21
May
14

a question of light

I’ve just finished teaching two workshops on two coasts in two weeks. And too many times I heard myself say “look at the light”! After talking for seven or eight days you can get very tired of hearing your own voice. So now is the time for me to be quiet and think about all that happened during these workshops in order to improve the next. I use many concepts and quotes from my teachers to break up the ‘me-ness’ of the class. But I think I need to add more. I found this quote this morning, thanks to John Paul Caponigro’s blog and it answers a question a number of students posed:

“Today’s photographers think differently. Many can’t see real light anymore. They think only in terms of strobe – sure, it all looks beautiful but it’s not really seeing. If you have the eyes to see it, the nuances of light are already there on the subject’s face. If your thinking is confined to strobe light sources, your palette becomes very mean – which is the reason I photograph only in available light.” – Alfred Eisenstaedt

Larapio, Lusitano Stallion, available light

Larapio, Lusitano Stallion, available light

I don’t like painting all my fellow photographer’s with such a broad brush, but the point is well taken. I don’t use flash for two reasons: first, horses don’t like it and second, I don’t use it well enough to make it seem like there is no flash. In other words, I prefer natural light.

I like the challenge of discovering a way to use all the light available. Very often, this means finding solutions to difficult lighting situations. It’s hard to put a horse in a soft box type of environment and then ask them to be dynamic. It can be done, but why not learn to see the beauty in light we are given? Seeing deeply, and truly learning how our cameras see light will create confidence and boldness.

Suplicio da Raposa, Lusitano stallion

Suplicio da Raposa, Lusitano stallion

“When I have a camera in my hand, I know no fear.” – Alfred Eisenstaedt

Shoot into the sun? Why not? It can be magical! No light? Get a light horse and shoot the movement. There is more light there than we think! Bright sun in the middle of the day? Find some open shade or shoot a sunny portrait. Better yet, look for some bounce light and make a beautiful, softly glowing image. The point is, there are always photographic opportunities.

Abby and Stella, PRE Mare

Abby and Stella, PRE Mare

 

Keeping an open mind and an open heart will help to bring these to your awareness. So, one last quote from Alfred Eisenstaedt, the great master: “Once the amateur’s naive approach and humble willingness to learn fades away, the creative spirit of good photography dies with it. Every professional should remain always in his heart an amateur.”

My students keep me humble and stoke the fires of inspiration and creativity. Thank you for a marvelous two weeks! And a special thank you to Patewood Farm in New Jersey and Barbier Farms in California. The people and the horses in both locations made work fun and filled the days with laughter and good spirit!

 

22
Apr
14

sun, flowers, Lusitanos

The winter rains have given way to the glory of spring. I’ve had the great luxury of photographing beautiful horses in flowers and dappled sun these last two weeks. It is marvelous to be out each evening in the woods and pastures after what seemed like interminable rain!

_50K4315

Carlos Oliveira on Talisman, PSL.

 

There is something about these cork trees (quercus species) that I love. I keep thinking that someone in a toga will step from behind one. Silly? Perhaps. But this landscape says ‘human history’ to me. And for the last 500 years, the cultivation of the cork oaks has combined with the breeding and selection of the Lusitano to create a land and heritage that is Puro Ribatejo. And yes, I know….togas are much older than 500 years. But so is the cultivation of cork oaks here in the Ribatejo.

And speaking of togas, here is an interesting fact: Julius Caesar made his fortune near here in Alcacer do Sal (by harvesting salt) and with this strength of fortune and his army, became Emperor of Rome.

Enjoy the photos. I’ll be back this weekend with more, after the festival in Alter de Chao.

 

 

29
Mar
14

step by step to a textured image, with intent

From time to time an image will rise that speaks to me in a different way. Capturing images, in camera, with little need of editing after raw conversion, is always my goal. I create photographs by bringing all of my intention to an image that I hope will speak to the viewer in an engaging way. Having said that, I have discovered that creating composite images with textures or other photo layers can be a very satisfying process. One caveat: bad images with textures and other layers are still bad images. There is that old adage about putting a silk purse on a sow’s ear…

I posted images from the South of France just last week. Many people emailed or commented (on Facebook and this blog) with kind and generous remarks. Thank you! I’ve also been talking to several of the students that I mentor who have voiced an interest in working with textures and layers. I’m posting the step by step process here to encourage you all to have fun and give something new a try! As always, I send my gratitude to Jill and Paul and Flypaper Textures for their passion to make great products (click on the box there on the right and you’ll see all their marvelous sets of textures).

My disclaimer…I am not a photoshop instructor. There are many people who excel at this part of teaching, but I am not one of them. My intent here is to share something fun that might intrigue you.

The process:

After I have optimized my image in Lightroom 5 I will choose Photo~Edit In~Photoshop CS6 (or 4 or 5…whatever you are working in).

If I have opened my texture(s) file(s) from another source I will have a number of images open in Photoshop. For the purposes of this tutorial, lets go with the assumption that I have opened from another source rather than the plug-in (see note at end of post).

If your images are all in the same bar and you want them to appear in separate windows (you do) then click on Window ~ Arrange ~ Float all in windows.

Screen Shot 2014-03-29 at 1.57.41 PM

Now you can move your images onto each other. Click your move tool (at the top of your tool bar on right) and choose a texture to place onto an image. After you have moved it onto your image you will see that you have two layers. Perhaps your new texture layer is a different size than your image. Don’t worry. With your texture layer highlighted, choose Edit ~ Transform ~ Scale. Hold down your shift key and then resize by dragging a corner or side box to maintain your ratio. If you don’t need to maintain a ratio, simply grab one of the size boxes with your move tool and resize your texture layer to cover your image.

Screen Shot 2014-03-29 at 1.59.10 PM

After you have resized your image, click the CHECK MARK on the upper right to confirm your resizing.

Screen Shot 2014-03-29 at 1.59.44 PM

Now in your layers palette you need to choose the Blending Mode. The default is Normal. Click the drop down menu and you will see many options. I generally start with Soft Light or Overlay, depending on how I want the image to appear. Try each the options in the drop down menu and go back and forth to begin to learn the subtleties.

Perhaps you like the Overlay mode but it’s a little too strong? Move the opacity slider (just to right of Blending mode drop down box) left and fight to find the desired effect.

 

In this image I liked the effect but I knew that I wanted the bottom of the textured image to be on the top of my photograph. No problem. So I went back to Edit ~ Transform ~ Rotate 180. (make sure your texture layer is highlighted in your layer palette when you do this or your entire image will rotate!)

Screen Shot 2014-03-29 at 2.00.23 PM

Perhaps you like the effect on some of the image but want to minimize it in certain areas? I use this a lot to block out the texture layer on faces, bodies of horses, or where the shadows and vignetting can be a little too strong.  Go down to your bar at the bottom of your layers box (on right) and choose the mask overlay. It is the rectangle with the circle in the middle. This is where it gets really fun!  Now you can ‘paint’ IN or OUT the desired effect. You have infinite control here simply by choosing the OPACITY of your BRUSH.

Screen Shot 2014-03-29 at 2.00.52 PM

Next, click Command~I (with your texture layer highlighted) to completely block out your texture layer. You will see your mask turn completely black and you will see only your original image in the window. Now we can begin to reveal the texture layer WHERE we want it and in WHAT STRENGTH we want it.

Screen Shot 2014-03-29 at 2.01.01 PM

Choose your brush tool from your toolbox. I generally start with 30% opacity on a fairly large, soft brush. (on the left in the tool panel) For finer detail work you will want a smaller, harder (less diffuse) brush. But start with a big soft brush. Here’s a key concept: BLACK BLOCKS, WHITE REVEALS. So down at the bottom of the tool panel on the left I will make sure I am painting with a WHITE brush IN MY MASK to reveal the texture layer (make sure the mask box is highlighted before you start painting).

Screen Shot 2014-03-29 at 2.01.37 PM

You can work either way, Paint ONTO your image with a white brush to REVEAL your changes, or paint OUT OF your image with a black brush to BLOCK the texture. I generally REVEAL the texture, slowly building up the effect.

Screen Shot 2014-03-29 at 2.05.04 PM

You can see by my layer mask in this screen shot that I have revealed ALL of the texture (100 percent) in the image except over the church and some of the tree. In the mask, the area that is black has BLOCKED the texture from showing through.

At this point I like the image but I’m not in love with it. I decided the effect needed more intensity. So I grabbed my texture layer and DUPLICATED IT…just to see what effect it would have. You do this by grabbing your layer and dragging it down to the little folder icon with the flipped up corner at the bottom of your layers palette on the right. (as with all icons, if you hover over it with your cursor it will ‘tell you’ what it is.)

Screen Shot 2014-03-29 at 2.06.00 PM

Now I have duplicated that texture layer, which compounded the effect of the texture. When I duplicated the layer it also duplicated my mask. You can make changes here simply by highlighting the mask (clicking on it) and then using your brush to reveal more or block more of the effect. Remember you can lessen or intensify the effect of your brush by choosing your brush opacity. Or you can remove the duplicated mask altogether by clicking on it and dragging it to the trash can in the lower right corner.

I like the more intense effect, but I want more depth in the sky, more of an aged feel. So I chose TABULA in my textures to layer on top.

Screen Shot 2014-03-29 at 2.06.44 PM

I resized the texture layer (outlined above), clicked the checkmark, and then after looking at it for a moment, I dialed the opacity of the texture layer back to my desired effect. Compare the next two images.

Screen Shot 2014-03-29 at 2.07.11 PM

 

Screen Shot 2014-03-29 at 2.08.33 PM

Notice the difference in the image itself. This is what I wanted, but I needed to fine tune some areas in the image. So I added my Layer Mask, and started to paint again with a black brush this time to BLOCK the effect. I was careful to dial back my brush opacity so I could work slowly….feel my way into how the image wanted to be. See the next two images. The first image shows my BLACK BRUSH at 56% opacity. The second image shows my BLACK BRUSH at 36% opacity. Sometimes you have to go back and forth between white and black brushes, painting in then painting out changes. Sometimes you have to throw away your layer mask and begin again!

Screen Shot 2014-03-29 at 2.09.10 PM Screen Shot 2014-03-29 at 2.09.46 PM

I simply wanted to soften the effect in the sky and already dark corners, and really soften the effect on the stone itself. I chose TABULA because I wanted to echo the texture of the old stone. I didn’t need to add too much of the texture (just looking for the tone/color) to the stone.  Then I walked away from the image! This is an important step. We can become emotionally attached to an image and a little bit ‘in-love’ with what we are doing. We need perspective, we need to cool our ardor a bit and then return to the image to check our work.

I finished with the image below…you can see a tiny difference in the layer mask on TABULA. I let a little more of the texture come through on the stone. It added more of the tone and color I wanted.

Screen Shot 2014-03-29 at 2.11.10 PM

In this image of the Chapelle Saint Sixte near Eygalieres (Provence) France I knew when I was making the image that I wanted a more somber, mysterious mood for the photograph.  The more you work with textures the easier it will become to feel your way into what the image needs. But I began with an intent. I photographed with the intent to transform the image and I carried that intent all the way through the processing.

I hope you have enjoyed this tutorial. I’ll be teaching this in my upcoming workshops (both the equine photography workshops in California and New Jersey in May as well as my workshop with the Pacific Northwest Art School on Whidbey Island in August). And to continue the self promotion, I do mentor a limited number of students each year. We have a blast and learn a lot. Zip me an email if you are interested in any of these opportunities. ( keron AT keronpsillas.com ) And if you like this post, leave a comment or share with a friend! I would truly appreciate it. Happy Shooting! ~Keron

PS…if you want more information on texturing, click on the Flypaper Textures box there on the right hand side of my blog and see what Jill and Paul are up to! There’s a wealth of information on their site and blog. And if you are interested in having a plug-in that will keep your favorite textures handy, visit Dr. Russell Brown’s site for a free one AND some great FREE Flypaper Textures. Click on THIS LINK to download your own plug-in. It’s easy and a great timesaver. Be aware though, it only works with CS6. Just scroll down to find the Green T for the textures script on his page. Have fun!

 

23
Mar
14

more driving from the Iberic Cup

I went back to Companhia das Lezirias for an hour or so this morning to photograph more driving. It was pretty amazing to watch the precision, power, and speed! Congratulations to all the competitors. I heard competitors from Belgium, Spain, and Portugal being called to the piste…but I think I saw some French and German flags as well. If any of my readers know the participants, please pass along the link! And congratulations/parabens to Companhia das Lezirias for a beautiful venue and event.

22
Mar
14

The Beginning of Photography!

Last weekend I was in Chalon Sur Saone, France, to visit the Musee Nicephore Niepce. It was an extraordinary experience…made more so because it was completely unexpected. To be sure, I had planned to visit, but the unexpected part was the breadth of history and an incredible collection of contemporary photography. Click the link above to visit the site for the museum and learn all about Monsieur Niepce. In brief, he was the first person to fix an image on a photo (light) sensitive plate using a camera obscura. After several years of trial and error, he invited Monsieur Daguerre, a chemist, to join him in a partnership to develop this budding technology. Niepce died just four years into their partnership and Daguerre went on garner wide acclaim.

Monsieur Nicephore Niepce

Monsieur Nicephore Niepce

After deciphering as much of the history as possible (the exhibits are mostly in French), I turned a corner to be confronted with Arnold Newman’s great portrait of Igor Stravinsky. Turning left I saw that I was in a very large room with walls hung with images from the greatest photographers, living and dead. Hanging was a selection of photographs from Florence and Damien Bachelot, passionate collectors.

Arnold Newman's iconic portrait of Igor Stravinsky

Arnold Newman’s iconic portrait of Igor Stravinsky

Bruce Davidson, Mitch Epstein, Saul Leiter, Luc Delahaye, Cartier-Bresson, Andre Kertesz, Willy Ronis, Dorothea Lange, Lewis Hine, and so many more were in this one room. I was in heaven. It was one of those unexpected moments that was so perfect, so sweet, and entirely captivating. I spent the next several hours enthralled, and then in true American fashion, went to the boutique to buy gifts for other photographer friends!

One of the things I encourage my students to do is to fill themselves with great imagery when they are not photographing. Attend a ballet, an exhibition, take a walk in the woods, browse a great book…life is enthralling and the creativity and genius available to us knows no bounds. So this last weekend I was busy feeding my soul, my brain, and expanding my visual literacy. Happy girl.

“If the beautiful were not in us, how would we ever recognize it?” ~ Ernst Haas.

21
Mar
14

some driving fun and a Presidential visit

It couldn’t be too long until I had a post about horses, right? Today I photographed some preparation for the Iberic Cup championship in driving. Teams from France, Spain, Belgium, the US, and Portugal will compete this weekend for the Cup as they build momentum to the World Championship in September.

The landscape at Companhia das Lezirias is a favorite place for me so I had a LOT of fun. I know the place well, have friends there, enjoy the great restaurant ( A Coudelaria ) and it’s where friends stay when they come to visit me here in Portugal. I say all this just to give a nudge to you if you are considering a visit! I’ll be going back tomorrow and Sunday so come back and visit the blog next week. I hope you enjoy the photos.

Oh, and the President of Portugal visited today along with the Minister of Agriculture for International Forest Day. It was a marvelously low-key event.

20
Mar
14

in the footsteps Van Gogh, Cezanne, and Bonnard

Long before I became a photographer I was a lover of art. The Impressionists were my first love and though I have expanded my list of favorites to include the renaissance and Dutch masters, modern expressionists and a number of great American painters, I continue to return to the vibrancy and searching feeling that I see in much of the Impressionist’s work.

Because of this it was a great pleasure for me to have several days in the South of France to take in the landscapes of Cezanne, Van Gogh, Bonnard, and many others. The artists were attracted to the light of Provence, but I think they must have been attracted to the shapes in the land. The fields in the valleys are covered in ancient gnarled olives and tiny, hardy grape vines. They mirror the twisted shapes of the olive trees in miniature. The miniature iris were blooming, hinting at the explosion of color to come. And the almonds were just coming out…the peach trees were in full bloom.

The weather here can be difficult; too hot, sometimes icy cold, often windy, ever changing. The wind comes from the north carrying moisture and cold, or from the south with a fierce heat, or from the East or from the West. Each of these Mistral (meaning ‘masterly’) winds has its own name. Basically, it’s windy. But the winds clear the atmosphere of dust and other matter and lend the luminous quality to the light. Think about what the light looks like on an early evening after a terrific afternoon thunderstorm. This is the light of Provence for much of the time.

I visited the Chapelle Saint Sixte (12th century) on a calm evening without a cloud in the sky. This area in and around Eygalieres was painted many times by Van Gogh. I was happy to know that I was walking the same ground as the Masters…seeing the same forms…and seeking to create my own vision of this storied landscape. But that night my vision was a darker, more nuanced one….so I created the images below.

19
Mar
14

an update, sadly

I have just returned from a visit to the Czech Republic, Poland, and Germany. The day before I arrived in Prague for this last trip I learned of the death of Alice Herz-Sommer, the oldest known survivor of The Holocaust. In January I wrote about the gratitude for the inspiration I had received from reading her story and watching interviews and videos of her remarkable life’s story. I carried the inspiration with me while photographing again in Terezin (Theresienstadt), and later, in Oswiciem (Auschwitz).

Sometimes it seems to me that sadness upon sadness and sorrow upon sorrow are all that remains. But that is not true. Mrs. Herz-Sommer’s infectious laugh, her twinkling eyes, and the joy she expressed in her music remain and will continue to inspire many more people.  What remains for me? I think it must be gratitude. Gratitude that joy expressed during the darkest moments created enough light, enough hope to sustain one soul…and that one beautiful soul can inspire many others for lifetimes to come.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/28/world/europe/alice-herz-sommer-pianist-who-survived-holocaust-dies-at-110.html?_r=0

SOMMER-1-obit-master675

Photograph of an original program from Theresienstadt/Terezin listing concerts by Alice Herz-Sommer.

Photograph of an original program from Theresienstadt/Terezin listing concerts by Alice Herz-Sommer.

 

The photograph above was made from materials exhibited in the Spanish Synagogue, in Prague.

26
Feb
14

workshop! horses! california! oh my!

I am totally passionate about teaching and sharing my love of photography and the horses too. I hope you will join me for this wonderful opportunity. Space is very limited so email me!!! (keron @ keronpsillas. com )

workshopfliercalifornia

 

 

10
Jan
14

encouragement

I am working on a project that is very important to me…though sometimes I despair at my seeming lack of progress. Every time I have felt a little lost, uncertain of my purpose or without hope, the Universe has given me a sign. It’s just a small thing, but enough of an encouragement that says ‘go on, there are things to uncover still’.

Today, even while enduring a migraine, I picked up the laptop to check a few sites that always lift my spirits. But this day was different. Not only are my spirits lifted, but I stumbled upon another story that goes directly to the heart of the project I am working on. There is no mistaking the dual message: first, my quest is supported, and second, my hypothesis is correct.

I am no different, no more or less deserving than any other person on the planet. But I have learned that when we follow our hearts, when we allow ourselves to be known and our intention to be expressed, we are supported. If you need a little encouragement today, open your heart…express your intent…and follow the signs.

There’ll be much more to come about the project in this space, but for now, follow the link and enjoy. Life is beautiful. I am grateful. Thank you, Alice Herz Sommer.

http://theladyinnumber6.com

Alice Herz Sommer, mother, daughter, pianist, 110 and loving the beauty that is Life.

Alice Herz Sommer, mother, daughter, pianist, 110 and loving the beauty that is Life. 

25
Dec
13

a quiet time

It has poured rain for several days. A relentless wind makes sure it seeps through doors and windows and blasts down barn aisles. I find myself alone, far from family, mucking stalls in Portugal this Holiday Season. All the horse photography comes from a love of horses…and anyone that loves, truly loves horses, knows a lot about pitchforks and wheelbarrows. I’m adding to that knowledge bank now. While I do feel a little lonely I woke this morning thinking of how lucky I am to have this quiet time.

I have had a lifetime of wonderful Holiday Seasons. I have lasting memories of warmth and family from my childhood. Favorite gifts of, surprise, horse books, stand out along with visits to and from beloved Grandparents. Even in the sixties there were epic searches for items on the “list”. My grandmother told me she traveled many many miles to find “Don’t Spill the Beans!” Years later I would enlist friends and my delivery drivers to find Power Rangers for my son. History repeats.

The Holidays were about much more than gifts though. My favorite memories of all were the Christmas Eve concerts at church. I sang with our youth choir for years and during junior high I accompanied the choir on my flute.  I grew up in the Presbyterian church. Ours was a great cavernous rectangle, devoid of decoration, but filled with light, old creaking pews, and in my child’s heart, spirit.

My favorite song to perform? Do You Hear What I Hear? We sang from the four corners of the church…two groups on either side of the balcony and two groups on either side of the front of the church. I was thrilled to be part of the group on one side of the balcony. It really did seem as if our voices could reach the heavens and have the Angels echo our song.

How lucky am I? The world is filled with people in the midst of violence, hunger, cold, and hopelessness. But I have memories of warmth and plenty and wonder. So I’ll be thankful for the opportunity to exercise, spend some time with horses and the unconditional love they offer, and absorb the glow from the warmth of years of happy memories. My hope is that you are doing the same or making more! And now it is time for me to go back to the barn, and my trove of memories.  My memory of this time will be one of quiet but profound gratitude.

 

 

 

29
Nov
13

November…not for the faint of heart!

Wow! It has been an action-packed month! On November 1st, my latest book arrived. The Alchemy of Lightness was written by Dominique Barbier and Dr. Maria Katsamanis and includes 40 of my images in large format. I helped with the editing of this book over the last several years so it is with great joy that I can say it is now available!  Click here to order your copy. It has been very well received. Thank you once again to Martha Cook, Rebecca Didier and all the team at Horse and Rider Books! You can see all their catalog of fabulous books by clicking on the button to the right!Unknown-1

Then on November 3rd, I had the great pleasure to give a lecture at InVision Photo Festival in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. The talk was very well received (I was invited back!!!) in a gorgeous venue. I was a little nervous of course, but once I get started talking about my passion for photography I am difficult to stop! It was also fabulous to see old friends and students from the Banana Factory where I taught several workshops in 2009 and 2010. Thank you Janice Lipzin for the incredible opportunity! You have created a wonderful event that shows your professionalism as well as your passion.Unknown-3Unknown-2

I flew that night to Portugal to host a group of ladies for two weeks. They came to enjoy the Lusitano Festival that happens each year in Golegã. We enjoyed great weather (a welcome change) and spectacular events. Along with the horses we visited some cultural sights and then went to Pedro Torres’ barn for four days of intense training! See the link at the top of this page for a fuller description of the trip…and scroll down to see some more images.  It was so good for me to share the parts of Portugal that I have come to love. Already looking forward to next year!

After the trip was over I flew to Prague to continue work on  a personal project of mine. I’ll keep those details for another post, but I did find the PERFECT music to accompany the work I am doing. Prague is a city filled with all the arts, but especially music. Wait for it to load…it’s worth it! Alexander Shonert has very graciously given me permission to use his music for the launch of the project. More about that soon! But go to his website for more beautiful melodies and stirring performances!Unknown

And now I am back in Portugal, catching up on image editing, blog posting, and emails. I have posted a new page (see above) that outlines a Mentoring program that I began this past August. It has brought me so much satisfaction and affirmation. Throughout my career as a photographer I have been the beneficiary of the best teaching in the world. It is an absolute honor to give this back to my students. Check it out if you are interested in advancing your skills!

I wish you all a joy-filled Holiday Season! Now…almost time to switch on the snowflakes. (Readers of this blog may remember this…) From a warm, palm-tree silhouetted evening in Portugal….thank you for checking the blog!

25
Nov
13

Golegã, Portugal, Part 2

Following five wonderful days at Golegã enjoying the Lusitanos and the festive atmosphere, my ladies were ready to ride! For four days we had the privilege of riding and learning from a number of Senhor Pedro Torres’ horses. Ulisses and Trinco (European champion this year with Bruno Pica) taught the ladies the feeling of the upper level movements including 2-tempis, piaffer and passage.

The weather was perfect along the shore in Cascais. Perhaps a little breezy one day, but sunny and bright. We were also treated to a demonstration with retired world-champion Oxidado and Pedro’s new star Ahoto. Everyone remarked that it was tremendous to see the capability and athleticism of the Lusitano in full display. This seemed to be the theme for the entire trip.

Everywhere we went, whether at the Portuguese National School of Equestrian Art, sitting on Carlos Oliveira’s exquisitely light Botero and Talismá, or watching Ana Batista try new mounts for Tauromachie, we marveled at the horses. The Lusitano’s unique ability to offer brilliance and strength while maintaining a calm and willing attitude is the quality that engenders the great respect for the breed.

Enjoy the photos…and think about coming to Portugal to experience the finest Lusitanos and training. I have private trips available throughout the year, including riding opportunities and photography intensives with exclusive access. (keron@keronpsillas.com)

23
Nov
13

Golegã 2013! Part 1

I am woefully behind with my blogging. So in order to catch up I will begin with a fun subject: Golegã, the Lusitano Fair that happens every year in November. I was host to seven marvelous ladies this year who were eager to soak in all the pageantry and excitement that the Fair brings. And of course, they are all lovers of the Lusitano!

We began with a trip to visit Carlos Oliveira and his gorgeous Lusitanos. After some tack shopping at Mundo Equitacao with Catia, Maria Joao, and Maria Helena, we made our way north to our lodgings. For the first six days of our trip we stayed at Ourem Castle, in the Pousada and at Casa Alta Royal Lodge. Both are highly recommended!

The sights and sounds of Golegã must be experienced to be believed. There are horses everywhere, of all levels of breeding, training, and turnout. But the strongest impression is one of a shared love for the Lusitano, this National Treasure. Riders in traditional dress complete the picture of this elegant animal. As the day lengthens into night, the sounds get a little louder and the Ginja flows a little easier! It is, after all, a festival! But it is also a competition. Congratulations to all the breeders. The classes this year were super competitive!

Though my ladies were keenly interested in all things Lusitano, we did make time to visit some local cultural sites, including Tomar and the Convento do Cristo. It’s just one of many UNESCO World Heritage sites in Portugal…but probably my favorite. The mysterious history of the Knights Templar and outstanding architecture examples culminating in an explosion of Manueline style captured everyone’s imagination.

After our week in and around Golegã we went to Cascais for a four-day riding intensive with World-Champion Working Equitation rider Pedro Torres.  More about this amazing experience in the next blog. Until then….enjoy the photos from the first week! And if you look under November 2011 on the list of posts to the right, you’ll see more images from Golegã. Thanks for checking the blog!

 

27
Sep
13

playing in the light & a gallery show!

I am happy to say that I am back in Portugal for several weeks. I’ve been feeling a little ‘down’ about not photographing enough, so I did something about it!

Photographing in an indoor arena is always tricky. And knowing we were going to visit Senhor Manuel Braga to photograph horses in his picadeiro gave me more than my usual apprehension. I remembered that the footing in this particular arena is nearly black. Oh well….nothing to do but try! When I arrived I had a big surprise though…just the week before, Manuel had replaced the footing and now there was a lovely white reflective floor!

It was late in the afternoon so the light was slanting and a little warm. Horses were presented and ridden and photographs were made. I was generally happy with the result when in came a gorgeous young black stallion. Manuel turned him loose for me to photograph him in liberty, saying “he is very expressive”. This was an understatement!  The horse was a fabulous mover and he loved playing with Senhor Braga and Pedro. I was a very happy photographer.

There are some straight shots, a black and white conversion, and two with my favorite Flypaper Textures! Enjoy….more from the last several weeks coming soon!

If you are in the West Virginia/Maryland/Virginia area, there is a great photography show coming up in Martinsburg at the newly minted Berkeley Art Works:  October 3 through October 27 in the gallery at 116 North Queen Street.  I’ll be showing proudly but humbly with Mark Muse, Frank Robbins, Rip Smith and Robert Clark. I’ll miss the reception, but just manage to see the show when I return to West Virginia after some work in Brasil! I can’t wait. My fellow photographers have taught me a great deal and I am a big admirer of their work.  Passion for learning, for printing, and capturing the light unite us though our visions are wildly diverse. Go see the show!

18
Sep
13

considering the portrait

I visit the Whidbey Island County Fair each year during my week with Sam Abell at Pacific Northwest Art School. It’s a highlight for our students and a highlight for us. It is a place that is familiar, but full of surprises each time we go. This year, I fulfilled a promise that I make to myself each year. I went back to the fair after class was finished. That’s a luxury for photographers…the go-back. I am always so inspired by the work that the students produce, and this year was no exception. I was filled with ideas and creative fire, so off I went.

After photographing a number of subjects that were on my list I took a walk through the animal barns. I found this little girl, sitting in the pen with her pygmy goats, with no sign of parents or relatives nearby. I stayed for a while and made a number of images, trying to talk with her a little, offering to show her the picture on the back of my camera, but she remained in her own world. I thanked her and walked away. About twenty minutes later I decided to go back and see if she was still sitting all alone. She was. I asked her if I could make a few more pictures, to which she nodded her assent. That was the only interaction she offered the entire time.

So my thought process in making the images became this: how can I show her in the isolation and detachment that I feel? It’s not that she wasn’t animated, she was quite involved in her own story….talking on a (pinecone) cell phone, acting out the entire conversation, and alternately hugging and scolding her goats. But she was totally detached from the adults, adolescents and children walking past, some trying to talk to her, others reaching to pet her goats. It was unsettling.

Here is a small selection of images…the last being the one I chose to pull as THE portrait. Now I am undecided. I’ll come back another month from now and look at the images. Emotional detachment in the editing process is a good thing.  Emotional detachment at a fair? Well, it was certainly photographically intriguing for me.

Comments, as always, welcome and appreciated. And if you like this post (or others) how about sharing the blog with friends? Thank you!

16
Sep
13

“you must have something to say about the world” ~ Paul Strand

When I teach I tell my students that in order to have a viewer care about or become involved with their image, the photographer must care about the image they are making. But I like the way Paul Strand says it, that we must have something to say about the world if we are to create photographs.  In other words, what are we trying to communicate? What do you want the viewer to know, to feel, to ASK? What implications are there in your photographs? Is your photograph suggestive, documentary, or literal. A combination of these? Perhaps all three?

I think about these questions unceasingly. I have come to the realization that I want to create photographs that transcend the literal, yet do not deny it. (borrowed from Sam Abell). What does this mean?

Consider the photo below of the sea stacks off First Beach on the Olympic Peninsula. It’s a straightforward photograph of a landscape, yet, it is suggestive of the eternal. The sea, the fog, a voyage to an unknown land, all evoke timeless existence, timeless desire. So, yes, it is a photograph of a seascape, but it communicates more because we, as humans, are wired in our DNA to look at the ocean with a sense of wonder. Where does the wonder come from? From a time when anything apart from the land was unknown, mysterious and dangerous? Perhaps from a time when a journey across the water meant freedom or opportunity…even servitude. Certainly it meant danger, but an ocean voyage could mean riches and fame as well.

James Island and sea stack, Olympic Peninsula

James Island and sea stack, Olympic Peninsula

Consider the image below….far different than the peaceful contemplative issue of the sea.  But look deeper…there is solitude, and the image of a single candle to light the darkness. The eternal flame. It is a simple image of an interior, even a detail of an interior, but it is evocative of consciousness, thought, searching, and for me, hope.

Convento dos Capuchos, interior

Convento dos Capuchos, interior

For thought and discussion far more cogent than mine, check out the video. It’s part one of six on Paul Strand. It’s worth the time to hear the great master in his own words. And the catalog/book from the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s show Stieglitz Steichen Strand is a revelation.

The book that was published for the exhibition of masterworks by the photographers at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The book that was published for the exhibition of masterworks by the photographers at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Here’s a review of the show. Sadly, I missed it, but now I have the catalog to bring the imagery even closer. http://www.photography-collection.com/exhibitions/alfred-stieglitz-edward-steichen-and-paul-strand-at-the-metropolitan-museum/

15
Sep
13

favorite books from childhood

Picking up on the theme of important books (a’ la Robert Frank’s The Americans)I have been thinking of the books from my childhood that live strongly in my memories.

There are books that mirror and strengthen experiences. There are books that supported my passion for horses and there are books that helped shape who I am. But there was one book that spoke to me about what was important in life.  First the books that paralleled my life at the time: From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and Harriet the Spy.

My Mother took me to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York when I was 12 years old. I had read the book by E. L. Konigsburg (…Files…) and was excited to visit the very place where two children had their adventures. I saw the bed that they slept in, the armor and paintings that impressed them so much, and the fountain where they gathered coins to buy food. The book had the effect of engaging me in a museum that otherwise would have been challenging for a twelve-year-old tomboy from the countryside of West Virginia.

Harriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh, is a story about an introverted young girl that ‘spies’ on her friends and family. It wasn’t so much a parallel (I wasn’t a spy) as it was a book that made it ok to be the introverted and introspective girl that I was/am. I was always shy, but my mind was never quiet. It was challenging to fit in, but Harriet made it a little easier. I suppose it’s that ages-old story of a child seeking affirmation.

The books that supported my passion for horses were all of Marguerite Henry’s books along with Walter Chandoha’s A Foal is for You, and Mary O’Hara’s My Friend Flicka. A Foal is Born was a gift from a great-aunt who was loved, but feared. In addition to being a tender, loving book about a baby horse, the gift of this book showed me she had a softer side and that she cared for ME. My Friend Flicka opened up a world of adventure and emotion for me. The Wyoming ranges and meadows came to life, just as the possibility of loving something, someone, so fiercely that you would give up your life to care for them. This resonated so strongly with me…especially as it was about a horse! But throughout the book danger and beauty were intertwined. The lesson I took from that was to seek beauty, to value beauty and love and caring, but to understand that you must hold these things lightly. They are fleeting and delicate.

Finally, the most important book I had was Frederick by Leo Lionni.  This slender book was filled with beautiful images of a humble field mouse in his home. His stone wall, the meadows and fields around it with their wildflowers and bounty, the blue sky above and the warmth of the sun were food for Frederick’s imagination, for his soul. In the dark days of winter while his family and friends were huddled deep in the stones, seeking shelter, warmth, and nourishment where there was little to be had, Frederick recounted his impressions, the things that filled his senses and gave him sustenance. The other mice realized that when they thought Frederick had been daydreaming rather than gathering corn, he was seeking, and storing, strength and inspiration. The entire mouse community was inspired and ‘fed’ by Frederick’s quiet introspection and subsequent offering of his feast of the senses. At eight or nine years old the message in this book was shockingly, deeply resonant. There was no one in my world to tell me that this was a way “to be”. The possibility that value could be placed on the thoughts that swirled around in my head was profoundly encouraging.

My path to becoming a photographer and writer was circuitous in the extreme, but Frederick was always there to light the path. Even when my feet were planted firmly on another road, on tiny mouse tiptoes he would slip quietly into my consciousness to remind me to sit and feel the warmth and color around me. His enormously round liquid eyes would look into mine and say “see the world around you”.

Look quietly, and deeply.  And read good books.

 

05
Sep
13

great interviews: Sam Abell and David Alan Harvey

Click on this link for a great interview with my friend and mentor, Sam Abell.  And here’s another: Story Matters. Thank you to Jonathan Blaustein and Story Matters for the interviews. And thank you to Honey Lazar (click this link to see her amazing project, Loving Aunt Ruth, along with a stunning body of work) for bringing the first to my attention.

I continue to be inspired and stunned by the creativity and quality of photography being produced around the globe. This week I came across a great Street Photography site (on Facebook) that has me itching to shoot in Lisbon. My biggest question is how do I fit it in to an already overloaded schedule? I struggle with this each day while remaining grateful for all the opportunities that stretch out before me.

Enjoy these links…I’ll be back in a few days with a discussion about a portrait series….stay tuned…and go make some photographs!

Oh! one last one: David Alan Harvey interview in Vice. Here’s the link to David’s burn. online magazine.

new work from Sam Abell

new work from Sam Abell

 

an old favorite

an old favorite

 

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Filipe Correia, Portugal, from Streetview

David Alan Harvey from Visura Magazine

One of my favorites from Honey Lazar's Loving Aunt Ruth project.

One of my favorites from Honey Lazar’s Loving Aunt Ruth project.

 

31
Aug
13

Whidbey Island Sojourn

The subject today: photography. The location: Whidbey Island. I’m delighted to be posting a gallery of images made during my three weeks at Pacific Northwest Art School assisting Arthur Meyerson and Sam Abell.

The surroundings are always inspiring, but the work and engagement from our students, along with the masterful imagery from Arthur and Sam, energizes my creative fire. So off I went to the Island County Fair and to haunt the shoreline. Some evenings I walked through town, some I walked the prairie. I just wanted to be open to light, color, and gesture…layers, refinement, and the concepts of eternity and impermanence. As always, the full expression of my intent is my personal benchmark for a successful photo. I realize that this is an entirely personal, subjective judgement. But it is the one most fully in alignment with my philosophy of living.

I’m so happy to announce that I will be teaching and assisting again next year for Pacific Northwest Art School, beginning August 4th for my four day class and then rolling into the next two weeks for Sam and Arthur! Stay tuned to the blog about other teaching venues and more opportunities for study, both in the US and abroad. Thanks for checking the blog….I hope you enjoy the images. Comments most welcome, as always!

 

25
Aug
13

Robert Frank’s French First Edition ‘Les Americains’!!!!

It’s not often that I get to touch an important piece of Photographic History.  But two weeks ago, during the Sam Abell workshop with the Pacific Northwest Arts School I did just that. We took our class to Port Townsend for an excursion and Sam spied in the case of a bookstore a hand-lettered sign that said they had the Robert Frank French Edition of The Americans (Les Americains).

In the eyes of many photographers, this book IS the Holy Grail of photography, even more so than Henri Cartier-Bresson’s The Decisive Moment.  Paul Stafford, gentleman proprietor of William James Books, offered to show us the copy (as we had met him on a previous trip and he knew that Sam had a serious interest in the title).

We threaded our way through tall stacks and shelves to reach the back of the store. After four locked doors on various levels, steps in between, we arrived at the sanctum sanctorum.  Paul placed the bubble wrapped package on a table and invited us to open the book. But first we had to get over the cover! A Saul Steinberg drawing??? This is a photography book….what’s happening? And then to open the book and discover so much narrative, in French? There is so little in the English edition that came later. But the images? The same photographic erudition, the same searching, frank observations, the same humanity. Indeed the images are mostly the same as in the later English edition.

It was a thrilling moment for me in several ways. I was there with my mentor, Sam Abell, who has his own richly deserved spot in photographic history, and I was seeing this book in its original state, its first incarnation…and in near pristine condition. As a book lover, this is a high-water mark for me! But then I had the opportunity to return with my other beloved mentor, Arthur Meyerson, during our class that took place just last week.

Again, Paul Stafford was tremendously kind and offered to show Arthur the copy immediately. I think Arthur was even a little nervous to be handling it! To my great joy, I photographed Arthur with Paul, and listened, as I had with Sam, to him recount why this book was so important to him.  Personally, there were favorite images for Sam and Arthur…different images for different reasons. But they were also generous in their discussions with Paul about why the book was so revered and how much it influenced the world of photography after its publication.

Never before had people thought to make a lunch counter a photographic subject, or a funeral for a black man, or an afternoon picnic in a park with cars, blankets and young people making out. It wasn’t ‘done’ to photograph a black nanny with her white child. He broke the taboos and barriers, and expanded the consciousness for what could be considered art in photography. The tension, nuance, and cultural sensitivity that exists in his photographs was a clear contrast to what other contemporary photographers were doing. Low light, unusual focus, and cropping were all in contravention to the accepted photographic technique of the time. But the work produced a reflection of life in America in the 1950’s…not the world of Ward and June Cleaver, but the world of factory workers, transvestites, and segregation.

The art world was slow to embrace the imagery, even reviled it, but young people saw the worth of it…as did other street photographers. It energized the medium and changed it forever. Few works of art in any medium have had that effect. The Americans did.

There are far more sophisticated reviews of his work available than what I can offer. Here is one, a link to a story by National Public Radio. It’s worth the time! http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=100688154

Once again I must thank my dear friends and teachers, Sam Abell and Arthur Meyerson, for lighting my photographic world and path. We do have the best times together and I know there will be many more.

09
Aug
13

for all our horses, in gratitude

I recently lost my stallion, who was 31 years old. He shared his life with me for many years, offering love, teaching, light. Today I learned that a friend lost one of their horses. It has made me reflect about the nature of sorrow and loss. What I feel most strongly is gratitude. Had we never had the beauty and love they offered our lives would have been so much poorer. Thank you, Fol Amour….and thank you Xama do Top, for the brief time we shared.

Xama do Top, at Japu, Sorocaba...with Paulinho

Xama do Top, at Japu, Sorocaba…with Paulinho

20
Jun
13

Dreamworld

Sintra has long held a fascination for me. Years ago I read a number of books that spoke of this ancient city as a spot of initiation. Initiation into what? The greater esoteric mysteries, including the knowledge held by the Knights Templar and passed along to the Alchemists, Rosicrucians, and Freemasons. This is not a blog about the verity of any of this, but a musing on the feeling of mystery.

Any time we wander the streets of an old village or city we can try to transport ourselves to a time in the past. Some places, like the Marais in Paris or the Old Town of Prague make it easier to imagine what life may have looked like centuries ago. Sintra holds this appeal for me.

I visited the town again just a few days ago. I often take clients and friends here as one of our ‘must see’ places for their visits to Portugal. Generally I photograph lightly while hosting, but as my friends are also photographers, I was at ease with spending the extra time to make meaningful images. My intent was to reflect the mystery that I sense is present in the streets, the architecture, and the landscape. I wanted to add to that mystery a strong dream-like quality. So, lensbaby firmly affixed, off I went.

We visited my favorite spot in Portugal, the Convento dos Capuchos, where I have photographed a number of times. There are few visitors here so lingering to make images is an exercise in tranquility. The perfume of the woods, plants, herbs and stone all combine to make you feel like you are breathing a vibrating life force. Water emerges musically just as it did more than 500 years ago. It cools while it adds the feeling of movement and life to the silent surroundings.

The National Palace was a delightful surprise. In simple unaffected ways, the traditional art forms and high points in the history of the Portuguese people were displayed. Tile work of sophistication was expected because of the cultural treasure of the azulejos. But there were tiles of many different colors, mosaics recalling Moorish influence, and raised botanical tiles that are unique in all of Europe. Gardens glimpsed through mullioned windows and fairytale chimneys give the feeling of being in a time and place apart. Chandeliers in intimate reception rooms await the footfalls of liveried attendants. The intimate scale, so different from the grandeur of the Chateaux in France or Palladian Villas in Italy, invites you to imagine yourself in this court, among the travelers, discoverers, men of learning and science that attended here.

Photographically, I was enjoying a feast of subjects and impressions. I’ve created a gallery with one thought in mind: portray the mystery of this very engaging town. I started with shooting with the Lensbaby to distort and bend the light…like creating a visual tunnel to walk through. Then by further interpreting each image using various layers from Flypaper Textures, I arrived at the feeling I wanted to express in the images. This is how I followed my intent to its full expression. If you are interested in more about Flypaper Textures, scroll down through the blog, or click on the button there to the right….

One last thing about the images: at the end of the gallery you will see an image that was shot ‘straight’, but textured like the others. I’ve placed it here so that you might recognize how even a ‘good’ image can destroy the flow and mood of a set of images.  Creating the photographic essay is a process of refinement. It’s about delicious and surprising small plates, not a sumptous feast. I have a ways to go with this one, but I am loving the process!

Perhaps it was the intent of the various Mystery Schools to engender an appreciation for the unexplainable, or perhaps Sintra is just a special spot on the planet, one of those ‘points of acupuncture’ most often marked by silent dolmens or soaring cathedrals. Whatever the reason, Sintra holds a special feeling for me. I’ll continue to visit, to explore with my camera, and work to give full expression to all I experience.

Thanks for stopping by the blog. ~K

 

 

09
Jun
13

a Lensbaby walkabout, Obidos!

In preparation for my upcoming class (July…Pacific Northwest Arts School), I popped my lensbaby on and had a great walkabout. My intent was to create images of intimate subjects as well as medium and wide landscape shots. It was great fun with a non-focused focus.  Ha.

All the photographs were made in Obidos, Portugal. Obidos is a lovely village near the coast, about an hour and a half north of Lisbon. It was probably settled hundreds of years before the Romans occupied the area. The walls of the fortress/village went up around 700 A.D., and were strengthened under King Dinis I. In July the whole town turns into a medieval festival.  I was glad to be there on a quieter day. The best part? Walking and creating with two dear friends visiting me in Portugal! Thank you, Riley and Karen!

Browse the images in the slideshow mode. I’ve added some of the thoughts I had while making the images. As always, comments most welcome.

And a reminder…there is still space left in Arthur Meyerson’s second week….and Robert Stahl has space in his September workshop. You couldn’t go wrong with either of these gifted, caring teachers. I have the great pleasure to be assisting Sam Abell and Arthur Meyerson again in August. A special thanks to Lisa and Karen for the fantastic program they have developed at PNWAS!!!

05
May
13

Another (fantastic) Sam Abell Workshop

Friends and readers of this blog know that I am indebted to Sam Abell for his mentorship and aesthetic. I have just finished assisting Sam in his private workshop in Shepherdstown with a group of great photographers. We had four days of fellowship and fine photography, kicked off by a wonderful dinner hosted and prepared by Dianne and Paul Chalfant. (to continue the alliteration…..fabulous family festivities!)

Seriously, we spent each day engaged in conversation and creation of photography on a very high level. I’m posting a sampling of great images made during our time together, but they don’t illustrate the willingness to engage and stretch creatively that each of the photographers brought to the workshop. The thing that sets a workshop above another is not the instruction or the work produced, but the enthusiasm the participants bring to their work and to the conversation. Because of that, this workshop achieved a high water mark for earnest, thoughtful work.

Sam and I thank each of you for your spirit and your work. I am energized by your devotion to your craft and am carrying that force with me into my next project now that I am back in Portugal. Soon I’ll be on Whidbey Island for Sam’s first of two workshops with the Pacific Northwest Art School. Then I will be preparing for my own workshop there! I hope you’ll think of joining me.  Later, in August, I’ll return to assist both Sam Abell and Arthur Meyerson! August is always a high point in my year. The students that come to the workshops are inspiring and marvelously creative….but they’ll have a long way to go to top our Shepherdstown Group!

07
Apr
13

gallery show!

I have had a great experience this week! I’ve been preparing for and then attended my show at The Bridge Gallery in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. As with any big endeavor there are usually a number of people involved. I have much to be thankful for and I’ll begin with Mark Muse.  As I am just returning from a fabulous six weeks in Portugal, I asked Mark to help me by making the prints. He is an extraordinary photographer and a masterful printer. See the images below for how he was able to make my photographs sing! Then go and check out his work for a master class in restraint and subtlety!  Kathryn Burns, gallerist and proprietor of The Bridge Gallery was sensitive, patient and encouraging the entire time. Kathryn, THANK YOU for making a dream come true.

Having a show at The Bridge Gallery was a ‘big deal’ to me as I have attended numerous shows there for artists I revere and who have inspired me for many years. Jim Kline, Michael Davis, Mark Muse, Tico Herrara, Hali Taylor, Frank Robbins, Rip Smith, Benita Keller, and Charlie Shobe are just a few of the names that come to mind. I’ve had wonderful teachers and artists to emulate for a very long time. This community has given much to its artists and art-lovers and they turned out again in force last night! Hundreds of folks enjoyed the show on a perfect spring evening, which was great as many had to wait outside before there was space to come in.

The best thing for me about the show? Listening to people describe their reaction to the work and the thoughts and feelings it evoked. I’ve often said that when I make a successful photograph I am blessed three times. First, the experience of seeing it creates a thrill. Second, the confirmation that the image is good (technically) aside from the emotion of making it, gives a feeling of satisfaction and affirmation. Third, when a photograph elicits a response from a viewer (and I am lucky enough to know about it) the understanding and communication that arises is a very special moment for me. Humbly, I had many of those moments last night. The joy I am feeling will keep me going, keep me seeking refined and subtle imagery for a very long time. Thank you to all of the people that took a moment to speak and share with me last night.

The show is up until May 5th. I hope you’ll stop by if you are in the area. And as an extra special treat, you’ll see the lovely work of Isabelle Truchon! Her oils and assemblages are uplifting and engaging.

Here are some wall images from The Bridge Gallery. Thanks for checking the blog! I know it’s been far too long between posts.

Keron

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14
Feb
13

Today’s post comes entirely from a message from a dear friend.  I thank him and wish you ALL a Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

images

Happy St. Valentine’s Day!

Saint Valentine was a Roman Priest at a time when there was an emperor called Claudias, who had an edict that prohibited the marriage of young people. This was based on the hypothesis that unmarried soldiers fought better than married soldiers because married soldiers might be afraid of what might happen to them or their wives or families if they died. However St Valentine secretly married them anyway.

In the year 269 AD, St. Valentine was eventually caught, imprisoned and tortured for performing marriage ceremonies against the edict. The story goes that the last words he wrote were in a note to the daughter of a Roman official encouraging her to faithfully love to the end her new husband.

He inspired today’s romantic missives by signing it, “from your Valentine.”

10
Jan
13

playing a bit

Life must be lived as play. ~ Plato

Every once in a while I enjoy looking back at images in the archive. I thought it would be fun to play with Flypaper Textures on some old favorites. I think it’s useful to examine old images from an emotional distance. I often tell students that the best time to edit is at least a month from the time you made the images. Yes, we all have to look at them as soon as possible…but don’t throw them away for at least a month or more. When the emotional energy/heat has faded we can begin to see our images much more objectively. It doesn’t matter how far we had to climb or how long we had to wait or what light we had to battle…the image must stand on its own merit.

That may sound strange coming from me in a post about texturing and layers. After all, it is image manipulation. But here’s the caveat: a bad image will not make a great textured image. Start with a good photograph and then enhance the image in a way that amplifies a concept you are trying to communicate. When I am photographing I am always thinking about communicating what intrigued me, what made me care enough to stop and create images. Then, if the image can be enhanced with textures or layers, then I think about those qualities again. Perhaps I felt a somber mood or a mysterious brooding atmosphere. Maybe I just felt the image was going to be painterly and planned right then to add textures. Its likely that if that was the case, I photographed in order to support that intention.

Here are some old favorites re-invisioned. I’d love to hear your thoughts! Leave a comment if you want to learn more about using textures and layers. Have fun with your images (and CLICK MY BUTTON….over there on the right…for Flypaper Textures)!

05
Jan
13

The tree

“Why are there trees I never walk under but large and melodious thoughts descend upon me?”  ~Walt Whitman

I’ve been blessed to live with magnificent trees throughout my life. As a child my world was bounded by a great maple for climbing, an ancient half-shattered walnut, and a pear tree that brought wasps in summer to devour its decaying fruit. There was also a great cedar tree that was home, periodically, to Stanley, and later, Ethel. These were blacksnakes that terrorized my mother, were pets to my father, and mysterious challenging beings to me.

Later I lived on the side of a mountain adjacent to the Appalachian Trail. The vast forest was sheltering and nurturing. Terms like BTU’s, cord, cured, and standing dead became important to a household that heated primarily with wood. But the woods also held mystery, challenge, and triumph for two growing boys.

A mighty oak stands sentinel in what was my backyard for the fifteen years I lived on my farm in Shepherdstown. I watched it spread its canopy and offer its shade, increasing each year until it covered what once was a bed for sun-loving lilies, bee-balm, and peonies. Summer evenings brought dinners outdoors. Candlelight and dancing fireflies from its branches illuminated the smiles of guests faces. Heavy mast years warned of big snows in the winter and the yard would become a feeding ground for far too many deer and squirrels. But the animal I enjoyed most was a club-footed crow that sat on a branch near my bathroom window. He cawed at me for years, especially during winter months. Listen! he said. Listen to the moonlight make its way through the branches and the crinkly soft crunching of the snow. Listen to the quiet.

I live now in a land of cork oaks and olives. What they lack in stature they trump all others with their history of partnership with the land and its inhabitants for several thousand years. The rhythm of life is largely unchanged for the people that harvest the olives and cork. I’m enjoying it visually. But I am also in-tune with this rhythm and what it means to live by the seasons.

I’m going to write more about this in my next blog. For now, here are a couple of tree pictures from many years past, and a few I made two days ago. Enjoy. A dear friend from home keeps me updated on the Sycamore near the railroad and the mighty oaks at the turn at Hendricks farm.  I hope you have special trees in your life too.

31
Dec
12

At a loss for words

I have been thinking all day about what to write on this last day of the year. In the midst of thought I received a note from my from my very dear friend, (and super-amazing photographer) Honey Lazar. She shared a link for her latest blog on Loving Aunt Ruth.

I read, and then re-read the post. It says everything about what I am feeling and would try to say. With a full heart, I encourage you to visit Honey’s blog. http://honeylazar.blogspot.com/2012/12/aunt-ruth-and-father-kevin-oneil.html

Wishing us all a peaceful end to this year and a sparkling beginning for the next. With love and appreciation, Keron

Aunt Ruth and Honey Lazar

Aunt Ruth and Honey Lazar

21
Dec
12

The Four Schools Exhibition in Paris

After a few ‘non-horse’ posts, it’s time for an equine feast! (Photographically!)

I had the great pleasure to see the Four Classical Schools Exhibition in Paris again this October with the Barbier Farms group. I was there for the first performances in 2007 and to return was great fun! Overall, I thought the show was engaging, beautifully staged, and perhaps the choreography was a little more interesting this time. The Spanish Riding School from Vienna gave a lovely, tranquil performance, the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art was exciting and the Pas de Deux was a crowd favorite, the Cadre Noir from Saumur was gorgeously turned out and gave a thrilling jumping exhibition and stunning Quadrille, and my favorites, the Escola Portuguesa de Arte Equestre were regal and classically tactful. So, Kudos all around!

Just before we left the South of France for Paris, we went to visit Frederic Pignon and Magali Delgado. Frederic and Magali were the original performers and choreographers for Cavalia. We spent nearly an entire day with them and were treated to a wonderful impromptu performance at their house with many of their horses. Then we had a visit to their breeding farm with a surprise champagne reception in the field with the mares and babies. Their warmth and hospitality was matched only by their love and respect for their equine partners. Thank you, Frederic and Magali, for this marvelous gift.

 

16
Dec
12

fishes and loaves and bunnies and chicks, OH MY!

I never liked chickens as a child. I thought they were slightly scary. Probably because I considered them unpredictable. But as a photographer, I have grown to love them! I’m sharing a few chicken pix (and other critters) with my readers and asking you to think of them in a new, non-scary way: think of them as hope and opportunity.

And who doesn’t think a lamb is a very cute thing? But do we think of lambs as a meal (yikes) or as a way to a better life for a family because of the gift of its wool and progeny?  The lambs, the cows, the burros, the bunnies….all are potential symbols of hope. Only you and I can turn that potential into action.

A number of years ago I was introduced to the good work that is being done by Heifer International. I’ve encouraged friends and family members through the years to consider them during this season of giving. There is so much need in the world, amongst so much excess. Something as small as a flock of chicks can bring hope, nutrition, and stability to a family where there was little or none before. So…..click the link!

 

14
Dec
12

Love must be as much a light as it is a flame. ~ H. D. Thoreau

Offer your light.

Offer your light.

This is a season to reflect upon the Light that has been offered to us all. All faiths, all paths, through all time. As I have come to understand it, the only appropriate response, in gratitude, is to offer your own light to others.

My photographs create a way for me to express my gratitude for all the guidance and inspiration that I have been given and then pass along my experience to those who are interested. The amazing thing is this: in the act of creativity I am blessed layer upon layer.

I experience the moment of inspiration (a divine spark) and then get to prolong that experience by discovering more layers in what I’m seeing/feeling. This experience grows exponentially when I can share it with others. I am always amazed (and continually grateful) that people write to me to talk about the photos and the inspiration or insight that they have received. This gives me the opportunity to speak about the guides, teachers and mentors that I have in my life.

They share their light, unceasing. And it is glorious.

Honor and share your own. It is just as glorious.

 

23
Nov
12

essence

Readers of this blog will know that my favorite quote is from Antoine de St. Exupery:  “What is essential is invisible to the eye; one must see with the heart.”

While visiting the home of Ana Batista and Orlando Vicente in Portugal, this feeling, this belief was vibrating in me while I watched the horses work.

The epicenter of the Lusitano culture is the Ribatejo in Portugal. We were in the heart of it, watching and participating in the most important aspect of this culture. Working with bulls over hundreds and hundreds of years guided the breeders to create horses of amazing functionality, and brilliant, courageous…. but calm temperaments. We saw all of these attributes in action, along with the finesse and ability of their riders! This was the soul of the Ribatejo.  500 years of diligence, respect for the essence of the horse, and clarity of vision has created spectacularly bred horses. They enjoy what they are doing and perform with elegance and spirit.

As the light faded I had to shift my tactics for shooting. Slowing the shutter and feeling the movement was exactly what was needed. Though I was photographing, not riding, I did feel part of the moment, not just an observer. It was sublime.

The results? Of course it is entirely subjective, but I am pleased. Pleased because the images bring the feeling, the experience, right back to me.  I hope I’ve communicated a little of it to you, my reader. Thanks for stopping by. And if you REALLY love the images, come with me on the next trip in Portugal. Zip me an email and I’ll send you an amazing itinerary. Lastly, for my photo friends, these images were created with a slow shutter, panning, and a FLYPAPER TEXTURES layer or two in Photoshop using mostly the overlay blending mode. It’s fun, creative, and super simple. Push my button….just over there on the right side of the panel….and you can see all the fabulous things that Jill and Paul are doing over at Flypaper.

22
Nov
12

a common thread

My life has been immeasurably enhanced by living and working with horses. In the past several years I have traveled to beautiful places and met lovely, inspiring people that share the common thread of a love for horses. In the last three months I have been in Spain, France, and Portugal for extended periods. The opportunity to become part of the rhythm of  daily work with animals has re-awakened my love of living with horses. This part of my life has been dormant for nearly eight years. My stallion, Fol Amour, is retired (he’s a very spry 29 years old!) and living in California. I see him often, but not daily. Winston Churchill said “there is nothing so good for the inside of a man as the outside of a horse”. I have always known it, but it is alive in me once more.

While traveling in Europe, often I steal away to favorite esoteric sites to photograph and absorb the mystery. Tomar, Sintra, and the Convento dos Capuchos are a few of my favorite spots in Portugal. I’ve included several new images from these spots.

Here is a small gallery of images made since September. Most of the horses are the beloved Lusitano….but the breed is not the most important part of a horse. The teaching, grace and acceptance that all horses have to offer is their unique gift to mankind. As always, I welcome your comments and questions.

Next up: a report of a wonderful trip through the South of France and then on to Paris for the Four Schools performance!

 

22
Nov
12

Thanksgiving

I have been too long away from my blog and as the days and weeks passed, returning to it seemed an enormous challenge. But today is the day! I try to be mindful of the spirit of gratitude every day, but in browsing the photos that I wanted to share I was strongly reminded of the gratitude I feel for the earth we inhabit. It is full of wonders. They are just waiting to be noticed and appreciated. I think all living organisms share this trait. Often the touch of mankind disturbs this beauty, but if we are gentle, we can exist in harmony within the landscape and exhalation of our earth. So today I will inhale the beauty and strength that we are offered and exhale gratitude.

For my photographer buddies, most of these images were taken with an AWESOME Zeiss Distagon 2.8 21mm hunk of glass.  I am still coming to grips with it, but I’m loving the challenge. Thank you, Mark Muse (Super talented photog and total gear geek) for showing me the beauty of this lens.

28
Aug
12

Cover! Abell! Meyerson!

One of my photos from my trip to Interagro (fabulous Lusitano breeding farm in Brasil) is the cover of the September issue of Dressage Today!  I’m so tickled that they chose this image as it is a favorite of mine and the favorite horse of Dr. Paulo Gonzaga, founder of Interagro Lusitanos. Also in the issue are other images from that trip, included in a story about Dr. Hilary Clayton. And….there is an interview and photo essay that I did with Mestre Luis Valença.  So I am pretty psyched about it. Now, to grab some copies for the archive!

I have just completed my annual two week stay on Whidbey Island. I had the very great honor to be assisting Sam Abell and Arthur Meyerson in their respective workshops. As always, the students were fantastic and set the bar high for each class.  The work produced was super and in every instance each student pushed their own work forward. This is incredibly gratifying for a teacher. Each class excelled in their attitudes and willingness to create new work and to try to see in an expanded manner. So congratulations to the participants….and big gratitude to Lisa and Karen at the Pacific Northwest Art School for promoting these two Masters and their classes.  It doesn’t get any better, ANYWHERE!

18
Jul
12

Keron Psillas:

Lots of news this week for Meditation for Two and my photographs! I’m thrilled and very grateful for a super publisher!

Originally posted on Trafalgar Square Books Blog:

Tribuna Equestre is an online television channel dedicated to all things equestrian in South America. The “Masters Series” features prominent riding masters, including Dominique Barbier, who co-authored MEDITATION FOR TWO with photographer and writer Keron Psillas. The episode featuring Dominique Barbier was filmed in Cotia, near Sao Paulo, Brazil. You can see the introductory interview with Dominique, where he discusses his passion for keeping equestrian art alive and promoting nonviolent methods of training dressage horses throughout the world, as well as his book MEDITATION FOR TWO, in the video clip below (the interview begins about two minutes in and is subtitled).

Keron was so generous as to share some of the wonderful photos she captured during their day filming the episode. “We always have fun playing in the shadows at the end of the day!” she says. Watch for Keron’s article on revered dressage master Luis Valenca in the…

View original 43 more words

05
Jul
12

Vision and Verb!

I’m tickled pink!!!  I’m the guest blogger today on Vision and Verb…..a blog by a great group of female writers and photographers.  I hope you’ll click on the link and check it out! The topic is an important one for me and one that will resonate with most photographers.  I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments. Thank you!

http://www.visionandverb.com/at-home/2012/7/5/creating-awareness.html

 

03
Jul
12

more good news!

I continue to be delighted by great reviews for Meditation for Two, my book with Mestre Dominique Barbier. Here is the link for one from Patty Lasko, Editor of Dressage Today: http://broadcaster.aimmedia.com/dm?id=7BE80CE7103D774A158CFCBAFC4638F1

And we also received a wonderful notice in the USDF Connections Newsletter:

A LOVE LETTER TO THE HORSE….Sometimes we get consumed by the extrinsics of riding — this aid, that aid, this competition, that award. We lose sight of why we fell in love with horses and dresssage in the first place. In a pretty little book they call Meditation for Two: Searching for and Finding Communion with Your Horse (Trafalgar Square, 72 pp., $24.95), French-born classical master Dominique Barbier (Dressage for the New Age) and photographer Keron Psillas bring us poetry and flowers and flowing manes and Iberian horses in stunning seascapes. Musings on the nature of horses and horsemanship. Even a training tidbit here and there. Meditation for Two begs to be given as a gift or to be enjoyed in a quiet moment in your favorite sun-splashed nook. 

It is so gratifying to know that people are enjoying the book. And it has really ignited a fire in me to get the next book underway!  Stay tuned for that news.  You can click on the link above in the site header (Meditation for Two) to order the book from me. Thank you!

 

30
Jun
12

Light

From within or from behind, a light shines through us upon things, and makes us aware that we are nothing, but the light is all.  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

I found this after posting all the other images. As it turns out, it is my favorite. Thank you to Martina Brandes, as this is her horse, Bomilcar Interagro…and of course to Cecilia Gonzaga at Interagro Lusitanos. It is such a pleasure to visit and a great honor to photograph the horses!

30
Jun
12

Horses give us the wings we think we lack

I have had a super busy three months, with many miles logged on 777’s and the like. But wherever I land, I have the pleasure to be with beautiful horses and even more beautiful people. It makes all the hard work worth it! As I am sitting here in Cotia, near Sao Paulo, watching the setting sun rim everything in gold, my thoughts turn to grace and good fortune.  As a photographer I sometimes complain that all I ever get to photograph are horses. First, it’s not exactly true, and second, how ridiculous!  They are spectacular beings that have brought so much beauty to my life! How utterly human to be a bit ‘bored’ with this from time to time. And again, how ridiculous. So I’m giving myself a good kick in the pants and adjusting my attitude. The time will come when I am somewhere else on the planet and engaged in another photographic endeavor. But for right now I can only say ‘thank you’.

For my photographer readers….forgive the lack of editing? I am offering this gallery to my horse-lover friends! It is a collection of images from Brasil, Portugal, and Apassionata in the US.  Enjoy!

05
May
12

Journey to Interagro

Just before my most recent assignment in Kentucky (to photograph the opening of the US Tour of Apassionata!) I was in Brasil to photograph for Dressage Today. Our destination was Interagro, the incomparable Lusitano breeding farm of Dr. Paulo Gonzaga and his daughter Cecilia Gonzaga. Cecilia and her husband, Cristiano, have created a paradise on earth for Lusitano lovers. With nearly 1,000 horses and numerous stables, arenas, and pastures stretching into a seemingly endless vista, it is difficult to take in the care and detail that created such a wonderland.

But care and detail are everywhere if you stop for just a moment to reflect on the view in any direction. From the Interagro symbol on the tops of the stall dividers, the meticulously prepared riding surfaces, and the flowering shrubs planted to enhance the architecture at every turn, to the gleaming tack and polished wheels of the Marathon carts and the shining coats and braided manes of the gorgeous Lusitanos, it is evident that a loving, clear, precise vision guides every activity at Interagro. But make no mistake: this farm is not about show, it is about the working Lusitano! Everyone is busy at their particular task and the tasks are myriad. Interagro breeds driving horses, dressage horses, and working equitation horses. Subsequently, there are indoor and outdoor rings for each discipline as well as miles of roads for driving carts and carriages.

The gracious hospitality we received is the memory that has stayed the strongest. I have the feeling that we stepped into a time and place that exists in an alternate reality. A reality that values refinement and ease in every endeavor. Yes, I am gushing…but I’m sure I’d be forgiven if you could only share this experience. And the best part….you can!  I’ll be announcing a very special workshop that will take place at Interagro this fall. With Cecilia Gonzaga as our host and guide, International Morphology Judge Davi Carrano to inform us about the Lusitano breed standards, and me…your favorite equestrian photographer, to ignite your creativity and expand your vision of equine photography, we will experience the finest the Lusitano world can offer. Details coming very soon in this space. Stay tuned and tell your horsey/photographer friends!

30
Apr
12

Apassionata North America!!!

I’ve just returned from shooting the opening engagements for Apassionata North America.  WOW!!!! It was so much fun. The horses are gorgeous and so beautifully trained and the performers and staff were all so gracious and generous.  It was a lot of hard work but so rewarding and fulfilling.  I’ll write more about the experience, but I wanted to get this gallery up quickly for everyone to enjoy.  What I will say is this: the audiences LOVED the shows. The response from the people was ecstatic! So……go see this show! It’s wonderful for all ages and even non-horsey types.  It’s just great entertainment.  As always, comments welcome.

And for the last bit of Apassionata news….my photo from Frankfurt is the cover of this month’s HORSES FOR LIFE!  I hope you’ll click on the link and go preview this month’s issue. It’s always filled with intelligent, passionate, and insightful writing….all for the well-being of the horse.  Thanks, Nadja, for all your hard work and love for the horses! (CLICK HERE TO PREVIEW)

06
Mar
12

Simple Gifts

‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free…’  Elder Joseph, Shaker Community

I made a new friend Sunday. He is sweet, sensitive, curious, kind, genuine, handsome, intelligent, gentle, angelic. We had a conversation that lasted for hours with neither of us able to move away. We talked about adventure, friends, animals (his favorite is the horse), racing, work, making new friends, imagination…..an entire galaxy of topics in this relatively short time.

Ten days ago, I had to fly overnight to Frankfurt, Germany, and then photograph the entire next day and night without rest, little food, and all the while feeling not quite up to the challenge. This was an important job for me and one that I wanted to create the absolute best images I could for a variety of personal and professional reasons. When I walked into the Festhalle in Frankfurt I was immediately concerned about my ability to do so as the space was so dark and cavernous. I don’t shoot with flash, and it would have been forbidden in this instance as my subject was horses. I was photographing the performances of Apassionata and the team that Mestre Luis Valença will be sending to the United States. The show debuts in Lexington, Kentucky, in late April.

I was prepared, had all the appropriate equipment, but I knew that if the technical challenge of such low light could not be overcome then even the most compelling image would be useless if it could not be used for print or projection. So I cranked up the ISO (1600 and 2000….EEK!!!) and set about the work. I resist chimping the screen in most instances, and with the action so fast and furious I would have lost the moments had I been looking at the back of my camera.

So about half way into the first half of the show I let myself relax and enjoy the actual performance. I noticed that I began to have a natural smile on my face rather than a conscious one….and I could feel some of the tension leaving my body as well. I decided to dial the ISO down…and choose moments to shoot rather than chasing every shot, every gesture. I was laughing out loud during the comedy parts, and floating into the romance and magic of the story. I was enjoying myself and allowing my curiosity to push aside the doubt and concern.

Back to my new friend: In all likelihood I will never see him again, but the impact of this meeting was so strong that it has caused me to write this blog post, and more importantly, to re-examine the swirl of my present life. Alexander, in the short time I shared with him on a cross-country flight, crystalised the lesson I had offered to me last week. His insistence about combining the world of imagination with the world we have built and others have built around us showed me that it is possible to remain a creative being, uninhibited by daily circumstance or momentary challenge. His self-discovery in the midst of self-creation was powerful to watch and reminded me that its okay, even better to PLAY while working. His example reminded me to drop the fear (the real word behind concern, worry, and insecurity) and rest in the knowledge that my intention will create a way.

Our teachers are all around us. Open your eyes and see with your heart. Thank you, Alex, for the simple gift of your spirit and kindness. You are so wise and wonderful. I hope your fourth birthday brings you all you can imagine.