Sunday, November 28, 2010

Should've been a cowgirl...

Two years ago, around this time of the year I joined my friend Daisy on a special kind of short trip, a visit to The Hideout.

As a horse back rider and photographer, what can be better than having three days of fun on a 300.000 acre ranch photographing and riding exquisite Quarter Horses? Not much except staying longer, of course...
Unfortunately, as I came home and tried to work on the images, lots of my files got corrupted due to an software problem with my old computer, and editing became so frustrating that I quit working on my images.
About a month ago, I suddenly remembered the trip, and since I had backed up the original files and now have a new computer, I happily went to work and can now share the results with you here.

Daisy and I planned to meet at the Hideout, since she arrived there a few days earlier. The ranch is located in Shell, WY, which is pretty much in the middle of nowhere. On Sunday I flew into Billings, which is about 140 miles from the Hideout. Coming from about 70 degree warm California, landing in a snowstorm was a bit scary, but I figured I would just upgrade my rental car to a 4wheel drive and all would be good.
Unfortunately, I was not the only one who had this great idea and by the time I arrived, there were no 4wheel drive cars available anymore. But the clerk assured me, the streets would be clear and I should not worry...
As I went to my car, it was buried under so much snow, that I first had to borrow a shovel to make sure I was standing in front of the right car! Then I waited about 30 min in the still ongoing storm until the rental car people could help me dig out my car, so much to the clear roads...but once on the main street, driving went quite smoothly indeed. My only worries were, that except for myself in my little rental car, nobody seemed to be on the road.
Nevertheless, I reached the ranch without any incidents and right on time. Greeted warmly by Ashley, I checked in to my cozy room.

In the early evening, I caught up with Daisy and together we went to the main lodge. Here, after yummy appetizers we were treated to a delicious dinner.

The next morning greeted us with sunny blue skies...

... and excited, fresh horses.

It was rather chilly, but neither the horses

nor the cowboys seemed to mind.



Due to the warming weather, by the afternoon, most of the snow had melted,

and we got the opportunity to photograph the running horses in front of this magnificent scenery.

Tuesday morning we got up early to take advantage of the nice morning light to catch the horses while they were crossing a small river.

While photographing the horses crossing the river, I happened to run out of memory on my card. As I was changing the card I caught a glimpse of this solitary grey horse standing in the grove behind the river, watching the crossing horses.

After a hearty lunch red rock country was on the program...


Full moon rising behind the ranch.

On Wednesday, I had a hard decision to fell: Should I go with the photographers to take more pictures or should I go horse back riding...
After I heard, that the ride this Wednesday would be a real cattle drive, bringing down cows from higher pastures down to the valley, the decision was clear: I would ride the cattle drive.
What an experience! The horses are unbelievably well trained and as sure-footed as mountain goats! After a steep decline, we rode along the street down to the valley,

where it got rather dusty...

...after about 8 hours in the saddle, I joined the photo group for a quick dinner and one last sunset shot.

Even if it is now two years later, the memories are still vivid in my mind, it was a short but wonderful trip....that needs to be repeated...

Meet Tilly, the tough ranch dog

I bet you did not expect to see Yorki portraits now.
Although Tilly looks like a princess and is one of the sweetest dogs I know, she is indeed a ranch dog. On a recent visit to good friends of mine in Bend, OR, I had the chance to see her run through the snow, herd cows and chase everything that doesn't belong on the farm.
I prefered to stay warm though and took her portatits inside...;-)

Monday, November 22, 2010

November Conservation Tip

We all have heard about BPA (Bisphenol A) in plastic water bottles by now and hopefully most of them are not containing BPA anymore. In connection with BPA, phthalates popped up in several publications, too. At first I was kind of ignoring these unpronounceable chemicals, there are so many scary things nowadays, one can't keep up. But as I heard that Canada declared BPA as a hazardous/toxic substance and that phthalates are banned in cosmetics in Europe since 2003! I gave it a second thought.

What exactly are BPA and phatalates?

BPA or Bisphenol A is a plastic component, which is clear and shatter proof. Although it is known to interfere with the human hormone system, especially with estrogen, since the 1930s, billions of pounds of BPA are produced yearly. Among other things BPA can be found in baby bottles, water containers, plastic food storage containers and the lining of cans.
Platics with a 3,6 or 7 in the little recycling triangle on the bottom are possibly containing BPA.

Phthalates are found in soft plastic, like cling wrap, and lots of cosmetic articles. Phthalates help plastic to stay flexible and in cosmetics it helps the fragrance to linger longer around and stay better on skin and nails (for example in nail polish). Phthalates don't have to be labeled, but if you find the word "fragrance" or "perfume" in the ingredients list, it is a pretty good indication that the product contains phthalates.

BPA and phthalates are known to interfere with the hormone system and therefore have been linked to quite a few health problems, including heart problems and damage to the reproductive system (especially in males).
Explore the following links as they describe more accurate the risks and problems involved with BPA and phthalates. Please don't ignore it as I did, especially not if you are pregnant or raising boys!

Yale about BPA


Warming up food in plastic containers

How safe is Tupperware

National Geographic Green Guide

Interesting short video:
The Story about Cosmetics

Some safety tips:
Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit

Check your favorite shampoo, lotion etc. here:
Skin Deep, cosmetic safety database

For more in depth reading I recommend:
Slow Death by Rubber Duck by Rick Smith & Bruce Lourie

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Green Festival San Francisco

This last weekend I went to the 9th Annual San Francisco Green Festival.
It is good to see that the "green" movement is gaining momentum!

From green baby clothing to solar energy and from sustainable farming to green travel, a lot of vendors had a lot to offer.

Here a few of my favorites, collected for you, in no particular order:

Mr. Ellie Pooh

yup, you read right, pooh, not Winnie the Pooh, but elephant pooh....

Amazing papers, notebooks and photo albums.

nubius organics

Although, Tupperware might probably doing the trick, too (see September conservation tip), this is a way nicer way!
Use coupon code SAVE5 to save $5 on your first order of $35 or more.

To Go Ware

Same idea, more practical maybe, but not quite as nice as nubius...

Jade Planet

Think recycling...! The film shopper was absolutely gorgeous. A must have for any film fan. Super ideas and skillful artistic execution.

Strauss Family Creamery

Not only is their milk absolutely delicious, I also talked to them for a bit at the festival, and yes, their cows are on pasture, and they are open for visitors.
Just found this Patagonia blog to go with it!

Seed Savers Exchange

Sick of these pale tasteless tomatoes, all you need is a bit of garden and some heirloom seeds.


A funny name for a company who sells goat milk soap, bees wax candles and more, but their message is an important one. I always thought palm oil is something good. Well, it probably is, but in order to satisfy the market for it, tropical rain forest gets destroyed at an alarming rate, and with it vital Orangutan habitat. I had no idea. Even if you are not interested in goat soap, take a minute to read their information on the palm oil.

Tread Light

I really thought long and hard, if I could come up with a valid reason to buy these. They just look really cool if you hold them in your hands. But for one they are just a bit expensive and second, I could not come up when and where I would wear them. Definitively worth a look.

I hope you enjoyed these links, they are by no means complete or representative, just my favorite picks....