Life Behind the Lens

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

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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!

 

 

Photography Friday: Lilybird Flowers Round II

Sorry, not sorry, I couldn’t not share more of the photos from my styled shoot that was also last week’s Photography Friday post. Today’s round of portraits again feature the beautiful work of Lilybird Flowers, and seriously- are you guys not just in love with these flower crowns?

Thanks to Leah of Lilybird Flowers again for including me in this exciting opportunity! Let’s get this party started!

The Queen of Flowers herself.

Photography Friday: Styled Shoot with Lilybird Flowers

When one of my girl friends mentioned to me back in November that she wanted to start a floral business, I was so excited for her, and more than eager to propose we do a photoshoot together that would show off her services.

A styled shoot is an exciting opportunity for a photographer, because you get to exert an unusual amount of control over the aesthetic look of your subjects. In a normal photoshoot, the client chooses their outfits, the location, the horse/pets/etc and so on and so forth- and so they should- its their shoot! But in a styled shoot, the florist and I got to nitpick every detail.

Our model was another friend, who also was my realtor for the House on a Hill 2.0! Katie is a stunning creature and her young Hanoverian gelding, Sully (aka Smush) was a wonderful companion.

The hope is that Lilybird Flowers and I will partner for shoots in the area, using her florals as a wonderful accompaniment to my portrait sessions.

It’s been an exciting week for BGD and I have loved collaborating with Lilybird Flowers so far. Hopefully there will be more floral equestrian shoots featured here in the future!

Happy Friday, all!

Photography Friday: Equestrian Gender Reveal

Horses are a part of our family, even if they don’t (often) fit through our front door! So when Kasey and Trip reached out to me to do an equestrian gender reveal shoot, it absolutely made sense. We scheduled the shoot for the farm where she keeps her retired (maybe to be un-retired!) showjumper Noah, and her baby thoroughbred Tide. We chased the sun all over the farm, and here are the results!

And for the big reveal- this family of 4 will become a family of 5 and welcome their little boy!

Congrats to Kasey and Trip, and happy Friday everyone!

Photography Friday: Christine and Kadet

Christine is a very special friend of mine, and also a huge part of this blog in that she has probably taken a good percentage of the media, particularly sales horse media, that you see on this site.

In return for the countless (because if we’re counting, it’s probably more than 20) hours driving to horse shows or seeing prospective horses, as well as being chief ear wrangler for my photography projects, I was keen to do a photo session with her and her horse Kadet.

Kadet is a special guy himself, a spritely soul turning 19 this year. He is retired from the highest levels of showjumping and now enjoys the good life of trail riding and light work with Christine. When he’s not galloping around his spacious paddock, Kadet’s other skill is proving himself to be the miracle horse. Despite breaking his coffin bone, getting cast in his stall, and fracturing a bone in his leg (all separate occasions), he’s bounced back every time and is the picture of health today.

So many thanks to Christine for her continuous support and friendship! Happy Friday to everyone!

Photography Friday: Ocala Portrait Session


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When I went to Ocala last month, I got to meet my first Julieann’s new Irish import, Ollie. So obviously we had to do a photoshoot with him, and her OG Jasper, in and amongst the stunning spanish moss of Horsepower Equestrian. Ollie is such a ham and a typical [big] baby, and it was hilarious trying to position him so that he wouldn’t try and eat the moss that was so conveniently at face level!

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We also did horsey version of a family photo, and I have to say, when the boys starting touching noses my heart just melted.

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Sadly, the light faded quickly, but not before we wrapped up one of my favorite sessions to date with this sweet moment between J and Ollie back at the barn.

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Lots of photos coming over the coming months, I hope you guys enjoy a little photography every week between now and.. I don’t know.. forever! Happy weekend!

Photography Friday: I Bella and Cambalda

Well, I did tell you guys I was going to hit the photography game hard this year, and so far I have made good on that promise! One of the exciting shoots I did to kick the year off was this rather impromptu mini-session done in the warmup arena at Wellington. Cambalda, or Ping as he goes by in the barns, needs to introduction to the eventing crowd. He’s been on the circuit at the top levels of the discipline for many years now, culminating in being named alternate to the Pan American games team.

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I Bella is a little newer to the eventing scene but no less talented. She finished 12th in the Eventing Showcase and looks to be an up and coming star for the future and one to watch. And while I understand that she is an absolute fireball under saddle, she is potentially one of the quietest, sweetest horses I have ever met- I mean honestly, how many Advanced level horses do you know that will stand like a statue in the middle of a showgrounds without a lead rope???web-ibella-cambalda-5

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I really must thank Erin, Jennie’s groom, and Jennie herself for allowing me the pleasure of photographing these truly special horses. It was an honor and one photography session that will stand out for me for the rest of my life!