Last week, the day before the foxhunt, I attended my first Instameet.
For the uninitiated: an 'Instameet', at its most basic, is where photographers organize a meet-up through Instagram. These usually seem to happen in larger cities (from what I've observed), and the purpose is to meet local Instagrammers, take interesting pictures, explore an area of the town/city, etc. We all were meeting in Bentonville, so the title of this post is our hashtag on Instagram. If you have IG, there's more photos to be found there!
I heard about the meetup through Zak Heald of Intercut Productions. (I started following him on IG last year....or was it two years ago? Time has flown here in Arkansas.) It was on something of a whim that I decided to go...it was a Friday, I needed to get out of the house, and my introverted self was actually wanting to go out and see people.
(If you're an introvert, you grab onto those moments because you KNOW it's only a matter of time before you talk yourself out of seeing people and into wearing comfy pajamas while watching Netflix. The struggle is real.)
We all met at the Buckyball in Bentonville (a sculpture outside the Crystal Bridges Museum), and aside from Zak I didn't know anyone. (And when I say 'know' I mean 'recognized his face'.) But thankfully everyone was super nice and after the initial awkwardness, I had a really great time.
Whenever people hear that I'm at an event/store/interesting place by myself, the immediate reaction is 'that's so brave!' I think it has less to do with bravery and more with if I waited to have someone to do things with me, I'd never do anything.....but I digress.
Buckyball! (It lights up at night. Very pretty.)
When joggers get asked to take the group picture.....this happens.
(Snagged this picture in a crummy screenshot from my phone off of Zak's Instagram....so all credit where credit is due)
Zak and Ashton, doing #anythingforthegram
I kind of adore detail shots (and unique things like a Cadillac covered in coins)
The parking garage just off the Bentonville square had the best view of the sunset (which wasn't as spectacular as we had hoped for, but it was still a good one). And in the meantime, we played with portraits!
Snagged from Ashton's IG story....check her out if you get a moment, because her photography is moody and dreamy and to die for.
The setup of the above photo, as seen by Scott (his photos are also moody/dreamy/to die for)
After the sun set a few of us had a little adventure walking to Ashton's house so she could drive us back to our cars....not that we couldn't have walked back to our cars, but by this point it was dark, some of us had NO idea of the area, etc. (We met her parents and they are ADORABLE.)
There's rumors that another Instameet will be organized within the next few weeks....and I hope to attend when it happens! If any of y'all are in Northwest Arkansas and looking for something to do I highly recommend finding a group to wander around and take pictures with (if that's your thing, of course....and even if it's not we had a pretty hilarious time).
I moved to Northwest Arkansas in October 2014, not knowing anyone aside from my aunt and uncle. For most of the previous year I had been in Colorado working as a wrangler on a dude ranch, riding a variety of different horses, working long hard hours, and essentially having the time of my life. (No time to go into it now...but hopefully that gives what follows a bit of context)
I spent the next couple of months settling in and staring mournfully at every horse in every pasture that I passed. (To be horse-crazy and horse-less is a terrible thing.)
Around December, I took it upon myself to fix this quandary, and turned to the first thing that I could think of: Google.
(Before you hate on Google: through it I found the ranch, the salon where I chopped my hair off in Colorado, and it has assisted me in countless measures in the past. But I digress.)
I Googled horse barns in northwest Arkansas, put together a list that seemed likely, and made a few phone calls. For brevity, let's just say that the first place was all right, but too far away. The second place wasn't quite as far, but still a fair distance (especially since I wanted to avoid having to drive much). The lady there, Diane, was super nice--I had called and asked a few questions, and she invited me out on a Saturday to help feed and get the feel of the place.
After a couple of hours opening gates and meeting horses and traveling hither and yon on the back of a 4-wheeler, Diane mentioned that one of her students might appreciate having a riding buddy. She gave me the name and the address for where she worked, and the next week I made a little side trip to meet Sabrina.
Again, for brevity: I met Sabrina and her husband Danny, we chatted for a while about what I was looking for in a place to ride, and I went out the next day to meet the horses. She and her husband had just gotten a few young horses back from the trainer, and that first evening I rode a colt named Peanut. (He only kicked out twice. XD) The next time I rode an older horse, then a younger one, then the older one again...and before I knew it, Sabrina, Danny, and I were riding horses several times a week. In addition, the second time I was over Sabrina invited me to supper. The third time I was invited to Danny's mother's for supper (she lives on the same property, in a different house). The fourth time, it was assumed that I would join them for supper.
Since then I've been over there quite a bit (it was 2-3x a week for a while there, and right now it's once or twice a month. Hoping to remedy that soon.) It blows my mind to see famous Southern hospitality in action, in addition to their generosity in allowing me to come whenever I want to play with their horses.
Anyway, through Sabrina I've been introduced to the local foxhunting club. The actual 'hunting' season is from October to the first weekend of April. I went to the opening hunt for 2015 and closing for 2016, skipped opening for 2016, and attended closing for 2017.
I've ridden a horse over there to walk hounds during the summer, but kind of prefer to take pictures during the actual hunting season. This is partially because I LOVE taking pictures of everyone in their hunting togs, and partially because I'm a little nervous to ride in such a large group.
(Before I continue: 'walking hounds' is when a few riders go on horseback to take the hounds out for exercise a couple times a week. It's the perfect opportunity to introduce a horse to the 'hunting' atmosphere.)
I have the majority of the pictures from the day listed under my Photography tab....but I'll go ahead and post a few of my favorites here.
There was a photographer and a journalist from Arkansas Life magazine doing a story on the hunt. The funny part is that I had the idea of covering the hunt in a news-story fashion, but had no idea who to contact regarding the story. (I may have been sliiiiightly jealous that someone else had the same idea :p ) I had paid to ride on the 'tally-ho wagon', but worked up the courage to ask the photographer, Wesley Hitt, if I could tag along in the truck. I'm extremely glad that I asked, because I had a blast following a 'real' photographer around.
There's SO MUCH I don't know about the business side of photography....but every day I'm learning!
Danny and Gracie
The closing hunt was fabulous as usual, and I loved tagging along to get pictures!
(Next goal is to be able to take pictures on horseback while participating in the hunt....think it's too crazy? We shall see.)
When I first moved to Arkansas the only people I knew here were my aunt and uncle. Those first few months I spent a lot of time at their house...I enjoy their company but it was also because my highly introverted self had no idea how to go out and find friends. (Hilariously, one of my first NWA friends I discovered through Google - but that's another story for another time.) Obviously that has not remained the case, as I've developed friendships through work, church, and volunteer opportunities (and Google, of course).
I joined a Facebook group a few months ago sponsored by some amazing photographers, Amy and Jordan Demos, while going through their photography course...part of the reason was to improve personally, but I also was really wanting to see if there was anyone in the area who would like to meet up to toss business ideas back and forth, try out some different techniques, etc.
I've almost always been in the position of teaching other people (not saying that to brag by ANY means, it's just your average person doesn't spend hours poring over certain topics to learn more about them), so being around someone who knows more is something I really crave.
Enter Candace! (Take a second to look at her website, I'm in love with the style)
Our first meeting was in Fayetteville, when Candace had asked me if I wanted to tag along with a shoot for a couple she knew. I pounced on the opportunity to meet up AND take pictures of a beautiful couple, so after coffee at Arsaga's we walked to the University of Arkansas campus and spent about a couple hours taking pictures, trading back and forth on technique, etc.
I had never used a reflector (for bouncing light back on a subject) or the Expodisc (which creates perfect white balance), and she had both for me to play with. Life. CHANGERS. They are amazing tools and I can't believe I've never used them before!
After that first meeting we decided to meet up again at Lake Fayetteville to do some practice shooting (I was working on white balance consistency and posing ideas). I can't speak for Candace, but I certainly had a lot of fun!
You would never know that this green wall was the side of a pavilion and that there was a trash can just out of view....ahh, the magic of cropping ;)
Attempting the Expodisc in this area resulted in some VERY warm photos....but I'm still hoping to get one and figure it out for a more consistent output in the future.
I'm not sure if this is a confession or a bragging moment....but through the process of editing these pictures I learned how to 'brighten' eyes in Photoshop. The technicalities can be kind of confusing if you don't use Photoshop--suffice to say I was quite pleased with the results and hope to get better/faster at it.
After the lake we went to Tacos 4 Life (my first visit--I've already gone back once since then) and took advantage of their huge, amazing windows. I haven't seen a whole lot of the 'reflection' portraits, but they are so dreamy and mysterious-feeling that I'm sure I'll be doing more in the future.
See what I mean?
Pro-tip: make sure the sun has set or at least is not glaring across your subject's face when trying this technique.
Candace very generously gave me permission to use some of the photos she took of me for my Facebook page and website, and for that I am HUGELY grateful. I'm also looking forward to meeting up again and trading some more business ideas/working on photography ideas!
Sessions, life updates, and musings.