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I am moving my blog from WordPress.com to my own hosted domain, using WordPress.org. Please visit http://www.lorifaithmerritt.com and subscribe to my RSS feeds for posts and/or comments there. WordPress.com has been a good start, but the corral here is too small…I’m through the gate and running! Come join me in the great wide open…

Dawn

Dawn

 

 

 

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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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Simplicity: Water and Stone in Sedona

Simplicity: Water and Stone in Sedona

    Commercial assignments. Media marketing. Publication deadlines. Portrait session proofs enhancement and viewings. Print order fulfillment. Website updates. Image file uploads and archival. Client communications. Traveling. Planning, implementation, and follow-up.

     Don’t panic. Take a deep breath. And remember to exhale.

    As a photographer, sometimes we feel like it’s impossible to find the time to relax. After all, if we step away from our business how will we catch up when we come back to it? Finding time to work on personal projects becomes a distant dream as we commit to our creative service for others. How many times have you looked through your portfolio and realized that it has become the work you ARE doing, rather than the work you WANT TO do? You know what I’m talking about. Those passionate images that dance in your dreams…the ones that inspire everything you do. If you could just find the time to create them, you would be happier and your realized visions would have clients coming to you who were excited about the unique images you would create for them. Can’t FIND the time? Then pull out your cookie sheets and warm up the oven and MAKE the time.  
   
Mustangs in the Mist

Mustangs in the Mist

     If you know exactly what your passion is and have already seen the images that are just waiting for you to come get them and bring them home, skip the next step. If, however, you are sure you love photography but have not discovered “the one door out of thousands” to go through, try this. This is a three hour exploration that may help you focus (pardon the pun) on the images that speak to you. Find a place that you are comfortable in that inspires you, with a good amount of diversity. The farmer’s market, the local zoo, a church, a park, etc. You’ll need your favorite camera and lens, a back-up battery and a good sized media card (or several rolls of film), and preferably an extra lens you are not as familiar with.
    
Skyscape in Tucson

Skyscape in Tucson

For the first hour, photograph in the style you most love. For example if you enjoy your zoom lens over a wide angle, and if you have a preference for non-moving over action or people over buildings, that’s what you’ll concentrate on. Now, for one hour photograph without pausing to “think”.  Move constantly, access every angle and look in every direction, then press the shutter whenever you see something that inspires you. Unlike your structured sessions, you are looking for quantity over quality. Restrain yourself from “chimping” (looking at your images on the back of your camera) by pretending you have film in your camera (if you are using a digital camera).

     Your second hour will be very different and more challenging. You may continue to use the same camera/lens, but I suggest you change it up. Use a point and shoot instead of your SLR (or vice verse) and if you’ve been using a zoom to get those close-ups change to a wide angle. What you’ll be doing in the second hour is to continue to travel continually throughout your location and create a large quantity of images. The difference is that for this hour actively seek out what you would NOT normally photograph, even things that might “repel” you, in addition to very beautiful things that are not usual for you (IE: buildings instead of people, people instead of animals). If you like close-ups include the whole picture, exchange backlit for harsh contrast or full on sun, and try to find at least ten things you’ve never photographed. Challenge yourself! Again, don’t “think” while you fire off that shutter.
Crystal and Zeus: Personal Project

Crystal and Zeus: Personal Project

  
     Once you get your images home, upload them ALL into one folder. If you used film, have your slides or negatives scanned and put on a CD so you can work with them this way. Now, give yourself one more hour. Phones off, TV and radio off, and no distractions. Just you and your images. You know how you flip through the channels on your TV? Quickly. Without thought. Looking for something to inspire you to spend your time looking at someone’s creation. A color or composition catches your eye and you stop there and check it out. That’s what you are going to do with your images. Open the folder in your favorite picture editing program and go through them as fast as you can, labeling the ones that catch your eye. Don’t really “look” and certainly don’t judge for content or quality. Let them choose you like a puppy in row of shelter kennels. Whatever ones call to you with their color, form, or that unmistakably un-identifiable charm, label them. When you are done, select all of your choices and move them into their own folder. Take 15 minutes out and go have a cup of tea or lie down and rest your eyes, something peaceful to get you out of the room after all that fast paced editing.
     When you return, open your new folder and size the thumbnails so that you can fit as many as possible onto one page and still be able to view them comfortably. Hopefully you’ll see many images similar to what you normally photograph and equally important will be the ones unlike your “normal” photography. Scan them with your eyes and your heart, looking for ones that are evocative in aesthetics and emotion. Look for a theme that carries throughout them such as vivid colors, high action, deep calm, ecstatic joy, heart-wrenching sorrow. Find the passionate ones, ones that touch you strongly and move those into their own folder…as many as desire. Once you’ve created this folder of passionate images, open it and again size your thumbnails to fit on one page if possible.
Friendship

Friendship

     Now, for the first time, you are going to evaluate what you see. All of the  images up to this point were created and chosen based on the flow of emotion and aesthetics, with as little “thought” and regard to content as possible. Make one more folder and name it Passion. From your last folder of images choose only 20-25 images that are the strongest in color, contrast (low or high), clarity, composition, form, gesture, and content…those that inspire you mentally, spiritually, and emotionally….and move them into your Passion folder. Open up your new treasure box and size the images to fit on one page.

     Using one sheet of paper, look at your images and write down words and phrases that best describe them. Are they warm or cold? Independent or connective? Joyful or sorrowful? Curves or angles? If they were a song, who would have been the songwriter and/or singer? Who would have written the visual poem of them? Pick a few and use their inspiration to write what could be the first sentence of a book. It is likely that you will find that many of these images are “you”. You will also find ones that open doors to places you’d forgotten or have never been before. Explore them, be-friend them, listen to them. These are your new mentors who will guide you in creating  your passionate portfolio.

Dawn: Water Blessing

Splash: Water Blessing

     To those of you who have known exactly what your passionate portfolio of images would look like if only you had the time to create it, join in here. For those who’ve traveled the path of the exploration discussed above and are inspired to do more, welcome to the ranks of dreamers. To make your dreams a reality and share your unique vision with the world, find a date on your calendar no more than two weeks from NOW and make an appointment for a Passionate Portfolio photography session of 1-3 hours. Within 24 hours, draw at least one story image and write down the details that will go into creating it. Think like a photo-journalist. Who, what, when, where, how? Within 48 hours after that, have everything planned out (people, location, animals, assistant, etc.). Over the next week , make a daily 15-20 minute block of time available to “dream” in a quiet place with no distractions. Close your eyes and see the images you’ll create. When your session comes, your planning will be the springboard for your dreams. Dive in and swim hard. Don’t hold back! Have faith in your personal vision and let it guide you. The resulting images may not look exactly as you had “planned”. That’s ok. The important thing is that you’ve created a space for preparation to meet opportunity. If you go with the flow, you might be surprised by better images than you had planned. 
     Try to plan and follow through with one Passionate Portfolio session a month. If that truly is a hardship, schedule them at least quarterly. You may find that your sessions of just a few hours inspire you to make more time available for them, especially when you see how your photography improves and your stress level goes down. When I have assignments in other states, I make sure to plan at least one day to work on a personal project. Also, on the way to and from local photography sessions, I gift myself with a little time before and after in case I see something to photograph. For example, coming home from an equine portrait session I photographed the Skyscape shown here. After a portrait session in Sedona, I photographed Simplicity (the rock and water), and on the way to a equine photography workshop I photographed Splash, a horse taking it’s first drink in the early morning light.
     I’m excited to see what you create. How about you? Well, the gate’s open. Run toward your dreams!
     

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Living Art: Calf

Living Art: Calf

     Miracles in the “ordinary”. Art in the “mundane”. Blessed inspiration for the creative spirit. These images dance at the at the edge of my vision and catch my attention. When I turn to acknowledge them, they are revealed with focused clarity through the veil of this often chaotic world. My love for all things living comes to rest on this one living piece of art. In gratitude, I accept the gift and bring a photograph home with me to share with the rest of the world.
     In the dark livestock barn at the local fair, this young calf lay in a small beam of light that had found it’s way through the roof. It was a chilly, breezy day and the calf was curled up in this one sacred spot of warmth and sunshine. I wanted so much to kneel beside it and run my hands through it’s soft coat, but knew that would cause it to awaken and these fair animals get so little sleep. Instead, I quietly moved closer and composed this image. This image reminds me to find the blessing of calm places that live in even the most chaotic environments.

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Texture from Ruidoso, NM

Texture from Ruidoso, NM

 

     Textures. We see them, feel them, incorporate them into our images. I treasure them. Every nuance and gesture, movement of light and shadow that paints them. I bring them home as artifacts from my texture treasure hunts. And when I’m on assignment, I can’t help bringing some home tucked into my image files like gems in my pockets.

     Often, they are a work of art “intact”. Perhaps I’ll crop in to a particularly interesting section and enhance the image, massaging it gently until it feels like I felt when I brought it into my heart rather than just what the camera captured. They become canvases for other images to nestle into, backgrounds for design projects and I play with merging other images into them with Photoshop’s blending modes.

     Can you tell what this texture is created from?

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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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