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? 

 

Photography Friday: Kristine and Faynce

web-Kristine-Faynce-7

One of the packages I offer this year is what I call a mini-session… that is, a short 30ish minute session resulting in 6 digital images. But even I was surprised that we would fit this much love, sunshine, and shiny coats into one short shoot! Faynce, a beautiful Quarter Horse mare, was a dream to photograph- she really just lights up the camera! And her owner Kristine is obviously just in love with this special mare, which showed in every photo.

Thanks Kristine for allowing me the joy of photographing your special relationship with Faynce! And happy Friday, everyone!

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]

Tribulations of Fighting my Body

I have a hollow lower back. The scientific name for it is Lordosis, but to me that is a maniacal sounding term and so I’ll just avoid it for now.

I’ve known that it causes issues with achieving correct equitation for some time- but it wasn’t until recently that I have attempted to correct it after watching a professional sports therapist talk about the alignment of the pelvis and how achieving the right alignment helps us to breathe more effectively and lots of other benefits.

Somewhere between a forked seat and an upright seat

So I have been attempting to correct my lower back when riding, thinking about tucking my pelvis under and engaging my lower back muscles. It means that after every ride, my lower back aches immensely, but I am hoping to achieve the picture of full postural strength as seen in the below image:

Article found here

I’m still struggling to maintain my balance in this position, and no surprise- my body has been holding itself the wrong way for almost 3 decades! But it feels like slowly the muscle memory is starting to build. And I’m building a strong collection of gels and bars and salts to help alleviate the post-ride back pain.

Does anyone have a go-to pain relief for their back that they can recommend? And has anyone been through a similar struggle of retraining their body and been successful? Would love to hear your story!

Adventures in Horse Shopping: The Virginia Trip

Sunday was a ridiculous 7AM-11PM day of driving, adjusting stirrup leathers, and sitting in some really nice saddles on some super nice horses. Rather than bore you with my written synopsis, perhaps it would be better to have you watch this clumsy, slightly unfinished (after horse 3 I was too pooped and the weather was not cooperating with vlogging and navigating) video version of how it all went.

Adventures in Horse Shopping: The Trial Horse Outcome

As you all know, for the last couple weeks I have had the pleasure of riding a certain red-headed pony who hopefully was going to become mine. In the beginning we battled some issues with foot soreness after an overzealous trim, but some padded shoes fixed that and we started our journey of getting to know each other.

Having a trial period with a horse is a wonderful opportunity, as it really allows you to get to know him in ways that a short test ride just won’t allow. I was able to see him in a new environment, experiencing scary things such as giant tarps and deer and cats jumping up and down around the indoor. All of these things he handled with confidence, and his can-do attitude did much to impress me.

The other grace of having a trial period is having professionals come out to assess the horse, teach me how to ride them, and give their honest opinion as to whether or not we make a good team. I had 3 lessons during our trial period, and it really opened my eyes to each of our strengths and weaknesses that only riding a new horse can.

In the end, I realized that the red pony was not the best fit for me at the moment, despite my desperately wanting him to work out. He is a pleasure to be around on the ground, and an incredibly talented and athletic horse with huge potential. However, his past as a hunter jumper meant that he lacked an education in dressage, and at this time I decided that what I really want is something ready to go and show, and through absolutely no fault of his own, he is simply not ready for that.

It was bittersweet bringing him back to his owner, and stuffing him full of treats for the last time. Incredibly disappointing that it didn’t work out, but reassuring to know that he is back with an owner who just wants the best for him and will continue to work on finding him the best home.

Good luck little red pony, and thanks for the ride.

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!