Archive for the ‘horses’ Tag

Friday Foto Talk: Overcoming Physical Obstacles   11 comments

This continues the mini-series on overcoming obstacles to great photography.  This Friday we look at two inter-related and very important obstacles: shooting position and physical barriers.

Being Too Far Away

“If you’re pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough” is one of photography’s most basic truisms.  To illustrate, I’d like to share a little story.  At the Grand Tetons in Wyoming, I had always wanted a good shot of the horses who hang out along the east side of the Snake River (visible from Hwy. 89 north of Jackson).  The image below was the best I had gotten before my visit last September.

 

Horse heaven.

Horse heaven.

I spent one morning shooting along Hwy. 89.  I didn’t visit the horses until well past sunrise, but the light was still interesting because of storm clouds.  And because the sun was still low and behind me, I knew there was a chance for a bonus: a rainbow!  There were a few other photographers coming and going.  We were shooting the mountains plus some buffalo who were near the road.  A fence lay between us and the fairly distant horses.

I was itching to get closer to the subject, so I slipped under the fence.  I knew this was park property and that the horses turned out on it were used to take tourists on rides.  Realize that the horse’s owners or handlers would probably not have not liked it to see a tourist next to their horses.  So don’t take it as an invitation to follow this specific example.

Walking slowly up to the horses, I murmured soothing words and scratched them, just to say hello and allow them to get comfortable with me.  Having owned horses I know how to avoid disturbing them.  I had only taken a couple pictures when the rainbow happened.  I clicked happily away.  I used a fairly wide angle so everything was in focus while using a faster shutter (to keep the grazing horses from blurring and to shoot hand-held).

When the rainbow faded, I walked back to the road.  There were quite a few more photographers because the rainbow made them pull off the highway.  They were shooting with longer focal lengths and not getting the best shot.  They were much too far away, and also they weren’t really ready when the rainbow happened.  They let two important obstacles get between them and a great shot.

Not being too shy about getting up close and personal with a subject is the surest way to get average photos.

Not being too shy about getting up close and personal with a subject is the surest way to get great photos.

Physical Obstacles

The fence in the story above is an example of a physical obstacle.  In that case it was a pretty simple one to hop over, so what held the other photographers back was either laziness or more likely mistaking the purpose of the fence (it was for keeping horses off the road, not to signal it was private property).  Sometimes the obstacles are a little bigger than this, but rarely are they insurmountable.

Is the best shot of that sunset from the shoreline or partway into the lake?  Is the best shot of the waterfall from the near side or do you need to wade the stream to get closer?  Do you need to get up higher for the right point of view?  At Boudhanath Stupa in Nepal, I needed to get off ground level, and that meant asking around until finally, just before sunset, I found a place where I could buy a cup of tea that came with a good view.

The great stupa at Boudhanath, near Kathmandu, Nepal.

The great stupa at Boudhanath, near Kathmandu, Nepal.

See the pattern?  It’s actually about point of view and working the subject (a recent Friday Foto Talk).  But to get there you need to get past obstacles regarding position and physical barriers.  How about climbing that hill for a better point of view and composition?  I’ve often been tempted to climb trees, but (alas) I’m not the limber guy I once was; it’s just too dangerous.

But so often it’s not danger that holds us back but the fear of a little discomfort, or of being seen doing something slightly ridiculous.  The key is to not fool  yourself one way or the other.  Know your limits but don’t sell yourself short either!

Thanks a bunch for reading and don’t forget to add your ideas or ask questions in the comments.  Have a very happy weekend!

I was able to see and shoot this fiery sunset in Kuala Lumpur only because I found a way on to the roof of my hotel.

I was able to see and shoot this fiery sunset in Kuala Lumpur only because I found a way on to the roof of my hotel.

 

Wordless Wednesday: Apple of My Eye   15 comments

Eye on You

Travel Theme: Motion   17 comments

Occasionally I like to take part in these themed postathons, and Ailsa’s are always great.  This time the theme is motion, and you can find many more over at her blog post on Where’s My Backpack.

Enjoy the photos.  If you’re interested in any, just click on them to be taken to pricing options on the high-res. versions.  They’re copyrighted and not available for free download without my permission, sorry.  Please contact me if you have any questions.  Thanks!

Big waves pound the tilted layers of an ancient delta at Cape Arago on the central Oregon Coast.

Big waves pound the tilted layers of an ancient delta at Cape Arago on the central Oregon Coast.

 

The spring melt-off at Bryce National Park in Utah brings a slow-moving but inexorable slurry plowing through the snow.

The spring melt-off at Bryce National Park in Utah brings a slow-moving but inexorable slurry plowing through the snow.

 

Cambodians and their bicycles!  Here they commute through one of Angkor Wat's more out-of-the-way gates.

Cambodians and their bicycles! Commuting through one of Angkor Wat’s more out-of-the-way gates.

 

I think you can feel this stream in Oregon rolling through the mossy forest.

I think you can feel this stream in Oregon rolling through the mossy forest.

 

This was a very windy day in the dunes at Death Valley.  You can see the sand moving over the foreground.  Lens changes were not a good idea!

This was a very windy day in the dunes at Death Valley. You can see the sand moving over the foreground. Lens changes were not a good idea!

 

This American dipper is constantly on the move up and down streams, on the hunt for food.  Here one dips for lunch on the Snake River in Grand Teton N.P.

This American dipper is constantly on the move up and down streams, on the hunt for food. Here one dips for lunch on the Snake River in Grand Teton National Park.

 

This was her first ride on my horse, believe it or not.  And boy did she get a ride!

This was her first ride on my horse, believe it or not. And boy did she get a ride!

 

A swirling eddy on a creek in Utah.

A swirling eddy on a creek in Utah.

 

You can see the water spraying up as this young bull in the Okavango Delta begins his charge - a false one lucky for us.

You can see the water spraying up as this young bull in the Okavango Delta begins his charge – a false one lucky for us.

 

The Gallatin River flows from Yellowstone north into a beautiful valley in Montana.

The Gallatin River flows from Yellowstone north into a beautiful valley in Montana.

 

Gold Dancer feeling frisky.

Gold Dancer feeling frisky.

 

Fast-moving clouds streak the sky over moonlit Little Ruin Canyon at Hovenweep, Utah.

Fast-moving clouds streak the sky over moonlit Little Ruin Canyon at Hovenweep, Utah.

 

A body in motion stays in motion - the creed for a group of exercise enthusiasts from a nearby fitness spa in Snow Canyon State Park, Utah.

A body in motion stays in motion – the creed for a group of exercise enthusiasts from a nearby fitness spa in Snow Canyon State Park, Utah.

Getting very close to a full Panther Creek Falls in southwest Washington was a wet experience!

Getting very close to a full Panther Creek Falls in southwest Washington was a wet experience!

 

Horses in motion are my favorite.  Here my girl Khallie is faster than her mom!

Horses in motion are my favorite. Here my girl Khallie is faster than her mom!

 

A lone wildebeast stands against an oncoming storm in the Mbabe Depression of Botswana.  You can see the wind in the tree  he's standing under.

A lone wildebeast stands against an oncoming storm in the Mbabe Depression of Botswana. You can see the wind in the tree he’s standing under.

 

Sometimes I don't blur waterfalls because I think stopping the motion gives a better sense of the power.  That was the case here at Victoria Falls on the Zimbabwe-Zambia border.

Sometimes I don’t blur waterfalls because I think stopping the motion gives a better sense of the power. That was the case here at Victoria Falls on the Zimbabwe-Zambia border.

 

Surf in motion at Cape Kiwanda in Oregon.

Surf in motion at Cape Kiwanda in Oregon.

 

A boat motors down the Willamette in Portland, Oregon at sunset.

A boat motors down the Willamette in Portland, Oregon at sunset.

 

A small peaceful cove on the northern California coast features an active little stream plus abalone shells!

A small peaceful cove on the northern California coast features an active little stream plus abalone shells!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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.

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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.

Photographing the Equine.   Leave a comment

I don’t know what it is about horses, but unless they are working, active and under the control of a human, they can be a royal pain to photograph.  Of course I want to treat them like a regular model; that is, pull them aside, without their humans, tell some jokes, get them relaxed, and then start shooting.  But they ain’t playin’ that game!  It’s like little kids who come to your studio for their portraits – but without their parents.

Khallie, myself and GD hang out at the barn after a ride.

I have two horses of my own – arabians (mom & daughter).  They’re my girls, but they can be just as bad as any horse.  I will say, however, that they are smart enough to know about photography by now.  When they see me pull out the camera, they pretty much know what’s going on.  So as long as there isn’t particularly sweet grazing within a few yards of their position, they actually know to stay put.  I should be thankful I don’t have quarter horses; no way they ever get the general concept.

A palomino at TBM Farm checks out the photographer.

Horse photographers who only shoot at horse shows don’t know what I’m talking about.  Now, if your clients ask you to go out in the pasture and get some “candids”, then you might get what I’m saying.  I was out to the barn yesterday and noticed a new horse, a palomino gelding who is young, dumb and pretty.  So I decided I’d like to get some pictures of him in the late-day light.

A young horse is easily distracted.

First obstacle (of course) was that he wanted to stay by the fence closest to where I had let my horses out to graze.  I led him away with a simple rope (didn’t want a halter on him), and he then turned his attention to me and my camera.  So then, every time I got him positioned in good light, he would walk right up to my camera with his big honkin’ nose.   So I started swinging the rope around and clucking to keep him away and get him moving.  That worked, and he ran a bit – but right into the shade of a tree.

I saw this same horse running around like a crazy animal the day before, but now when I was forcing the issue, he would only run 10 yards or so at most, then stop.  His attention was divided between my mares, other horses in the pasture next to his (who were now interested in what we were doing), and me.  I was trying my utmost to keep his attention on me, by making all sorts of noises and using dramatic body language.  But since I had stroked and loved him up previous to this, he didn’t take me too seriously.

I noticed the background was much better if I got a low angle, so I lay down and shot from the ground.  This definitely got his attention, and he strode over to me with comical steps.  He saw it was really just me, so lost some interest, until I began kicking and doing my best imitation of Curly (of 3 Stooges fame), in order to simply get an alert expression.  I got a few shots this way, but I wondered if I was sacrificing too much of my dignity to get them.  It was all good though, since nobody else was around.

A gold palomino strides in the gold late-day light.

My goal had actually been to get him to look majestic in a shaft of the golden slanting light, with an uncluttered, beautiful sky-rich background, in static pose and in motion.  But no way would he stay in the nice light.  All I could get was nice light in the background, he in the shade.

And moving?  I managed a few shots but they were not very sharp.  I estimated minimum shutter speeds of 1/500 sec., but at 200mm this was a tad too slow.  Live and learn.  Actually it is quite easy to underestimate the speed that horses move.  Their motions suggest much slower movement than they actually accomplish.

All in all a frustrating but silly and fun experience.  I figure I might eventually be able to do one-on-one candid portraits of horses.  And if not, the effort will probably make “money” horse shoots (with their humans aboard or in control) seem like a cake-walk.

I’m told horse photography is a ripe business opportunity in this area (the Willamette Valley in Oregon).  Do I really want to spend this much time with them?  Answer:  maybe!

The Arabian Horse (and other horsey matters)   Leave a comment

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Khallie and her friends graze in the flowers.

I really have to interrupt the travel blog routine to squeeze in a bit about my horses.  I have two, both girls. The filly in the foreground is my favorite, perhaps because I watched her being born.  Her name is Khalista Siriane (Khallie to her friends), a registered arabian who is considered too small by American standards.  So she’s not worth much in this country, but is worth the world to me.

Khallie is of average size if you take the traditional view of arabs; that is, they are not generally large horses, especially the mares.  Arabian stallions can be, but traditional breeding did not emphasize size except for a certain few lines that were bred to be war horses.  Khallie is only 4 years old, and arabians, unlike most breeds, will normally continue to grow, as late as their 6th year.  Later growth tends to consist mostly of “filling out”, however.

Over the past number of years in this country (USA), arabians have been bred larger and larger, as judges on the show circuit have been rewarding size.  So it is all for the show arena.  War horses I can see, but show?  Give me a break!  Breeders with large, well-conformed stallions of good breeding can literally milk them for millions.  They collect the sperm, immediately freeze it, then ship it to buyers for upwards of $5000 and more a pop!  Considering a stallion being teased by mares is one productive beast, he’s a gold mine on 4 legs.

Arabian horses are prized for their spirit and their brains.  In other words, they are quick to catch on to anything you teach them, but often forget that they are supposed to be going along with your plan at all times.  But if you remember their nature, and give them the benefit of the doubt, they will eventually become the type of horse that thinks on its feet.  They can get you out of a tight spot, often when you are trying to urge them to do something they know would be stupid.  And upon further investigation or thought, you realize they’re right and you’re wrong.

The white horse in the background is my mare Gold Dancer (AKA GD), who is Khallie’s mother and also full arabian.  She is quite typical for her breed, alternately wonderful and infuriating: a responsive speed demon when you give her the green light (no kicking required), but sometimes a royal pain.  She and Khallie both respond to verbal commands very well.  They can easily distinguish commands that vary in their sounds only slightly.  For example my command for stop is Whoa! and for slow-down it’s Whea!  .

I normally ride my motorcycle out to the barn, speeding along at 70 or more on the 2-lanes of looming death called Springwater Road.  After all that excitement, you might think riding the horse is a bit dull.  Nope!  In fact, it’s the other way around.  If she and I are in the mood for running, a ride on GD makes the trip back on my bike less exciting.  Speed on a horse can’t compare with speed on any other conveyance.  Maybe skiing trees fast compares, or at high speed downhill on single-track through forest on a mountain bike.  But riding GD at a run on forested trail with a good number of S-curves, leaning into those turns, that’s the stuff!

But it’s not all excitement with horses.  Mostly, hanging out with them involves listening to their munch-munch-munch sounds as they seem to totally ignore you and graze.  But hanging with them like that, soaking up the fresh air and sunshine, is supremely relaxing.  After a time, looking at them, you begin to realize they aren’t ignoring you at all.  You know they are always aware of you, even if they don’t seem to be paying attention.

It’s the herd togetherness thing, an invisible connection you feel.  And it makes you feel good, in the same way it makes them feel good, being part of a herd.  I now realize how terrible it is to leave a horse alone for long periods, with no friends.  We humans can take it for a stretch.  Horses really suffer.  So please, never get a horse unless you plan to board it with others…or get two.  Happy riding!

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