zapata

Be ever so little distracted, your thoughts so little confused, your engagements so few, your attention so free, your existence so mundane, that in all places and in all hours you can hear the sound of crickets in those seasons when they are to be heard-Thoreau

 

kathyongrater
Photo courtesy of Page Steed. Check out her website. You will enjoy her wildlife photography and unique vision.

The crisp chirp of crickets, the low grunt of buffalo, the impatient neigh of horses, the trickling rivulets of water and sand, and blessed laughter; I gratefully heard them all last week while attending the Zapata Ranch Workshop: Women, Horses and the West.

We rode in the morning and discussed literature in the afternoon.

 

riding out
Photo courtesy Page Steed. My mount was Merlin. Slowest horse in the West. He deserves his own chapter. Maybe another day.

Thoreau jump-started our week by helping us adjust our sight as he described ‘Simply Seeing’.

 

greenplant
Not so luxurious a soil as to attract men-H.D.T.

 

 

Author Dan Flores proclaimed the Plains are the American Serengeti. He explained how the Plains are ‘a sensuous feast of the minimal’ and how loving the grasslands is embedded in our DNA.

 

treeswithsun
Sunset in the San Luis Valley, Colorado

 

Dr. Bonney MacDonald, Professor of English at West Texas A&M university led our lively afternoon discussions. Bonney is brimming with contagious energy and passion and she had me reading and studying like crazy. If you ever have a chance to hear her speak, you must take it. I love her.

 

bonney
Bonney preparing to ride.

It was a special joy to spend the day….beginning at 4:45 am!….with photographer/geologist Stephen Weaver.

photography

I learned I have a nice camera, but I don’t know how to use it. I made terrible mistakes with my photography this day and lost many a fun capture. I felt like an idiot even though Stephen was unfailingly encouraging. Learning is hard. Guess who will forever check her white balance setting before she shoots another photo?

buffalob&w

Mostly my pony and I sauntered behind the main group. Merlin wore a comforting, plodding cadence and I wore my appreciative grin.

 

Kathy
Photo courtesy of Page Steed

 

There was always an experienced wrangler nearby, just in case someone made a newbie mistake or needed help retrieving lunch from the saddlebag.

 

wranglers
The wranglers. Aren’t they gorgeous? Each and every one extraordinarily smart and gracious. Thank you!

My favorite and most lasting memory of the trip? Well, that would have to be the ladies in attendance! To describe them as professors, music teachers, caregivers, corporate-types, photographers, volunteers and healers somehow fails to summarize their sweeping personalities and spacious hearts. Conversation is a lost art these days. We’re too concerned with being right. Zapata’s legacy for 2017 is the expansion of my mind. Some days it felt as wide and bright as the sky.

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Is it possible my sight was adjusted? Even with the nagging problems with my eyes, was I noticing more?

shadow

What am I hearing/seeing now? A certain gray-muzzled wiener dog impatiently dropping the tennis ball at my feet, the greeting neighs of the-best-old-lady-horse-in-the-world, the Texan watching old Star Trek episodes, and the grands giggling over hauling a perch out of the lake.

Oh, Thoreau! Here’s to fewer distractions, confusions and engagements. Here, here to an uncluttered mind and the blessing of a mundane existence! I’m raising my glass to the sound of crickets. Cheers, everyone. Thanks for reading.

Headin’-west love to all.

chairwithboots

following light

It rained. I went from looking like this.

birdfacesTo looking like this.

handsuphannahPraise God! Answered prayer, for sure.

I have lots of bovine friends who are ecstatic, as well.

roundupPhotographed a recent branding at the northern NM ranch. Look at the green grass!

I took tons of pictures. Played with all the settings on my camera; shutter speed, aperture and ISO. Figured if I took enough photographs maybe one of them would be worth showing.

This recent foray into ranch photography served to reinforce the principle of the golden hour. Or in reality, the golden FIVE MINUTES known as sunrise/sunset. Let me demonstrate.

Here’s a picture of a couple of cowboys.

reidandwillAn OK photo taken at midday.

Now, take a look at the same cowboys at sunrise.

willandreidBe still, my heart! I’m in love with this light. The guys are alright, too.

Why does sunrise have to come so early? A sunrise photographer must be dedicated and carry lots of concealer to cover the bags under her eyes. The flattering light is short-lived.

cassadyThis young lady and her glistening sorrel horse are simply magnificent. She’s nice and smart, too. She looks beautiful in the golden morning light. These subjects make me look like I know what I’m doing with my camera. Thanks, Cassidy!

Following the light-a metaphor for life, right?

More sunrise glorious-ness.

sunrisejingling

 

horsejingling

Unfortunately, there is action that takes place AFTER sunrise. I did the best I could.

stever
Preparing to gather the pasture.

Ray1

rhettroping
Ropin’ and draggin’.
ray
Cowboy Ray was my favorite subject. I know a great face when I see one.

 

reid1
Branding fire.

 

walter

antelopepair
A couple of antelope roaming.

 

grahamonwall
A budding cowpoke still in his jammies.

 

I’ve learned my lesson. I’ve got to get up early and stay up late to get the most outstanding photos.

Hope you enjoyed branding day at the ranch. Now I’m off to purchase more concealer.

Stay out of the dark places.

Enlightening love to all.

the ranch: photos

I’m pulling the photo album out of my granny-handbag. Finishing up the three-part ranch series with my favorite captures. I snapped these with the Nikon d700 and the 50mm fixed lens. I didn’t want to be bouncing around in the 4-wheeler with tons of equipment. Simple is best.

Sit with me on the loveseat, won’t you? ***grabbing your sleeve***

I know you’ll want to see these, honey.

backlitcow
What’s a trip to the ranch without a cow picture? These softly back-lit ladies are beautiful.
103a
Our intrepid archeological assistants at the petroglyph cave. Who knew how much they love rock art?
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Elk horn sheds line the wrap-around porch.
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Adorable ranch kids riding their faithful horse, Smoke.
214a
Caught the sun just right in this rock formation. I like it best in B&W.
kathyonporch1
Moi, in the waning light. Proof I was really on the trip.
168a
This photo made me LOL. Observe the shadows. Looks like we’re about to be attacked by a wolf! Run, Sprout!
barn
Who knew the Texan had such an artistic eye? He saw the sun setting through this barn and summoned me to capture this moment. Grateful I still listen sometimes to the Texan. A photographer must always be ready at sunrise/sunset.
grahamwcat
G played for hours with this friendly barn cat. Nothing bothered this cat….tail-pulling, swatting, inadvertent kicking….he kept coming back for more. The toddler was endlessly entertained.

Now…..drum roll, please….my favorite photo of the ranch trip. I like the starkness of it. Feels familiar and it feels like art to me. I call it hommage a O’Keefe. I think you’ll understand.

sheepskull
A desert big horn sheep skull hanging in the bunkhouse. I admire the starkness and beauty of the skull, but I’m also drawn to the negative space in the photo. I may have to print this one.

 

Oh….you have to go now??***unfurling my tightly-wrapped arm from around your shoulders***

Come back and visit real soon.***wet kiss***

Here’s hoping you always find the flattering light.

Land of Enchantment-love to all.

my lens

I enjoy taking pictures for the blog. I keep trying to up my skills, but that requires donning bifocals and reading and studying about my camera. ISO, aperture, shutter speed, white balance and focus mush my brain into a slimy swamp.

Recently, I acquired a ‘new-to-me’ lens. Bought it used from local photographer extraordinairePam Lary. In case you are interested, this beast of a lens is the Nikon AF-S VR-Nikkor 70-200mm 1:2.8G. It’s heavy as an anvil and as long as a submarine sandwich. Big enough to keep my chiropractor in business for years.

I’ve been trying it out. Learning. Making mistakes. When I whip it out, people automatically assume I know what I’m doing. Lens envy, I guess.

It’s fun to put the camera in aperture mode (‘A’ on the dial for most DSLR’s) and shoot with the aperture wide open. In this case, 2.8.

flower
mmmm…..creamy background. This photo inspires me to paint a room this mossy green and use purple as an accent color. Amazing color combo.

A gorgeous, milky background makes the subject of the photo really ‘pop’

doxyonrock
Look at the gray hairs on her muzzle. She’s showing her age. Have I told you we can no longer play tennis ball? It aggravates her back.
doxyonrock1
My sweet wiener girl. Since we can’t play tennis ball, we have to play ‘rock’ instead. Less running and more digging.

Do you like the fuzzy backgrounds for these portraits? The learned call this ‘bokeh’.

Here’s another wide-open shot.

hannah
Baby H swaddled in a fish curtain at the cabin. I knew those old curtains would come in handy one day! There’s a stack of games in the background. Can you make out the names? Scattergories? Clue? Boggle?

One more blurry background for your consideration.

groundsquirrels
Ground squirrels or ‘chipmunks’.

Do you know what instinct these rodents trigger in my dachshund?

roxycollage
The most natural state of a badger dog.

Another handy setting on the camera is the shutter-priority mode ( ‘S’ on the dial of most digital cameras).

I use this setting when I need a certain shutter speed to capture the action.

72a
The wily Rufous hummer.

Have I told you I am compulsively trying to get the perfect hummingbird photo? Been at it for 3 years. I know I need a fast shutter speed to catch them, but man, are they difficult to photograph!

I suspect I have neither the skill nor the proper equipment to get a truly great shot.

indexI won’t stop trying.

59a
The Rufous jealously protecting his feeder. Catching these buggers in flight is like trying to photograph a mosquito. Sorry….I had to catch him through the wire-mesh fence.

Well, that’s the A and the S mode for you and how they look through my new lens.

At times I just point the camera and shoot on auto. Maybe I’ll get lucky.

catThat’s why I enjoy photography. It makes you LOOK. You never know what you’ll find lurking in the weeds.

Hope your week is coming into clearer focus.

Big lens love to all.