Tag Archives: Portraits

Trainer to the Stars (Equine Stars that is)

L O O K ….. PhyllisBurchettPhoto has a new BLOG Post and it’s all about us and her trip to New York!

In March I had the pleasure of heading to New York to photograph for Cari Swanson at Windrock Farm. My friend Suzanne joined me so we spent a day in the city being tourists before heading to Amenia to visit Cari. The last time I visited New York City was right after 9/11 St. Paul’s Chapel and Trinity Church was still adorned with flowers, cards and momentos to the fallen.

After September 11, 2001, St. Paul’s became the site of an extraordinary, round-the-clock relief ministry to rescue and recovery workers for nine months. Though the World Trade Center buildings collapsed just across the street, there was no damage to St. Paul’s, earning it the nickname “the little chapel that stood.”

After our brief visit to the big city we took the train up to Wassaic, New York where Cari picked us up and took us to her farm. What a beautiful drive, rolling hills and gorgeous countryside. 

Cari and part of her “tribe”. Five Icelandic Sheepdogs Storm, Loki, Röskur, Rune and Freyja

I met Cari years ago when she was working on a movie set that was filming at the Burge Plantation in Mansfield, Georgia.  Thanks to Facebook we’ve stayed in contact and when the opportunity arose I jumped at the chance to head to New York to work with Cari and her horses.  Cari Swanson is the owner of  Swanson Productions. They provide specialty horses for film, television and commercials including carriages and wranglers as well as instruction. Cari is a Horse trainer, Riding Instructor, Producer and Author.
Visit her website at http://cariswanson.com/

I wanted to shoot horses in the snow and boy did I get to! We had some gorgeous models that gladly showed their stuff for us under gorgeous blue skies the first day.

Paint Mares, Lily and Dreamer

Listo and Merlin, Lusitano Stallion and Gelding


The light was stunning, “Novelisto” owned by Ashley Slack Waller.

These two images were taken back to back but with the help of Photoshop we can make them look warm or cool. Which one do you like better?

I took lots and lots of images. Horses rearing and horses being goofy. All total the first day I think I shot over 2500 frames.

Lisa Oberman sent some of her beautiful custom tack for us to use. El Sueño Español check it out on Facebook.

This is the gorgeous Morgan Stallion, Rosevale Leggo owned by A Horse Drawn Affair.

We did portrait work with Blaze and Bond for promotional use too. These guys are veterans in the film business.

We even brought horses in the house!

Always trying to be creative, what can I do different with rearing horses? Cari had this great Carousel horse in her house so why not put it in a composite with Listo!

Cari is amazing with her horses, they respect her and respond to everything she asks willingly. Thank you Cari, we enjoyed our time at Windrock Farm and can’t wait to come back!

The horse knows….
He knows if you know….
He also knows if you don’t know.
~ Ray Hunt

Stay tuned plans are being discussed for a workshop at Cari’s farm for 2018.

On our way back to the city we stopped in Hudson, New York to photograph the Dr. Oliver Bronson House. This hidden gem is a challenge to be able to visit due to limited hours —- but if you love architecture and historic preservation, you won’t want to miss the experience. The house is centered around a grand spiral staircase that winds it’s way through the center of the house.

Well that was our world wind of a weekend of fabulous photographic opportunities, wonderful fellowship, yummy food and meeting new friends.

Thanks to all who made this trip possible!




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Picture the People in your Life


It has been my wonderful pleasure to meet and photograph the nicest people over the years. I am always on a quest to learn and grow in my photographic process. It truly is all about the journey and not the destination because you never stop learning in this business. When I approach portraiture I try to create portraits that are creative. I always try to strive for something different, maybe even unique if possible. I try to “previsualize” the end result. It doesn’t always happen but when it does it makes my heart sing!

Ansel Adams defined previsualization as, “The ability to anticipate a finished image before making the exposure.” I call this making an image instead of taking a picture.

We, as photographers, should spend as much time as needed to make our subject comfortable in front of the camera. A portrait should be a collaboration between the photographer and their subject. Connect, engage, relax….

That being said I’d like to share some tips I use for memorable images so that you can make your own. I like what the writer said, “Ideas are just collections of thoughts. Locations are just points on a map. What we do with those ideas when we get to those points on the map is what sets us apart from the rest of the pack.”

Interaction, connection and emotion are all strong elements of design.

Connect….share the love.

A Boy and His Chicken

Use the props and tools around you to make the setting more interesting. Find things to place your subject in, on, under, around, etc.

Concert at the Farm

Colors – use vibrant and contrasting colors to draw attention to parts of your subject.

Sitting Pretty

Rodeo Queen

Get serious…a smile isn’t always best.

Beautiful Ebony

Capture the moment, sometimes the best shots are when your subject isn’t looking. Catch them doing something they love.

Prairie Dance

Christmas Surprise

Motion brings another dimension to your images.

Fall Fun

Get up close and personal!

Capture the environment that is part of the person’s culture.

The Cowboy Way

Back-light, hair lights up like crazy when it’s back-lit, so if hair is a big part of your subject make it stand out by placing your subject between you and a light source.


Underexpose, a dominantly dark or low-key image will naturally draw your eyes to the lighter parts.

Wyoming Cowgirl

Overexpose, blowing out the highlights or making a high-key image makes a nice soft portrait with kind of a light airy feeling.

First Love

Use Photoshop or some type of editing software. If you’re good with post-processing and manipulations, use it to your advantage. Get crazy with the adjustments, try some new Photoshop techniques, and maybe even a composite image. The composite technique I used for the next two images is pretty simple:

1. Open your background image.

2. Then go to the image you want to place into the first image and make a selection using the Elliptical Marquee Tool, I usually choose the oval shape.

3. Click on refine edge and change the feather to about 80 or so, click ok.

4. Copy and Paste your selection into the background image, use the move tool to place the selection properly, then add a layer mask and brush around the edges with a lower opacity to blend, then change the opacity of that layer (your selection layer) to your choice. I think it looks best faded. Of course this will work best when the background that you are placing the image into is simple and uncluttered.

Enjoy and let me know how it works for you, I’d love to see what you do!


I hope you have enjoyed this post on portraiture and I’d love to hear how your portrait sessions go when you put some of these tips into use!

Stay tuned as I will be teaching two up coming classes at www.learntotakephotos.com. We will be running my “How to make Digital Images with the WOW Factor” again in January and then a Post Production Class will follow in February. Be sure to check out my upcoming events: http://phyllisburchettphoto.net/iceland-tour-2015/ and http://phyllisburchettphoto.net/alaska-tour-2015/.  Hope you have a beautiful Christmas!

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