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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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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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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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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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