Archive for February, 2014
Feb 28, 2014
posted in Portraits with 0 Comments

 The Story of a Toddler Rodeo Photo Session

So there I was, working away in the kitchen.  I generally do most of the food cooking and prepping for the week on Sundays.  Often times, while I’m doing this, Amanda is outside with the horses either feeding them, cleaning their stalls, or something else she can come up with to be out there for.  I find that this is a good time for me to listen to music or audio training.

This particular day though, Amanda threw a sudden monkey wrench into my system.  She comes bursting thru the kitchen door in a mild panic while I’m in the middle of dealing with food.  She’s a bit winded and in an obvious rush for something.  I saw she was holding a halter and lead rope in her hand.  So now my attention is full given to her while trying to make sure I don’t take anything with my food covered hands.

Quickly, she starts spitting out instructions.  I was to (life five minutes ago fast) get Zachariah dressed to go out in the cold, but for a photo shoot on Lightening.  Of course you can’t just do that with a potty trained toddler.  You first have to have him use the potty and then get him dressed for the icy cold.  Any parent knows there’s nothing fast or smooth about this.  While I’m getting Zachariah together, she was going to quickly get Lightening out and saddled so we could put Zachariah on him and get some fast pictures of the two of them in the snow with the rich colors of the sunset sky in the background.

So what’s my suddenly reaction to this – “Holy cow, is she serious!” And go!

The race begins; after a few obstacles and battles, I finally get Zachariah all prepped to head out.  I also get my camera, which thankfully was convenient, and made sure I had it ready to make some really fast adjustments.  Oh yeah, here’s the challenges we face: 1) sunset is only a matter of minutes and it was already sunset when she started this craziness, 2) it’s feeding time and Lightening wants his food, 3) Lightening has been cooped up in the barn for a  number of days because of the weather and so has tons of build up energy, 3) I don’t have time to get lighting gear out and ready to properly expose for Zachariah while keeping the sunset so I have to shoot available light only in an attempt to keep enough detail in both Zachariah and the sunset behind him, and 4) Amanda’s stubbornness to make her envisionment come to life instantly rather than plan for it.

So how did this play out?  Well, my first thought is to set the camera up for HDR, but the problem is that the subject has to remain still for almost a full second, plus the camera’s processor is locked up for a number of seconds after the shot before you can even think about taking another shot.  But I went for it hoping to just get the shot she’s after in one quick snap anyways.

No, things didn’t go that smoothly.  Instead, about as soon as Amanda step out from in front of Lightening, Lightening turns his head away from me and proceeds to take off with our son still on his back.  The more we tried to stop him, the more he tried to dodge us.  Eventually Lightening takes off running and we’re suddenly watching as our two year old rides thru this in a way that would make any rodeo man proud.  As I’m seeing this I’m thinking “Video!  Video!”  But about a second after I switched my camera to video mode, Lightening made an amazing leap followed by a sudden stop, and down goes our little rodeo guy.  I’m sure Zachariah wasn’t impressed with his parents who randomly decided to take him for the nice warm house and throw him on a run-away pony only to be dumped in the snow.

In the mist of the run-away pony, Amanda is yelling at me “I hope you got a picture!”  I’m thinking that I could have if Lightening had stayed put for at least a second, but I never even had an opportunity.  He tucked tail and booked it too quickly.  And now the already stressed out mom has transitioned to Kill The Pony mom.  Little Lightening got to do a lot of running after that.  Yet, being the wise husband I aspire to be, I paid attention to the sky and noted that though the sun is down, the colors are still there, and if she’ll stop trying to kill the pony for five minutes then we might still be able to pull this off.  She relented and agreed.

I quickly headed back to the house to get Zachariah again, and my camera, and went back out to the snowy field again.  For those wondering, I actually used the Live View on my D800 to quickly determine my exposure.  I switched my camera back to Raw (it was previously on TIFF because you can’t shoot Raw HDR in camera), and got into position once again while Amanda got Zachariah and Lightening set again.  Like someone playing a guessing game, I fired a couple of quick shots with my baseline exposure and then started a fast random bracketing game manually in an effort to get more or less details in the sky and Zachariah.  I just figured I would throw them all into Lightroom and see what I could do.

Thankfully all of my shoots don’t work out like this, but it’s good to know that in an emergency I can still get the shot.  If time had allowed, my preference would have been to get out one or two small flashes on stands off-camera.  Then I could have set my camera to expose the background as I wanted it, and the flashes to light Zachariah.  Additionally, if planned properly instead of spontaneous combustion, it would have been good to run the pony and feed him ahead of time instead of after the fact so it’s less likely that he will take off with our son.


mom standing next to pony in the snow

You can see how the HDR gives a more even exposure but requires a steady subject. Amanda was still, but Zachariah was moving and so he’s more blurry.


pony running away from mom

This is again an HDR capture, but it’s all I have of our pony running away with our son.


winter sunset with a pony and little boy

This one I did the exposure and color work in Lightroom, but then did a small amount of retouching in Photoshop to remove footprints in the snow on the bottom left, and a bald spot on Lightening’s back leg. But I love the sunset behind Zachariah and Lightening.


dark image of boy sitting on a pony

This is the image as captured before fixing it up. You can see I mainly focused on my sky knowing that I would bring back my dark areas later. I wouldn’t normally do this except in circumstances like this one.



little cowboy sitting on pony

This is one of the raw files that I fixed up in Lightroom of Zachariah and Lightening standing in the snow.


toddler cowboy on his pony in the snow

This was one of Amanda’s favorites and is again one that was only fixed up in Lightroom. This was fixed up using brushes and gradients mostly.









If you found this post helpfully in anyway, please let me.  Plus I appreciate Likes and Shares when I can get them.  Thanks for reading.

Post by  at Brandon Malone Photography

Feb 13, 2014
posted in Open Thought with 0 Comments

I have to confess an unpleasant surprise that I’ve been seeing lately.  I have been discovering that too many of the couples that I photographed their weddings are either separated or divorced.  I don’t know that it’s a large percentage, but it’s enough that it’s freaking me out.  These are all couples that years ago were in love enough to make life long promises to each other.  They invested tons of time and money into each other, and their wedding.  This to me is a crisis that needs addressing.

I can’t speak for each of the couples since everyone has their own circumstances that lead to their separations, but I refuse to accept the copout comments that “it just didn’t work out.”  Amanda and I have been married for ten years now, coming on eleven in a few months, and things haven’t always exactly worked out for us either.  It REALLY takes a lot of work.  It takes a lot of work to get to the point of marriage, and it takes work to continue the marriage.

I have seen some common factors in some couples, but overall I think the biggest thing is that couples only invest into their relationship in the beginning.  Then when everything has proven positive, they heavily invest time and money again into a wedding and honeymoon.  When that’s done, then what?  I think people find themselves lost on what to do, and so just try to figure out how to go about their lives.  They are still used to focusing on themselves and have not yet learned how to turn that focus around, and so a slow gap starts growing between them till eventually bitterness becomes the wedge that drives the gap further apart till the two that were once so close are now so far apart that it seems easier and more logical to just cut their losses than to try and mend the gap.  They stopped investing in their relationship.

There’s also other things that I’ve seen and experienced that are common poisons to a marriage, and I do speak from some experience.  One is the lack of humility and over abundance of pride and selfishness.  You may not think this is you, but if you find yourself blaming your partner and talking about how he or she needs to change or doesn’t understand, then you are guilty.  Learn to put your spouse first and seek to learn where YOU need to improve, and your spouse will magically come around.  If you accuse your partner of not listening, make sure you’re actually listening yourself.  This means keep your mouth shut and your ears and mind open to what is being said.  And there’s more, but these are really strong ones to pay attention to.

A true commitment to a lifelong relationship first means learning how to sacrifice yourself for the good of the other person.  It’s easy to accuse the other person of being selfish and keeping YOU from this or not.  I’ve been there and had to learn that it was me that was being selfish.  If you surrender, then you will win.  To learn to surrender, you must first learn to let go of your pride.  Remember that pride comes before the fall.  But when you do, you’ll conquer mountains because you’ll have also learned to compromise.  And if you’ve done this, then you’ve also learned to listen more and talk less.  Instead of throwing accusations at the other person, look first at yourself and see if you’ve been truly loving your partner more than yourself lately.  I’m learned recently how our marriage partner is a mirror of us because the truth about us is revealed thru them.

This really is a hard thing to do, even after being married for a decade.  That’s why you can’t stop investing in your marriage.  The best advice I ever got was to read one good marriage book each year.  I pass that advice on.  Additionally, we have learned that our relationship is closely connected with our relationship with God as well.  When we start backsliding in our relationship with God, so goes our marriage.  Praying together daily is what brings us the closest together.

Check out a older post I put up a while back with some good books to consider.  Don’t stop investing just because the honeymoon is over.


If you found this post helpfully in anyway, please let me.  Plus I appreciate Likes and Shares when I can get them.  Thanks for reading.

Post by  at Brandon Malone Photography