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Posts Tagged ‘blessings’

 

 

 

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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Hollyhocks and Straw Bales
Hollyhocks and Straw Bales

My dear friend, Audrey Hankins, gave permission for her poem HOLLYHOCKS to be posted on my blog. This is the first poem I remember hearing Audrey recite. When I was photographing Wilbur-Cruce Spanish Barb horses by the Dragoon Mountains here in Arizona, I saw some growing by the stables and thought of Audrey. I plucked one stem and created this photograph just for her. Enjoy her poem! (© Audrey Hankins 2002. Do not print or re-post without permission.)

 Hollyhocks and old ranch wives,

Both thrive on so little care,

Bringing beauty to barren places,

Enduring year after year…..

 

They’re talkin’ again, the old men,

Reliving their glory days

Cattle they caught, horses they made,

Cowboy pride, cowboy ways.

 

An old wife moves among them,

Invisible but for coffee pot,

They don’t see her leave, or care that she goes

To smile and tend her hollyhocks.

 

She shares no glory stories,

Her choice, a supporting role.

Freeing her man to follow his call,

She felt privileged just to fill a hole.

 

She was the one left holding the gather,

For hours she’d highpoint alone,

‘Til  she often wondered if they’d changed the plan,

Forgotten  her and gone on home.

 

Ridin’ drag with her little kids,

She ate dust while planning meals.

No good hand could be spared for that,

He wouldn’t remember how it feels.

 

She did up the jobs left undone

By men with better things to do

Doctored horses, milked the cow,

Ran the kids to school.

 

She brushed the backs of  her bucket dogies,

The way mother cows lick their calves,

‘Til they glowed and gained on her tender care.

She never nurtured by halves.

 

Now her waist is thick, her hair is thin,

And her knees are stiff when she walks.

A solitary figure out in the yard, 

Humming and tending her hollyhocks…..

Hollyhocks and old ranch wives,

Both thrive on so little care,

Bringing beauty to barren places,

Enduring year after year.

 Audrey Hankins, 2002

 Gibbs Smith Publisher, 2004, COWBOY POETRY THE REUNION

To see more of Audrey’s work and read about her, visit her page on cowboypoetry.com

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Burrowing Owl in the Sunlight

Western Screech Owl in the Sunlight

For the past few years, we’ve seen what I thought were burrowing owls, but I’m finding are Western Screech Owls, at night by our home, but never during the day.Today, while photographing a dove nest in a cholla, I felt like I was being watched and then heard soft owl sounds. I turned and saw bright yellow eyes staring at me through an Ironwood tree behind me. Walking just a few steps to one side, I was able to find an opening in the branches to photograph one little guy through. We’ve seen four, and three of them made themselves known while I stood there.

Burrowing Owl in the Shade

Western Screech Owl in the Shade

 

A few more steps to the side…barely breathing…I tried to see the second one from where I could hear him. One more soft chortle and I saw him through another set of branches, in the shade. I made a few images, then backed away and and watched them settle back into the root structure at the base of the tree. I lost track of time as I quietly knelt in the shade of a nearby tree and watched and listened to these magical little beings.

 

Dove nest in a cholla cactus

Dove nest in a cholla cactus

This is the dove nest I was photographing when I heard the owls. The owls were only about ten feet behind me, deep in an Ironwood tree…if I hadn’t been at this nest, I would have not known they were there.Isn’t this a really well made, and safely placed, dove nest? Taking lessons from the Cactus Wrens, it seems. Mama Dove was eating Saguaro fruit just a few feet above and to the side of me. Didn’t seem bothered at all, which pleased me. I don’t like to disturb any of the critters I photograph.

Dove on her nest, two eggs under her
Dove on her nest, two eggs under her

Here is the dove who was eating Saguaro fruit. When I knelt in the shade to watch the owls, I heard a flutter to my left and this Mama settled back into her nest no more than six feet from me. Keeping an eye on me, to be sure, but confident enough to return to her nest and rest.

Between her and the owls today, I got some lovely, peaceful moments.

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Neysa

Neysa

Our cat Neysa, a manx, in one of her favorite “safe places”…between my husband’s feet while he’s sleeping. Although I was a bit sneaky in making this image, when my husband woke up he loved it and it’s still one of his favorite images.

Neysa

Neysa

My manx girl, rescued from the Humane Society. She came home with me after several trips there and several dreams that wouldn’t let me NOT bring her home. She was pretty wild at first and is now a close friend and lovely “little bobcat”. When we pet or pat her, she wags her little stump of a tail like a dog.

Gypsy Rose

Gypsy Rose

Our cat, Gypsy Rose. She came from a woman who’d lost her husband and had to let many of her animals go. Rosie was “Sissy” when I found her, but she told me her secret name and so it goes. She also came to us pretty skittish, although bursts of affection defined who she’s become now. She is everywhere with me, my pocket kitty, who is a kisser. Rosie is a Turkish Van, with one green eye and one blue eye. And yes, she KNOWS she’s beautiful!

Gypsy Rose

Gypsy Rose

Shhhh…she’s sleeping with her little friends by the Christmas Tree. This is our Gypsy Rose in a moment when she didn’t know the camera was on her. I guess she wanted to make sure the little blue pegasus didn’t fly away.

Silver Sage, aka The Button

Silver Sage, aka The Button

This is Silver Sage, aka The Button (as he’s cute as one). He is an American Shorthair, with “ticking” (stripes on the legs and tail that make him unshowable that I LOVE). He came from a woman who lived in a little trailer with far too many cats and I paid more for him than any other cat I’ve had in my life (more than one weanling colt I bought several years ago), but he is worth all the gold in the world. I’ve had cats since I was bequeathed one at 20 minutes old, and he is one of the most special (shhh…don’t tell my other cats) felines to grace my life. He came home “on trial” for a Christmas Eve present and the decision was made to never let him go, within seconds of placing him in my husband’s lap.

My Mom's Bengal, Suki

My Mom's Bengal, Suki

While my Mom was away on a vacation, I took the opportunity to photograph her cats so I could present her with Mother’s Day photographic prints of them. My husband graciously wiggled feathers, made funny noises, and kept the other kitties occupied when I got the attention of one in a particularly delightful moment. The cat above is Suki, who like a hummingbird flitted and flew around the room during the entire “session”, then settled for one moment on top the couch and gave me this beguiling look when I squeaked at her.

Mom's Rescue Kitty, Phoebe

Mom's Rescue Kitty, Phoebe

Mom’s sweet rescue kitty, Phoebe…yes, named after the “Friends” Phoebe. At first a fairly wild, skittish kitten, she has matured into a loving, elegant cat.

My Mom's Cat, Mystye

My Mom's Cat, Mystye

What is making Mystye so focused? And, OK, a bit crazy eyed? Why, it’s the Australian Shepards outside the French Doors looking in. The windows on the doors are typically “kitty TV” and she sees lots of bunnies and birds…but the DOGS are on the WRONG side of HER house! Next image is of her “barking” at them…otherwise known as the officially correct term “macking”. Any of you cat folks out there will know what sound I’m talking about!

My Mom's Cat, Mystye

My Mom's Cat, Mystye

This blog entry is dedicated to all the people who have asked if I only photograph horses. 🙂

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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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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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Audrey Hankins: First Light

Audrey Hankins: First Light

    
     Audrey Hankins is a woman of leather and lace. Leather saddles, lace kitchen curtains. A cowboy poet who first impressed me with her poem Hollyhocks as I sat in the audience at a cowboy poetry gathering and who later impressed me with the way she brings poetry into her every word and gesture, I am blessed to know her now as a dear friend.
     When Audrey approached me to provide the photography and design for her first CD of cowboy poetry, I felt honored and was excited. I knew that the vision I had for this project would fit her very well. Good friend to both of us, Jim Jones, would supply the music to dance around her words and recite one of her poems as well.
     For a project like this, although I can do all the photography for a CD in one session, I prefer to spend some time with the artist. For Audrey, I visited her at her home in Wickenburg and stayed with her for a few days, photographing in several locations and talking until the wee hours of the morning about our lives and her dreams for this CD as we sat at her kitchen table and started to bring the images and design together.
     Audrey’s son lives in a nearby “horse town” and we went there so I could photograph horses, cattle, and a windmill for the center foldout in the morning light. I worked with the image to create a sepia toned artpiece with “hand colored” horses. The next morning, pre-dawn in uncomfortably cold weather, we headed into the desert east of her home and I laid on the ground, face down in the dirt and stickers (almost backed into a prickly pair as I moved to find the perfect composition), and created an evocative sillouette of Audrey in the first light of day. When we got back to the house and warmed up over coffee and toast, I brought up the images for her to see. Until then, she had another title for the CD. The image that is on the back traycard of her CD got us to talking and inspired her to rename it after one of her poems (the first poem on the CD), First Light. The blessing of that image made the cold and stickers insignificant. The cover/autograph page/inner traycard images were created at the ranch of her close friend Suzi Killman, western singer/songwriter and daughter of equine artist Hildred Goodwine. Audrey loves the cover image as she says it conveys a “come on in and have a cup of coffee” welcoming feel.
     The CD turned out to be as “Audrey” as can be…warm and welcoming and full of stories that are like the woman herself, a bit of leather and lace/sunshine and strength. First Light, which includes 17 original poems, is available for $17 postpaid, from Audrey Hankins, P.O. Box 688, Congress, AZ 85332. You can find out more about Audrey, read a few of her poems, and take a look at her poetry books here: http://www.cowboypoetry.com/audreyhankins.htm#Light

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