India and how important it is to be well organized

I had been thinking about going to India for years, but always something had happened that pulled me away from that dream.

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Photo shot with Shiv’s phone, during the preparation of a photo shoot. We traveled with a 12 seat van, which seat capacity was sometimes quite useful ;-).

For all my photo-trips it takes me more or less one year ( yes!) to plan the whole thing, specially if I didn’t have the chance to do the scouting before the trip. I need to be sure that we would be going at the right time of the day to the certain place, and that the tack and the horses would be perfect, and much more. Some locations are morning places, others are better in the afternoon. It has to do with the light and with the background options.

I found in Christine and Arun the perfect team. They became our logistic organizers and problem solvers.  We started building an itinerary which was changed many times, for many reasons, along the months,  until I was happy with everything and until a certain number of photo shoots had been planned and included in the itinerary.

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Organizing a photo shoot is not easy and it has to be done well in advance and with proper know-how about the logistics, or the risk of missing the good light is high.

In the meantime I started a FB group with the small group of people who were interested in going to India with me. Three people, maximum four, can fit in this kind of trips. My photo trips are quite intense, there was not a single day where we didn’t have to get up very early, and a delay would mean missing the best light. We needed a shoot at sunrise and one at sunset, sometimes at places which were at 4 hours of distance. We planned to travel mainly by van , but also twice we would take the train  and once we would need to fly an internal flight to optimize the time. It all worked flawlessly.

We then in the group started discussing the practical side of many factors, from the equipment, to the luggage weight for the internal flight, to small important details like security at the Taj Mahal, which would hold us for too long if we didn’t follow their instructions, etc. We watched the newspapers, we talked about the culture, etc etc, for many months, in that FB group.

People often don’t realize that a shoot with horses during a trip means lots of organization. Variety of backgrounds, variety of horses, tack, transportation, time tables of all sorts, even some props, etc.

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Shiv, our guide, who would make any of our creative ideas happen

We had a wonderful guide, Shiv, who took care of everything, from our comfort to the organization of every little detail during the shoots. Without him, our trip to India would’ve never been the same.

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Our hosts played a great rold in the success of the shoots, here Hemant Deval and his son

About Sicily On Focus

First thing, when it will happen: from the 28th of April to the 7th of May 2017

Sicily On Focus will be a nine day photographic trip through Sicily, for advanced amateurs and for professionals, led by Paula da Silva.

Sicily On Focus is about horses, but it is also about landscapes, street scenes, people, other animals, culture and art.

Sometimes we may have time to rest and do some photo editing together, but not often.

If anyone is looking to shooting just horses, this is not for you.

It will be a group of 5 people.

To be part of this small group is a privilege, as it will be the last event of shared traveling led by Paula da Silva.

There is a Facebook group for the people attending, where we discuss in detail the itinerary and the  everything you need to know. For more info: paula.dasilva@libero.it

Put intention on your photos

Put intention on your photos. You can travel  with full awareness of where you are going,  or you can travel and do photography in a naif way, without doing any research about the places you will visit, ignoring traditions and history of the country, and without a clue on what the local horse and dog breeds should look like

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Young lady riding a Sanfratellano horse, local endangered breed, in the Sicilian mountains

As easy as that. Awareness. Easy to find online LOTS of information about just anything, in English, so if you can read English, there is no excuse for traveling  unprepared.

Trips should be prepared and the itinerary should NEVER be a surprise when you get there, as that would put you in a “disavantaged” situation, because you won’t understand what you are looking at, and I don’t mean monuments, I mean the local CULTURE. That is the main reason why I keep a Facebook group for the people traveling with me. The more you know about the places, the people and the animals at a new place, the easier for you to get positively inspired.

You can very easily find in the movies, books, music and local art the input to get better results while shooting, and a stimulus for even more creativity when post processing your images.

I always encourage people who travel with me to read a few books or watch some videos before the photo-trip, and I do that many months before the actual event, as it is something very important to do with plenty of time and a relaxed mind.  Most of the times the movies suggest you the “mood”,  and books give you the knowledge.

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Little boy in Sicily

Show people around you that you care, when you travel. You will get more willing “models” and a happier human environment, if you do. Show people that you cared so much that you took the time to learn a couple of important words, just two, like “thanks” and “please.

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A Sicilian goat “Girgentana”, local breed. Researchers believe it descends from the taken to Sicily by the Greek about 700 BC, or in the eighth century AD by Arab invaders.

Don’t you feel like a colonizer, but vice versa, let your open mind be colonized by the traditions, the music and the local gastronomy, at least while you are there. You will then get amazing photos, photos that have a meaning, not just touristic snaps to show that you were there. Put intention on your photos.

 

 

 

 

The more I edit the more my desire grows, by Margreet Schouren

Beautiy in man

 

There are still many places in the world I would love to visit, explore & feel.

I am so grateful for the life I have the talent I got and the help I got, of the best in the world, to expand my talent.
Being able to feed my family with that talent makes me humble.

As a tourist there are many places we could visit observe like an outsider, lovely safe relaxing.
My job gives me the opportunity to skip the superficial conversations go strait to the centre of the subject, that is what I love about my job,it feeds my hunger for information. I believe knowledge is the first step to truly understand what is going on in the world.

The “On Focus” approach is even one step ahead on that, by traveling a part of the world like we do it, long days, travel many miles, pressure on delivering stuf not just look at a situation, welcomed in the life of the people who love and live in that part of our beautiful world, is insanely intense. A real challenge but a even bigger opportunity, the opportunity for me to share the culture, my experience and the love of the people we meet.

By telling that story true, along with my Art & share it with the world. The common love and interest of the beauty of the horses is what makes us able to connect real fast, but the On Focus adventures are just as much about the people and their vision on our world as it is about their horses.

As I am editing the pictures, I get more and more overwhelmed by the beauty and passionateness of Sicily. The need to share that with others is getting bigger every day. Regretting the pictures I didn’t take by being overwhelmed, the little pieces I miss to be able to tell the story a bit better, is annoying, I am sure many photographers have had that same experience. It does proof the importance of a good scouting and it eases the pain a bit to keep in mind that this was just the scouting that the real thing is still about to happen.

By editing my pictures the desire to go back to that beautiful and wild Sicily grows and grows, I am counting the days!

Yours, Margreet

To learn the hard way… ( by Margreet S.)

so preciousThis image has become so precious to me… I will share with you why. 

Traveling is great fun but it also has a downside as I found out this week, during the scouting in Sicily . 

We made long hours starting at 5 a.m. and all the way up to 12 p.m. We tried to organize 2 shoots a day, and driving the car in a foreign country can be a challenge…To me lots of fun, I really love it, but have to admit you do get to loose  your sharpness while getting a bit tired. 

Last week we were in Corleone and we did the 3rd shoot at that beautiful place. Just imagine : we had a great scenery at the golden hour, nice props, an old fiat 500, lots of models, beautiful kids and women  dressed up for a special shoot, ad a wonderful stallion & great atmosphere…well you have an idea right? I absolutely loved it and had great expectations of this shoot. We shot for 1,5 hour and had lots of fun. I think it was my favourite set up… now it is for sure.

That night while we where downloading the cards I got distracted, I allowed myself to get distracted. Normally I check the downloaded cards twice before I format the cards. This time I did not… and with the result of loosing one card… a whole card was lost with precious pictures, I had even checked them on the computer, and when I saw them fell in love, but I never saved them in my HD… this pictures will be in my heart forever… this is like mourning to a photographer…

 Believe me this will never happen to me again. But knowing that will never bring these pictures back to me, I will never be able to play with my HDR attempts or see and feel the joy of giving the brilliant anniversary pictures to the two beautiful people that made our stay in Corleone unforgettable, so sorry for them,  so mad at myself so not ever going to happen to me ever again!! 

Good thing was that I was not shooting there alone so there are great pictures for the people who deserve them, and I will be back in April… for take 2, I wil keep my fingers crossed that it will be as good as it was last week. 

With sad love, Margreet Schouren

Scouting for Sicily On Focus

Tomorrow I will meet Margreet and Susan in Palermo, as we will spend next week doing the Scouting for Sicily On Focus.

As always before a trip I feel excited but also a bit worried, hoping everything is properly organized and we don’t get lost in the small roads, and it doesn’t rain,  and and and…

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One of our hosts, Francesco, painting a background for some of our photos! Thanks Francesco and Patrizia!

 

 

Meeting the ladies will be great fun, I haven’t met Margreet since Brazil On Focus so we will have lots of things to talk about. Susan traveled with me to Iceland so I have been with her recently.

Sicily makes me think about Portugal, windy, with beautiful beaches, great wines, and lots of horses.

We will keep you updated, we will blog whenever we have time 🙂

The present is a gift

Sitting here looking at my FB feed and thinking, some photographers just can’t show reality and others can’t step back from the real thing and dive into creative fantasy.

Some call it “keeping their own style”, others admit that it is a question of marketability and they have no intention of daring outside the box. Others go where life takes them, following the flow, making no choices.

Just like it has happened in my personal life, I feel more balanced if I try new things, if I dare outside the box, if I learn from new points of view, if I explore concepts. I am always searching for something new. I get bored easily, for lack of stimuli 😉

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There were a couple of moments in my life where I felt really fed up of shooting horses (and their people), I felt like I had no motivation anymore, I was getting bored to death trying to deliver what people wanted, going after their cliché view of horse photography. I am allergic to stereotypes. I got anaphylaxis. Serious condition. 😉

For a couple of weeks I decided to do just macro photography and watch my tiny models with new eyes, their fragile wings, their spectacular skills,  their short but active lives.

I often found myself thinking about how unfair it was that I was stepping every day on so many potential models. I learned to find beauty on ants eggs and spider’s broken webs in the early morning dew.

I love the early morning, all about it.

Macro photography detoxed me, it was a great cure. Not that I loved it enough to keep shooting tiny models and abandon horse photography, though.

So I went back to horse photography. Luckily I never got stuck on the “just backlit” story, or just silhouette or just details with bookeh in the background. I would’ve felt trapped, labeled, and sorry for not trying to climb out of the marketability option of photography.

Then I started traveling more often, and learning about horses in other countries, different cultures, different lifestyles. New ways of thinking. I started enjoying the joy of shooting whatever happened and the way it happened, street scenes or the dynamics of herds of horses,  or horses walking on their way to the market while the riders led cows or camels, and you know, it is all related, all part of the same photographic universale frame, and the best thing is that I didn’t need to move a finger to make it happen, the Universe showed all that for me to shoot, when the light was more convenient and when I was ready for it.

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To be ready and out there is important, because good situations happen, but you need to be out of bed, and ready and organized, to be able shoot. Photography is not for lazy people, even if they have talent and great equipment.

 I believe that finally now I feel in complete harmony when I shoot. For me it is not anymore about a horse or a breed or a champion, now it is about horses under different skies, enjoying a different quality of light for every country I visit, different environments and architecture. Now I feel that photos tell stories, stories of nations and stories of times. Stories of people through their animals.

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I have also learned to enjoy the moment I live, when I am there, while I am shooting, while I sit under a tree checking the focus, when I go to bed at night listening to the local music, or when I chat after dinner with my friends who travel with me.  I feel happy and blessed  there and then, not two years later when I think back about those moments.

Just like the horses do, I am enjoying more and more the present moment.  The present is a gift, in more than one way.

I am also getting awareness of not taking anything for granted, not even the future. Carpe Diem, my friends!

 

 

Yesterday, all my trouble…

Early in the morning there was a strong wind from the Sahara, Paola’s car had sand in the windshield and rooftop, and the day was cloudy ( and very windy).

I am in Sicily, and yesterday I went to two beautiful places in Catania, well worth visiting: the Istituto de Incremento Ippico and its farm, Ambelia. It was a great morning and a great afternoon. The photos are by my friend Salvatore, who helped me a lot all day along, as did the staff of the Istituto, whom I thank a lot for their hard work in such a hot day ( 32 C ).

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at the Istituto de Incremento Ippico, shooting an Oriental Thouroughbred horse, a breed very close to the Arabian

After visiting the Istituto, where I got photos of some Oriental Thoughroubreds, we had lunch and then drove to Ambelia, the property where the mares are kept, along with some stallions at stud.

I am thinking about planning a workshop/photo trip here, Sicily is beautiful, a bit too warm during the summer but perfect in the Autumn.

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Oriental Thouroughbred mare at Ambelia, beautiful farm

So, tired and happy I returned to Messina, where I am based while in Sicily, and all was well when my ipad died, dead, kaput. BAD feeling. No Internet connection anymore except in some places with wifi, where I can use my computer to check the mail, etc, like I am doing now. I felt lost, but only for a short moment, as the bad news were not finished. My flight home was canceled due to a strike, and the only flight available will be late at night tomorrow.

So, here I am in Sicily, for two more days, and without Internet. I will survive, hopefully 😉

Traveling to Iceland with my Personal Viking

by Ann Vassey

I have had the opportunity to travel on a couple of photography tours but my Viking, alias my husband, Bud Vassey, has always elected to stay at home.  However when I told him about the visit to Iceland, he decided that he would love to come also.  Of course he needed Paula’s approval.

images from Ann Vassey

my husband and personal Viking

Traveling with your spouse is a bit different than going alone.  Initially you have to remember to double all the planning that you do in advance.  While one could say that the responsibility is extra work, you also have a known companion when you arrive at your destination.  Sometimes you have a ready consultant on how best to make that shot.

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Bud helping me with a long exposure photo

 

 

Bud is an excellent photographer on his own.  In fact he was the key person in getting me started in photography with a gift of my very first film Nikon.  He  continues to be my most constant photography companion and my person to discuss techniques when I need some ideas and assistance.

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Bud loves photography

It was good for me to also have someone to help me to walk up & down those hills and to continue on some longer walks.  I also enjoyed seeing that he was having a good time with the group and taking his own photos.

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Now that we are home, we can talk about our experience, how much we both love Iceland.  We also have a larger group of mutual friends.  Now when I talk about Paula, Susan and the other photography friends, he gets it.

Ann Vassey

 

The weather in Iceland, and more

The weather in Iceland can be notoriously variable, but we were quite lucky as we got mostly sunny days, but sometimes the wind asked for neck warmers and gloves, and we were glad to have lightweight and warm windproof jackets.

Even in good weather you can expect that there will be wind, Iceland is a windy place. And the wind will always have the effect that it seems colder than the actual temperature.

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Bud during the whale watching tour, wearing alpaca gloves, hat and neck warmer

There was no real night time as the sun pretended to go down but got up after an hour or so, making it unreal to see that there was no real “night” darkness outside. Curtains in the rooms helped a lot to achieve some sleep, together with eye masks, as our brain tends to keep us awake if it there is no “night”.

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Above a photo of myself trying to keep warm after a shoot, the win made us feel like if it was colder than it really was, and after shooting Icelandic horses for a couple of hours when the adrenaline decreased I started feeling the wind gusts.

We dressed in layers and sometimes we would wear just the base layer and a short sleeves shirt, while other times we were glad for three layers, one of them water and windproof.

I wore alpaca socks, I got them from this site – I love them as my feet are always warm, comfortable and never get humid:

https://www.redmaplesportswear.com/ProductDetails.asp?ProductCode=RK390

and RR514 Boho Cable Cowl RG513 Boho Cable Wrist Warmer

I also got gloves and neck warmer from that same site, and so did Bud and Ann. Lightweight, easy to pack, easy to wash and dry and very very warm. For the first time I didn’t feel itchy from the direct contact with wool, I am in love with those alpaca products.

I thank Manuel Buzio for all advise about what to wear in Iceland.