Photography Friday: Black Background Photos Behind the scenes

Black background images are all the rage right now, and it’s easy to see why. So simple in their essence, they are a study of the horse as a form with an extra dash of drama.Any photographer worth their salt will tell you that the best way to do these images is in camera, and I completely agree. They mostly require a center aisle that allows light to be blocked in such a way that you achieve a distinctive difference between light and dark (shadow and well, not shadowed). Even better if either the aisle then is a very long one, or has doors at the opposite end that prevents light from seeping into the background. This is less commonly available, so is a nice-to-have rather than a necessary component.

So at the risk of ruining the magic, here are a couple examples of what I see in-camera versus the final product.

In this photo, and the image below, you can see a frequent participant in my photoshoots: a giant blue squeaky toy. Sometimes the horses could care less when something so bright and blue and loud is seemingly dying beneath their nose. Other times, you get what I call the dragon pose, where the horse elongates and arches his neck and there becomes a definite spark to their overall expression. That, as Cinderella demonstrates below, is my favorite way to show off these horses as the athletes they are.

As you can see, there is a variance in how much editing a particular shot will require. My job when I show up to do one of these images is to utilize the given environment to the best of my ability, then consider the horse/model’s best features and how to pose them and show them off. Then, it’s about reading the light, making the right decisions for settings on my camera, and spending time in post-processing (I use both lightroom and photoshop) to create the final image.

And there you have it folks! A peek behind the curtain on the ever-popular black background photo! Happy Friday all!

The End of an Era

This week, I helped put my family’s last two equines, a mini-donk and my beloved Riley, on the market. As the youngest of my siblings has now officially graduated from high school, my parents are preparing to become empty nesters, and as such, are planning to sell their 6 acre equestrian property and transition to a much smaller house, with less acreage to tend for, and that plan sadly does not include horses.

My mother has taken care of horses since she was a little girl, across more than 4 countries and as many decades. She said to me in regards to the horses that after so many years of horse-stewardship, and watching the horses become less and less used in the backyard, that she was tired. And in my personal opinion, maybe a little sad, to see such loved family members not be doted on any more.

My last couple trips down to my parents’ home have included taking sales photos and making videos where applicable of the horses still there. My dad’s horse, Cochise (pictured above), is a butterball of a spotted draft cross, and his main goal in life is to be a couch. He has now been placed with a veteran’s therapy program in New Jersey, and I couldn’t be more thrilled with this practically perfect match for him.

It’s a little more bittersweet thinking of the other two finding homes beyond my family’s backyard. Hudson, the mini-donkey, has been in our family since he was 3 months old and we found him at an auction as a sickly orphan wedged in a 3′ wide space between two stalls. For the last 7 years he has been the source of much entertainment, chasing the German Shepherds around and braying for ear scratches when someone gets within range. Luckily, there was essentially a facebook-brawl to get to Hudson, and he is very securely spoken for and to be picked up this weekend.

Which leaves Riley. He, of course, has been with the family longest of all. He’s the product of two of our personal horses, and though people looked at us squiggly-eyed when we said we bred an Irish Draught x Haflinger, he’s been exactly what we were hoping for and some. I taught him to lead, crosstie, bathe, flyspray, and together with B, started him under saddle. I got to spend some more quality time with him last summer and fell in love with him all over again. All I can say is I hope whoever is lucky enough to end up with this guy appreciates a horse who rests his head on your shoulder when you scratch under his chin, who grabs the hose to drink out of it before he will stand to be bathed, and who had more athleticism and ability in him than we ever found time to tap. It’s going to be tough having this one belong to someone else, that’s for sure.

I can’t imagine how I will feel when I visit my parents and see not a single equine out in the fields. For years, it was my duty to feed the horses, so much that when I went to college I often woke in a panic realizing I hadn’t done the chore already. But beyond the habit of having horses in my life, and theirs, it is bittersweet to me to think of how others will enjoy the products of our love, in a home beyond our own.

An Update on Life, Loss, and the BDH

Last week, my father-in-law passed away. I won’t be elaborating on this, as it’s going to take some time for our broken hearts to heal. That’s just the way it goes.

In our thoughts and prayers

Life has been a whirlwind recently, but as time marches on a few things have progressed:

  • We are now 3 days from my first (what?!) recognized dressage show with TC
  • The BDH passed his PPE with my personal vet, who gave him two thumbs up
  • Our showjumping lesson was postponed to tomorrow, with a XC lesson the following Monday
  • Now that I am jumping things again, I found motivation to create things to torture horses with (see below)

I hope to have an update tomorrow on how the showjumping lesson goes, which we are trailering out to for a 7:30am (ick) lesson. Media to follow!

 

Let’s Discuss: Why blog?

On May 1st, 2013, I decided to really try my hand at this blogging thing- so today is this blog’s 4th anniversary!

When I started blogging, it was for the purpose of capturing both my journey with Foster and chronicling the process of flipping our foreclosure home as we lived in it. And even when the house sold, and Foster was retired, I couldn’t give up the hobby of writing this blog. Through it I have met some really wonderful people and grown to lean on and love the blogging community. I also have more than 600 memories and conversations, good, bad, embarrassing, and everything in between, that I can pull up at whim. And I really love sharing stories with you all and hearing your advice, or discussing your opinions, or connecting with you through even a simple ‘like’.

It’s been a great 4 years, and I can’t wait to see how this blog continues to evolve in the future! Thank you to readers, past, present, and future, for making this part of my life so worthy!

Do you blog? What lead you to blog, and how has your journey with blogging changed your life? 

 

Life Behind the Lens

Mikaylah asked last week how I got into photography, and I can’t believe I’ve never mentioned it!

Rolex XC shot

D40 + kit lens at work with horse photos [Rolex 2012]

My introduction to photography started around horses (you’re shocked, I know), helping my mother take conformation photos for sales ads- back in the day when everything was film and posting an ad meant paperclipping a printed photo to a piece of paper with the hand-written text on it, and mailing it off to Stablemates. My parents got me my first camera when I was around 10 years old, one of those cheap wind-up film cameras that only operated in Auto mode- perfect for my bounding around the farm and clicking shots off of every creature in sight.

One of my first shoots with the Nikon D40 [Nikon D40, fall 2007]

When I got to college, and transferred from an Animal Science degree to the College of Design, of course I signed up for a photography studio (a studio being a 4.5 credit hour course – and basically the thing that ruled your life as a design student). I had this wonderfully snarky older gentleman as our professor, who’s favorite thing to ask us was “And what were you thinking when you took that?” in regards to each one of our [admittedly mostly] terrible photos. My parents kindly bought me a Nikon D40 so I could take the course- an entry/beginner level DSR camera that came with a couple cheap kit lenses. Between this and my dad’s borrowed film camera, I started learning how to shoot in manual mode, learned how to process and dodge/burn photos in the dank, musty, hot dark room on campus, and in general become obsessed with the instant joy of photography.

And truthfully, I really couldn’t tell you why I took this photo. It was that bad, but at least I learned how to develop in a dark room I guess? [Film photo, fall 2007]

In the beginning, my work was basically awful. I lacked inspiration, what I thought was classy and on-trend was cheesy or tacky. But the more comfortable I felt with the camera as a tool, the more I felt I could compose my shot and create an attractive image. So I took another photography studio, cementing myself as an Art + Design major with a concentration in Photography. Charles started expecting me to lead critiques of other students, and from his snarky feedback I started to improve. My eye developed, I could own my own weaknesses and seek to improve them. I was good enough (emphasis on the ‘enough’) to be recommended as a student photographer for a wedding, which is decidedly my first and last wedding- while the couple was happy, the stress of capturing that moment is more than I wanted to get into.

In my second semester of photography coursework, things started coming together a bit better. [Nikon D40, spring 2008]

In 2010 I made my first real investment into my gear with the purchase of a 50mm f1.8 prime lens. My old learner-D40 was still the only camera I owned, but I was excited to see how this $150 addition would change my abilities. It is this lens that now leads me to believe that the lens is where your investment should be if you are going to spend money on kit.

Swan at Stourhead, England. [Nikon D40, 50mm f1.8, 2011]

From there it’s been learning by doing. Each shoot I feel like I learn a little bit more, get a little bit better. I upgraded my camera 2 years ago from that workhorse D40 to a D7000, and this year made the jump to full frame so I could eek more out of my golden-hour portrait sessions. I also invested in a few more lenses, including an 85mm prime that is now my main lens, though my trusty nifty-fifty still comes with me to every single shoot.

Nikon D7000, 2015, wide angle lens

One of my last shoots with the D7000 as my primary body [D7000, 50mm 1.8, winter 2016]

And so here we are, almost 10 years after I first started applying myself to Photography. Sometimes it’s easy to get lost comparing yourself to others, but the journey has been oh so fun and I am as much in love with the hobby now as I was as a kid.

First time using the D750

First “pro” shoot with the D750

latest shoot [D750, 85mm f1/8]

Not-quite-photography Friday: Presto Warrior Design

I think it’s safe to say that when little Presto hit the ground, he immediately charmed all of blogland with one tiny whinny. So when he landed himself in an emergency clinic as a sick little foal, he gained himself a whole community of well-wishers hoping for his health and healing.

When Amanda addressed questions regarding donations to his care fund, I was more than happy to volunteer my design skills to a very worthy cause. I immediately stalked all her media of Presto and landed on a still of him frolicking in his pen. A little illustrator magic, some feedback from Amanda, and an oldies tune on repeat in my head generated the below image!

To buy a t-shirt and help offset the costs of Presto’s stay at the clinic, check out this link where you can buy Presto-related goodies through next Friday! Presto, we are so glad you are feeling better and one day I hope to hear that adorable little whinny in person!

The Photography Business Check up

At the beginning of the year I shared my goal to take my photography to the next level this year. It started with investing in new equipment, i.e a full frame body (Nikon D750) and prime lens (85mm f1.8), and then using that equipment to shoot two pro-bono sessions with well-known local equestrian entities. I also took a survey on the blog of your opinions regarding portrait sessions/equestrian photography in general, and I thank all that participated- the feedback was incredibly helpful! The photos that follow are just a sample of my favorites this year.

And of course I am now partners with Lilybird Flowers!

Since kickstarting everything back in January, I have officially done more shoots in the last 3 months than I did in the entirety of last year. I used any profits from shoots to pay off my new equipment, and now that it is all covered all pennies earned will go into the #newponyfund.

For the first time since I started my photography side-business, I actually am at capacity for how much I can handle. That’s 5 sessions booked for the month of April, and though it feels a little harried between balancing the 9-5 job and time in the saddle, it’s still a pretty cool feeling. The next step feels like building a pipeline of bookings for the future- and this is something I’m less successful in, as most of my sessions are planned weeks out instead of months. Part of this is probably the financial culture of horse people as well as obvious worries about weather, pony soundness issues, and other concerns.

One of my other goals for growth is to incorporate portraits into my horse-shopping travels, which helps offset the costs of hotel/gas/etc. I also love meeting new people and experiencing the relationship they have with their horses. Every equestrian’s journey is slightly different, and every single one has a story to tell. Facebook has been helpful in spreading the word, as well as my connections (and I include blogland in that!) in various areas. My next possible trip may be to northern Virginia/Middleburg area, maybe even this weekend, and if I’m lucky I’ll squeeze in a shoot while I’m there!

Photographing Cambalda will forever be a highlight for me- Ping is the man!

One of the main struggles I have found with this business is the sheer amount of competition there is. While I feel like I am reasonably priced given the work involved, there are others out there who charge a fraction of my fees, or even work for free. Mostly these are younger photographers looking to build their portfolio or just make a little spending money, but I simply can’t, or won’t, attempt to enter a price war that will leave me not being able to cover even my gas. All I can hope is that my style and quality of work will be attractive above the mayhem, but it’s easily to enter into an oblivion of self doubt when faced with the daily barrage of local photography ads.

Still, I am more than excited about the sessions completed so far in 2017 and flipping ecstatic when I think of all the sessions to come. Sometimes I wonder if I am boring readers to death with my Friday photography posts, but I just love to share this other side of my equestrian passions. Thanks for being part of the journey, and if you have something you want to see please let me know!

 

 

An Ill Pup

Radio silence incurred because as if we needed another family member to get sick, Drake ended up spending the weekend in an emergency clinic.

After a few days of just not seeming right, one large puke, and a missing lens-bag cord was noticed, we decided to take him in to the vet. Cue much of Saturday spent in vet waiting rooms, wondering what it would take to get our fur baby right again.

Elliot (cat) and Drake (shepherd)

It turns out he had quite a lot of inflammation in his GI tract and in general his bloodwork showed that his body was somewhat angry at whatever was going on. X-rays didn’t show any obvious foreign objects, but as he was also quite dehydrated, the decision was made to transfer him to an after hours clinic where they would give him fluids, do a contrast study, and in general work to get him comfortable.

Drake and Elliot

After spending 2 nights there, he’s back home, and luckily eating and drinking in a more normal fashion. He seems thoroughly exhausted and a little dull in the eyes after his experience, and the husband and I are both hoping he cheers up soon.

baby Drake

I’m working for home in order to keep an eye on him, and doing what we can to get him to perk up. Please send healing thoughts for my precious boy to feel better!