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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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Ron Olson and Cisco at their ranch
Ron Olson and Cisco at their ranch

      Last Saturday morning I met local horse trainer Ron Olson before he conducted a clinic at his ranch that day. A kind, patient, calm soul who has an obvious bond with his lovely Tennessee Walker gelding, Cisco. He kindly acted as model for a woman I’m donating some mentoring to as she is a new photographer who’s been inspired by my photography and I feel she has potential as not only an up-coming photographer but more importantly as a passionately creative soul who just needs a bit of guidance to find her true path. I will be providing a weekend of mentoring to her over Memorial Day weekend as we follow horses through an 1,000 acre pasture in the Dragoons southeast of Tucson…a “herd dynamics” photography assignment that will involve no posing or manipulation of the horses, accepting the blessings of the gifts they choose to give us during these three days. I’ll be working with her on some technical camera assignments, the herd dynamics photography itself, and one portrait session involving at least one horse and person. She’s very excited and I look forward to sharing some of my experience and passion for photography with her to “jump start” her as she moves forward. After we return, I’ll write about the experience here and share her blog with you.

Ron Olson and Cisco
Ron Olson and Cisco
     Saturday morning session began with showing how I start with introductions and guidance to the person followed by a few minutes connecting with the horse. I explained that leaving out any connection impairs what could be the strongest imagery created by those connections. Ron brought out Cisco, on a loose neck line rather than halter and I pointed out the strength of their partnership and how we would be working with that blessing. I directed Ron and Cisco to an area halfway between the stable area and his house, in direct sunlight (about 1 and 1/2 hour after I would usually start a dawn session, so the light was already harsh) and started the dance of finding the best light and positions to best portray the relationship of the man and his horse. Here I emphasize “the relationship” of them, photographing the connection rather than just the physicality of man and horse. I introduced my student to a reflector and diffuser for the first time and saw
 her eyes light up when she realized that she could do so much more with the light. Up, down, around…the dance continued as I asked her questions and pointed out possible disapointing images and their wonderful counterpart images of artistic expression.
Cisco

Cisco

     An example of Art over Snapshot is the headshot to the left of Cisco. In full sun, his black coat in the harsh light reflected in tones of grey. In the shade, he went to deep black, but lost detail and shine. I created two images, one in full sunlight and one in the shade with a reflector directly in front of Cisco which send gold light to his face and a bit of his neck. I then showed the two images to my student and she loved the one in full sun. Granted, the portrait in full sun had a more animated horse with neck up/ears perked and lots of sun that said “Look at me”.  What I didn’t like about it was the shadow that took the light off his eyes and face and the highlight blowout caused by the reflection of sun on his neck. Eyes go to light first, so the focal spot of the “sun” image was right in the middle of Cisco’s neck. I could have used a polarizer to help reduce the reflection. That was not my vision for the image I wanted, so we moved Cisco into the shade for the look I desired. I prefer this image, with it’s gold reflection in the eye and subtle detail. Each photographer has a vision and I have found it best for me to follow my passion and intuition in the creation of my images. This may not be the way another photographer would have created a portrait of this horse and that is wonderful! Individuality and unique expression is exciting to me.

 

Cisco connects

Cisco connects

      I’m also including another image of Cisco, in direct sunlight about an hour earlier, that I enjoy the feel of. I have offered a mini-session to Ron as a gift for his time and will create two more portraits of Cisco I already “see in my heart” that will be photographed at the exact time of day I know will work for the light I’ll paint them with.  I thank Ron and Cisco for their generousity of spirit and look forward to working more with this woman when we go to the Dragoons.

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Rusty McCall at family ranch in NM

Rusty McCall at family ranch in NM

     Heart Sessions are photography sessions that are donated or deeply discounted for people and animals who have touched my heart in exceptionally meaningful ways. These sessions are often donated, including travel and Artist Choice images when I can afford it. Large prints and other desired media/merchandise is deeply discounted for the recipients. The resulting images are also provided for press releases, publications, and websites gratis, with only the request for photographer’s credit and proper respect/credit given to the Heart Session recipient.
     I devote myself to documenting and honoring culture and spirit in all of my photography and I donate time/services/photography to many rescues and cultural events and altruistic offerings. What, then, is different about Heart Sessions?  These sessions are very specific “calls to action” inspired by direct experience and/or from hearing about the person or animal(s) from those who’ve lives have been touched by them. Often they are given priority over my own scheduled work and  personal needs due to circumstances that precipitate planning quickly. Sometimes I get a few days to plan it out yet many of these Heart Sessions have occured within hours or even minutes from the time my heart was first moved by these exceptional souls.
    
Examples of Heart Sessions:
     In  the image you see here is Rusty McCall, a 22 year old seventh generation rancher and Cowboy Poet. At four years old, his mother Deanna held him up to the microphone at the Elko Cowboy Poets gathering and so became the youngest cowboy poet to perform at Elko. He is a bit wild(normal for his age and gender) and does best out on his horse riding the circle on his favorite horse (shown here), Pardner. There will be at least one entry devoted to Rusty here in my blog, so watch for that. The short(er) story, for this entry’s purposes, is that I met Rusty a couple of years ago at the Prescott gathering in August and was immediately impressed by his charisma and talent and the way he brightened the day of anyone he met with a smile and a joke…and it was evident by watching him that his friends were true and loyal, earned by Rusty through his ethics and devotion to them. The only place this young man sits in the middle is on a horse…everything else about him goes to the extremes of serious grace and exhuberant laughter. The year I met him he had been diagnosed with neurofibromatosis (tumors on the nerves, in his case in the brain) and he had some paralysis on the right side of his face with some related sight and hearing problems. Last year, he had brain surgery and had to go through an extensive recovery period.
     This year, when he found he needed another intensive surgery (brain) he made the decision to do so after three western gatherings, Elko, Cochise, and Alpine. He made it to Elko and I was looking forward to seeing him in Sierra Vista for the Cochise gathering, but he was not well enough to attend. It was there that I spoke with his mother Deanna about coming to NM to photograph him at their ranch. Diane Tribitt wanted to do an article on Deanna with a portion of the article dedicated to Rusty and they spoke of making that happen. Shortly after the Cochise gathering, I drove to the McCall ranch in NM and spent a few days with them photographing Rusty up horseback as well as with his mother and father and their horses. Rusty surprised me with his willingness to try anything and once I turned around to see him jumping Pardner off a wash-bank with ease and perfect balance (Rusty has balance issues). So, when I laughed and asked him if he’d be willing to do it again, he did…five more times! Rusty cannot be kept down in body or spirit.
     When I returned to Tucson, Rusty was ever on my mind as I thought about the Alpine gathering coming up in just one week. His last performances before his surgery, just three days before in fact. I talked with my husband who immediately said to go. I was un-decided as my heart said I MUST go and my brain said I couldn’t afford it. My heart and the blessing of my husband won out and I drove to Alpine, TX, for the gathering. Every time Rusty had a performance I was there to photograph him. He was on the main stage on Saturday night and after a phenomenal recital of a poem joked with the audience. “Some of you know I’ve had some physical challenges lately and I’m really glad to be here. In just a few days they are going to do brain surgery on me. I don’t know why since I don’t have a brain.” How could I NOT donate Heart Sessions to a young man like this? One print I have gifted the family with, so far, is a 16×20 mounted photograph of the one heading this entry…an image to inspire him to work towards getting back on Pardner to once again ride the circle. (Read up on Rusty’s progress in upcoming entries here and on this page: http://www.cowboypoetry.com/mccalls.htm  There will be an upcoming article on Deanna and Rusty McCall in I.M. Cowgirl, by Diane Tribitt and I will be donating images to that article. I’ll update you as I find out more about the issue it will be in.) The following images are of Rusty in Alpine, TX for the Cowboy Poetry Gathering.
Rusty at Alpine Gathering (With close friend Gail Steiger)

Rusty at Alpine Gathering (With close friend Gail Steiger)

Other examples of Heart Sessions include a 14 year old Irish Wolfhound who was blind and deaf and had been the primary companion for a widow, an octogenarian Cowboy/Cowboy Poet who has long inspired me and others with her fortitude and ability to trail-blaze who went riding in the desert about an hour north of me (an opportunity not likely to present itself as she lives in another state), a 27 year old gelding who had helped “his woman” to ride through the obstacles life was challenging her with, a western singer/songwriter whose deeply compassionate nature touched all who met him as he fought cancer. (The Western world mourned when we lost him four months after his session. His widow now has a book full of 8×10’s of him that bring her joy.) Spirit moves me to continue these Heart Sessions.

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Georgie and Sam Heading Out

Georgie and Sam Heading Out

     During the Heart Session I did with Cowboy/Cowboy Poet Georgie Sicking, I created this image of her and my good friend’s fiance Sam Scott (Diane Tribitt’s beau) when they were heading out to enjoy a ride in the desert in Florence, AZ on February 9, 2009. Titled “Heading Out”, the brilliant blue sky with gold tones of dust and horse blended to make a piece of art that moved my heart to share it with Margo Metegrano of cowboypoetry.com. This month, the photograph is featured in her Art Spur project, published on cowboypoetry.com here: http://www.cowboypoetry.com/artspur.htm  Please visit cowboypoetry.com (you’ll get addicted!), follow the poems that come in for Art Spur and while you are there if you start clicking on the poet’s pages and gathering reports, you are bound to come across a bunch of the images I’ve donated to the site over the last few years.
     Diane Tribitt will be using this image as the cover for her upcoming new poetry book, also. Diane is a Minnesota poet, writer, and rancher and she was present when the photo was created. Georgie is a dear friend of hers. She’s also the Senior Executive Editor of “I.M. Cowgirl” magazine (www.imcowgirl.com). Her latest CD is “Ranchin’ Rhymes.” Read more about Diane Tribitt and her poetry at www.dianetribitt.com. 
She wrote a poem inspired by Georgie and this image, which I’m honored to share with you here:
Headin’ Out

Throughout her life she’d been condemned
for havin’ cowboy dreams
But she fulfilled her destiny,
enduring all extremes

She lived for ropin’ cattle, and
she roped ’em with be best
Tied ‘t burrows, cows and mustangs,
surpassing every test

She’s thankful God has blessed her with
the opportunity;
for cowboys who had taught her and
a mom who’d set her free

to live the life she dreamed of
with horses, cows and rope
as a lady and a cowboy,
on horizons brimmed with hope

She taught her kids to understand
the only life she knew
and blessed them with the gift of being
“you, and only you”

Each time she passed the reins to them
she made sure she was near,
yet far enough away from them
they wouldn’t sense her fear

She has loved some horses dearly
and disliked quite a few
She has lived by cowboy ethics
Honest, loyal, tried and true

Though she is blind, now, she still sees
what some refuse to see
for her soul was borne of nature
and her spirit’s proud and free

She was born to be a cowboy
and there ain’t any doubt,
When most old hands are headin’ in
they’ll meet her, headin’ out

© 2009, Diane Tribitt, All rights reserved

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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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Gathering of Nations Tiny Tots

Gathering of Nations Tiny Tots

I was the guest photographer at this years Gathering of Nations in Albuquerque, NM. The gathering only has one guest photographer per year and last year’s was a Rolling Stones Magazine photographer. Rick Huff, who I’ve known through the Western Music Association, has been affiliated with the Gathering for the past 30 years and he introduced me to Derek, Lita, and Melonie Matthews (the gathering’s producers). I sent over a web portfolio of images I created at Na’ii’ees ceremonies up at the San Carlos reservation in AZ and was accepted based on those images. I will write more posts on the Gathering soon, yet how could I not put the children in the first post. Serious, silly, independant, hanging on their mother’s dress fringes like apron strings, delightful, and interested in every sound and sight swirling around them…they are truly the future of the people.
I uploaded 20 images of the Tiny Tots onto my myspace page in the photo galleries. I’d love for you to take a look! myspace.com/photographybyfaith1
 

Gathering of Nations Tiny Tots

Gathering of Nations Tiny Tots

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