That said, I do miss writing and snapping new photographs. Engineering classes are taking most of my time – what is spared gets spent with my family.
In an instant, schedules change and I have time to say hello. Here’s what’s on my mind, though images are from years past:
Zanderous: \zan’-d(ə-)rəs\; existing exclusively and mightily as a horse may; perfect.
Every so often the little boy in me – the one that just knew the magician had really sawn a woman in half – comes alive. There are no magicians in the equestrian world - only hard working women and men whose passions, at some point in their lives, found them poised somewhere between exuberance and obsession for these beasts upon whose backs great empires have been won or lost, who, for a time, taunted the industrial age with mighty feats of strength and speed, and who have been forever linked to the settling of the vastness which remains the American West; passion for these proud and wondrous creatures we call horses.
My first recollection of thunderous hooves pounding and divoting the terra firma echoes as plainly in my memory as the first time I rode my bicycle without training wheels, both invoking an inexorable spirit of freedom. No more noble a cause exists than to find that which rights us on our feet and sends us forth with purpose. For horse people, there is no clearer path – it is their destiny to see that spirit which lies within each four-legged compatriot soar beyond expectation into the realm of wonder.
For horses, I imagine, the exhilaration of feeling the wind dappling its fingers through long, flowing manes, the sweetly- awakening sting of crisp air tickling the nose and pinching ears, the firm grip of a well-shoed hoof against the packed soil beneath and the motion-blurred sight of all but that upon which their gaze is fixed could be enough placation to tolerate the reins and bits, harnesses and saddles (never-minding the fortified meals, spa-treatment rub downs and massages). Equilibrium deftly perches between the two: advocating master and enthusiastic beast. Yin knows no better Yan.
Add to that the overwhelming roar of an approving, awestruck crowd and the scale bows strongly to that horse which loves to perform.
I doubt anyone “accidentally” becomes involved in this reverence that is horse showing; there is no shortage of back-breaking work to shun away the weak of character, and Saddlebred people are characters, indeed, reflecting the vivacious personalities found in their four-legged counterparts. Zander Fan Camelot Ster has such a charisma. His features black as to make pitch feel pale, his shoulders bulbously muscular and firm, Zander stands apparent with great certainty and vigor. Every move and glance has intent; he is intensely conscious of his environment and its constituents. His singularity is a testament to that notion of “once in a blue moon” and to that firmament upon which the very essence of free spirits alight.
Then, there are his “people”, without whom there may have been no such iconic Knight of the Friesians.
Success seems attracted to Scenic View Farm’s Victoria Gillenwater, his owner, as a hummingbird to nectar, each sweetly lured and passionately driven to their cause. Engraved on her ring are familiar words, “It is not what lies behind us, or what lies before us, it is what lies within us”. Originally written by Henry Stanley Haskins, the inspirational words were later attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson for the purpose of adding clout and impact. They are again underscored by association with Victoria and her lovely Zander – the bright foal-turned-champion, bred in the land of Lindsey Pinkstaff Brownlee’s, Camelot Farms and disciplined by the deft and fair hands of his trainer, Jacques Van Niekerk.
There have been pivotal moments in my life when, with figurative eyes closed, I timidly envisioned my expectations and they appeared as plainly as the moon against a black sky. Upon visiting Monet’s garden I understood the “why” of all his creations and could grasp his art not as isolated pieces, each often beheld unto itself, but as a reflection of all that surrounded him having become an extension of his charged soul and thusly he became the true measure of what an artist is. Now I, having felt his breath upon my hands, seen the charisma and charm within his stare and having been witness to his grace and character it dawns on me that, in meeting Zander, I now understand how regal a horse may be. There should be no wonder as to why medieval knights felt so emboldened while these magnificent creatures carried them into battle, for it was upon the shoulders of Friesian Royalty that they galloped. Zander, it would seem, is then a King among Kings and I stand in awe.
Sunday, December 25, 2010
Winter in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park can be tricky. With passages barricaded as the threat of snow becomes eminent, you have to time entry just right and then be prepared for what may be a slippery ride, especially if you happen to beat the salt trucks. Add to that the significant temperature drop of a sudden-onset Tennessee and North Carolina January wonderland and the necessity of preparedness becomes all the more apparent – one should not flirt hypothermia with the absence of a warm coat, boots and heavy gloves and one dare not taunt Old Man Winter by suggesting the South never sees real snow.
My opinion of drivers is pretty poor, but thankfully the confidence-breaking point of most comes in the form of frozen precipitation. Oddly, this makes such as Newfound Gap Road more passable and likely more safe than at any time during the warmer seasons. On this day the roads had already been tended several times, leaving a thin sheet of sandy ice over most of the driveable surface, obliterating any signs of lane markers and piling snow up to six feet to each side.
As I often mention, the possession of a camera does not a photographer make. Knowing one’s equipment and understanding its needs is as integral to making a decent shot as timing and selection of subject matter. Appreciation of this fact is crucial when circumstances can’t be repeated, as in photographing a wedding or in this case - a frosted forest. With the significant fluctuation between the cozy, enveloping warmth of my car and the frigid, penentrating iciness of the reality surrounding me, and recognizing the need for my equipment to acclimate, lest it fog up and freeze any chance of a shutter click, I opted to open the windows and unzip my camera bag.
Minutes later, I was perched “atop” a seven-foot mound of fluff, my tripod’s legs sunken significantly enough to provide a stable base, my feet buried at least a foot into the snow, my fingers quickly mimicking the frozen branches around me (despite the gloves) and a permasmile gracing my face.
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Jason probably had an idea of where I might place him – the wooded area, on the pier by the lake, near one of the fields of green grass – but it’s not every day you have a wedding at a horse farm. The stable at Hunter Valley Farm in Knoxville, with its gloss black ceilings and richly warm walls of hard wood, provided an excellent backdrop to his black tuxedo. The light spilled in from either end providing both an excellent natural source of subject illumination and interesting background reflections. The owner was kind to let us use this setting and the horses didn’t seem to mind, either.
Sunday, November 21, 2010
Weddings can be super fun but when the officiant shows up with a jar of grain alcohol and a match, something extraordinary is about to happen, making you wonder just what kind of carnival ride you strapped yourself into. The gravel drive leading to our cabin, “Genesis”, helped keep things safe as did a little distance from the “flame-broiled air”.
Photographing at night can be tricky, especially when you need to freeze the “action” of a light source such as flame spewing from the mouth of your wedding’s officiant. Go with a fast lens, set the ISO as low as you can manage and use a relatively fast shutter for the condition – this was shot without flash in 1/100th of a second on ISO200 at F/2.2. A helpful hint – if possible, illuminate the subject as brightly as possible and ask them not to stray once you’ve set your focus. Once the lights go out, you’ll be guessing. Ben was holding a torch prior to the shot so it worked out well and I was able to set my focus to that distance.