Animals

Feel the Speed

Feel the Speed

 

In honor of the illustrious Breeders’ Cup World Championships held this past weekend in California, it seemed appropriate to feature racehorses as the subject for Photo of the Week. In addition I am a member of a professional horse photography group that challenges its members with weekly assignments. This week the topic was ‘Race’. These two not so coincidentally related events reminded me that a few years ago I had photographed the thoroughbred races at the Del Mar track in California. I never did anything with the resulting images, so this prompted me to go back to my files and browse through them until I found this.

Every photograph has a story to tell. The focus of this particular story is the body language and expression of the lead horse trying its heart out to win. The vibrant colors of the race track are a pleasure to photograph, but in this instance they just distracted from the essence of the shot, which is why I chose to convert to black & white. The blurred motion created by using a slow shutter panning technique amplifies the feeling of speed.

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Nikon D7000, 1/30 sec at f/22.0, ISO 200, 300mm (28.0-300.0mm lens)

Photo is copyrighted and registered with the US Copyright Office. Enjoy but please respect.

 

Posted by Carol in Animals, California, Equestrian, Horses, USA, 0 comments
Splash

Splash

 

Another image taken last year during a photography workshop in Iceland, focused on the native Icelandic Horses that have lived on the island for hundreds of years, dating back to Norse settlements in the 9th and 10th centuries. This was photographed on a day when the herd was taken on a beach outing where the ponies enjoyed a gallop through the surf. I’ve applied a little artistic license to this photo to give it a more ‘painterly’ feel. Beautiful on canvas!

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Nikon D4S, 1/1000 sec at f/4.0, ISO 800, 200mm (200.0-400.0 mm f/4.0), hand held

Photo is copyrighted and registered with the US Copyright Office. Enjoy, but please respect.

Posted by Carol in Animals, Horses, Iceland, 1 comment
Bridle Portrait of Nouska

Bridle Portrait of Nouska

 

Nouska is a Dutch Warmblood mare imported from Great Britain to compete at showjumping’s Grand Prix level. I captured this shot while she was waiting at ringside to compete, and processed it using a high key effect to blow out the background. I like the limited color palette and the great detail that reveals even the stitching on her bridle. Nouska went on to win the Grand Prix that day. She is now retired to broodmare status.

Nikon D700, 1/750 sec at f/4.8, ISO 400, 125mm, hand held

Unfortunately, my online Store|Gallery crashed late last week and the weekend has interfered with a quick fix from tech support. Hopefully all will be back to normal in a few days. You can check in at cbparkerphoto.com – but if you see blank white where the images should be, have patience (mine is wearing thin!).

Photo is copyrighted and registered with the US Copyright Office. Enjoy, but please respect.

Posted by Carol in Animals, Arizona, Equestrian, Horses, USA, 0 comments
Coming At You

Coming At You

It’s been raining a lot here in Tucson during monsoon season – which put me in the mood to feature this image taken last year during a workshop in Iceland. A group of like-minded photographers shared a dormitory at a horse farm near Skálakot, where we had access to barns and pastures full of these furry, sturdy horses. On this day the herd was wrangled down the driveway and country road to the beach where they splashed through the shallows for our benefit. One of our young lady wranglers bit it and was tossed into the surf, breaking her finger in the process and earning a damp trip to the hospital for a splint. She was back in the saddle the next day, unfazed by her mishap.

Nikon D4S, 1/1000 sec at f/4.0, ISO 800, 400mm (200.0-400.0 f/4.0), hand held

Photo is copyrighted and registered with the US Copyright Office. Please respect.

Posted by Carol in Animals, Horses, Iceland, 2 comments
Portrait of a Thoroughbred

Portrait of a Thoroughbred

 

Week before last I escaped Tucson’s hot spell by driving over to California for a horse show. I spent the week catching up with daughter Michelle, watched the horses compete, socialized my new puppy Truffle, and got acquainted with a new camera and lens recently added to my gear bag.

Ever since I’ve been rummaging through the photos I took and applying some artistic license to my favorites. Back on the computer, it’s always fun to apply some artistic creativity to the original digital RAW files. Today’s PHOTO OF THE WEEK is actually PHOTOS plural, as I’ve posted several of my keepers newly added to my online portfolio!

This week’s headliner is an OTTB (off-the-track thoroughbred) mare named Ladybug, purchased as a four-year-old by Lauren Boswell of Tucson. Lauren has been training Bug herself over the years and successfully turned her into a competitive jumper. The duo had a great week while I was there – winning several classes against tough California competition. She’s a very pretty mare, and I was quite taken with her hand-crocheted fly bonnet, themed after her namesake! I took photos after photos of Ladybug with the camera set to burst mode, trying to catch just the right moment. Since she has the nervous habit of tossing her head up and down and gapping her mouth constantly most were throwaways best suited to illustrate horse dentistry. But this photo caught her with mouth closed and chin tucked into a very ladylike, demure pose that shows off her refined head and colorful bonnet.

In regards to that new camera, a Nikon D500, last night I attended a seminar for getting up to speed on its new features – and was told there are 1.2 million different setting combinations possible in that one camera body! Mind boggling.

Prints of Portrait of a Thoroughbred are available for purchase HERE.

Sony a7R II, 1/1000 sec at f/4.0, ISO 400, 200 mm (FE 70-200mm F4 G OSS). Handheld.

All photos are copyrighted and registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. Please respect.

SLIDESHOW – Click any image to start.

Posted by Carol in Animals, California, Equestrian, Horses, Humans, USA, 0 comments
Navajo Pony After A Dust Storm

Navajo Pony After A Dust Storm

 

True to the adage that one seldom explores one’s own backyard, I have lived in Arizona since 1958 and never once visited spectacular Monument Valley on the Arizona/Utah border. In 2012 that changed when I joined a photo workshop with like-minded photographers, and spent a week touring the highlights of this unique and beautiful area. On arrival we were hit with the frustrating realization that we were hard on the heels of massive dust storm that obliterated light and turned the sky yellow with blowing sand.

Not only did this compromise the scenery we hoped to photograph, it created a challenge for the camera gear which is easily damaged by the invasive grit. Changing lenses in the field was a recipe for disaster; the best solution was to carry two cameras each configured for different shooting scenarios.

A few days later the dust settled, the sky turned blue, and we discovered that the dunes had been swept clean into freshly rippled contours, a silver lining after all. Meanwhile I captured this image of a Navajo pony on the rez, haircoat embedded with red desert sand and eyes squinted against the blowing grit. I like his rough presence, bold shadow and the iconic landscape on the horizon.

Navajo Pony After A Dust Storm prints are available for purchase HERE

Nikon D3S, 1/750 sec at f/5.6, ISO 200, 44 mm (28.0-300.00 mm f/3.5-5.6 lens).

Photo is copyrighted and registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. Please respect.

 

 

Posted by Carol in Animals, Arizona, Horses, Landscapes, Scenic, USA, 0 comments
Left to the Triple Combination

Left to the Triple Combination

This is a ringside shot of Saer Coulter aboard Don VHP competing in the Grand Prix during the 2013 HITS Desert Circuit in Thermal, California. Saer is a California girl in her early twenties, a successful grand prix competitor who has graduated to international competition. On the day I took this shot, it was windy with blowing dust. The sky had a grungy tinge and the ringside banners stood straight out flapping during the competition.

On a really windy day, the jumps start falling without any assistance from the horses, and the jump crew is kept busy sandbagging the standards and trying to keep the course intact so that the competition can take place. In this class, the challenging triple combination (a series of three jumps closely spaced) was positioned on the long side of the arena. The approach involved making a left turn after landing from a jump set at the far end. Making the turn correctly is critical to positioning the horse to give him the best chance of clearing all three obstacles.

I prefer the monotone finish, which in my mind enhances the strong graphical elements of the composition and emphasizes the details of horse, rider and tack.

Left to the Triple Combination, sepia is available for purchase HERE

Nikon D4, 1/1000 sec at f/5.6, ISO 400, 280mm (200.0-400.0 mm f/4.0) lens.

Photo is copyrighted and registered with the US Copyright Office. Please respect.

Posted by Carol in Animals, California, Equestrian, Horses, USA, 0 comments
High Heels, sepia

High Heels, sepia

Here’s one for the equestrian crowd!  High Heels, sepia is a new addition to my online gallery and the first square format photo I’ve posted.

It’s fun to hang out at ringside with a big lens, trying to capture the action and excitement of Grand Prix Showjumping up close and personal. Here the horse is in a bit of trouble over a really big oxer. He’s making a herculean effort to  keep from hitting the rail, while his rider hangs on for the ride, releasing the reins to give her mount more freedom to solve the problem.

I love how the rider and horse are both showing the soles of their shoes!

High Heels, sepia is available for purchase HERE.

Nikon D4, 1/1000 sec at f/5.6, ISO 400, 280mm (80.0-400.0 mm f/4.5-5.6)

Photo is copyrighted and registered with the US Copyright Office. Please respect.

Posted by Carol in Animals, California, Equestrian, Horses, USA, 0 comments
Between Horse Shows

Between Horse Shows

Print Gallery

It was time to catch up with my daughter and her show jumpers competing in California. Last Saturday I drove from Tucson to Del Mar near San Diego to watch Michelle ride our Holsteiner stallion Clintord I in the $100,000 Grand Prix of Del Mar. Actually I planned to leave on Friday but the wind was gusting so violently in Tucson that driving seemed an unappealing prospect. The same windy weather was whipping up a fierce wildfire in the Hidden Hills area near LA. At its peak the fire threatened some 4,000 homes and a university campus. There are also numerous horse farms in the vicinity including several top grand prix show barns. A thousand horses were evacuated to safer surroundings and fortunately by next day the hot, dry, windy weather abated and the fire was brought under control without inflicting as much damage as was threatened.

The Del Mar National Horse Show is one of a select few remaining across the country that continue to offer the pomp and circumstance that marks a true event. So many of today’s horse shows operate in a closed loop, existing only to bring in entries and crank out classes for the benefit of the participants and the venue’s bottom line. In contrast a show like Del Mar goes the extra mile to entice the public with fun and pageantry, generating an electric energy absorbed by fans and competitors alike. The stands are filled with enthusiastic spectators while the riders suffer an extra edge of nerves to suit the occasion.

Only a limited number of entrants were allowed in the big money class, so a qualifying $25,000 speed class Thursday night served to narrow the field down to 32 horse/rider combinations eligible to compete in the big ring Saturday night. Clintord acquitted himself admirably in the qualifier with a clean round (video) and a 5th place finish to secure his place in Saturday night’s order of go. For the main event we were pleased with his 4-fault effort in a class that saw only four horses produce clear rounds over an imposing course of very big jumps. Congratulations to Duncan McFarlane and Mr. Whoopy for the win, well-deserved for their gutsy ‘full-throttle’ jump-off round!

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Nikon D4, AF-S 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR @ 400mm, ISO 400 f5.6 @ 1/750 sec, 0EV

Now I’m hanging out at Michelle’s Cross Creek West training facility in nearby San Marcos while the horses take a break. After last week’s fire, the weather turned grey and drizzly. While the daily activity of a training stable took place around me – exercising the horses and coaching the students – I prowled the property seeking candids of horses and people but I spent the majority of my time with Clintord while he was turned out in the pasture, green with new spring grass and dotted with cheerful pink wildflowers.

Photo notes:  The overcast skies produced a soft light that served well for the impromptu candids I was shooting. This was my first time using Nikon’s new 80-400mm lens and it was awesome! Fully zoomed in across a field, hand-held, ISO kicked up a bit to compensate – the lens captured such details as individual whiskers on a horse, barn flies frozen in motion (later to be cloned away), and sparkling bright eyes all in crisp focus. The quality of the lens and the great flexibility of its range earns it a permanent place in my shooting bag. Traveling overseas frequently as I do always creates a packing dilemma but this lens will solve a lot of my decision-making agony.

Posted by Carol in Animals, California, Equestrian, Horses, USA, 5 comments
Side Trip to the Frozen North

Side Trip to the Frozen North

CLICK HERE for Slideshow

I have always wanted to see the northern lights but living in Southern Arizona and cruising in the equatorial Pacific do not lend themselves to frequent aurora borealis sightings. And I always worried that making a special trip to the frozen North, fingers crossed to see the phenomena, could be a recipe for disappointment.

But earlier this year a post showed up in my RSS feed promoting an aurora borealis photography workshop operating under the following conditions: 2013-14 was to be the peak of an 11 year cycle of solar sunspot activity which generates solar flares which in turn generates auroral activity; the selected workshop location, on the edge of the Arctic in Churchill, Winnipeg, Canada, is one of the world’s best locales for observing the aurora – averaging approximately 300 nights per year with some degree of activity; March is the preferred month for viewing as it offers the best chance of combined clear skies and dark nights, as opposed to summer when the nights are warmer but dramatically shorter, or polar bear migration season in October/November when overcast skies are more prevalent and hungry predators are added to the mix of hazards.

The Northern Lights Photography Workshop was to be led by +David Marx, a landscape photographer and Adobe Lightroom educator (also, as it turns out, a Google+ aficionado), and +Jim Halfpenny PhD, a naturalist with decades of mileage guiding groups to extreme locales around the world including the Antarctic, Arctic, the Galapagos, and his own backyard in Yellowstone National Park. Our group was small, only five participants and two leaders. We all, organizers included, were brimming with anticipation for the adventure to come.

So I asked Mike if he was game and we both signed up for a week in the Arctic chasing the northern lights. Our first order of business was to acquire a new wardrobe suitable for subzero temps; online research soon pointed the way to Canada Goose Arctic expedition parkas and Sorel boots rated to withstand a cold factor of -40º Fahrenheit. Assorted layers of silk underwear, socks, scarves, hats, gloves, face masks and mittens completed our outfits. Fully clothed, we had to turn our bodies sideways to squeeze in and out of our tour bus doors.

So as soon as we arrived home from our Indonesia trip we stowed the swimsuits and snorkels, shorts and sandals, and proceeded to stuff our suitcases to overflowing with our new extreme-cold gear and flew north to the Arctic.

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Wind chill factor minus 40º F

It was seriously chilly with night temps dropping to -25º Fahrenheit with ‘feels like’ temps of -40º F,  although sunny afternoons warmed up to a balmy -13º F!  Night photography offers its own set of challenges regardless, but to throw in extended sessions in life-threatening temperatures gives a whole new meaning to the word ‘challenge’. Among other things we learned that the tape we needed to lock down the focus barrel on the camera lens lost all stickiness at such cold temps. Also that it is not possible to operate crucial camera controls (like the shutter button) wearing bulky mittens stuffed with handwarmers. The result was several frostbitten fingers that are just now sloughing off the dead skin, and a frostbitten nose tip acquired by squashing it against the camera viewfinder in an effort to compose an attractive image while operating in almost pitch black conditions. The flexible cable on my Nikon intervalometer froze stiff and snapped in two at a crucial moment…fortunately I had a wireless backup in my bag of accessories. Of course the nights were moonless, a deliberate scheduling choice on the part of our leaders, although starlight and red headlamps provided some degree of night vision.

Churchill is also the self-proclaimed polar bear capital of the world where the white bears congregate by the dozens during the fall months in anticipation of Hudson Bay waters freezing over, enabling the bears to strike off across the pack ice in pursuit of their preferred food, ringed seals. Theoretically this time of year the bears were all out hunting and not lurking nearby stalking tourists packaged in goosedown for their next meal. But our guides kept a close eye on us anyway. Another risk factor for a lone photographer would be injury sustained in a fall on icy footing in the dark and freezing to death before being missed.

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CNSC under a starry sky

Home base was a modern (only 2 years old) facility known as the Churchill Northern Studies Centre, a base for assorted working scientists studying the aurora, tagging bears, evaluating climate change and otherwise researching the Arctic environment. But the CNSC also takes in groups for educational ecotourism and is impressively designed and operated to offer a uniquely engaging experience. Lodging is provided in dorm rooms, each containing four bunk beds, two hanging closets, a desk countertop stretching wall to wall, a couple of chairs – and nothing else. Bathrooms are communal with composting toilets and showers that dispense precious water on timers. Community lounges, classrooms, media rooms, a library and a gift shop expand the amenities. There is even decent wifi! Meals are shared in the cafeteria and everyone, from paid staff to paying guest, pitches in to help wash the dishes. The cooking is appetizing and filling, plentiful homestyle fare that includes a plethora of treats (like warm-from-the-oven cookies) available not only after meals but at all hours of the night for aurora watchers to snack on during late night vigils. It’s tempting to assume exposure to cold burned off those extra calories, but I suspect that is only wishful thinking!

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Night igloo photography!

At night the facility enforces a lights-out protocol to prevent light pollution from interfering with the view of the night sky. Scientists, volunteer staff members and tourists roam the hallways at all hours, alert for the next light show, banging on dorm room doors to rouse sleepers to the call for action. Residents pass the wee hours chatting, strumming the guitar, playing board games by candlelight in the cafeteria, or watching the sky from the windows and glass dome in the cozily warm observation room. But we photographers toughed it out outdoors, negotiating slippery footing in the dark with tripods and expensive fragile cameras, frosty with ice crystals, balanced precariously on our shoulders. Batteries failed prematurely due to the extreme cold, condensation fogged up the lenses each time we returned indoors, and of course the sticky tape was non-sticky!

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Tracks on the ice lead to aurora

Luckily for us, each night the auroral light show was better than the night before. Our first night – nothing except cloudy overcast skies that fostered a faint sense of panic that the weather might not cooperate with our limited time table. But on the second night around 1 a.m. a faint misty veil glowed in the distance and our camera lenses captured it as a rainbow of light. One night we concentrated on lighting up the centre’s demonstration igloos with glow sticks and ventured out onto the ice of a frozen pond in hopes of capturing reflections. Another evening, after a day trip to town and dinner at the local favorite hangout, we set up our gear on the snow-covered beach fronting the shores of frozen solid Hudson Bay for a night shot of an aboriginal stone cairn called an Inuksuk. No sooner had we completed our preparations than the aurora kicked in with an impressive storm reminiscent of the genie escaping from Aladdin’s lamp.

Aurora over Inuksuk on the shores of Hudson Bay

And on our final night we were treated to the best show of all. Curtains of color danced over our heads filling the sky with light. By this time we had suffered through the worst of our setup woes and were prepped and ready to photograph the awesome display.

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Curtains of light dance in the Arctic

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The Churchill River frozen over

Of course those were just the nights and, no, we didn’t get much sleep! By daylight we benefited from classroom lectures, worked on our photos, and explored the Churchill environs as a group. We went out on the pack ice of the frozen Churchill River, 8-10 feet thick with ice and contorted into a fantastical landscape of ice sculpture eruptions created by the pressure of the ice expanding and contracting.

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Sled dogs waiting their turn

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Polar bear prevention

We enjoyed an introduction to dog sledding with Wapusk Adventures and received our very own certificate for completing the ‘Ididamile’ only a few days after the real Iditarod race was won by its ‘most senior’ victor ever. We saw local residences barricaded with window grates and nail-studded plywood planks designed to discourage marauding polar bears, and we dropped by the polar bear jail where errant bears are locked up and treated to spartan conditions designed to discourage further forays into town.

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Nike rocket

We toured the Eskimo Museum, filled with a fascinating collection of Inuit carvings collected over the years by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Churchill, and we were entertained by the reminiscences of Myrtle, the Métis village elder, and purchased her copyrighted caribou hair sculptures as souvenirs.  We missed out on a scheduled trip to visit the Churchill County Museum due to vehicle failure caused by extreme cold. The museum describes itself as ‘The Best Little Museum on Highway 50, America’s Loneliest Road’. Presumably this references the fact that Churchill has some 25 miles of paved road within the town environs, but the next closest paved road is hundreds of miles distant. Access to Churchill is by plane, train or (during the brief summer months) boat. Churchill attractions even include a now defunct rocket launch site that operated periodically in an assortment of capacities from the mid-50s until its final closure in the late 90s, and an historic stone fort (Fort Prince of Wales) that dates back to the early 1700s.

In all it was an amazing experience. Now that we possess suitably tested cold weather clothing, we’ll be looking for more winter extreme adventures in the future!

photo by Farshid Ariz

photo of Carol by Farshid Ariz

 

Posted by Carol in Animals, Canada, Churchill, Dogs, Landscapes, Night Skies, Scenic, 6 comments