People often ask me, “What started your love of photography?”
I can remember being very small- maybe 4 or 5 years old- and looking over my grandfather’s collection of National Geographic magazines in the dark upstairs hallway of his house. I remember the awe that I felt with each new photograph those magazines presented to me. It was my first real glimpse at the world outside of what I knew and could understand, and the sense of wonder I got from those glossy pages hasn’t left me even today.
My family didn’t have horses when I growing up, so each interaction I had with the animals fanned a flame inside of me. I was constantly in awe of them. How they moved, how they interacted, the sounds they made, the way they smelled… All horse people know that flame, and that smell.
To help abate my constant begging for the real thing my mother indulged in a more affordable hobby for me of collecting Breyer Model Horses. Birthdays, holidays, and allowance money all wished for or bought was Breyers. They were my pride and joy and the only toys I ever really played with. I’d take them outside and lay in the grass and pretend they were the real thing. I was a dreamer with quite the imagination so those little plastic models provided me with countless hours of entertainment.
When I was old enough to read, my magazine interests expanded to the equine themed ones. Horse and Rider, Horse Illustrated, coffee table books about different breeds and disciplines. I absorbed every fact I could about the animals that had stolen my heart.
Once, what felt like forever ago, I swiped a disposable camera off of my kitchen table that had been sitting there teasing me for just a little too long. Horse magazines and Breyers in tow I headed outside to set my models up in scenes just like the magazines. I knew I was in the midst of creating magazine quality masterpieces, and nobody could tell me otherwise. I snapped up every exposure that camera had left, put it back on the table where I found it and waited just as patiently as any 11 year old could wait.
A week later, the pictures were back.
“Catrina!!” I heard my mom shout. “uh-oh.” I thought. Here we go! She’s seen my pictures and I just knew I was going to be the next child prodigy with that little Kodak disposable camera.
Boy oh boy let me tell you how wrong I was. Every single exposure I took was out of focus, over exposed, and terrible. I just couldn’t wrap my head around what had gone wrong. Why weren’t they crisp and clear? Why were they so bright? Why weren’t people convinced those little models were actually real living, breathing horses?
Why was my mom so mad??
From that moment on, I just knew I had to learn more.
I started saving my allowance money for what I thought at the time was a real camera. Still a film camera, but this time it wasn’t disposable. My results were pretty dismal with that too.
Next came my parents digital camera- still new to the market, and still very expensive. I’d take it everywhere I could every chance I got. Pictures of my friends, pictures of the horses I got to ride, pictures of my friends riding horses. I was starting to get better. I was starting to understand exposure, and how my shutter speed affected the crispness of my images. My mom even started printing off some of those pictures and hanging them at the primo spot in the house: The refrigerator.
As the years went by, my cameras became more advanced. Better zooms. More controls. And with each new camera I would get, my understanding of how photography worked increased. I became even more passionate, rarely going anywhere without one. I still took a lot of junk photographs, but I was starting to impress even myself with some of my captures, and we all know we are our own worst critics.
Then, one day, I saved up enough money to buy my first DSLR. It wasn’t a fancy one, it was pretty bottom of the barrel as far as DSLRs go, but you couldn’t tell me anything with that camera in my hands. Complete control over the exposure triangle meant every single adjustment was up to me, and I just had to get it right. It was around this time that I started taking pictures of other people’s horses any time they would let me. Reiners, barrel racers, halter horses, backyard pets- it didn’t matter to me as long as there was a horse in front of my lens. I started to see the light differently. I started to see in shapes and shades, textures and contrasts. It was like I was back on that hallway floor looking over those magazines again, and for the first time, I felt like I was creating Art.
I’ve upgraded cameras twice since then, and lenses I don’t know how many times.
Photography for me now is almost like a second language. Without even taking a single picture I can see a scene in front of me and I just kind of get it. I can see how it will translate to my sensor. I can see how I will edit it to bring it to exactly what I pictured. When I finally click that shutter button and see the captured image appear on the back of my camera it fills me with so much joy and satisfaction.
For me, it’s almost a love language.
Photography is how I express myself. It is how I show off the world around me. How I can share with people the way that I see things, those things usually being horses.
I still have so, so much to learn and so much more room to grow. I remain humble. I ask questions of those that have been at this longer than me, and even to those who haven’t. I compare notes. I try out new techniques, different styles. I switch up how I edit. I keep creating images, because that is what drives me, inspires me, and gives me life. I love seeing the joy on client’s faces when they view photographs I’ve taken. I delight in every single image that turns into someone’s Facebook profile picture. There’s no better feeling for me than knowing I have created photographs that other people love enough to show off to their friends and family.
So that’s pretty much how I got right here where I am today. Hopefully soon I can share some of that passion with you, dear reader.