January 27, 2012

Do you ever wonder if the guy in the puddle is real, and you’re just a reflection of him? — Bill Watterson

This image was taken in Morro Bay, California. My friend Donna and I were out there for an expo and, after setting up the booth, took a few hours off to visit the local scenery. I love days like the one on which this photo was taken — somewhere new, wildlife, and me with my camera!

I love to photograph seagulls. I know many of you who live near the ocean consider them nothing better than flying rats — but to a landlocked Missouri girl, they are fun. They seem to truly enjoy life — and they are always doing something that entertains me. Like this little guy, staring at himself in a puddle.

It’s all a matter of perspective I guess — just like the quote says.

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January 26, 2012

Energy and persistence conquer all things. — Benjamin Franklin

I put this photo and quote up today because I was hoping its sentiment would rub off — I need energy and persistence today. Unfortunately, I don’t always have the same tenacity of spirit as the Hangin’ Tree Cowdogs in this photo.

This photo was shot on the Cottonwood Ranch near Cottonwood Falls, Texas several years ago. The man on the horse is Charlie Trayer. I helped Charlie write a book and make video on how train the amazing dogs he helped make popular among ranchers.

I can remember one of the first filming days on the video, we decided to video Charlie gathering heifers. I set up with the camera on a tripod — in the middle of 800 or 1000 acres on a the flatbed ranch truck. Not a cow in sight. Charlie set off with two or three dogs. “I’ll be back,” he said. I got comfortable. It was going to be awhile, I was pretty sure of that.

About 15 minutes later, over the horizon, Charlie appears — followed by a calm, cohesive herd of heifers urged on by the Hangin’ Tree Cowdogs. Charlie rode right up to the truck, and the heifers followed as obediently as if they were the dogs. It was quite amazing. I can remember being in total awe of how easy he and those dogs made it all look.

Energy and persistence, yes indeed.

Charlie has since moved on to Texas. You can find him here: http://www.charliescowdogs.com/

January 25, 2012

There is more to life than increasing its speed. — Mahatma Ghandi

This idea behind this quote frequently works its way back into my life — like everyone, I want what I want and I want it now — and then I want more! And sometimes that means I miss the point.

This photo is a beautiful statement on something that is essentially “horse” — something we mere humans can really learn from — slooooowwww down. Horses graze away most of their day — they have to, because the very element that sustains them should be consumed slowly and with purpose. Is this not a thought we should all take away from life? Slow down and consume the elements that sustain us slowly and with purpose — love, friendship, beauty, art — rather than burn through them at the highest possible rate of speed.

There is more to life life than increasing its speed. Thank you, Mahatma — you were truly the wisest of the wise.

Sunday Editorial: The Forsaken

Last Sunday I rolled out my new photography business tag line: “Capturing the spirit of the individual and immortalizing the bond between loved ones.” This week, I want to talk about my other photographic passion — which almost the exact opposite of this statement. This week I want to talk about my Forsaken Gallery photography project.

Since the first day I picked up a camera, my favorite subjects have fallen into two categories: animals and abandoned “stuff.” The first subject, I’ve turned into a career. The second, I’ve made my private photographic obsession — until now when I begin to share it with you. I have always been drawn to what people choose to leave behind in this world — what they choose to forsake, so to speak. Whether it be a house or a dog; a whole culture or a single broken pot — what we leave behind tells a story about who who we are as human beings. These things were once valuable to their owners — someone once choose to be with them, maybe even treasured them and now, they have been left behind to rot, decay, disappear. This very human quirk absolutely fascinates me. And if it fascinates me, I want to take a picture of it.

I started my Forsaken Gallery project this past summer with the concept of shooting the abandoned homesteads around where I live. Urbanization, the economy and a host of other factors have changed the face of rural America. Where once were family farms are now abandoned homesteads leased out to and farmed by a larger farm operations (most of which are still family owned and operated, by the way). In the process, what was once the family farm home and its accompanying accouterments have become interesting ramshackles in various states of decay. Barns, equipment, outhouses, sheds, chairs, tables, shoes — once all important, now given back to whatever element will claim them.

So I started with the farm down the road, where the family house has been forsaken for many, many years. As I worked my way around the outside of the house, I started thinking about all the life that happened within the yard, and the rooms, and the barns. It was sad and beautiful at the same time. I spent several hours, just wandering and seeing and shooting.

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While I was editing the photos from the house, I got to thinking about the fact that many things I photograph fall under the header of forsaken. For example, I try to get out the Southwest every few years and photograph Anasazi ruins in places like Chaco Canyon, Bandelier National Monument and Mesa Verde. I am absolutely inspired by walking around entire civilizations left behind to the desert and mountains. I can spend days photographing these sites and never, ever become bored or run out of things to look at.

Then I thought about my work with local animal shelters and some of the dogs I photograph. They are forsaken as well. Some just because no one has cared about them, ever. Others, however, were once valued members of a family — and now have been forsaken because of their age or a circumstance. These are the most heartbreaking to photograph — the senior dog looking hopefully at every person who walks by hoping to see their familiar person or the once pampered lap dog now crated on cold metal.

So much of what I do is “feel good” photography — meant to capture the most precious of moments and memories. And I cherish the opportunity to share these moments with my clients and subjects. But just as there is another side to life, there is another side to my passion with a camera. I hope you enjoy the slideshow in this post. In a few weeks, I will be rolling out a separate blog and website devoted strictly to my work with The Forsaken. Until then, click happy!

Saturday Insight: Seeing in Pieces

Being a photographer is all about seeing — and translating what you see into a story using only images. Sometimes, the story is best told in the broad picture — the sweeping landscape, a family posed around the hearth, a road that vanishes into the horizon. Sometimes, however, the story is in the details — the wisp of a horse’s mane, the soft tail of a cat, the isolated curve of woman’s hip. All of these things focus us in on one small portion of the story, but in the process give us an insight we, as viewers, may have missed in a broader image.

The majority of my work is done with animals, especially horses and horses lend themselves very well to detail work. The feeling evoked by the big, liquid eye of a horse is moving and inspiring even to those who don’t own or work with horses. A wagging dog tale, a cat’s whiskers and the wing of bird are equally moving because they bring to the surface in the viewer both personal emotions associated with specific memories as well as globally shared ideals like happiness in the case of the dog or freedom in the case of the bird. By focusing the viewer in on such elements, the photographer becomes a true storyteller, letting the viewer in on her secret way of seeing — and that is both powerful and profound.

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When composing a detail photo, there really are no specific rules except to reduce the broad image down to a single detail (such as an eye) or set of related details (such as a horse’s  nose nibbling at a lariat). The rule of thirds applies, of course — but sometimes breaking this rule in a detail photo can set the viewer on his ear and make him take notice of something he might have otherwise overlooked. The best advice I can give you is to go out and shoot and discover what works because detail photography is all about discovery, and many times what you discover may surprise even you.

This weeks challenge is (quite obviously) to go out and shoot some detail photos. But I also want you to start looking around your world even when you don’t have a camera with you and really seeing the detail. Look on your desk, for example, if you were to take a photo here that would tell the story of your day, what would it look like — what item or items would convey the most meaning to another human being if they came with no words attached? Wherever you go, take a few minutes (even if you don’t have your camera) and see the details of the world around you. Ask yourself which details evoke emotion, conjure up memories, or relate to a specific sense (like touch, or smell) — chances are if the detail draws you in, it will also draw in your viewer. Most importantly, when you go out to shoot detail, do not let time be a factor. Don’t take a watch, or phone or other time-telling device. Go with only yourself and when you find a subject, don’t interact — just shoot. Push yourself with this assignment, stay focused and shooting past when it’s comfortable or past when you think you’ve seen every angle you can see. Sometimes, familiarity and boredom will give way to an entirely new way of seeing something (or someone).

Click happy! Kim

January 20, 2012

Never insult an alligator until after you have crossed the river. — Cordell Hull

This photo was taken at the Okefenokee Swamp in Florida. During a Best of America by Horseback trip, the staff all went out and “experienced” the swamp. I, of course, took my camera — and oh what fun was had. There were hundreds of gators in the water — everywhere you looked there were gators. I shot over 900 photos in the short time we were on the river. I was so busy clicking away that I never considered how close I was to these huge, very toothy creatures. Looking back, that boat was awful shallow!

In addition to having more fun ought to be legal with a camera, I to to learn about gators and the Florida swamps.

For example, did you know Okefenokee stands for “The Land of the Trembling Earth“?

And did you know Florida swamp park rangers frown on cowboys who want to rope a gator just to see if they can? I’m not going to name, names — let’s just say there was a lariat that had to stay in the car because a park ranger person caught wind of the plan (I think we actually asked him if it would be okay — it wasn’t). He explained in some detail how roping could hurt the alligator — but there was no mention of how the alligator might win this little tete a tete and enjoy a snack of raw cowboy as the spoils of his victory. I got a kick out that.

Here’s a link where you can explore more of the Okefenokee Swamp on your own: http://www.fws.gov/okefenokee/

January 19, 2012

No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle. — Winston Churchill

This photo was shot on a trail ride in Pennsylvania in 2007. This magnificent river crossing was such a joy to shoot — and then I moved down river and caught the horses coming back as well. And not everybody had the best of luck, as evidenced in the photo below:

That’s the thing about water crossing and photographs, they are either or situations — you either get a great photo or a great photo of a wreck.

I always feel bad for the horses that trip because they get water in their ears and come with heads shaking and very unpleasant expressions on their faces. That has to suck.

And in a ninety degree shift in topic, today’s quote is from Mr. Winston Churchill — who said many very good and meaningful things about horses and horsemanship. Here is a fascinating little article I stumbled on regarding Churchill and his intervention that saved tens of thousands of World War I war horses. http://www.winstonchurchill.org/learn/in-the-media/churchill-in-the-news/1355-saving-war-horses If you follow the link off the Winston Churchill site, it will take you to a little more extensive account with a tie in back to the movie “War Horse.”