Grow Where You're Planted

“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” 
― John Muir

I recently returned to Belgium which I do each year sometime in March. In case you have not read this in the previous posts, Belgium is my husband native country, and he is just a few years from retirement. I have family in the states, so to balance I go back and forth to spend time with the people I love. So to say I am a tumbleweed is entirely accurate.

For many years this caused me challenges and adjustments. It still does, but I have now changed my attitude about my life and my circumstances.

I use to read all the time that you need to grow where you are planted. I believe this to be true and with so many of us using social media get frustrated because we may not think we live in as beautiful or exciting places as others, or it seems our lives feel mundane and ordinary in comparison to others as we scroll down the feed and view everyone’s life. But I am writing to tell that although my life appears exciting, I still feel like it is missing something in comparison to others on social media.

I have been conflicted with the syndrome of wishing to be somewhere else.  If I am in Belgium, I think I need to be in Colorado, if I am in Colorado and something interesting is going on in Belgium I always wished I could be in Belgium. I have family in Illinois, so when I read about a summer BBQ or a wedding, I always wish I could be there. I feel guilty missing out on my grandchildren's big days like birthdays, graduations and take their first steps. 

 All these thoughts have only lead to the point of confusion and frustration for me and how I felt my life should be rather than embrace the life I am living at the moment.

It took a good friend’s support and persuasion to make me finally wake up and begin to grow where I find myself planted at the time.

 I often feel like a tumbleweed that seems to find it landing in a different place with the wind at the control. I had dreams and things I wanted to accomplish, but I felt I was always at the wrong place and the wrong time. Then I realized that the soul purpose of a tumbleweed is so it can spread it's seeded far and wide.  

As I visualized a tumbleweed in my head,  I came to realize that rather than feel frustrated by always being on the move, I would embrace the excitement of waiting to see what the wind would have in store for me next.

My camera has always been my salvation from frustration. I would use the camera to help me see what I was not embracing in my head. I will admit that many days I just would not pick up the camera because I was frustrated, or bored with seeing the same things every day, or at least that is what I would tell myself. Why go out and shoot the same thing day after day. But what I came to realize is that every day is unique and will offer you a treasure if you just get out there and experience it. The other option,  of not getting out in life is a sure guarantee you will not see or experience anything new and exciting.

So as I start my ninth year of spending spring and summer in Belgium I am going to embrace the beauty I know is here and begin to see again what is available right in front of my eyes.

As I started to go through my archive of photographs I have taken over the past nine years realizing that each place I call home has treasures to behold. 

I will share with you here in this blog what I find, experience, and feel as I spend what time I have until the next big wind blows. My photographs are my seeds as I share them on social media and in this blog. I do photography because I love it. I am not worried about holding tight to my images as that is not the purpose of photographing. I like being in a place and feeling it and then try and capture that feeling with my camera. Then it is about sharing that vision. 

So I hope to encourage you to grow where you have been planted. Maybe your life is more like an old Oak tree with strongly established roots, or maybe you are very seasonal and bloom at a particular time of year,  or like me a tumbleweed that never knows where it will land next. The point is to embrace your life and experience what it has to offer every day. Tomorrow will provide a new and different view and perspective. 

So pick up your camera, or iPhone or nothing at all and get out in the world and experience, create, and share what you enjoy doing. Then let the rest of the world see your world and vision. 

Here are some early morning fog images I captured just yesterday. It was cold, damp, and a thick mist and I could have easily decided to stay inside next to the woodstove and work on an article I am doing for the Draft Horse Journal. That would have been a responsible decision, but I know how much the camera loves fog, and it does not happen every day, so I choose to grab a raincoat and hop on my bicycle and see what was out there. 

Here are the results of that decision.

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Vista Verde Ranch Workshop 2017 Highlights

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Snow, horses, cowboys and photographers what could be better? Well, this was one of just the many fun things we did at the Vista Verde Ranch Winter Wonderland Workshop. 

Snow Snow & More Snow

A winter wonderland was what we all experienced when we arrived at the ranch. The staff had informed us that they had received 12 ft of snow in the previous week. Yes, you read that right "12 feet of snow"  It was so beautifully peaceful and a blast to photograph and enjoy all the fun snow activities.

 Accommodations

Regardless if you were in a private room with a big comfortable king size bed decorated in true western style or a shared cabin with your own private bedroom and bath along with a shared living area enjoying a cozy fire and a glass of wine, you will never forget the fantastic views of the ranch. 

Dining Experience

Well to say that one of the major highlights of the workshop was the food is an understatement.  Every meal was carefully prepared by the chef and his amazing staff.  Early morning breakfast, lunch to keep your energy going. and delicious dinners fit for a king every evening.  The deserts, well what can I say, it were not for all the activities, you would easily come home with a few more pounds added on to the scale.

We also had the pleasure of doing a wine tasting, which was not only fun but very educational and informative about wine choices.

Photography Opportunities

I can not say enough about how many photographic opportunities  are available at Vista Verde Ranch.  But I believe the photographs below will speak for themselves.  Here are just some of the photographs attendee Linda Doane and I took over the four days of the workshops. There are much, much more but this will give you an idea of all the opportunities available at the ranch to create amazing images.

Time to Reserve for Next Year

If you think you would love to come to next years Winter Wonderland Workshop you will need to get on our reserve list.  Click on the link below to find out more.

2018 Winter Wonderland Workshop at the Vista Verde Ranch

 

 

My 10 Worse Equine Photographs

Facing The Elements

If the image above were one of my worse, I would be a superstar.

 This photograph was a gift that pointed me toward to art I create today.

In 2009 I was selling used western saddles and tack on eBay. It was the beginning of the digital era of photography then and I needed to purchase a digital camera. I decided on the Canon Rebel xT1. It also would be a nice camera to take photographs of the beauty of Montana where I lived at the time.

When the camera arrived in the mail on a cold January day I was very excited. I quickly opened the box and put the lens on the camera. I didn't bother reading the manual. I just want to take this camera for a test drive. 


As I looked out my window it was snowing pretty hard and I saw the horses at the round bale feeder eating away, so I grabbed my coat and boots and headed out the door. 

It was pretty cold so I quickly put the camera in auto mode, pointed at one of the horses and snapped away. Then went back in the house to figure out how to get the images off the camera and onto my computer.

To my surprise, the image above appeared on my computer screen. I could not believe the details in the snow and the coat of the horse. I was taken back. I thought to myself that if horses could look this good in a photograph, I think I should be an equine photographer.

 And that was the gift, the gift that pointed me to my future. 

What I didn't realize is it would take the next six years of education and practicing before I would be able to take a photograph of that quality again.

I was now on a long journey down the road of learning equine photography.

I am going to embarrass myself by showing you some of the worse photographs I took while learning and practicing so I could become an equine photographer.

 I hope to help everyone realize we all have to start somewhere and it takes many years to accomplish a skill.  I can not tell you it was not hard and frustrating at times, but also incredibly rewarding.

The more I know, the more I realize there is more to learn.

 I doubt I will never be able to say "Now I am a master equine photographer."

So here 10 of some of my worse images. You can read  how I critique my  work.

Way to far away from the subject. Terrible light at the wrong time of day and I am not standing in the right spot to get any details.

Way to far away from the subject. Terrible light at the wrong time of day and I am not standing in the right spot to get any details.

Not to bad except the snow is grey and the horse lacks detail.

Not to bad except the snow is grey and the horse lacks detail.

The front horse is to dominant and the color cast is way off.

The front horse is to dominant and the color cast is way off.

Cut off his legs, disturbing background and just a boring photograph really.

Cut off his legs, disturbing background and just a boring photograph really.

Getting closer helps, but I cut off the ears and the background is disturbing, especially the white lines on the house. 

Getting closer helps, but I cut off the ears and the background is disturbing, especially the white lines on the house. 

There is some detail but the composition is not so great and the ugly halter really takes away from the ponies personality. Also the tree is a bit distracting.

There is some detail but the composition is not so great and the ugly halter really takes away from the ponies personality. Also the tree is a bit distracting.

Again cutting off their legs, to much going on in the photograph to be interesting and no expression in the horses. It is not very sharp so settings were not correct.

Again cutting off their legs, to much going on in the photograph to be interesting and no expression in the horses. It is not very sharp so settings were not correct.

I think I am starting to realize to get closer, but still not close enough. You can not see the horses eyes so the photograph does not say anything. Not very sharp, my settings were not correct.

I think I am starting to realize to get closer, but still not close enough. You can not see the horses eyes so the photograph does not say anything. Not very sharp, my settings were not correct.

Good concept but here it is obvious I do not understand lighting. 

Good concept but here it is obvious I do not understand lighting. 

Getting better but could have zoomed in a little closer, and waited until the horses had a better position. The one on the left's head is too high and all of their legs are out of sync. Their ears are all over the place which indicates they are not working as a team. This is when knowing your subject well can also help you make a better photograph.

Getting better but could have zoomed in a little closer, and waited until the horses had a better position. The one on the left's head is too high and all of their legs are out of sync. Their ears are all over the place which indicates they are not working as a team. This is when knowing your subject well can also help you make a better photograph.

So there I just revealed my humble beginnings. It is my intention that these images help you realize we all have to start somewhere.  We all have to go through the learning curve in every new skill we want to accomplish. 

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”
― Benjamin Franklin

 

This is why I decided to start teaching. I want to save others the time and help them learn from all the mistakes I made when I was just starting out.  

 Having someone help you as you go can greatly advance your learning process and move you ahead faster. A mentor or tutor can help you avoid the mistakes they themselves made.

 You have to know what you don't know before you can practice to achieve a skill.

Hope this was helpful. If you want to subscribe to my Student Newsletter you can do so below.

 

 

A Disappearing Lifestyle

Taken near Fort Collins, Colorado at a small organic dairy farm.

Taken near Fort Collins, Colorado at a small organic dairy farm.

Small farms all across our country are shrinking every year. I took notice of this many years back as I saw the little town I grew up in change.  When I was young, the town my parents chose to live was about 50 miles south of Chicago and just on the edge of some of the best farmland in the country.  At that time the population was 1,250 residence in 1960 and has since grown to over 10,000 today. Many developers came into the area offering high prices for farmland so they could build homes for everyone moving out of the city of Chicago. That began the big push that has lead to the decline of small farms and the people who were able to live this type of lifestyle. 

I can remember telling myself when my children were young that if K-Mart (which has also disappeared) moves in it is time for us to move out. 

REason I am Photographing Rural Subjects

This is one of the main reasons I started photographing not just horses but rural imagery. I could see what was happening, and I realized that one day my great grandchildren would have no idea what life was like back when I was their age. So I started to document it.  

It is not just the landscape that seems to be changing but many of the things we use to do and the sounds we use to hear. 

Things like hanging your clothes on the clothes line outdoors, keeping chickens and the sound of the rooster, church bells ringing on the hour, the sound of bees buzzing in your garden and entering projects at the local county fair. 

Many are trying to bring  back these simple lifestyles but will there be any room for small farms and rural settings?

Here is a slow motion video I did in my garden. 

My rooster Russel Crow let's us know he is there every morning and every evening. Love the sound of roosters.

My rooster Russel Crow let's us know he is there every morning and every evening. Love the sound of roosters.

 

I recently came across an article about a photographer in New York with the same mission as I have.   She started to ponder how the few people left in the small town where she grew up were surviving.  So she went out to photograph them. You can read her article here: Tales from the Contemporary American Farm in the British Journal of Photography

Leaving a Legacy

I feel it is important to do this work as I know the lifestyle is being threatened daily by the constant increase in population. It is a shame actually because I would love for my grandchildren to have been able to grow up with the freedom that we had as children. But with the increase of predators to children due to the dark side of the internet I understand why parents today have to create safe environments for their children to play and grow.

But it is still sad to me that this is all changing. I guess the only thing I can do is the photograph and tell the stories of those who still are living this quiet lifestyle on a remote back road somewhere. Then when my grandchildren are my age they will be able to share all of this with their grandchildren. I guess you could call this my legacy.

What about you?

Do you still live on a small farm or out away from the suburban sprawl? Maybe you still live in a small town that is trying to hang on.   Do you feel your lifestyle is being threatened by growth?  Please leave your comments below.

This is my "something old" post next week will be "something new" where I will share with you some new things I found to be helpful or interesting. 

Take care until next week.

Also please share this blog with anyone you think may be interested in stories, articles, and photographs on Living Rural.

Gigi

 

 

 

 

Follow Me Down a New Path

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Welcome to my new website and the start of something I have wanted to do for a long time, which is to create a space for those who love living a quiet, peaceful, and simple lifestyle where we can escape from the craziness of today's modern environment.

So it is my hope that this website will be a place you visit often to find peace and beauty when life gets to be too much.

I have always lived out away from the city and often very rural. It has been a lifestyle many do not understand but has always brought me joy and peace but most of all inspiration to create. 

Most people who choose a more quiet lifestyle are not interested in things like fashion, celebrity, fancy restaurant reviews, tall buildings, or strangers on the street. We tend to gravitate more toward old barns, gardens, chickens, warm puppies, kittens, or our local farmer's markets.

 

To us, the latest hair style is not straight or curly short or long, but how quickly we can make a messy bun or stuff our hair under a baseball cap. Our favorite clothing style is not high heels or white sneakers with skinny jeans; we enjoy wearing things like Muck boots, flannel shirts, and Carhart vests. We also do not call ourselves foodies but enjoy a tasty home cooked meal from scratch.  Rooftop gardens would seem strange when we have more than enough room for a garden in our own backyards.  Which by the way helps to cut down on grass mowing chores. If any of  this sounds like you, you're at the right place.

The Living Rural Blog

  The blog is where you can come with a cup of coffee and read stories and view images of others who are living rurally.

 I hope to feature interesting people who are embracing what it means to live rural.   Some of my writings will also be about what I am learning about organic gardening in a foreign country, along with sharing recipes and tips on cooking from the days when I was a ranch cook. I will still include my draft horse stories as I come across them and many post will just be images.

  I will  share with you how I create my fine art photography from start to finish and my creative process.   I plan on sharing as much as I can about subjects around rural living. 

The Creative Loft

 

The Creative Loft is the marketplace to purchase wall art and items for your home to help you express how you live your life and what you value.

I have added some of my fine art images and will continue to be adding more.

I will be adding calendars, fine art cards, computer wallpaper and other art image products.

I am reaching out to other artists that I admire and share there work in the blog and in the store to give you a wider range of art to enjoy.

Learning the Art of Photography

Since I have taught myself the art of photography, I thought it might be time to give back by helping others wanting to learn this amazing form of art

 I will soon be teaching those interested in learning more about photography,  particularly photographing  horses, by offering  online courses, webinars, and other resources, along with amazing workshops, retreats, and tours to some of my favorite locations.

My newest workshop & retreat will be held on January 23 to 27th at the Vista Verda ranch near Steamboat Springs, CO  You can read my experience of staying on the ranch last winter in an earlier blog post.

If you would like to attend the workshop you can click here to learn more.

As I continue to create this website I hope you will visit often and share with others you think would enjoy visiting. Everyone needs a place where they feel they belong.

I would love to know what kinds of subjects that interest you and what your thoughts are on the re-design.  Please let me know if you have any trouble finding your way around so try and make it easier.

 If you would be so kind as to leave your suggestions or comments below, or if you prefer you can let reach out to me on my Facebook page  or tweet me on Twitter or you can visit my Instagram page

  I hope this  website  informs, inspires, and makes you laugh as  I share with you the people and experiences of traveling a rural road.

Enjoy the rest of this summer, and remember to spend some time in nature.

Take Care

Gigi

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thoughts on Digital Art and a Few Before & After

Thoughts on Digital Art and a Few Before & After

Last week on my Facebook page I was nominated by a fellow draft horse artist Alan Waring from Denmark to show 5 days of my draft horse work. So I posted 5 images of photographs that I turned into fine art pieces. Which got me thinking about digital art versus traditional art. Here are my thoughts on the subject.

New Year, New Focus in 2016

New Year, New Focus in 2016

For me the new year is going to be a new focus. This blog and my website is going to focus mainly on the draft horse. I know that you subscribed and follow my work on Facebook mostly because you love the draft horses and the people who share their lives with them. Well this year is going to feature more images, more stories, and more knowledge about these amazing horses.

Telling a Story in a Photograph Can Be Difficult

Today there is a smorgasbord of images on the internet. Facebook has been a great place to share photos, along with Instagram, and now Twitter has jumped in offering to display images. So it is a great time to be a photographer with so many places for you to share your work.

But why do some photos seem to appeal to us over other images? In my opinion it is the story. Yes the photograph should be a quality image but I have witness less the stellar images that have a great story and look past the technical issues of the image because it was telling such a great story.

But the question is how do you tell a story in one single image? That has been something I have been seeking to find out for some time now. Is is just the beauty in a landscape? The look in a portrait? Or the action in a sport image? 

I will try and explain the best I can by using some of my own images to show how I was trying to capture a story over just a photograph.

The first photo is of of my daughter with my granddaughters a few years ago. They were playing in the backyard with their little dog Miley. I of course had my camera ready. I took this quick portrait of the three of them with their dog. Which is great for me and my daughter because it will stop time and when we look back and have a quick memory of that that day but it does not really tell a story other than a moment in time.

However this photograph of my granddaughter Madison interacting with her dog Miley definitely tells a story of how she feels about her dog. It brings the viewer into a special moment of a little girl and her dog and possibly remind them of how they felt as a child with their own dog.

 

In this next photograph I was out hiking a trail with my daughter's dog Lucy. We got to a spot near the South Platte river in Littleton, Colorado just as the sun was starting to set. I instantly could see how beautiful the golden light was illuminating the landscape.

I took this image to try and capture the beauty of the moment with the sun setting and casting its beautiful golden light. It is a good photograph but I don't think there is much of a story here.

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I decided it needed a subject and I just happen to have the right candidate.  I started throwing rocks into the water and Lucy eagerly jumped in to retrieve them splashing water everywhere. I knew in that moment this would be the story. I then quickly started taking photographs as she was diving into the water. I ended up with this image that not only shows how beautiful it was at that moment of the day but also told the a story of the dog enjoying the fun of playing in the river.

When I was learning photography I was more concerned in getting my settings right to take a well exposed and sharp image. This is important in your growth as a photographer and I spent hours and hours practicing on that skill.  I still practice all the time and I am always trying to get better by using different methods of shooting but the biggest thing I try and do now while photographing is ask myself "what is the story here" I want each image to not only be a well executed photograph but one that will make the viewer understand the story I am trying to tell in the image. To me a photograph without a story it is just another pretty picture or snapshot.

I now find myself walking away from spending time composing and working a scene if in the end there is no story to be told. A very knowledgable photographer once told me the hardest thing to learn in photography is to know when "not" to take a photograph. I have to agree and with digital being so easy I think we all take more images than we should.

No matter if it is your iPhone or a professional camera try and always ask yourself if there is a story to be told in this photograph I am about to create?  I know that question has helped me.

Here are a few more photos that I believe tell a story, but you be the judge. Please leave any comments below.

It is my goal to write about the things you are interested in and sometimes I need your help to know what you would like me to share with you. You can leave ideas below or just contact me

Until next week, I will see you on my Facebook Page. 

 

Melville, Montana

Melville, Montana