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Archive for the ‘Equus’ Category

The Visible Horse

Visible Horse

Visible Horse

     When I was growing up with my horses, I was passionate about drawing them. I was not very good at it, hence my becoming a photographic artist. I started with the form as I saw it and wondered why the legs looked all wrong and the shading was somehow “off”.  I found a wonderful book by Sam Savitt that unlike all the other books on drawing horses that emphasized circles and lines concentrated on the skeletal and muscular anatomy of the horse.  The light went on in my head and my horses developed some beauty as they galloped and reared on the pages of my sketch book. When I joined the veterinary science 4-H club, I was fascinated with the intricacies of what truly “formed” the horse.

     I was blessed to live in Tucson, where Al Marah introduced me to the Arabian breed. Although I’ve yet to own one, I’ve managed and trained on Arabian ranches, and have enjoyed the breed on other ranches I’ve worked on…and many of the horses I photograph are Arabs. Bazy Tankersly and her horses intrigued me, as most of my horses were Quarter Horses and the Arabian was so different. In addition, I was an ardent fan of Marguerite Henry (author) and had read about the foundation sires in King of the Wind a couple dozen times by the time I was 12. The first crush I remember having on a horse was Mrs. T’s Canadian Beau…a stunning bay stallion with a heart of gold and a truly sane temperament.

Visible Horse: Skeletal side

Visible Horse: Skeletal side

      Somehow I’ve never bought or been gifted with the Invisible Horse model that I’ve seen for years, nor as yet do I own the Breyer model of the Visible Horse. But I have been blessed to see a living vision, a visible horse painted onto a champion Arabian, moving from a stand through the walk, trot, and canter as it was presented at Al Marah a couple of months ago. I don’t believe there was a person in the audience, from child to experienced equestrian, who did not learn something from Susan Harris’s presentation. God bless Susan Harris for not only her creative vision but for traveling around the world to paint horses everywhere for us to see and learn from. Now I KNOW why horses get “cinchy”, beyond any knowledge or intuition I had previously, as well as a deeper knowledge of why it is so important to keep your horse active to condition it properly.

Visible Horse: Musculature

Visible Horse: Musculature

     When the arena presentation was over, I asked if the horse might be able to come into the sun for some formal portraits as the shaded arena had not allowed for great photography. Very kindly, one of the Al Marah staff accommodated the request and immediately a couple dozen cameras and cell phones came out to document this living work of art. Hoping to photograph the horse in action as well, I also requested that the horse be put at liberty in a small arena.  A few minutes later, I was in the arena with him and two wonderful gals who moved him around while I photographed him at the trot and canter. I got down low and created some head portraits and worked to create an image that would allow the viewer to see both sides of him at once. This was very challenging, as he was distracted by all the action and crowds outside the arena and was at liberty. I only had two micro-moments when he turned quickly and I saw THE image I was hoping for. The resulting image is the one at the top of this entry.

     I do not know the name of the horse or of it’s owners. I hope to find out so I can gift them with a print. Susan is on an extensive tour, and I will be contacting her to show the images to her to see if she’d like to use them on her website and promotional materials. She is a treasure and the people who host her, offer their horses, and assist her in the painting of them are gems as well. I encourage you to visit Anatomy in Motion to learn more and to see if Susan is coming to your area. If she is, grab your local pony club, 4-H group, riding club and a herd of your friends and go!

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Ron Olson and Cisco

Ron Olson and Cisco

     Ron Olson was kind enough to volunteer his time, and that of his horse Cisco, for a “model” photography session for a student of mine a couple of weeks ago. As that session was “micro-managed” I offered a session to him as a gift and promised we’d head out in to the desert just south of his home and “play”. On Saturday, May 16th, we did just that…my assistant (husband) and I following Ron into the desert at 5:15 am to catch the first light as it rose over the Santa Catalina mountains of Tucson.
     Growing up on the outer limits of northwest Tucson, horses were my greatest friends, partners and freedom. The ones who graced my life in true partnership were often ridden as close to liberty as possible. I learned from the horses to ask rather than demand, let them show me what they did as their natural best, and ride without getting in the way of the horse in them. Ron and I are kindred spirits in our philosophies of Equus. Cisco has not had the horse trained out of him, which I very much admire as I’ve encountered many horses that have come to me for training that are either so confused that they can’t even gallop freely in pasture or they have become push-button horses who would walk into a tree if you didn’t turn them. I often  rode with only a halter or a lead rope around their neck with my tack left behind on the branches of a tree. Reckless? Not with the horses I trusted. If a horse really wants to buck or run away with you, not the severest bit is going to help. Ron has almost been banned from trail rides when they’ve seen him ride up without a bridle or halter. I say almost. Once it’s shown how he works with his horse it’s obvious that he is a true horseman and his horse a true partner.
     I was impressed to watch him and Cisco as they came to a stop with no words or movement of the neck-rope, only a slight shift of weight in the saddle and the intent to stop. More impressed still to watch them move through the desert trails and off trail through the trees and brush with alertness, ease, and seemingly with none of the typical “cues”. As I never shared this type of riding with anyone, except as arena demonstrations, and have never seen anyone else do it outside an arena I felt blessed to photograph the two of them as they enjoyed the desert morning. Incidentally, Cisco was an “outlaw” when he came to Ron.
Ron and Cisco backlit

Ron and Cisco backlit

     When I discovered photography as a child, I followed all the rules I knew and made up what I didn’t. First and foremost, I was taught to stand with the sun behind me over my shoulder and concentrate on the subject in front of me. Long before I attended a workshop or picked up a photography book, I grew bored with that and started playing with the light after a few “accidents” became some of my favorite photographs. I am drawn to how the light paints and often am influenced by that light to move to where I like it best and THEN concentrate on what I photograph in that light. Challenging sometimes, yet I love the light that rims a subject when the sun is directly in front of me and also how the wash of light in side-lighting creates depth and texture. This image of Ron and Cisco was created about 10 minutes after the sun had crested the mountains as I stood under my Sunbounce mini reflector to eliminate sun flare. I thank my patient husband who got an arm workout as I moved to different positions and he held that reflector high and steady.
ron-olson_2620
     This is another favorite from the session. The Santa Catalina mountains are ones I’ve lived close to since 1969. Here they serve as backdrop to a man and his horse as they ride through the rarity of open desert with the early morning sun bathing them in soft light. The colors are complimentary, with Ron’s shirt connecting with the sky, the bit of red drawing the eye to the horse, and the black standing out in sharp contrast to the gentle shadows on the mountains. When photographing black horses, I underexpose by at least 1/3 stop of light and in this image I brought it down by 2/3 stop to ensure a deep black.
ron-olson_2521
     It took years for silhouettes and I to become friends. I’ve always loved the look of them, yet I struggled to create ones that I felt were worthy to join my portfolio images. A silhouette is so different from a “lit” image and often people and animals need to be positioned more carefully and sometimes in ways that feels a bit awkward to show detail. A leg forward more or a face aligned just right or an arm lifted away from the body to show spacial definition. I tried many ways to properly expose these particular works of art, including simply underexposing them. The ways that work best for me are to expose on the sky and then set the camera manually for that exposure or for a faster solution I expose on the sky/hit the exposure lock button/auto focus on my moving subject and I’ve got my silhouette.
    

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Panel 101: Cadeau du Cheval Mural

Panel 101: Cadeau du Cheval Mural

 

This press release was issued Thursday, September 18, 2008

(The print of the mural mentioned below is available through http://www.muralmosaic.com/Horse . When Lee recieved her artist copy, she very generously mailed it to me as a gift. Lee and I have become friends over the last year and we continue to collaborate. I look forward to more adventures with her.)

Cadeau du Cheval Mural:  Art and Photography

 In May 2008, Lori Faith Merritt was contacted by Lee Mitchelson (a renowned artist in Flagstaff) to provide photography for her submission to the amazing mural project, Le Cadeau Du Cheval.  She chose to represent the Morgan horses of Almanzo Wilder (Laura Ingall Wilder’s husband). Lori Faith scheduled a special photography session with a man she had photographed several times in Tucson, with the interesting name Robert Morgan, who has several Morgan horses. The resulting image was painted by Lee and is included in the mural at the juncture of the flank of the mural horse.

 The resulting mural wall is an amazing collage of art by many artists. The mural website says there will be a print available of the wall soon, and it is said they are working on a coffee table book. The wall is now in Canada, and will be touring.

 From artist, Lee Mitchelson:

I needed an extraordinary horse photographer with the gift of faith, someone who would be open to my ideas and willing to be trusting of me for some artist collaborations. I saw Lori Faith Merritt’s name. That was intriguingly appropriate. I saw perfect instinct in her work. Our professional relationship fell into place immediately and so did our kinship.

Lori works with such gut-level involvement that she is inside what she is photographing. She trusts her own judgment and she is a believer in possibilities. That translates into the faith I need. As an artist, I have collaborated in years past with a world-famous equine photographer as an illustrator for his books. I mention this only because those clever photographs have been for me completely surpassed by Lori’s work, and she has done it without the need to enhance or contrive anything to make horses different than the enchanting beings they naturally are. I have asked that she consider using me to illustrate her books when she publishes them! She brings something more to it. Maybe the warm and timeless breath of the warrior-angel horses are beside her. The raw beauty of Lori’s Mustang photos goes so far beyond what I can easily speak of. It feels like the hand of God on the back of my neck, like electricity, to see something I understand and love shown such honor. Primal.

Please visit this link to read more about the mural and the artist: http://www.muralmosaic.com/Horse/Panels/101.html

Lee’s website is http://www.mitchelsonsmountaingallery.com

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Muck Stalls, Carry Water

Muck Stalls, Carry Water

     There is a story in ancient zen wisdom of heading out on the path to find enlightenment. Upon discovering a mountain,  first “the mountain is a mountain” then “the mountain is something else” and upon enlightenment you discover that “the mountain is a mountain” again. That truth and the saying “Chop Wood, Carry Water” inspired me to create this photographic print that hangs on my wall to remind me of the importance and truth of simplicity and hard work in the service of others.
     The image is of Kristin True of the White Stallion Ranch, whom I met riding towards the light of dawn as she started the day in service to her horses. I photographed Kristin and one of the WSR staff for a music project with Donnie Blanz for Blue Highways TV (division of RFD-TV) for a song called “Paint her Real” and after photographing them as they worked I can say that these ladies embody this ethic in everything they do.

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Nancie Roarig, Dillon, and JJ

Nancie Roahrig, Dillon, and JJ

     In May of 2005, I photographed a wedding on the east side of Tucson that included a horse-drawn carriage ride for the bride and groom. I had an image “in my heart” that I spoke with the bride about and she loved the idea and so Two Loves was created during the wedding. (Two Loves will be discussed in a separate posting.) I loved the Clydesdale, Doc, and took a brief moment to thank the woman who drove the carriage and then dash back to the wedding. Later, I tracked down the woman to offer her a print of Two Loves and my relationship with Nancie Roarhrig was begun.
     Since that day, Nancie and I have come to know each other well. I have designed and now maintain her website, photographed for and designed her business cards and postcards, and provided photography on site at TMC pediatric wards that show her very important work. I even brought a 40″ Palomino gelding home somehow knowing that he would make an incredible therapy pony. (Yes, there will be a separate posting on Dillon, shown here in the photograph accompanying this entry.) I called Nancie on Easter morning a couple of years ago and offered him to her and the dream of his therapy work has proven to be very true. Beyond the business part of our relationship, we have the blessing of having found a friend in each other.
     Nancie is a nurse who has taken her need to nurture far beyond her job. She runs a non-profit organization called Step Up into T.L.C. Inc. (Theraputic Loving Caballos), whose mission is to “focus on bringing smiles, fostering therapeutic healing, both emotionally and physically and building self-confidence and social skills through people interaction with our horses.Our program provides this opportunity to children and adults with special needs, at risk youth, elderly/senior groups and the terminally ill.” In addition to the compassionate therapy work Nancie provides for seniors and children with her Clydesdale, JJ, and minis and ponies (including Dillon), she also provides pony rides for birthday parties and to fulfill the wishes of ill children. She’s even been known to rescue a horse or two.
     I believe in Step Up into T.L.C. and Nancie 100%. She is honest, authentic, and one of the “truest” souls you’ll ever meet. I invite you to visit her website, http://www.stepuptlc.org , and learn more about her work. And if it moves your heart to do so, consider donating something toward her cause. You’ll be glad you did.

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Cowgirl's Reflection

Cowgirl's Reflection

    A few years ago I attended a photography workshop with Jay Dusard, who is an iconic cowboy/western culture photographer, at the (former) Portreros Ranch in Tubac. In the early morning light we had two models in western garb with their horses available to us and we were working with the man as he moved in and out of the light of a large tree. I maintain awareness for opportunies other than what is right in front of me and I turned in a circle to see if I was missing anything. Often, my favorite images come from the space “around the main picture” and this example is one of those images. Waiting her turn, sitting easy in the saddle with her face turned up to the morning light, was our other model…both horses relaxed and her obvious enjoyment of the coming warmth on this chilly morning evident. I moved away from the group quietly to better compose the photograph and created this image, titled Cowgirl’s Reflection.
     I approached Jay and showed him what I was seeing. The morning light was just right to create a reflection on the still pond by the barn. The next 15 minutes or so were spent as a group photographing the model as she stood and rode on the other side of the pond, as we enjoyed the beauty of the scene.
     This image has a dreamy quality. What most people don’t see right away is that the reason for the mysterious feel of this photograph is this: It is upside down, showing the reflection in the water only!
The Cowgirl's Looking Glass

The Cowgirl's Looking Glass

    
The second photograph was made a few minutes later. Which one is your favorite?
 
 

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Sherry Cervi her stallion, Dinero

Sherry Cervi her stallion, Dinero

Sherry Cervi is featured in the May 2009 issue of Western Horseman. The opening page “double-truck” image and one of her sitting by her tack room are my photographs. The images included here are personal favorites.

     I was contacted by Western Horseman late last year to photograph national award winning barrel racer Sherry Cervi. I met with her and WH journalist Melissa Cassutt the night before the sessions to get to know Sherry a bit as I’d heard much about her and her family (they live about 15 minutes just west of me) but had not yet met her. Sherry is a lovely, talented, and very compassionate gal who has lived through the tragedy of loosing her  husband Mike Cervi Jr. in 2001. Her love and passion for animals is evident in the companion animals who surround her, including her horses, and in the way she speaks of animals in her life currently and who’ve graced her life previously. A mature, bright young woman, she can be very serious yet has Painted Ponies lining her shelves and lights up when her French Bulldog, Frannie, jumps into her lap. We exchanged hugs and smiles and I said I’d be bright and early the next am to start.

     Having yourself and your horses ready for a pre-dawn photography session is not easy and truthfully I often don’t get the light I desire for my clients in these sessions as they race to finish up the fly-wipe applications and last minute make-up touch-ups. Hopefully they’ve been kind to their horse and given them a breakfast snack about an hour earlier so they aren’t too ancy. So when I showed up about 1/2 hour pre-dawn and did my last minute equipment checks, I was surprised to look through my truck window and see not only the WH writer but also Sherry, a friend to assist, and two horses ready to go! The marks of a pro evident in the way she moved in the pre-dawn light led me to admire a woman who works hard for her success. Moving out to a field to photograph her the second the sun peeked over the Santa Catalinas, as her Palomino stallion PC Frenchmans Hayday (“Dinero”) had many of his “groupies” in the barn calling out for him. Not difficult to get him to perk his ears toward the other horses, although a bit challenging to get him to stand still. He is one of those 15.2 hand horses who present as 17 hand horses, standing as a stunning frame to Sherry’s own considerable height.

Sherry Cervi with Jeffrey and friends
Sherry Cervi with Jeffrey and friends

     Once back at the stable area, I photographed Sherry in various locations including up on the hay bales with her very friendly barn cats. The night before, I’d asked Sherry: “I know you’ve been photographed hundreds of times. What would YOU enjoy most, personally, that would show who you truly are?” She thought about that and answered that she’d love to have a photograph with her and her animals. Not the brilliant, dynamic image of her racing barrels or the sun-kissed portrait of her looking like a model…she wanted a true image of her love of her critters. The image included here is the realization of that desire. Here Sherry sits in her Mother’s backyard with her mini horse and mini donkey and her new 13 week old addition to the family, a cuter than cute pot-bellied pig named Jeffrey. Although I have hundreds of images of Sherry from the morning and late afternoon session, ranging from classic to charming, this is one of my true favorites of the day.

You can see more images of Sherry on my website, PhotographyByFaith.com, and on pages 94/95 and page 98 of the May 2009 issue of Western Horseman Magazine.

PS: As an interesting side note, Sherry is part of the Potter family who own a ranch in Marana, AZ and are part owners of Ocean Spray Cranberries. When I mentioned the Potter Ranch to my husband, he knew of them as he comes from WI where they have their cranberry farm and one summer long ago he worked in their cranberry bogs…says it was one of the best times of his life. Small world, mmm?

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