Saturday, July 30, 2016

Faces at NAN

 I brought home 1483 pictures from NAN.  The question becomes not which ones to share, but which ones of which part of which categories of my style of shooting to share first?!  That 1483 number is not counting the deletes, OR the ones taken as official photographer of the champions and reserves.  Today's short answer is "close-up portraits of horses and model people."

    For several years now I have known my shooting style was developing (o pun) into something individual.  Wanting to document an entire show, I learned to capture whole tables at a time by shooting diagonally across the ring.  Then I'd zoom in on individual horses in that class that caught my eye.  Sometimes I'd further zoom in on their faces, for a portrait.  It's amazing to discover I often selected the winner many minutes before the judge did.
    I would get 'atmosphere' shots, views of the setting.  I would get tack shots, close up, of pieces that grabbed my eye, for myself of course.  I wanted to get people shots, but that turns out to be extremely difficult.  Later I hope to share some of my successes along these lines.  For today, I first organized my 1483 chronologically:  seven hundred + shots on Tuesday, four hundred+ on Wednesday and 373 on Thursday (I guess I was running out of steam).  Then, quickly viewing, I evolved categories:  hall shots, prize shots (the championship table), portraits (close ups of individual models), people (76+), tack details, and 4 miscellaneous categories, which for this show turned out to be Horse with the Golden Saddle, Circus for Lynn, the Pintaloosa Foal I fell in love with, and the Marwari Costume.  If time permits, I'll share these too. 

But back to the faces.  It's the easiest thing in the world to snap the shutter on a model horse at NAN.  Most of my shots are tables or parts of tables or groups of models or individual models.  It's a little harder to get right up close to their faces and really focus in on who they are.  Out of my nearly-fifteen-hundred shots, only about 30+ are portraits... ... about two percent.
    I loved these two harness portraits because of their eyes.  I don't really know who the owners are; info welcome.
At first I pulled the OFs.  The mythical bay Alborozo is in the building!
I do love the chinas.  I'm sure my love of glossies is influenced by them.
What an expression!!  Who could resist??!!?  "Face melts"
Here's one that won after I shot him.  This must be a Mink.
Some of these chinas are perfect beyond belief.  I can't quite explain going quite so snap-happy around them, except that I've never been allowed to collect chinas myself, on the grounds that I would certainly break them.  Now that I'm old enough not to break them, my house is not exactly safe for them, and high-dollar models make both me and my husband nervous.  I do have four chinas, yet one of them broke an ear already.  The subject will have to be addressed some day.  Meanwhile I blaze away.
Speaking of perfect, something happened when I spotted The Horse With the Golden Saddle.  I could hardly believe what I saw seeing.  Several other photographers did the same thing, bowing and fawning and staring and shooting away (is this paparazzi?!) so I know I'm not alone.  Owned by Colette Robertson.
Yet there were horses in the hall that moved me even more, in a way I did not expect.  I am old enough to remember when this remarkable work of art was news:  It's Lu Heater's Acoma!  I never thought I'd see him in person...
This horse led me to choose, somewhat naturally, this fellow's portrait:
The beadwork alone is astonishing.  Add in the horsehair tassels and the feathers (ermines? they look like feathers to me!).  But it's his expression that speaks the most.  From here on, I would choose those human portraits I could actually shoot, without impingeing too much on someone's privacy, or struggling to catch them standing still (which is really hard with the living kind)...
    I had rarely focussed on their faces before.
This costume, which almost defies belief, was made by Cary Nelson.  I could do a whole post on it alone.  I am pleased to report it did win Champion.
How about this face??  We are all so familiar with this horse, known today as the Classic Arabian Family Stallion.  But I almost never have gotten to see this face...
It seems appropriate to wind down with this fellow.  Memories of the song 'Minstrel Boy' ring through my head (Roosevelt used it as his theme song), not to mention Night at the Smithsonian (movies featuring him), when I see him.
It's such a good likeness.  Dang! -- almost reminds me of Indiana Jones...
The true last word of this post, I believe, should go to this young lady.  Thank you people.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Round Button Auction Bridle

My pair of Round Button Braided Reins has turned into a Bridle!
It will be up for auction at BreyerFest.
This Split Rein One Ear Curb was inspired by a headstall I made ten years ago for Candy Evans.  I'd always wanted to try it again.  The idea for an adjustable rawhide one ear came originally from Tom Hall's books (Western Tack Tips and More Western Tack Tips).
These buttons do actually slide, so the ear and crown are adjustable.
Here it is on my Travis 'Pantanal':
The curbstrap features a sinew tassel, something I've rarely done.  This idea originally came from Regine Nikolaidis of Germany.
 The round buttons are all Fan types, 7B 9P 1-3-3-1.  This is a button I evolved on my own, from either Hall or Grant -- my notes don't say which!  They can come out beautifully, with the passes lined up to form deep Vs in the middle... or they can fight me and come out lumpy, with the cores showing, which happens about half the time.  The pattern is under-3 over-3 in the middle, with a single under or over on each side, hence the 1-3-3-1.  As ever with the Timaru Star II, these buttons are braided and then tightened just like the full size ones, by hand, with a needle and thread.  I use custom-dyed cotton and miniature rawhide (artificial sinew) for my model rawhide tack.

The braided connectors on this bridle, between rein and bit, are the main new feature of this bridle.  When I did research on the full size connectors,  I got a shock.  Instead of the shape I had always made them in, a sqaushed-circle rather like a snaphook:
image from
I saw some delicious figure-8 shapes, like the Infinity symbol, which immediately made so much more sense!
image from
Rein connectors are like curb straps: they're two of the smallest parts of a braided bridle.  And that makes them supremely frustrating for those of us who work mainly in Trad scale.  How to get that teeny??  I knew about split sinew and smaller gauges of thread.  I dug up smaller buttons in my repertoire.  That didn't make it easy, but it did let me proceed.  (This next shot, by the way, shows a 'beautiful' round button to the right of a 'lumpy' example, both on the lower rein.)

This bridle has my first-ever figure-8 rawhide braided rein connectors.
Closed up tight, they don't look like much!  Here's a view with the connector loosened up and detached.  You can see how the end knot passes through the two sides of the loop.
 It takes pliers plus fingernails to open and shut this.  Here's me putting the connector back on the bit.  Both these little tiny buttons slide, as is necessary to open and close such a device.
In full scale, there is often a covering button over the end knot.  In model, I decided that was too much to ask, and stayed with my typical "Triple Crown," which is really the sinew tied with a couple of Undercrowns, an Overcrown, and a Wall pass.

This picture is a bit unusual in that it was taken very dark.  Hooray for PhotoShop which lightened it up -- and thus we have about the only picture in here that isn't overexposed!!  As a result you can see the braiding on the buttons a little better.

I am thinking of possibly making a new Bit for this bridle.  The bits are removable via the Button-and-Loop fastenings at the ends of the cheekstraps.  The curb, at least in theory! is removable too.  Guess I'll deal with that when I get there...
There will be a Bid sheet in my room at BreyerFest, and I will be taking bids for this Bridle.  Horse not included, Heh!  Closing should be around 10pm Saturday night if all goes well.  My room is 610 at the CHIN.
See you there!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Hail & Ibis in Laramie Basin

Back in May I had the tremendous pleasure of birding the Laramie Basin in Wyoming for 3 days.  While I never did get my target species (Chestnut-collared Longspur), I did get lots of McCown's Longspurs -- like, LOTS!! -- and they're supposed to be the rarer and harder to get.  Go figure.  In this picture (above) we're looking down into part of the Basin west of Laramie, WY.  Along the base of the low ridge at the far horizon is one of the places I got the McCown's.  They came out on the shoulders of the road, and if you drove past they'd swarm up and away like grasshoppers.
I didn't manage to get any pictures of these birds myself, but here's a glimpse:
Female McCown's Longspur.  image courtesy birdzilla

Male McCown's Longspur.  Photo by Shawn Billerman via

Longspurs like short grass.  For all that the Wyoming prairie seems to be endlessly the same, it isn't.  I was constantly surprised at the variety of habitats.  Every field is different.  Wet sedge fields were good for Snipe and (rarer) Cinnamon Teal.  We got a fair number of Ferruginous Hawks, once a pair thermalling against a white cloud.  Once in the distance we picked up a pair of young Sandhill Cranes... the only Sandhills of our entire trip!  And once we got an immature Bald Eagle, right over my head.  That was near Hutton Lake.

More views of the Basin:
This is a distant view of the Mummy Range (above).
The lushness of the prairie was another constant surrpise.  It had been a strangely warm winter, with spring arriving very late -- and then it turned cold!!  So everything was a few weeks behind.  Instead of babies, we were seeing courtship behaviour and nesting.  The Pronghorns were rotund; they hadn't popped yet...

 Life is never dull with a meteorologist in the family.  See the water puddled in the low part of the road, and the whitish residue near the fence, near the center of the picture?
Guess what that white stuff is!!
It's Hail!!! 

Now I'm going to quote from my Notebook of the time, May 29, 2016.

"Best Birding Day Ever!
"It began with a McGillivray's Warbler and ended with a Common Merg.  In between we had 71 birds:  Bald Eagle, Broad-Tailed Hummingbird, Phalaropes, Canvasbacks, 1 Snipe "head-on", a Yellow-Rumped, several Cinnamon Teal, dozens of McCown's Longspurs -- and to top it off, the catch of the year, rara avis White Ibis, two thousand miles out of range and a thousand feet up, thermalling against storm clouds at dusk with 30 other Ibis -- of the White-Faced variety.  Which meant they were black, as black as Glossies.  They came spiralling out of the far skies from the E S East, circled ever closer until they were right over our heads, and then faded off into the distance, in the same direction.  I ran out with the camera and got 7 pictures but alas, the single white flake bird amongst all those black flakes was not caught.  : (  He (or she) was too far off to one side at the time."

In my memory the whiteness stood out.  At first I thought it was a Snow Goose.  The closer they came, the more I thought "geese or ducks."  When they were overhead, I realized they were Ibis, a somewhat common bird of wet meadows and irrigated pastures.  But western Ibis are dark, glossy black all over except for a narrow white rim around the face.  White Ibis occur in Florida and along coastal Lousiana and Texas...

Have you ever taken shots of something you were sure you missed, but later looked more closely and discovered you'd gotten it after all?  It's a delayed thrill, but a thrill none the less.  The location of our rare bird sighting was Hattie Lake.
Imagine me dashing out into the cold grey wind and frantically aiming upward as the flock drifts overhead:
I had little appreciation for the physics of the situation.  Against the sky, every bird came out black.  To find the white one in these shots took some imagination.  You had to know that White Ibis are larger by a couple of inches, and that they have black wingtips.

Below is an enlargement of the top center portion of the above shot.
A bit of enlargement and lightening works wonders, but it's still a task for a serious birder.
 For some reason, he (or she) stayed near the edge of the flock.  By the end of their 'visit,' the White was drifting seriously away from the flock.  An enlargement of the upper left above shot:
Two of my 7 shots showed the White in such a fashion that I could actually say "that's it."   In a couple of other shots, a deal more of imagination might possibly show him/her.  This is the best one...
...look in the lower center.  Although I can pick out black tips and the size is clearly larger, there is just no telling for sure!!  particularly when I recall he/she truly was at the edge of the flock by then.
Goodbye, birdies.
I look forward to returning next year.  
Maybe then I can get a Chestnut-collared.