I may have an addiction to photography.
I am going to actually attempt to do something worthwhile with my photos. I have been toying with the idea of setting up an online sales site, but before the month is out (assuming the rain holds off), I am going to take a large collection of prints, both loose, matted, and framed, over to a craft show combined with a carnival and car show local to me. It’s a big event that gets lots of people, so I will hope for some sales of my nature photography.
I love getting out and visiting new parks and marshes and wherever else I can find to walk and take photos. It makes a perfect “non barn day” thing to do, and it is peaceful. I love taking in the beauty of the world.
It is way too easy to flop on the sofa and lock yourself inside, running the A/C and watching Tv and forget that life actually happens outside. Any day I can be out looking for new things to photograph is fine by me!
In some ways, I am “discovering” the world around me, because I am almost always finding new species to photograph that I have not before seen. In fact, nearly every single time I am out, I am finding something new, whether or not I actually get a picture of it.
Most recently, I was out taking macro images of insects and looked up to see a pair of cedar waxwings in a tree not even 40 feet from me. Unfortunately the macro lens is meant for inches, not feet, so I did not get a photo, but they stayed around for a while and were neat to see. Totally new for me.
I am getting better at recognizing the calls of various birds, and I definitely know when I hear a call I have never heard before! I am eager to take a bit of a road trip and venture way way way up into Northern Wisconsin deep woods, or even in Minnesota and see what I can find. It is possible I might go on a weekend before this summer is out.
I know it sounds a little cheesy maybe that we really are blessed to live in a beautiful world, but it is true! I suppose the more I am subjected to less-than-wonderful elements of life, it makes me appreciate the wonderful things I get to experience every day! It’s the only way to stay sane!
Here are some images from other recent nature walks, including several new varieties of birds and bugs for me!
Above is an American Blue Bird and below is am Eastern Towhee, which from what I found out, is a rather uncommon find for the area! First time seeing/photographing either of these little critters.
Not exactly a “new species” for me to photograph, as you may recall that I tried twice going to a known Eagle feeding & nesting site in Wisconsin to get “good” photos. I’m afraid I failed twice…. but not this time! I was walking along a nature path, in the “usual place”, that I have gone to literally dozens and dozens of times over the last 2 years. There is a known Bald Eagle nest right over the path, and I have never once seen it active or in use, but I have always been told it is. In fact, people see me walking around photographing birds with my huge lens and ask if I have seen the Eagles. My answer is always no. Never. Not once. Someone stopped me on the trail and said “they’re there now!”. I was quite sure by the time I walked nearly a mile down the trail, they would be gone, but I lucked out! I looked up and this was looking down at me!
The other one was in the nest, and before too long, they both took to flight and did several laps. They got pecked on a little by those pesky red wing black birds, and it was quite the site! My first, and probably only, time getting nice photos of American Bald Eagles! Things get smaller from here, because I have switched into summer macro mode! Get ready for the bugs, because here they come!
Above is a blue damselfly that I tried a different photo technique with. I am pleased with how my first attempt came out and will look forward to trying more of this technique in the future, as it is very useful for bugs. The image above was created with 3 images combined together, so I could get the whole insect in focus. I missed a little of focus on the end of the wings, but not bad for the first try! Below, a single shot close up of a dragonfly.
The vast majority of my photos are what is often referred to as “SOOC”. Straight Out Of Camera. That means I do almost no editing to my images. Essentially, my photos are unmanipulated and what they look like when I click the button is what they look like on your computer monitor right now. I have dozens and dozens of bug photos from any one shoot, but I am just sharing a few of my favorites. I often do not have the time to sit and “Photoshop” images until they “look good”, so I prefer to get correct images SOOC, as it saves time for me when I put them on my computer.
Above is a sawfly larvae. I thought he was really cute with his bald little yellow head and pin point black eyes. Below, even cuter yet – a weevil! It reminded me of an elephant or a miniature anteater. I thought it was adorable, and I was really lucky to see it! I’ve never seen a weevil before.
And of course, I will never pass up a chance to photograph a Monarch butterfly, especially when it flies right in front of me!
And, in horse news… I did finally manage to get videos done of Jesse’s two trail drives. These were his first two trail drives off property. The first one was a nice little get together with several other mini drivers, including Dixie’s former owner! The trails were beautiful, groomed, and included bridges and plenty of places to get moving out. It was a lovely workout and I believe we did somewhere right around 5 miles. Jesse proved his inexperience and impatience in groups. He kind of dances around and rears at shows, too and did a little of that on trail as well, but it wasn’t awful.
Then, a week later, I met up with a small group of riders that I had never actually met before. They all have driving horses as well, but chose to ride that weekend.
For our second trail drive, we travelled out of state, and once the riders were all together, over 40 minutes late, we were off! The trails were immediately rocky and unkempt, randomly full of deep sand and very hard for Jesse to pull through.
The group I was with enjoyed walking and doing a lot of stopping and standing. We did 3 miles in 3 hours. Jesse was irritated by the constant stopping and standing around. Whenever oncoming horses (spooking of course at him) refused to pass, Jesse got perturbed and spun and danced. We spent the first 20 minutes of the drive stopping and standing to “practice” whoa in place along the narrow, rocky, and slightly hilly trail, while oncoming horses refused to pass. It was an interesting experience to say the least.
Suffice to say, Jesse and I are used to a faster pace. The riders I was with were none too happy with Jesse’s antics about standing still, but I was also none too happy with having to stand still for anywhere up to 20 minutes! The riders felt Jesse wasn’t a good driving horse because he was not standing well. I had a hard time standing too – mainly because I like to work my horses a little!
I guess some people just enjoy a slower pace…. I consider all of my horses well broke to drive. There is nothing you can’t do with them. But I will admit – we are not “stander-arounders”. That isn’t to say I gallop the whole time or try to set some new land speed record everytime I am out, but we do move!
The riders I was with stopped up and down hills and blocked the path of the cart, congested up the trail as they stood around with passing horses freaking out, and seemed not to understand that it was hard for Jesse to stop going down a rocky hill with a person in the cart! He’s just a little guy after all!
I personally thought that was alarming considering they were all drivers, and had driven pairs and trained driving horses – I guess just to walk and stop!?
Suffice to say it was a difference of opinion and I did not appreciate the snide remarks about how my horse was trained.
After I got home from that drive, I took Luke out for a quick trail drive that was more like what I am used to…
I can’t wait to get a bigger trailer so I can haul Luke out to trails, too – and I may just go by myself!!! I am working on the bigger trailer. Sale pending on the current trailer, and I am have honed in a beautiful trailer as a replacement!
So that’s what’s up with Luke and Jesse.
How about Dixie, you ask? Well, Dixie just turned 20! June 13, 1995 was her birthday.
There she is as a little nugget of a newborn and then chowing down on her very own carrot cake slice for her special birthday. LOL! Dixie has been enjoying full on retirement since 2012, and semi-retirement since 2008 when she was 13.
We actually bought her when she was 11, and after we got Luke, and I was still riding, there just wasn’t a whole lot of time for her. I drove her again in 2010 and took her on some road/trail drives. Dixie has always had some attitude, and off property jaunts were not to her enjoyment. She was quick to let everyone know that, and would spook, rear, and fight tooth and nail against going.
The time she bolted us both out in front of a truck, was the final time I ever drove her off farm. I put her back into retirement after that and bought Chewbacca shortly after.
Dixie did a little work once again in 2011 when I worked her in tandem with Jesse, and that stopped around the middle of 2012. I basically stopped driving Dixie all together because she was just not what I want in a driving horse.
She doesn’t breath correctly, and she is lazy as could be. She is terrible off the farm, and pushy and rude. She is great in the arena, and perfect for beginners and children. She’s been yanked, pulled, and bounced around on (she is broke to ride) over the years and does great with kids.
Since 2012, she has been hitched maybe 3 times and all for kids and has been perfect. That’s is what Dixie is good at. Of course at 20, she definitely deserves to be retired anyway.
So, that’s a whole lot about everyone except Chewbacca. Where to begin with Chewbacca?
Chewbacca is wonderful. He’s that sweet, calm, kind, and special horse that you just feel so blessed to know every day. In his former life, he was a barrel horse (a slow one, albeit), then learned to jump with me and played with some low level dressage work and basic dressage foundation then he learned to drive in 2011.
He has done English showing, and driving showing and has done 3 combined driving style events. He has been hauled to parks, clinics, and events for trail drives, shows, and civil war era reenactments. He is truly an all around horse! Chewbacca rocks. He’s just awesome.
This year Chewbacca has learned tandem driving and has pretty much been working better than ever. By that, I mean, his vocal cues are nearly 100%. Forget bitless, at this point, Chewbacca can probably drive reinless…. while blindfolded. He’s everything you want in a good, solid, broke broke broke driving horse. There is very little he hasn’t seen or done at this point in his life.
He has hundreds of drives and hundreds of miles on the trails, roads, and arena. I know – I’ve kept a Chewbacca diary of every single drive I’ve ever done with him, including ground drives from when he was in training to drive.
Now, Chewbacca is definitely a been there done that and rocked it type horse. He has never been an enthusiastic horse. He’s never had good impulsion. In fact, our last-place lowest dressage scores of every show we’ve ever been in have primarily been because he lacks impulsion. Chewbacca is so quiet sometimes you have to wonder if has a pulse. He’s a chill dude that has always been agreeable to doing anything, if not enthusiastic about it.
He has always done things at his own pace his own way. But he’s the type of horse that you let him do it his own way – give him the lines, let him have his head, and he’ll work out what to do. Honest. Willing. Tries. You can’t ask for a better horse.
We started out this year in March, going strong working 2 days a week due to weather. By the end of April, he was getting worked tandem for the first time with Luke and was working 1 day a week due to time and weather. By the first week of May, something just wasn’t right.
What happened? Chewbacca didn’t want to move forward at all. He went from a 2 to a -2 in impulsion. He was so slow it was just not like him. I talked to a vet, and gave Chewie almost 2 weeks off. He is on aspirin, and he was no better off, In fact, the next time he was hitched, he was practically lethargic. He was barely moving and is stiff and off in the hind end. It is very vague and very unlike him. In fact, he was actually grunting with exertion at one point when he was asked to back up while hitched and again while just in the barn aisle. I almost thought just walking down the barn aisle at one point looked too hard for him.
2 more weeks off – that’s the whole month of May and into June, and he was no better. I hitched him for 3 minutes to get video to show the vet, and Chewbacca is going in for an appointment for a work up Thursday. He is acting so mellow it’s alarming, and he is not currently sound even for just arena playing around.
He plays hard when I let him loose, it’s possible he did something and tweaked himself. It’s also possible that Chewbacca’s working days are over. There is a lot that goes into the decision of retiring a horse, and all of those factors are on my mind – everything from the horse’s comfort level to work to finances to long term expectations.
To be honest, I am leaning more towards retirement the more I think about it. I guess we will just see what happens tomorrow.