While Shay is still a little girl, I wanted to photograph her with horses. She is an animal lover and these amazing creatures brought out so many smiles and sweet moments. This wasn't a project I could do without the help of some wonderful friends and professionals.
We also got to have Randi's adorable daughter Ella join us for the photos :)
Before we got started, I took a few photos of just Shay. It was about 2 hours before sunset and the desert sunlight was still going strong. I was able to recover a bit of the blue in the sky in Lightroom
50 mm 1.2 L, shot at f/1.6, 1/6400, ISO 100
After photographing in many other cities, I can confidently say that Phoenix is one of the most difficult places to capture skies in all natural light images while correctly exposing subjects. On the flip side, we have plenty of natural light.
Prompted by a challenge from photographic artist extraordinaire Jinky Art I decided to rework this image a bit in processing. I added in a sky overlay and adjusted the colors a bit to a cooler tone. It's simply a photo that I took on a rare puffy cloud day in AZ that was blended into the image in Photoshop.
Then I thought while I was at it I'd see what a warm black and white version would look like.
There are so many possibilities for a final look of an image! I ended up printing the version with the sky overlay in color for our home.
On to the horses! These two miniatures are so perfect for kids. They are so cute and not intimidating and the kids can interact really well with them.
Another sky overlay used in the next few images. Because the sky was blown out to white and I really love color. I chose to lightly paint in a sunset image I had taken at another time in another place. Oh the fun you can have with digital tools!
I love this image of Miss Ella. She is tiny, but fierce. Didn't hesitate a bit leading that horse.
And the beautiful floral wreaths made by her super talented momma
My friend Cindy is a horse whisperer. She knows their personalities and quirks and whether a horse is stubborn or playful or laid back. She helped the girls feel so comfortable with the horses and showed them how to handle and interact with them. Cindy, I love that what you were showing Ella in the first image produced the next image.
And this is what brothers do while waiting for sisters at their photo shoot ha
The third horse that came along was medium sized. Still small, but big enough for the girls to sit on. Such a great size for photographing kids on.
The image below almost got scrapped. It cost a lot in terms of time, but I'm happy that I stuck it out because it's a favorite. For safety reasons, Cindy or Shelley must be holding the leading rope at all times. You don't see it in the final image, but Cindy and the bridal/lead rope were edited out. The water was the result of the rainy days we had in March, so I had to take whatever the background offered to get the reflection in the shot. In this case, it was a block wall. Not the best background. So while editing out all those things, I realized I wasn't doing similar edits to the reflection. Palm to head. I ended up starting all over again at one point. It's not perfect, but if you don't look too closely it works :). Also, this image is not tack sharp. And I'm totally ok with that. As long as it's not an image where the subject is looking at the camera, soft edges can actually be a good thing IMO.
At the end of our time an amazing sunset reflection showed up in our background. This sky was in the image taken, not an overlay. The background behind Shay is actually EAST. And we all know the sun sets in the west. So how did we get that amazing sky?? A storm was brewing in the East near the mountains and the light from the sunset was being reflected in the most incredible ways from the sunset light in the west. SO cool and rare and I'm sure will never happen again at a shoot :)
First a behind the scene shot of Shelley and Cindy getting Shay and the horse ready. They really were so wonderful and helpful.
I thought I'd include behind the scenes editing phases on this one too. The first image is RAW straight out of camera. The second one is after some Lightroom adjustments. The sky came through even more just by sliding the highlights down. Lightroom has come such a long way and one of these days I'm going to get more comfortable doing the majority of my edits in there.
50 mm 1.2 L, shot at f/1.4, 1/400, ISO 400
But until then, Photoshop is where I do most of the heavy lifting. Cloning, selective exposure adjustments, and brightening up the colors.