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Powerful. Capable. Confident.

Ready.

All of these words describe Holly True, the subject in this image.

Around the ranch, she has been dubbed the Stallion Master. That should tell you a lot considering she’s only 18. She is an accomplished horse trainer. She is well educated — she can talk with you articulately and all in the same conversation about politics, poetry and philosophy. She can, as her title suggests, handle stallions — as well as mares, foals, and riding horses. She is good with a gun. She can do whatever the task is at hand — gates, trucks, hay, trailers …

She never backs down. She is always ready for what’s next. That is Holly.

In this image, it looks to me like she’s ready to ride the NEXT horse she decides to cut from the herd.

We’ve all heard the story of some {insert country} tribe that doesn’t allow cameras because they {ignorantly} feel that a photograph can steal their soul. We laugh at the concept of someone so backward that they could believe such a notion. But is not that the ultimate goal of a photograph — to set to record the essence of a person, place, animal or object? Not maybe to “steal,” but at the very least to borrow or capture that subject’s truth in that place and in that moment in time.

When I was in college, I was a creative writing major. My favorite format was the short story — still is if you want to know the truth. Once I had a discussion with other writers and we came to the conclusion that novelists were short story writers who didn’t know when to stop writing and short story writers were poets who used too many words. The more economy to the words, the more intense the writing.

When I look at this image its economy of words speaks to me. Whether you glance at it or study it for an hour, it will tell you a story — and that, to me, makes it my favorite photograph out of the 6000 plus images I’ve shot this week.

What’s more, is that I didn’t force the image. As an artist, I trusted my process and I trusted my subject. I didn’t agonize over settings or measure the light; I didn’t try to wrangle the horses or manipulate the scene. I had just been there when Holly dismounted from the horse she’d been riding bareback — actually, she had caught that horse from the herd, jumped on, run full out for a group of photographers and, having completed that,  slid off to release him back to his buddies. When she walked by me, I noticed she had “bareback butt” — and I liked the thought of that in an image, so I had her turn around so I could photograph her dirty jeans. In the background, the herd of horses were milling around where the wranglers were holding them until the photographers could get down the hill to photograph them as they ran down. Next thing I know, this image was in my camera.

As a photographer, as a story teller, this is the best kind of image — real, raw, powerful, authentic and unplanned.

Below are two more images of Holly from this week’s shoots…

Mane

Mane

by Kimberly Beer

The revelation to
your deepest secrets
can be found
in the mane
of a horse,
each tangle
an unraveling
of a question
you didn’t even know
how to ask.

Dawn’s Horses

Dawn’s Horses

This is a composite image from several different scenes — Estes Park, Colorado, Canyon De Chelly, Arizona and the Black Hills of South Dakota plus a touch, just a touch, of Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming.

For the Photoshop aficionados, this is a layered file of 4 photographs with varying transparency. I then added a mask to each layer to bring out or hide the details I wanted. When I had the feel right there, I added a vignette. After the vignette, I compressed the layers, I duplicated that layer, added a dry brush filter, altered the transparency, merged those two layers, added a highlight edges filter, altered the transparency and then merged the layers again. I then go in by hand and do some touch ups. Viola, several hours later — Dawn’s Horses. I may still go back and tinker. I always save my layers in progress so I can go back to the bottom and start over if I want.

Below is a copy you can blow up by clicking on it:

Making Hay

Making Hay

by Kimberly Beer

When summer finally
steals July breathless
and the shade holds
every living being hostage,
it will be the time for
farmers to go to the field
and make hay.

First comes the cutting.
The severing of the grass
from its mother earth.
This parting makes
the sweetest perfume
that hangs about
the field like a
new lover over
morning coffee.

Then there is the raking.
The tossing and spinning
of the shorn grass
with the hot air.
When it’s done,
you can stand
knee deep
in fluffy rows of
clover,
lespedeza,
timothy,
orchard grass,
and fescue.

The baler follows,
swallowing the windrows
one deep row
after the next
until it becomes
too full and stops to
bind and wrap,
to release the bale
back onto the
freshly swept
carpet of green.

Stacked in rows,
aged to gold
the bales will wait,
patiently,
quietly, until
winter’s eventuality
removes the last
of autumn’s warmth
and the deepest of snow
paints the world white.
Then it will be time
for the farmer to break
open the bales, to
release to the cows
a precious taste of the
summer sun’s love.

Unplanned Cat Art

Unplanned Cat Art

Some days art just happens. It requires almost no effort – you just simply show up and it happens.

And when it comes to photographing cats, well, that’s the only way art happens. Anything else is just a struggle with mediocre results.

I have set up a little studio in my basement. It is the first time ever that I’ve had 24/7 access to set up lighting and a backdrop. Everywhere else I’ve shot with studio lights, everything had to be taken down at the end of the shoot. No  random playing without unpacking everything, setting it up, testing it, etc. etc.

When my latest administrative assistant quit,  I would get very sad looking over at her empty desk. I have been through more assistants than Murphy Brown — so many now, it’s both depressing and comical. So last month when I decided to revisit my Skulls and Flowers project, I decided to heck with it (I used more colorful language, actually), I’ll set up my backdrop and lights and just GASP leave them up!

Here’s how the cats got involved … There’s a table. There’s interesting things on the table like boxes and skulls and set up stuff, etc. And there’s cats in my basement. Two of them: Serena and Rose. Now, if you were to try to pose them — lure them into the backdrop, set things up for success, it would NEVER, ever work. There’s a reason why they liken impossible situations to “herding cats.” Cats do what cats do and that is that — and rarely what is on your agenda meshes with what’s on theirs.

The fun thing is, the cats do like the backdrop. They are frequently in it — when I’m on the phone, when I’m teaching a webinar, when I’m in the middle of a very long editing session with a client — they pose and play and generally look very enticing to my photographer’s eye and as soon as I hang  up the phone, close the class or finish the edits, they’re GONE.

This morning, I came down to do an editing session and just as I hung up the phone, Rose jumped up on the backdrop with Serena. My camera was literately inches from my hand. One flip of the light later and I had cat portraits. I snapped about 10 frames before the battery on my Cybersync shot craps. So off I went to edit what I captured.

When I pulled up the images they were pretty. BUT, I am procrastinating going to the grocery store (I’m actually procrastinating the getting dressed part of going to the grocery store), so I decided to play around with some Photoshop techniques. I love to layer filters in Photoshop with masks and varying opacities. Creating unique combinations of filters and masks can create some amazing results, I’m very happy with the ones from this morning. (For you PS buffs I layered a neon glow filter over my base photo, adjusted with opacity and a mask and then used the Shadows and Highlights adjustment to create depth and clean up my shadows) and then I did brush touch-ups to make it all work.

So there you go … unplanned cat art.

Click to enlarge images below. Scroll a little more if you don’t see them right away.

Serena SOOC (straight out of camera)

Rose SOOC

Serena with filers applied.

Rose filters applied.