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Posts Tagged ‘Inspiration’

 

 

 

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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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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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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