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Posts Tagged ‘heart’

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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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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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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Flowers in the Santa Catalinas

Flowers in the Santa Catalinas

     I have lived in Tucson since 1969 with the Santa Catalina mountains as the backdrop to much of my life and a sanctuary for my soul. I was devastated when the mountains endured horrific fires in 2002 and 2003. This year during one of my visits, I was walking through the forest just east of my beloved Girl Scout camp, Whispering Pines, and gathering images from the mountain like a bouquet to bring home with me. There is still a feeling of loss although I can feel the re-birth.
     I came upon a fire burned trunk of a pine that had exploded in the heat. The entire center of the tree was gone and all that was left was about three feet of what was once a magnificent sentinel. Coming through a crack in the bark was a small bouquet of flowers, the roots grounded in the soil and mulch of the tree’s center. I was transfixed, exultant, blessed. I knelt in front of this small miracle and let the tears com, my spirit deeply touched and somehow renewed.
     This was the most beautiful bouquet I gathered on the mountain that day. The beauty of the flowers live in my heart.

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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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Gelding in Mora, NM

Gelding in Mora, NM

     I went to Mora, NM, to visit with Carmen Deyo of Black Horse Designs and her lovely Greyhounds and Mustangs. Carmen and her husband live in a yurt in the midst of pines, where she designs the most amazing Celtic inspired jewelry of cats, dogs, horses, etc.
     While I was there, she mentioned a friend who was going through some hard times and who leaned on her horses to help get her through. One particular gelding, a 27 year old, was starting to really show signs of his age and her heart was breaking. She had only some snapshots of him and so I offered a Heart Session for him and his stablemates.  This session was donated and prints that the woman ordered were deeply discounted.
     This gelding, who had been feeling poorly, was encouraged to join his stablemates in the pasture and he promptly became “the wild stallion”…prancing and kicking his heels up in joyful abandon. We were delighted to see him enjoying the late afternoon and I knew his true spirit shone through in the images I was gifted from him. During the session he came to me and nuzzled me and we “shared breath.” Blessings, truly.

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The Cowboy and the GreyCowboy/Poet
The Cowboy and the Grey
     Georgie Sicking was born in Kingman, AZ in 1921. Through her very exceptional life she has lived passionately and strongly as a wife, mother, mustanger, cowboy poet and Cowboy. Yes, COWBOY…don’t call this gal a CowGIRL. In her world, cowboy is a verb…as in “to cowboy.”
     I met Georgie at a cowboy poets gathering a couple of years ago and then again when I picked her up from the airport in Tucson this year to deliver her to a night concert/recital with fellow performers STAMPEDE!, dear friend Diane Tribitt, and surprise performer  local “celebrity” Mae Camp (I’ve known Mae since I was a child and I showed horses with her daughter Kathy in 4-H). Georgie was headed for the Cochise Cowboy Poetry and Music Gathering in Sierra Vista, where I’ve been the official photographer for the last four years. After a wonderful, if exhausting, gathering Diane Tribitt called to let me know that Georgie would be going a  ride in the desert with Sam (Diane’s fiance) by their Florence, AZ home the next morning. I offered a Heart Session to document this important woman and said I’d be there in the morning.
     The morning turned out to be beautiful, with a bright blue sky dotted with cumulous clouds. Georgie scrambled up on a horse trailer fender and her horse moved over close to her. She climbed up into the saddle and off we went into the desert, Sam and Georgie up horseback and Dianne and I following on shank’s mare. With each stride, the hoofbeats seemed to synchronize with Georgie’s heartbeat and the years dropped off her as she sat straighter in the saddle. I felt blessed to photograph her, witnessing this true Cowboy on her new fuzzy flea-bit friend. In one of the pictures shown here, the gelding shows a bit of a “snotty” attitude and I said to Georgie that he fit her well. She threw her head back and laughed and said “I’ll take that as a compliment!” What a gal this Cowboy is.
     I sent a picture to Margo Metegrano of cowboypoetry.com, for Georgie’s  poetry page and also one of Sam and Georgie riding into the desert for the Art Spur feature where poets are inspired by a photograph or painting to write a poem. The photograph I sent for Art Spur is titled Heading Out. The photograph on Georgie’s page was seen by the curator of the National Cowgirl Museum, where Georgie is a Hall of Fame recipient. They are creating an exhibit of Georgie for an upcoming show, when a pair of Georgie’s spurs will be added to the museum’s collection, and the picture above where the little grey has perked ears and Georgie is looking forward will be included in this exhibit. 

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