Saturday, January 22, 2011

Window Seats and Bounce Flash

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The window seat in the title is obvious. The critter is Galen, the Shetland Sheepdog—obvious if you have read my blog for a while. The bounce flash? That's another story, but a very short one.

Shortest story first. When I first began getting the hang of using off-camera flash, I struggled, but I have learned some basics. I soon learned that it allowed me to get some photos that would otherwise be impossible, and I learned to take the bad with the good. When I took these photos just after Christmas last year, there wasn't nearly enough light in our bedroom to make a photograph and bouncing the flash off the wall allowed me to capture the moment. I imagined the pictures being something that would make us smile and remember the day Galen discovered the window seat. It would be a charming occasion to recall.

Hah! Turns out the window seat was not a passing fancy with young master Galen. He is quite taken with it, thank you. It makes a fine perch from which one can survey one's back yard. This is a most  important task, don't you know. There are birds out there that bear watching. Moreover, you can never tell when one of those smelly underground creatures will pop up out of one of those holes out there, or some cat will have the gall to ignore the fence. It pays to keep an eye on one's kingdom.

Alas, watching over an entire yard, in addition to one's humans (not to mention toys) is a considerable responsibility for a puppy. Having a lookout tower of sorts offers a welcome advantage to a dog of rather small stature. Windows are placed unecessarily far from the floor and give a poor dog almost no help at all.  A nice wood window seat is also cooler than the carpet, when one's belly wants a bit of relief from the heat. So, you can see that, all in all, window seats are lovely things.

Last night our watchdog decided that he needed Pony to assist him with his responsibilities. He jumped up on the window seat, holding Pony in his mouth, and settled down to the task of surveying his realm by the light of a full moon. By that time, The Husband and I were already snug in bed. I wasn't about to climb out from under the covers and try to make a picture. Perhaps the ones here will get things started and your imagination can fill in the details.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Heartbreaker

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Had you met Giovanni, he would have broken your heart. You got to know this horse at your own emotional risk.

My friend at Silent Night Farms, L, rescues a lot of horses. I have watched over the years as the lives of numerous wild mustangs and abandoned animals were turned around by this generous woman. All those heart-warming stories have touched me, but none prepared me for the saga of this chestnut gelding.

For four long years, Giovanni had been starved by the excuse for a human being who owned him. When my friend took him under her wing, the young gelding was nothing more than a skeleton with dull hide draped over it. The veterinarian said, “This horse is dead. He just doesn’t know it yet. In the past, you have done some amazing work bringing horses back from the brink, but I don’t think you have a chance with this one.” L was not to be deterred. She continued to shower the shell of a horse with care; and, gradually, he began adding flesh to the bones. His pathetic coat acquired color and a hint of shine. His progress was slow and painful, but steady. Still, the worst news was yet to come.

The years of abuse and neglect had left Giovanni with severe neurological damage.
He was left unsteady, constantly trying to find his balance point, and never quite certain where his feet were going to land. But, he was kind, gentle, curious, and you couldn't help but fall in love. On our 2010 spring trip, the Husband went in the gelding’s corral to distract him from the fence, so I would have an opportunity to take some photos, and the chestnut began following him like a sweet and inquisitive puppy. I had trouble focusing my camera. Tears aren’t conducive to sharp photos.

I am always happy to have a camera in my hand, and when I am surrounded by beautiful horses—well, that's about as good as it can get in my book. I had left home confident that I would have a wonderful time at Silent Knight Farms—I always do. And, I always come home with stacks of bulging full memory cards and hours of processing work ahead of me. But nothing prepared me for photographing Giovanni—for the privilege of sharing time with this amazing animal. It was an opportunity that I will always treasure.

A few months later, the gelding with the indomitable spirit was gone. He had finally come to the end of his short and painful journey. I hope you enjoyed your lease on life with L, Giovanni. You touched all of us, and we won’t forget you. Your story reminds us of the evil of which humans are capable. Your courage, will to live, and gentle nature—in spite of your lot in life—inspires and humbles us. It was a joy to see the light in your soft eyes. I was humbled by my challenge and hope that I captured something of your remarkable spirit.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Internal Fog

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Even with the sun shining brightly, there are days when I struggle to clear the foggy mist from my brain. In this case, the perpetrator of the fog was the surgery in November; but, there are many events that can produce an internal mist that engulfs the brain. I have always experienced a similar miasma after the loss of a loved one.

That period of stumbling about, losing one's way in the half-light, is disorienting, at best. Still, I like to believe that during that lost period, we are processing and sorting material that will shape us and eventually find it's way into expression, if we will only give it the opportunity.

I'm never wise enough to fully grasp the meaning of this experience, much less articulate it. I only know that once the fog has completely lifted, nothing looks quite the same. During the recovery period, I almost always long to "be myself" again.  Inevitably, however, when the edges of my world grow sharper and the colors more vibrant, I find that nothing is exactly as I remembered. Including me.

The Camera Gear Bug

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Late last Spring, I experienced a serious itch for new camera gear. Do you suppose it had anything to do with Spring. Like an allergy, maybe. New life? Growth? Whatever the rationale, I made one purchase back then that I am still very happy about. For some time, I had been running across rave reviews for the Hoodman Loupe and I was curious; but, frankly, couldn’t believe all the hype. Surely, it couldn’t be that good. Well, it is.

I ordered the Loupe for the scheduled trip to Silent Knight Farms knowing that, thanks to a full schedule, much of my photography would be done during the middle of the day. You know what I'm referring to. The time of day when viewing the LCD is frustrating at best, unless, of course, you find some deep shade close by. Although the price tag was enough to make me think, I placed the order. Having long been aggravated when attempting to check exposure in bright sunlight, I was motivated. Yes, I fully appreciate the function of the histogram—I have been relying on it for years. Still, I wanted a closer look at the images, and I wanted that look while in the heat of action. I wanted to see details that would help me make those on-the-fly adjustments, in real time. A little chimping sometimes saves me from exposure mess-ups. But chimping is pure frustration, if you can't see the darn screen.

When far from home, I am particularly reliant on my LCD since my laptop is four or five years old and doesn’t have a great screen. That top-of-the-line new laptop is also on the dream-on list along with that camera. Meanwhile, if on the road, I need to get by with reviewing images on a so-so monitor that gives me only a rough idea of what they will look like on my desktop monitor at home. If I were super-confident, I wouldn’t agonize. But, I’m not; so, I do. I need a little assurance that I have something to look forward to, when I get home—something that won’t plunge me into a deep funk.

The Hoodman Loupe fulfills that need and now looks like a super bargain to me. Like some others whose reviews I have read, I am wondering, “Why did I wait so long?! What a dummy! ” Thanks to the Loupe, I slept better at night during that trip. Back home, I found that, indeed, my images did look more like what I saw on my LCD than what I saw on my laptop monitor. Now, I am wondering why I waited so long to get the thing.