Monday, August 8, 2011

Facing reality isn't always fun

Beau (formally known as Crescendo) and me on our last day together.
There comes a point in time where you have to assess your personal situation and then act accordingly. That's the adult or mature thing to do. But, as the kids would say, it sucks.

I know I have physical limitations now, some related to age, some due to injuries and a misspent youth. Regardless, the combination of all those things means that I am no longer able to ride a horse - either safely or well.

For the past two years Beau has been living at Geary Hill Stables near Oromocto, NB, working for a living as a well cared for and pampered school horse (his riders all spoil him rotten - which is a good thing and the lifestyle to which he was accustomed!). According to Kem, one of the instructors at GHS, it didn't take Beau long to train his riders to bring carrots to be humbly presented - not as a reward for a lesson well executed - but BEFORE the lesson, just to get on his good side!

I still owned him - not yet ready to make the final concession to my situation and give him up entirely. But yesterday I made the trip up to watch him and his buddy Bonnie compete in their first hunter/jumper show together (Beginner Division) and to sign over his papers to Deanna, the owner of the stable. Beau looks great - shiny, well muscled and healthy. Not bad for a 17-year-old horse. He carried Bonnie around the course safely and even did a few flying changes of lead to impress me! It worked.

Anyway, I did the dead and handed over the papers. Driving down the lane from the stable I looked back and could see him, happily munching grass outside the barn, and wished him well. Although I'm sad (for myself) I'm glad that Beau has a good place to live out his life.

Does this mean I am (finally) mature and have faced reality? Or perhaps just life has caught up.

Either way, although I can go and visit Beau, it'll never be the same. I do miss him; but that's life.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

A beautiful summer morning

Sometimes you just have to leave the camera home, no matter how strong the urge to focus on pictures. Hoover and I walk very early in the morning and today it was an exceptional experience.

The sun was rising, slowly burning off the lingering ground fog. In the distance you could see the three towers from the potash mine, which are hundreds of feet tall, just poking through the mist. There were three ducks swimming in a large puddle at the side of a big hayfield at the edge of the road, protected by a lone sentinel pine tree on the rise above them.

They, who know everything, say it's going to be a scorcher today - and I suspect they are right. But, in the meantime, it was nice to just walk with the dog and enjoy the experience of the morning.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The sun shone on the last day of the month

What a beautiful morning for a drive / walk in the countryside. Joel, Hoover and I set out early this morning to explore a nearby area - scouting it as a possible photo location for the fall when my friend, Lauren, is here from Texas; AND scouting out a possible fishing location for Joel.

We found BOTH!

The Moosehorn Creek is within the designated Geo Park area - the only one of its kind in North America!
 Not only is it within a reasonable walking distance along the side of the Creek, but there's a well maintained path and ample parking. By October the foliage should be spectacular!

I am constantly amazed at the beauty that surrounds us here in tiny little New Brunswick - an area often ignored by tourists as they rush through the province in their haste to get to the better-known, but no more lovely, provinces of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.

But, for those of us who live here and appreciate what we have, maybe that's not such a bad thing after all.

And then you can come home to an adoring friend who is ALWAYS happy to see you.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Ideas on a dreary day

Good (soggy) morning aspiring photographers. It's hard to get motivated when the skies are grey and everything around you is wet and dismal. But, there are always things to shoot. You could play with lighting indoors. Try using a flash creatively. Try bumping your ISO waaayyyy up there and NOT using a flash to see what happens - just how bad IS the noise anyway?

For subjects - just look around. Do you have a pretty vase? Some flowers or plants in the house?

Or, for more challenge - something that moves (like a small child or a pet)?

How about an elderly relative or friend - whose character lines etched on the face speak volumes? Can you capture them in a way that shows every well-earned groove (or facial scars, as in Hoover's case)?

Got something you want to sell? Today is a good day for taking a picture of that item for your advertisement. (Yes, this professional steam carpet cleaning machine and a lot of other stuff IS for sale, by the way.)

For more ideas on motivating yourself and making time to grab that camera and shoot, check this out…

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Busy week-end = lots of editing

I spent most of the week-end at the Princess Louise Park Show Centre in Sussex, NB. My student, Zara Morrison, was competing on two horses this time: her own Fadjura's Ajiba NA+, with whom she achieved the horse's Legion of Honour designation AND received the Rider of Champions Award; AND NF Satori (owned by Jessie MacLean of Sussex Corner).

This whole dressage thing is new to Tori. The 15-year-old gelding has only been in dressage training for about a month and this was his first Dressage NB show. Although a novice, he performed well and, when all was said and done, Zara and Tori captured the Training (Junior division) Championship for the week-end AND Zara and Ajiba were the Reserve Champions for the same division.

Zara and Tori
Zara and Ajiba
None of these achievements would have been possible, however, without the tremendous support of family and friends. Zara's mother, Marion, is the backbone of the support team, making sure that both daughter and horse(s) are ready, gleaming, hydrated and ready to go - with help from Nicky (designated team support person), me (the coach / photographer / publicist) and this time, Jessie (Tori's owner).

And speaking of family, once the horse show was over I dashed off to do a 3-generation family photoshoot. What a great group to work with - just too much fun. And, of course, Marv the Burmese Mountain Dog got into the act too.

All in all it was quite the week-end!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

100 in August, 2011

1911 was a busy year around the world.

In France, the Mona Lisa was stolen from the Louvre. 

The first International Women's Day was celebrated.

Here in Canada, Robert Borden became Prime Minister, defeating Sir Wilfred Laurier.

The Dominion Parks Branch (now Parks Canada), the first national park service in the world, was established.

Closer to home in New Brunswick, James Flemming became provincial Premier, defeating Sir John Hazen.

And, on August 5th, my father was born.

 A victim of infantile glaucoma, he lost his sight completely at the age of 10 in a childhood accident. He was sent to the School for the Blind in Halifax, NS, where he became both a piano tuner and an accomplished pianist.

Returning to New Brunswick, he eventually settled in Saint John, married my mother and together, they adopted me. That was no small feat considering that my Dad's blindness was considered a serious handicap at that time AND both he and my mother were self-employed! But, they succeeded.

Over the years I think he tuned pianos for just about everyone in southern New Brunswick as well as numerous famous musicians and entertainers who came to Saint John to perform. Some liked his work so well that they would not allow anyone else to tune for their performances.

Never one to feel sorry for himself, Dad saw his blindness more as an inconvenience than anything. He was a warm and friendly man whose customers both liked and respected him. To me, he was a loving father, caregiver and frequent playmate. No matter how tired at the end of long days dismantling and reassembling pianos, he was always willing to answer my pleas to "play horsey" with a resounding 'yes' - dropping to his hands and knees so I could ride on his back.

When I was growing up he never missed an opportunity to come and listen to me play either the violin or piano in the music festival or to attend performances of what was then the fledgling NB Youth Orchestra for which I was the initial concert mistress.

Throughout my life there were only three times I ever saw Dad express real regret at the loss of his vision: when I was 20 and married David's father, Ian, and he couldn't see how I looked as a young bride; when David was born and Dad had to wait to 'meet' him after we came home from the hospital - unable to 'see' him through the glass in the hospital nursery window; and much later, when my mother was hospitalized and dying, and he was unable to see, for himself, what her condition was.

But other than that, he was a fiercely independent, self sufficient person who lived a full life with dignity and integrity.

He passed away in 1999 just short of the millenium. I wonder what he'd say today, looking back on a century of change and growth?

Happy Birthday a little early, Dad! I miss you.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

It IS an amazing world out there

How often do we forget or ignore the everyday things that we see that are capable of bringing us SO much pleasure?

Have you ever walked down a country road while farmers are cutting and baling hay? Did you stop and enjoy the sweet smell of the freshly mown grass? Or admire the amazing symmetry of a well-formed hay bale?
Can you appreciate the farmers whose days begin at dawn and who are still out there "making hay while the sun shines" at dusk?

Or, driving down the highway, have you ever noticed the fascinating colours of the rocks illuminated by the setting sun?

I am thankful for Hoover who walks with me most days and who, like my grand toddlers in Vancouver, encourages me to slow down, see, smell and touch the world around me. It really IS an amazing world out there.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

I love my job!

I'm fortunate. I really love what I do. I enjoy creating verbal images that move people and pictorial ones that capture a special moment in someone's life.

This week I had the latter opportunity several times!

First... It was the special award ceremony at the Princess Louise Park Show Centre during the Summer Sunrise Horse Show.

Amadeus Mozart Ara-Li* (pictured above left), a Morgan stallion bred and born in Lower Millstream, NB, owned and shown by Walter and Dawn Brown of Collina, NB, received the Supreme Justin Morgan Honour award from the National Canadian Morgan Horse Association.

Fadjura's Ajiba NA+ (pictured at right), an Arabian mare, was foaled at Najouba Arabians in Sussex Corner, NB, with stable owners Jessie and Oren MacLean. She is now owned and shown by 18-year-old Zara Morrison of Mt. Hebron, NB. The mare received the Purebred Arabian Legion of Honour award. Zara received the prestigious Rider of Champions award for her efforts.

Zara is my riding student so the sense of accomplishment was shared by all. She accumulated sufficient points for the award without ever leaving the Maritimes, a challenge in and of itself!

Her support team includes her mother Marion (next to horse) and friend Nikki as well among many others.

The versatile "Mo" competes in driving competitions and riding competitions. His handler, Dawn, also has an extensive support team, including her family.

Once the awards activities came to an end, it was time to get ready for prom photo shoots. Once again I had the fun of 'shooting' Zara and her horse, as well as her mom and grandmother as she gets ready to face the future.

They match!

Then I was off to another shoot with Coralie and her family.

She is also involved in showing horses and counts her mother, Michelle, among her backstage support team.

Photographing and writing about such happy occasions makes me thankful that I have the job I have! Who else can have this much fun?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Knowing I had a schedule to keep, sleep eluded me last night. I checked the clock every thirty minutes on my last night with my west coast family. Ten days goes by so quickly.

Finally it was time to get up, shower, finish packing and head out to the airport.

Just as David and I were going out the door the grand toddlers woke up and came to say goodbye. Mattias offered a big hug and an "I love you Gramma." Isla was less awake and so just shyly whispered "bye bye".

Leaving is always heart wrenching, especially knowing that it could be a year or more before I see them again, all depending on opportunity and, of course, money.

Sometimes being in a rush to leave is a good thing! No time for tears, as I fly over the big mountains, across the wide prairies, around the Great Lakes and on home to New Brunswick, Joel and our fur babies Hoover and Halo. Does that sound like a good opening for a story for the kids? Hmmm mm.

Monday, June 13, 2011

One more sleep!

Interesting how children measure time. I told my grandchildren last night that Gramma would have to go home after one more sleep and Mattias, the 3-year-old, responded "don't go to sleep yet, you won't have to leave." How sweet is that?

But, I've had a terrific nine-day visit with my little west coast family. It's been wonderful getting to know the kids so well and spend lots of time with them - through good moods and bad.

I've taken a ton of photos to sustain me until the next get together - probably a year away. This long-distance grandparenting leaves a lot to be desired!

So far, the best moment was yesterday when my son, David, and I took the kids to the park to play. As we set off up the street, Isla smiled sweetly at me and asked to hold my hand for the walk. Talk about melting your heart.

Later Mattias saved lots of time to play 'just with Gramma' which was wonderful!

This is my last full day with them. Sadly, the skies are weeping in sympathy which will make getting to the park a challenge, but the kids have of fear of getting wet, so we'll probably go anyway. It just makes it tough to take the camera gear.

So, my visit is winding down and there's only one more sleep.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

It's an adventure...

What busy lives my son and his family have. Two toddlers 10 months apart in age definitely keep things hopping. My daughter-in-law has the patience of Job in dealing with the daily mishaps that are all part of having small children - the inevitable tears when something goes wrong; the two-year-old tantrums from little people a bit over-tired or over-stimulated.

But, it has been quite a visit so far. Every day is an adventure as we explore parks, the neighborhood, special sites, the homes of friends and family. The advantage of living in the city like this is the unlimited list of places to go and things to see. The disadvantage is the cost of housing making having a quiet yard to play in a tough thing to have. Raising children in an apartment isn't easy, that's for sure.

The kids are a joy, though. They're cute, of course, but also so bright. Both have extensive vocabularies and speak well, in full sentences, and practically always have. No baby talk for sure.

My visit is winding down now. Two more 'sleeps' until I wend my way back to the East Coast. It's been great, but I do miss my hubby, my dog and cat, and, of course, my BED! Ten days on a hide-a-bed are a bit hard on the back! But, when you're tired at the end of a busy day with the grand toddlers, any horizontal surface will work!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Learning to slow it down

Spending all day in the company of a three-year-old and a two-year-old quickly forces you to change your perspective on things you take for granted - time, distance and urgency. At their age (and height) everything has the potential to be interesting with water fountains holding a particular fascination for small hands and minds.

When you walk, non, when you amble down the street with them, time stands still as flowers, windows, bugs and birds must all be investigated. Linnea spends most of her time with the kids and is totally tuned in the nuances of their behavior, knowing almost to the second when something will interest, distract or disturb them. The rest of us take wild guesses when things are going to change and a laughing, happy moment will become an emotional meltdown. Still, after a couple of days I'm beginning to clue in myself.

It's threatening to rain today so we'll see what that brings as far as outing, moods and activities means. Raindrops are no deterrent to an outing - just pull on the rubbers and a rain coat and head out - it is Vancouver after all.

Tonight will be my first ever time alone with the grand toddlers. I'm FINALLY being trusted with their care for a few hours while their parents go out to a concert. Perhaps they finally believe that I won't drown the kids in the bath, can manage to scrape the detritus from their teeth, get them into nighttime diapers and pajamas, read them a couple of stories and tuck them into bed successfully - or maybe not. Somehow, since my son survived my parenting skills to grow up reasonably unscarred, I suspect the grand toddlers will make it through a few short hours of my supervision. I guess we'll see ;)

Long distance gramma

It's a solid and exhausting 12+ hour trip when you trek from the Maritimes to the Mountains to see your grandchildren. Unfortunately, that means you are exhausted when you get there - before you even have a chance to say hello.

When I got to Vancouver this time, David and I stopped at their apartment to drop off my luggage and have a snack. Then, we walked over to the park where Linnea and the kids were playing. 

It was amazing to see their little faces light up when they saw me and to have them come running toward me on fast moving little legs yelling for all to hear, "East Coast Gramma... East Coast Gramma!"

After lots of welcome hugs - the joys you can't get when you only have webcam visits over the internet - they went back to their games, stopping frequently to make sure I was watching their antics. 

Isla is the brave one - at two she will courageously (and nerve-wrackingly) climb any obstacle and hurl herself down the tallest slide with no fear! 

Mattias, at three, is more cautious, preferring to check things out carefully before committing himself to a kamikaze run down the tall tunnel slide at the playground.

Needless to say, with much to explore and to show to ECGramma, the walk home was a long and winding trail. No surprise, the short-legged members of our party were quite tired by the time we got back to their apartment. But, a refreshing bath, some supper and a couple of story books read with great drama by their Mum did much to settle wee minds and bodies in preparation for a good night's sleep. 

Come to think of it, it worked on me, too!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Thank you...

Here we are, almost at the end of May, and we are FINALLY experiencing a titch of warm weather. Sadly, the warmth comes at the expense of any potential sunshine and, much to everyone's surprise (not), more rain is in the forecast for tonight and tomorrow. Oh well, c'est la vie.

As one of my friends on Facebook pointed out, our lousy weather is primarily an inconvenience. For those in the US states hard hit by tornadoes, the weather is a life-altering event with devastating consequences.

With that in mind, I stumbled across this website for The Grateful Project What was a personal quest for one woman has become a documentary film project. The concept is that we should each take time on a daily basis to seek out, and be grateful for, those mundane things that bring us a moment of happiness on a daily basis. By focusing on those positive moments, we can and will change our lives, and those of others, for the better. This same concept was espoused by Oprah Winfrey during her Finale episode yesterday.

This is a concept I can both believe in and get behind. Since first reading about it a couple of days ago I began paying attention to those things that bring me joy - in small measures or large - for a brief time, or a long one. Here are a few examples from the literally hundreds I thought of in only one day... 

Two healthy grandchildren and my son (show age 3 below) who has grown up to be a loving and caring man, husband and father...



For a wonderfully supportive husband
For Hoover who teaches me to relax, daily.
And so very much more. I may take this on as my personal project as well - to photograph and document those things that often go unnoticed and yet bring us small measures of joy on a regular basis.

So, what are YOU grateful for today?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Rain, rain, go away - don't rush back another day!

There is definitely something wrong with having the furnace blasting on the 16th of May. It has done nothing but rain for 3+ weeks and at least another 2 weeks are forecast with one "partially cloudy" day set for Thursday (oh joy).

This is a definite deterrent to exercise.

Fortunately (or not) I have a dog who insists on needing fairly lengthy walks at least once a day, preferably two or three. This forces me to don my ducky boots, slicker, gloves and rain coat and venture forth. It is nice, though, when we get home to open the door to warmth and comfort.

Hopefully this won't last too much longer.

I was part of the hosting committee last week-end for a writers' conference. As a member of the Writers Federation of NB I ended up playing multiple roles: official photographer for both WFNB AND the local organizing committee; conference attendee; etc. When the week-end came to its successful conclusion I realized that I will have to learn to control my exuberance for volunteering the next time. At 61, I'm TIRED. Duh.

Lee Thompson, Exec. Director and Rayanne Brennan, President of the Writers Federation of NB at the Annual Meeting portion of the week-end

Allan Lynch, internationally published and well known writer from NS led a session about 'making a living' (vs. eking out an existence) as a writer. His suggestions were equally applicable to any of the creative professions - photographer, artist, sculptor, etc.

Beth Powning, internationally published author of many books, most recently The Sea Captain's Wife. That novel enthralled me from beginning to end.

The downside is that we live in a small community with limited conference venues. Our group was competing with the Atlantic Premiers' Conference for meeting and dining space.

The upside is that we ended up with (wonderful) home-made buffet-style meals.

And a local group of school children entertained at lunch with a musical and comical tribute to our region's history. Well done!

I tried to control my urges, especially during the evening awards event accompanied by a dessert buffet (all home made, including my contribution - a carrot cake with cream cheese icing), by keeping the camera firmly in my hands. I use a heavy, professional camera, so it's a two-handed affair, keeping me well away from the dessert tables. Whew. I actually did well and did NOT indulge.

Winners of the writing competition from across the entire province of NB.

Half of the Sussex Choral Society entertaining during the awards event

And, the other half.

Intellectual stimulation really helps distract one from food. Honestly. Sob.

I'm sure that everyone left the conference inspired to return to their writing endeavours and to look forward to the next WFNB event.

Here's to a good week for everyone. Have to go and see what my neighbour is building; an ark perchance?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

To borrow a phrase from the A&E channel, it's "time well spent".

I just read an article entitled "How to Set Smart Daily Goals" by Jocelyn K. Glei. It was recommended by Elaine Shannon, the self-styled 'Empress of Inspiration'. 

In it, the author offers a series of questions that, if you contemplate and answer them truthfully, will help you to focus your daily efforts in a more productive way. One that truly struck me was the need to set aside a specific period of time, up to 90 minutes a day, to focus on one important thing. 

The concept is to control your attention and avoid distractions. It's so hard. The phone rings. An email arrives. The dog barks. And poof- that focus is gone.

As a creative professional, focus is critically important to my success and the success of the projects I undertake. Whether I am writing or in a photo shoot - for myself or for a client - paying attention, particularly to the details, and getting into the 'creative zone' is the first thing I need to do.

Everyone has their own way of achieving that concentration. If I am trying to write something, I have to turn off my email, unplug the phone, turn off my cell phone, put the dog outside for a while, and turn on some baroque music. The steady rhythms that define that genre of music help me to concentrate and free my mind for greater creativity.

When I'm at a photo shoot for a client, I can't really 'zone out' because I need to interact with my subject(s). Instead, I will focus on some aspect of the intended photo. Perhaps a baby's facial expression...
or, the look of absolute adoration on the faces of a happy grammie and mother.

With horses, I'll sometimes allow myself to absorb the rhythm of their hooves hitting the ground as they trot by....

or even just the shape of the horse's body in motion.
Regardless of the techniques used, the author's message to 'focus' for an extended period of time on a daily basis in order to retain and further develop creativity resonated with me.

Try it sometime - you might surprise yourself.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Some people have spoken

I am not a political commentator, nor am I a satirist. In fact, I'm no longer particularly a political junkie.

But, that said, I'm glad that people turned out to vote. I think it is interesting to see how it all turned out. It's a pity that 40% of the voters selected a government for 100% of the people, with the votes of the remaining 60% split among the various alternatives. But, c'est la vie. That's democracy in action and I can accept that.

What I have difficulty accepting is the lackluster campaigning that happened here in our riding. It seemed like the incumbent felt he needed to do nothing to retain his seat (and apparently he was right), while those put forward by the other parties to challenge him were naught but sacrificial lambs on the altar of political expediency.

I truly feel sorry for them. It seemed like there was no money to spend on anything but a FEW signs here and there, no meaningful advertising and publicity, and limited personal effort to get out there and meet potential voters. At our home not a single piece of informative literature from ANY of the parties was received. Nor did any candidates or their representatives make the effort to visit our community or knock on any doors. It seemed like no one wanted OUR vote.

Nevertheless, we did vote and that act alone gives me the right to express my opinion as I see it.

The candidates proffered by all of the parties in our riding (other than the incumbent) were virtually unknown entities, and now that the election is over and the campaign period at an end, I know little more now than I did 6 weeks ago about any of them. Was it the same in other ridings in our province and across the nation? If so, it is no wonder that Mr. Harper was able to retain the seats he had and acquire enough others to attain majority status.

I had a strong and visceral reaction to the negative, mud-slinging, advertising that first the Conservatives and later the Liberals indulged in. I felt like I was watching 3-year-olds in a sandbox, lacking adult supervision, trying to bully each other into submission and terrify bystanders.

Perhaps lessons have been learned by all concerned that will be utilized in the next election - a full 4+ years away now that the current government finally garnered a majority position.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Specials offered ONLY during the Equine Review

Thinking of having a family portrait done?

 Want to have your own "personal paparazzi" capture your action at a show or event?

Thinking of an image that will remind you of a special relationship for all time?

 Or a beautiful image to grace the walls of your home....

Photoshoots booked during the Equine Review week-end are eligible for a 25% reduction in the session fee. Drop by my booth and ask me about it. See you in a couple of weeks!