. It’s amazing what can slip unnoticed when you’re focused on something else. Two years ago I was interested in reflections and rejected this image in favor of others. Today the pattern of light rays caught my eye for the way they filter through the bare branches of a scrub forest in Wisconsin River bottomland near Boscobel. For every photographer it’s primarily about managing light. In all its forms and nuances it is the main tool. Some of my most memorable images have come from shooting directly into the sun. Lens flare and bokeh gave Light Pixie its name afterall.

Other than the beautiful light, what I like about this photograph are the tender green sprouts and a warming sky on a cold day. And I remember the company I keep.

  • Jo Preston - I just made this my wallpaper…something so captivating about the rays of light. Thank you.ReplyCancel

    • Light Pixie - Hi Jo! Great to see you here, a breadcrumb to why and where I’ve disappeared. Thanks for the comment; I value your feedback.ReplyCancel

Worn Out Worker Bee

Life of hard work

This is an old worker bee, one of the class of hairy social insects Bombus lapidarius that buzz and bumble from flower to flower. It can sting but is a reluctant abuser, more likely to retreat than advance. Bees work for their supper and in support of its group. In the process they pollinate in the wild along with our cultivated crops. A world without bees would be a lonely (and hungry) place for humans as well.

Shot with the L-series Canon EF 100mm 2.8 IS USM lens at ISO 400, f6.7, 1/45 sec. Dying of old age I suspect, it cooperated in my photographic intrusions, flicking antennae, crawling weakly, stopping to rest, looking up then down again. Over ten minutes I took many images along with the last few minutes of this old fellow’s life, then worked only this one for the strong detail and sharply focused eye. Of what or of nothing in its life and its dying was that old worn out worker bee aware?


  • For those of you who followed April’s Urban Art contest, the results are posted HERE.

Cool night–hot fire! This is a controlled burn and, no, that doesn’t describe your temper at a slow simmer! It’s a land management technique to achieve one or more goals like improving habitat, promoting regrowth of native vegetation, and reducing the hazard of wildfire. Also known as a prescribed burn, it’s the cautiously deliberate burning of grass, shrub, or forest fuels. It can go terribly wrong as it did this week 25 miles west of Denver when the wind picked up and blew embers across the 200-foot buffer zone causing a deadly wildfire. There was simply too much fuel after decades of fire prevention. But fire behaves in normally predictable ways. A prescribed burn–when used very carefully and with specific goals–can be a powerful tool in land restoration and maintenance.

We had a controlled burn in our neighborhood last month that was a textbook operation and had the added bonus of a great camera opportunity. What you see below is NOT a wildfire and in this case the purpose was to restore a sedge meadow on former grazing land in the upper Midwest. The cabin at left of the first image was not harmed in any way even though fire licked around and near. There were firebreaks and fire dependably moved uphill and away. Take a look!
No, there was no damage to the cabin, none whatsoever!

From the Frying Pan

Catch Fire #3

Burning Bush

Where There’s Smoke

  • Bruce Richardson - Beautiful! Thanks for documenting this local event in such a beautiful way. It will be nice to see how nature responds to this gentle (in comparison to the “big one”) disturbance.ReplyCancel

    • Light Pixie - The burn was textbook but perhaps a little late in a too-early spring to impact the more aggressive weeds and non-natives. As of now there’s no obvious trace of the fire to be seen. It’s eight years later and long enough for nature to work on the walnut land; I wonder what we’d see now?ReplyCancel

. . . some wild, some not, tiny violet to massive maple. Small signs of life anticipate warmer days to come. Like the blue Chiondoxa and their more famous brethren, the croci, some emerge directly from the snow. Blood Root with their clasping-hand leaves and the rare, blue-spotted, white violets come next followed by wild plum blossoms and naturalized daffodils, then holding-hands Grape Hyacinth with bold cousin Jane! After the sap run finishes for the maples they wave their blossoms like pompoms seeking attention in the sunshine. This is where we are in southwestern Wisconsin today. I hadn’t intended to do it, but these spring buds and flowers called more loudly than dull deskwork!

Click an image for a Lightbox of larger images.

Alpine Chiondoxa might just as well be called Glory UNDER the Snow.

TriBeCa-Triangle Below Canal Street, New York City


I’m working on a new project. Urban Art is its name. Shapes, materials and colors can be inviting without understanding the message or endorsing it. Graffiti happens everywhere in the world, has always happened even in ancient times. Wall scribbles evolved into nuanced shapes, letterplay, wordplay, political opinion, social life, defacement, public spaces, murmurs of discontent, impromptu murals, urban art.

It was first performed with a stick which evolved into more sophisticated tools. The instruments of choice today are spray paint and permanent markers!

There are schools of thought about graffiti and lively art criticism on if or where the line is crossed from art to vandalism. Without the property owner’s consent it’s considered a crime in most countries. New York City has proffered legal graffiti zones on public property which takes the argument out of it, spoiling the fun for some. Yes, it is an art form but it’s also the bane of law enforcement and property owners. It’s political theater and polemics. And worth a second look!

Take a further look below and then tell us what you think and why. Is it Felony Art or Urban DaVinci?

Meatpacking District, Manhattan


DUMBO-Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass, Brooklyn

The Gangs All Here

DUMBO-Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass, Brooklyn

Birth Explained

DUMBO-Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass, Brooklyn


Meatpacking District, Manhattan

Everything is Driven by You

DUMBO-Down Under the Manhattan Bridge, Brooklyn

True Love USA


Even twenty years ago this classic moment would have been essentially lost as there was no easy or reasonable way to recover the lost detail.

Damaged Original Photo

Damaged Original Photo

Restored 1970s Photo

Click for full-size restored image

Without delving into the specifics, in short order with little effort, it was possible to rebuild what was completely lost and to enhance the rest.  It’s almost like being able to return lost youth to a high school moment.

These two young men were smoking their cigarettes in the boys’ restroom at the local high school. If they could speak from the photograph, what would they say? Does it make you wonder what they did with their lives? Would they recognize their long ago selves?

It’s impossible to know for sure but the camera was quite possibly an Instamatic 110, a point and shoot camera with cartridge 35mm film introduced by Kodak in 1972. Suddenly loading and unloading a camera was much easier and the Instamatic was an immediate success. Its popularity opened new markets for the everyman photographer and paved the way for the first digital camera–also by Kodak–in 1975.

We live in the most amazing times. I use a lot of technology and never take it for granted. Yes, it requires staying on top of it:  not just where the hardware is but whether the batteries are charged and you have the latest software and drivers. Technologies that were the products of someone else’s ambition and intellect make it possible for me to look the past in the eye. Thank you to all the innovators whose ideas give life more comfort, value and creative interest!


While emphasizing the rocks, I  missed the ghostly ship moored beyond! The Baths at Devil’s Bay, near Spanish Town on Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands

The Baths and grottos of Devil

Spectral Ship

It’s risky to take expensive camera equipment to the beach, especially when a swim from boat to shore is required followed by a long hike as the main event of the day. In this case I took a pocket Nikon S8100 in a waterproof bag. This was shot at f/3.5, 1/460 sec., ISO 160. Unfortunately, this little camera, with small size and weight as its big advantages (along with the same lovely cmos chip that Canon uses), doesn’t shoot raw images so after-the-fact jpeg editing options were limited compared to what can be done in raw format.

It was only after I printed the image while checking it with my loupe that I “discovered” the phantom ship perfectly framed in the background. And it begged to be enhanced enough to be discovered more easily. What to do?

Before printing I’d already enhanced saturation of the natural colors in the rocks, sharpened their textures ever so slightly, then somewhat darkened the foreground to separate it from a sun-blasted background. So now I re-opened Photoshop CS5 and took the magnetic lasso tool feathered at 15px from the toolbox to isolate the triangle of too bright light which secreted the sailboat. I added a 15px  quick selection tool to refine the shape and jumped it to a new layer (Command/Control-J), added a curves adjustment to affect only the blue color (clipped to just this one layer), and then dragged the curve downward just enough to define the sailboat.

There are always decisions to be made in creating or editing an image. Surely when I was standing among the rocks at Devil’s Bay I saw that sailboat and framed it deliberately in the triangle of rock. I could not have missed the perfect and serendipitous shape of rock mirroring the sailboat beyond. So I can’t really call it a lucky accident. But months later after processing thousands of images from two cameras following the shoot, I had totally forgotten it. Where my first edit was to make the rocks the only subject of the scene, now I saw a greater possibility in allowing others to discover as I did twice that there was more beyond!

I considered several things to draw the eye to the sailboat. Some I accepted and others ignored. But it was a self-aware process always focused on what I wanted the viewer to see. As a result of what I decided was most important, I recropped to put the sailboat at precise photo-center and slightly darkened the foreground rocks to emphasize the brighter triangle. Initially I darkened the sky above the rocks; but no matter how subtle that attempt it looked unnatural which ruled out a dark vignette as well. I did slightly frame a lighter edge across the rocks and foreground water, not enough to pull you out of the frame or distract from the central triangle but hopefully enough to build a tunnel of light to pull you further into the frame. The image is still about the rocks but the sailboat is there to be found.

Does it work for you? Use the “please add your comments” box  or link to Facebook to tell me.

Left-half of Panorama
Left-half of Panorama

Right-half of Panorama

Right-half of Panorama

You’re looking straight down into six feet of water at the fuel dock on Stokkoya, Atlantic coastal Norway. The day was overcast and the water, while clear enough, refracted the light to a milky hue.

I like post production work and have developed my own techniques and strategies for getting the most from pictures like this. Let’s walk through some of the steps to producing a useable, crisp panorama of this startlingly beautiful, even tropical looking seabed scene near the Arctic Circle in the North Atlantic.

So how does one go about turning pictures like those above images into this?

Seabed Panorama, Stokkoya, Norway

Seabed Panorama, Stokkoya, Norway

First you need a good image editing program. I use Photoshop CS5 but have some experience with Paint Shop Pro. Rather than emphasize a specific program, there a few general concepts to consider.

  1. Whenever possible shoot in raw format which preserves editing choices for you, the creative mind behind the lens. Always use the highest resolution your camera is capable of achieving — you never know when you’ll take that “once in a lifetime” shot. Always save copies of your unaltered images in two places, at least until you’ve had a chance to sort out the best. As you acquire more skill over time, you may wish to revisit earlier work and you’ll need a clean original.
  2. I carry a small Nikon in my purse and sometimes that’s the only camera available but it has a small 5 MB range in jpeg only. So if you shoot jpegs, remember that it’s a compression format, great for saving space but not as good at making artful, crisp images. The camera decides how your photo should look and permanently disposes of everything else. That means you lose some of the best or only alternatives for improving your picture and that makes you little more than a bystander to your own process. Any change you save to a jpeg image including simply changing the file name triggers additional compression. You may not notice at first but, after a few such cycles, the image becomes pixelated and chunky. Not a good thing at all!
  3. Once you open your image in the editing program, duplicate the layer so you have an easy retreat. Then be fearless in trying things. Stamp new copies to the top of your layer stack whenever you sense that you’re embarking in a new direction and want to leave an escape. Name your layers; it’s amazing how quickly I sometimes forget what I did ten minutes before. You can always delete effects you don’t like from the layer or history panels.

So what did I actually do to these first two pictures?

  1. First, I used the raw editor that ships with Photoshop to tweak all of the following: raised the blacks from 0 to the 50s, as well as contrast and clarity, and somewhat reduced brightness. I didn’t increase vibrance in the left side but did on the right. Both images were open in the editor at the same time so I could adjust them individually but so they matched in overall tone, color, and contrast.
  2. Next I used the on board Photomerge to create the overlapping panorama. I admit to using a small 10px soft-edged clone brush to make a couple of repairs at the seam.
  3. Then I stamped a new layer and changed the blend mode to Soft Light. I tried Overlay first but it was too dense and harsh.
  4. Finally, I applied a slight High Pass filter effect and added a black layer mask to hide everything that the filter sharpened. Here’s where the sharpening magic happens! To bring out selective details (sharpening) I used a small soft-edged brush and, with white as the foreground color, painted details where I wanted them into the panorama.

Photo editing can be done in many different ways. Each of these steps might have been achieved by other means. But this is part of my regular workflow and it works for me!

  • admin - You give me a great compliment especially as you’ve been a big inspiration.ReplyCancel

  • Bjorn - Sharyn,

    It is a GREAT PLEASURE to see how you have developed in such short time! You are a great photograper and you have a beautiful eye to get it all together in a simplistic but very aesthetically pleasing way. I am honored to be your friend in art

    Bjorn Sjogren
    San Antonio, TexasReplyCancel

Late morning, we see a wolf at its kill. Golden eyes stare defiantly as if to say, “This is mine!” Facial posture including curled lips, bared teeth, intent stare, raised hackles signal a wolf ready to defend its turf. He may growl and he may snarl, but the stare tells all–this is a dominant animal on guard and ready. Such a direct stare is a blatant challenge, asserting rank and status, an important communication tool for this bold, strong-willed canine.

Wisconsin wildlife, Wildgame Innovations, 10 January 2012, 11:21:12 a.m. 50° F

The wolf at its kill



Frosty Window

Mid-January is late for a full descent of winter but today was the day. Frost painted the windows at dawn and left icy surprises on the walks.

I’ve been trying to capture an image like this for a while. A macro lens and turning off the auto-focus feature turned the trick. Otherwise it kept pinging the inner pane between the lens instead of where the frosty signature actually was on the outer glass.

Canon L-series macro lens, EF 100mm IS USM, f2.8, Av, ISO 400, 1/125s.

Winter Fruit

Late afternoon with the sun tucking behind the hills . . . color developed in the sky beyond my favorite winter fruit. I’ve painted the same American highbush cranberries in previous Januaries and they never disappoint.

Canon EFS 17-85mm IS-USM f4.0, Av ISO 400, 1/60



This is a Standard Poodle named Piper who came home for the holidays! She’s a bundle of exuberance and smart; the normally sedate, resident house cat tried to stay aloof but enjoyed the interloper’s antics enough to come down from his high perch repeatedly to watch, interact, and get chased back up again. Apparently great fun for both!

Poodles were first bred in Germany and recognized as a distinct breed by the 1500s. Did you know that this breed is known especially for its water retrieving skills, but equally capable in finding rare truffles and as a circus performer? The poodle has a curly coat that makes the doge more buoyant but requires regular clipping because it has hair rather than self-shedding fur. The traditional pompom haircut with close-cut hind quarters served to help the dog swim faster and the joints stay warmer.

Piper is a true athlete, already at three months old she has a large working vocabulary and is attentive to her humans. This breed wants to please and Piper is no exception. We’re quickly getting the idea that she believes she’s one of us, a full-fledged human being. No one intends to tell her otherwise.

She runs, galloping or pronking, really a kind of bounding, springing lamb-like movement. The enthusiasm of a puppy, especially this one, is contagious!

Request your own image on a USPS postage stamp. Email Sharyn@lightpixiestudio.com to find out how she can help you create your own one-of-a-kind design:

  • Make every letter special
  • For any occasion
  • Reasonably priced
  • Wedding announcements
  • Birthday invitations
  • Holiday cards
  • Promotional advertising
  • A unique and special gift
  • Azhar - That is so crazy that it heepanpd all at once. You knew you were on the front page of Etsy today too right?ReplyCancel