Archive for the ‘horses’ Category

Wordless Wednesday: Genuine   4 comments

Buckaroo

Friday Foto Talk: Isolating Subjects   7 comments

Their shapes and fact that these camel thorn trees in Namibia are in silhouette helps to isolate them from the background of dunes.  The strong morning light washes out the background, further de-emphasizing it.

Their shapes and fact that these camel thorn trees in Namibia are in silhouette helps to isolate them from the background of dunes. The strong morning light washes out the background, further de-emphasizing it. 55 mm., 1/1600 sec. @ f/16.

This is a look I sometimes go for in my images, if for no other reason than to occasionally get away from the extended depth of field, wide-angle landscapes that dominate my shooting.  It involves highlighting one or a few particular subjects and allowing other parts of the scene to be less obvious.  Although close-up or true macro photographs fall into this category, I’m not really talking about those.  They are relatively straightforward images to make.  The trick I think is to isolate a subject and yet still leave something of the surroundings for the viewer to identify – even if it’s just a feel for the surroundings.

This type of image works well if the subject contrasts in some way with the rest of the scene.  Your subject  doesn’t have to be big, or even all that interesting.  You will make it more interesting by photographing it in the right way!  But it sure helps if the subject you’re trying to isolate is already set off in some way from its surroundings.

For this picture of my mare I simply opened up my aperture all the way (f/4) and shot.  I checked my LCD and saw that the background was a little too much in focus, so I moved closer and shot again.  I wanted it to be only slightly out of focus.

For this picture of my mare I simply opened up my aperture all the way (f/4) and shot. I checked my LCD and saw that the background was a little too much in focus, so I moved closer and shot again. I wanted it to be only slightly out of focus. 200 mm., 1/160 sec. @ f/4.0.

Here are some examples of subjects that are suitable for isolation:

      • Flowers, either a single bloom or a tight bunch.  Their color can really set them off against the background.
      • Trees, if they are interesting in some way.  Good candidates are trees that show off a different color (say a golden larch against green pines or firs), or a stark, bare tree against a background empty of details.  A tree that stands far above the rest of the canopy can make a good subject for isolation too.
      • Rocks can be good subjects for isolation, so long as they either contrast in color (difficult to find) or stick out in some other way from their background.  So-called hoodoos are a perfect example.  These are pillars, often with interesting shapes, that stick up out of the surrounding landscape.
      • Animals or people are perhaps the easiest subjects to isolate against a natural background.
For this shot of spring poppies, I wanted to include the cliff they were growing beneath, so I moved in close and chose a wide-angle.  If I had shot it from a standing position, the flowers would not be a strong enough subject.

For this shot of spring poppies, I wanted to include the cliff they were growing beneath, so I moved in close and chose a wide-angle. If I had shot it from a standing position, the flowers would not be a strong enough subject. 24 mm., 1/125 sec. @ f/11.

How you go about isolating a subject will depend on how strongly the subject already contrasts with its surroundings, plus how much you wish to hit the viewer in the head with isolation.  Your approach can be subtle, such as a slight vignette applied in post-processing, or it can have full-on impact, such as a shallow depth of field combined with a mask applied in post-processing that darkens and further blurs everything but the subject.

USING DEPTH OF FIELD

If you use a large aperture (small f number), you can put your subject in clear focus while the rest of the image is blurred.  You should be aware that it rarely works to put a lot of the area in front of the subject out of focus.  It’s best to limit this effect and go for blurring the background instead.  A blurred background looks much more natural than a blurred foreground.  This is certainly not a hard and fast rule, however.  You should play around with different levels of foreground blurring when the opportunity arises.

For this macro image of moss, I wanted to highlight the droplet, so I focused on that and got as close as I could.  I might have needed to get closer though.

For this macro image of moss, I wanted to highlight the droplet, so I focused on that and got as close as I could. The blurry stalk in front of the droplet takes away from the picture. 200 mm., 2.0 sec. @ f/16; taken with Canon 70-200 mm. f/4L + Canon 500D close-up lens.

USING COLOR

I often will spot a composition that just begs for an isolation technique, and it is only because of a subject that intrigues me.  It might be shape, it might be texture, but I most often pull the trigger when it is color that sets the subject off.  Perhaps this is because of my bias toward color in photography, but it also seems to work better than using a subject’s other characteristics.

USING BRIGHTNESS (NATURAL) 

This might be the best way to highlight a subject.  Anyone viewing a photo will tend to look at the brighter parts first.  You don’t have a lot of control over this sometimes, unless you can move your subject.  I should note right here that it’s not okay to damage the natural world in your pursuit for the perfect picture.  But if you are photographing a person or pet, moving them into a beam of light is a good option.  You can also wait on a cloudy day for light beams to fall on your subject.  You will see stunning shots of hill towns in Europe highlighted in this manner.  Also think about shooting into the sun in order to highlight your subject in the opposite way – by making it much darker than the background (see top image).

USING BRIGHTNESS (FLASH)

You can use flash, whether it is daytime or not, to isolate a subject with brightness.  Even a subtle flash directed at the subject can be used in combination with a darkening mask for the surroundings to create a “spotlight” effect.  The spotlight can be obvious or subtle or something in between.  When I say subtle flash I am talking about either being near the outer limits of the flash’s working distance or using flash exposure compensation to dial down the power of the flash (or a combination of the two).  Check the owner’s manuals for your camera (and for your flash if it is an off-camera unit) to see how to dial down the flash’s power.

For this shot of springbok in Namibia, I broke a rule saying that your in-focus subject should be in front.  Placing the male in shadow helped to focus attention on the well-lighted female in back.

For this shot of springbok in Namibia, I broke a rule saying that your in-focus subject should be in front. But placing the male in shadow helped to focus attention on the well-lighted female in back. 400 mm., 1/1250 sec. @ f/5.6

USING SIZE

If you are closer to the subject, even something small like a flower, it will appear bigger in your frame.  I know that is obvious, but it’s amazing how many photographers refuse to simply move their feet and get closer to a subject.  If you do this, you might get one more picture out of the scene, one you didn’t see initially.  Maybe it will not turn out very well.  But maybe it will!

Of course the bigger the subject the easier it is to isolate it from the background.  In other words, you won’t have to rely on other means, like depth of field, nearly as much.  If you are going wide-angle, for example, and only have f/4 or f/5.6 as a maximum aperture on the lens, you won’t be able to throw the background very much out of focus.  In this case you will appreciate characteristics of the subject like color and size; they will play a bigger role in isolation.

Although I recently posted a similar image to this one, I included this because it illustrates well the technique of getting close to your subject and playing around with depth of field to get just the right amount of blur.

Although I recently posted a similar image to this one, I included this because it illustrates well the technique of getting close to your subject and playing around with depth of field to get just the right amount of blur. Canon 100 mm. macro lens, 1/80 sec. @ f/8.0

USING EMPTY SPACE

This might be the most obvious technique to isolate a subject.  Just put a lot of empty space around it.  You feel isolated when you are surrounded by empty space, so why shouldn’t a picture give a feel of isolation if a person, animal or tree is surrounded by a lot of empty space.  Photographers often call it “negative” space.  It’s just portions of the frame lacking in elements.  Broad expanses of sky, grass, water, they all count as empty (or negative) space.  See the bottom image for an example of this technique.  The more compelling your subject, the better.

USING POINT OF VIEW

You’ve probably noticed that the lower you get, the bigger objects closer to you appear, while things further away appear even smaller.  This is really using size, as mentioned above.  But here you’re taking advantage of apparent size.  Does it matter to the viewer whether the size of something in the frame is “real” or “apparent”?  Nope.  If you’re using a relatively wide angle, this effect is magnified.  With fisheye lenses, it reaches the extreme.  I should mention the opposite case.  If you gain an elevated viewpoint, things that are closer to you will appear to be closer in size to things that are further away.

This big male hippo in Zambia put himself closer to my position in the boat, thus giving me the chance to quickly grab the shot and isolate him against his pod of females.

This big male hippo in Zambia put himself closer to my position in the boat, thus giving me the chance to quickly grab the shot and isolate him against his pod of females. 81 mm., 1/800 sec. @ f/7.1.

USING FOCAL LENGTH

As I just mentioned, things closer to you appear even bigger when you get lower.  The same thing occurs when you use a wider angle, a shorter focal length.  If you use a lens with a focal length of 20 mm., for example, you are going to isolate closer subjects by virtue of their appearing bigger in the frame.  If you use a telephoto at 100 mm. or more, you are going to accomplish the opposite.  Closer subjects will more easily blend in with the background, again mostly according to apparent size.

Although I got close to this subject, I kept the focal length short to include plenty of sky and not allow the background to go completely out of focus.

Although I got close to this flower, I kept the focal length fairly short (wide angle) to include plenty of sky and keep the background from going completely out of focus. 67 mm., 1/30 sec. @ f/22.

USING THE COMPUTER

There are several techniques to use in post-processing that will further isolate your subject.  But realize that you will need to use some or all of the methods listed above during capture so that you don’t need to push the post-processing too far.  This is a truism in photography.  You will only get natural-looking results if you take steps during capture that get you partway (most of the way?) to where you want to be in the end.

Vignettes, masks, selective focus treatments and more are all used to further isolate subjects from their surroundings.  Instead of going into detail here, I recommend doing a bit of research.  Look into how portrait photographers use post-processing techniques to isolate people from backgrounds (in non-studio surroundings).  Nearly any book or video series that shows you how to use Photoshop, Lightroom, Aperture and others will go into the techniques used to help isolate people (or animals) from their surroundings.  Take a look, and apply those things to flowers, rocks, or any subject you wish to isolate.

For this shot of blooming beargrass with Mount Adams in the background, I tried a few different focal length/aperture combinations before I got the one I liked best.

For this shot of blooming beargrass with Mount Adams in the background, the fact that I was close to the subject relative to the background meant that a small aperture was needed to avoid the background being too blurry. 165 mm., 1/60 sec. @ f/22

Use all of these things together.  Use characteristics of the subject like color, brightness and size (or some other feature), use apparent size by varying distance to subject and point of view, use the focal length of your lenses, and maybe even use flash.  While editing on the computer use vignettes, masks and other techniques to further isolate your subject.

If you bear these things in mind while shooting, pretty soon it should become second nature to you.  It will help keep your mind on the subject.  I’m not promising that you’ll get a level of isolation that yields a winner every time.  But I can promise you’ll obtain a greater variety of images, even if you only vary depth of field.  If more of your images isolate interesting subjects, you will eventually have more images with impact in your portfolio.  And that can only be a good thing.

This is just a straight picture taken at f/11.  The height and interesting shape of the lightning-struck tree does all the work of isolation without any help from the photographer.

This is just a straight picture taken at f/11. The height and interesting shape of the lightning-struck tree does all the work of isolation without any help from the photographer. 28 mm., 1/80 sec. @ f/11.

Isolation in this image comes from a combination of the fact this roan antelope is the only live creature plus all of the open space of Malawi's Nyika Plateau that surrounds him.

Isolation in this image comes from a combination of the fact this roan antelope is the only live creature plus all of the open space of Malawi’s Nyika Plateau that surrounds him. 31 mm., 1/50 sec. @ f/11

Spring Pastures   2 comments

Mount Hood rises beyond rural pastureland in western Oregon.

Mount Hood rises beyond rural pastureland in western Oregon.

Whenever I head out to the barn where my horses are kept I pass through a very pastoral stretch of countryside.  The pictures here are from an area southwest of Portland, Oregon.  It is what the rest of the city’s surrounding areas used to look like before all the development.  For instance, there is a mall and freeway now where in the late 1970s when I first moved here there was country much like you see in these pictures.  But this kind of beauty is still accessible.  You simply have to drive further from town now.

I hope you enjoy the images.  They are copyrighted and not available for free download, sorry.  If you click on an image you will be taken to the high-res. image where purchase of print or download, along with things like mugs and T-shirts, is simply a matter of clicking “add image to cart”.  It won’t be added right away; you will get the chance to see prices and options.  Thanks for your interest, and please contact me if you have any questions at all.  Thanks for visiting!

Khallie the filly enjoys some nice thick green grass.

Khallie the filly enjoys some nice thick green grass.

After a healthy grazing session, Gold Dancer finds all the new spring grass too tempting.

After a healthy grazing session, Gold Dancer finds all the new spring grass too tempting.

The area around Corbett, Oregon grows and glows under a spring sunset.

The area around Corbett, Oregon grows and glows under a spring sunset.

Poor Khallie   7 comments

Khallie close-up.

Khallie close-up.

This is sort of a personal post, totally unlike me.  But it’s also a good chance to highlight some pictures of my favorite little filly, Khallie.  She is on my mind right now because of an accident.  It could have been worse (of course) but she got hurt and that’s bad enough.

Khallie, an arabian filly, is in the mood for mischief.

Khallie, an arabian filly, is in the mood for mischief.

We were just starting a ride.  She did not want to step into a big puddle of water to get around a gate (she has “issues” with water, something I’m trying to gently fix).  So I led her under a strand of barbed wire to avoid the puddle.  This is something some lame-brained landowner put up, not even on his property.  We had done this numerous times in the past, so I was not worried.  Perhaps I was a bit complacent about it, but I allowed the wire to catch on the saddle horn.

Khallie & her mom Gold Dancer do the mom-daughter thing.

Khallie & her mom Gold Dancer do the mom-daughter thing.

Khallie chose that moment to jump forward, and the wire scared her.  She took off, no way I could have held her.  She ran away like the wind, dragging the barbed wire behind her.  She thought she was being chased by the wire.  I jogged after her and finally found her standing in the trees off the trail, breathing hard.  She was very scared.  I only noticed some minor cuts and abrasions, no limp, and so continued the ride (though I shortened it significantly).  I wanted her to calm down before taking her back.

Khallie just a week after being born.

Khallie just a week after being born.

It wasn’t until the next day that her leg swelled up and pus began dripping from a hidden wound.  The wire had apparently sliced cleanly into her flesh, a nice 4-inch long gash, about an inch deep.  Not good, especially the pus, which means it’s infected.  It might need stitches, but the place it is located would likely mean stitches would not hold.

Khallie just loves the snow.

Khallie just loves the snow.

So now she is being doctored, on antibiotics and confined to her stall.  It should heal fine (she’s young) but it still makes my heart break for her.  I know it was really my fault, so I feel quite guilty about it.

A recent picture of Khallie in profile.

A recent picture of Khallie in profile.

Khallie is my little girl, my favorite horse (I have two, her mother also).  I was there when she popped out of her mom, and she quickly wormed her way into my heart.  I love her spirit.  That spirit you can see in the image below when she is barely a week old already longing to get out of the birthing stall.  Her mom is sick right now with a flu bug and so now I don’t have any horse to ride.

Khallie, a little over a week after being born, is already impatient to get out and see the world.

Khallie, a little over a week after being born, is already impatient to get out and see the world.

It’s difficult also because Khallie was just learning to ride.  I’ve only ridden her a half dozen times up to this point.  So now I’m off to the barn to bring her more treats.  Along with cleaning the wound, I feel my job is to baby her and soothe her bruised feelings.  She’s a bit of a prima dona, but I know she has a tough streak in there too.  So she should get through this with no lasting scars, at least emotional ones.

Khallie is very much a people horse, here she greets her mom and rider returning home from a ride.

Khallie is very much a people horse, here she greets her mom and rider returning home from a ride.

Puttin’ on the Green: Happy St. Patrick’s Day!   7 comments

 

The O'Flaherty Castle in Connemara, Ireland.

The O’Flaherty Castle in Connemara, Ireland.

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!  This post will be a bit short on words but very long on green.  I love all the colors found in nature.  I’ve been blessed to admire the crystal blue of a clear sky, the deep brown and ochre of rich earth, the impossibly-pure white of fresh snowfall, the vibrant fuschia and magenta of a desert sunset; even that most fiery of red-orange in flowing lava!

But there is something about the color green that speaks to all of us.  It is the color that means life.  I make my home in a very green part of a green state: northwestern Oregon.  Also, I’ve traveled to lush and very green places in the tropics all over the world.  But I believe that when I visited Ireland about 6 years ago, I saw the most incredible variety, the most luminous shades of green that I’ve ever seen in my life.  This is where my ancestry lies, in the Connemara region of western Ireland.

If you’re interested in buying any of these images either framed or in high-resolution download form, just click on those you like (except the top one).  All of them are copyrighted and not available for free download, sorry.  Enjoy the green!

A mother giant river otter leads her babies across a plant-covered pond in western Venezuela.

A mother giant river otter leads her babies across a plant-covered pond in western Venezuela.

Rice paddies surround a small village on the island of Lombok, Indonesia.

Rice paddies surround a small village on the island of Lombok, Indonesia.

A green frog floats in a green pool in Namibia's Naukluft Mountains.

A green frog floats in a green pool in Namibia’s Naukluft Mountains.

A fern-filled grotto in western Oregon's Columbia River Gorge.

A fern-filled grotto in western Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge.

A capuchin monkey peers down from the rainforest of the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica.

A capuchin monkey peers down from the rainforest of the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica.

In the foothills of the Andes in Colombia, a cloud forest seems a great place to hide leprechauns.

In the foothills of the Andes in Colombia, a cloud forest seems a great place to hide leprechauns.

One of spring's colts gambles across a green pasture in eastern Oregon.

One of spring’s colts gambles across a green pasture in eastern Oregon.

A waterfall in the jungle on the slopes of Mt Rinjani on the island of Lombok, Indonesia.

A waterfall in the jungle on the slopes of Mt Rinjani on the island of Lombok, Indonesia.

A river flows through remote jungle in southwestern Costa Rica.

A river flows through remote jungle in southwestern Costa Rica.

A moss-covered bank overlooks a small rapid on Hood River, Oregon.

A moss-covered bank overlooks a small rapid on Hood River, Oregon.

Home in the Jungle: Life on the Rio San Juan, which flows along the border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

Home in the Jungle: Life on the Rio San Juan, which flows along the border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

Big sky and rolling green plains grazed by roan antelope define the pristine Nyika Plateau of northern Malawi.

Big sky and rolling green plains grazed by roan antelope define the pristine Nyika Plateau of northern Malawi.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Khallie is Growing Up   2 comments

Khallie tosses her head around.

Khallie tosses her head around.

When a daughter gets up to that age where she is going out with boys, and showing all the other signs of becoming a woman, a father will often have trouble accepting the inevitable.  Now I’m not trying to say this is the same thing, but darn it if I don’t feel a twinge of sadness as my “girl” Khallie grows up.  I returned from a long trip away to find my arabian filly taller and definitely filled out.  She had been receiving some training under saddle, and was ready for her first ride with daddy.

Khallie is all grown up, with a big-girl saddle.

Khallie is all grown up, with a big-girl saddle.

I rigged up a bridle with the lead rope and a rope halter and used the saddle belonging to her mom, Gold Dancer (GD).  Khallie’s head is still smaller than her mom’s so she couldn’t use her bridle.  And the cinch had just enough eyelets in it to make it snug around her considerably more svelte barrel.   I hopped on and tooled around the arena for awhile.  I had not planned to take her outside on this first ride.

Gold Dancer comes over to check us out, and has obviously been rolling around in the muddy pasture.

Gold Dancer comes over to check us out, and has obviously been rolling around in the muddy pasture.

But the sun was sinking, the light was softening into a winter glow, and I wanted to get some pictures.  So we took a walk, me leading not riding Khallie.  Her mom came over to the fence to check us out.  It was strange, for me and possibly also for GD to see Khallie, all tacked up, leaving with me while mom stayed behind.  So many times Khallie has watched sadly from the pasture as GD and I took off on a ride.

Khallie turns at a sound only she can hear.

Khallie turns at a sound only she can hear.

We walked into the woods, at the beginning of the riding trails.  I thought what the heck, and hopped on her.  We walked a mile or so, down to the creek, then back.  A very short ride, but very big for Khallie.  Her first ride with me, and we go into the woods!  She knows how I am, how quickly I become bored with the arena.  And I think all those woodsy walks without a saddle helped make her feel comfortable.  She kept turning her head around and bumping her nose against my leg, I think to make sure I was still with her.  She’s so used to me walking beside her, not riding on her back.

_MG_7594

I was pleasantly surprised at her demeanor.  I think she will make a fine saddle horse.  She sometimes behaves more like a little show horse, like a little prima dona.  But if she’s going to hang around me, she’ll need to keep that “tom boy” attitude handy too.  Sadly, I might soon need to sell Khallie.  Like a father giving his young daughter away at a wedding, that day, if it comes, will definitely be a sad one for me.

A purple dusk descends as Khallie keeps watch for danger.

A purple dusk descends as Khallie keeps watch for danger.

 

 

Eyes: Our Biggest Blessing   Leave a comment

I have heard people claim that their favorite sense is their hearing, or their taste (foodies), or some other sense.  But it is the eyes, your vision, that should be your favorite.  And not just because it is my favorite sense (haha).  It’s because you are a member of the human species.  We have always relied to a great extent on our vision.  I feel rotten for the whole day when I see a blind person, and I feel inspired when I see them enjoying life.  My eyes are my most precious possession.

This I say because just yesterday I almost lost one.  I was on my horse, enjoying a long ride, when I felt a bit adventurous and took an off-trail route through the jungle that is Oregon (our moist climate has the predictable effect).  I was leading my other horse Khallie, a filly who is occasionally a pain in the butt to pony (horse-speak for leading).  We were going along, through brush where I should have dismounted and walked.  I turned briefly to see what Khallie’s problem was, and when I turned back I got a rigid stick right in my left eye.

Khallie (left) and her mom, Gold Dancer, take a break from a ride in some delicious grass.

The three amigos hang out at the barn after their post-ride bath.

Khallie and I under a full moon.

I haven’t experienced this much pain in quite awhile.  I sat on GD’s back howling, shaking with worry that I had put my eye out.  But when I slowly opened my bloody eye I realized that, just in time, I had apparently closed my eye.  Instead of eye damage, I gashed my eyelid instead.  Whew!  Now my horse GD (for Gold Dancer) normally does not like to stop.  She fidgets and tosses her head until I finally relent and give her rein.  But this time she stood stock still for a full 10 minutes while I recovered.  Actually, both horses stood like statues.  It gave me faith that should I really be hurt badly my horse would carry me home whether I could sit upright or not.

Fortunately I was near a clean stream, so I went over and washed out my bloody eye.  What a close call.  GD thought we were going to cross the stream and I had to stop her from dragging me into the water.  Khallie, as usual, believed we were all about to drown.  Her fear of water is something I’ve been working on.  This morning I woke with my eye sealed shut by the dried blood.  A little worry, some leftover pain, but I was okay.  I cleaned out the wound and will be happy to walk around for the next few days looking like I was in a barroom brawl.

Now I sit here thanking my lucky stars for a good pair of eyes.  To this point in life, I have never even come close to needing glasses.  I do not have the hawk-eyed vision at long distance that I used to have, but my eyes work just fine at all distances.  The bright blue eye color of my youth has dimmed a bit, but I still have that ice-blue going on.  I’ve been told that they can look pretty or very cold depending on whether I am happy (nearly always) or angry (almost never).  I think my eyes are one reason I have always had trouble hiding how I feel.  My feelings are always on full display.

Khallie, an arabian filly who is my special little girl, perks her hears forward in curiosity.

GD in a shot taken from the saddle.

So please consider your eyes the next time you count your blessings.  Although we no longer hunt to survive, there are so many things we do where vision is critical.

And for me, the most indispensable use of my eyes is the ability to see the incredible beauty of this planet we call home.  I am now going to go out for a hike and shoot pictures.  And all along I’ll be thanking God for giving me those two incredibly intricate organs in my face.

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