Shelley Paulson Photography Blog – Minnesota Equine, Wedding and Portrait Photographer
  • October6th

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    If you and I are friends on Facebook, you may have heard me refer to a “Special Project” I’ve been working on. Or you may have seen a few quotes from me about struggling through the creative process. Well, I’m ready to share what I’ve been working on.
     
    I think. (I have butterflies just writing this)
     

    I’ve gone back and forth for months on when to share and how to share, and just thinking about it now wears me out, so here we go.

    I’m learning DSLR Filmmaking.

    Yep, video with my photography cameras.

    And not just video, but storytelling. Short films.

    Whew. Glad that’s finally out there. :)

    It started sometime last year, when a friend showed me a short film another photographer/videographer made of her beautiful little family. I had the passing thought, “That would be really neat to do for horse owners.” I tucked that thought away and didn’t think much of it until last February, when I spent just one day at WPPI, a yearly convention for photographers. I didn’t work for Zenfolio this year because I was still suffering the effects of last year’s concussion. After just an hour just wandering around the trade show, I knew I had made the right choice not to spend three long days in that environment. I quickly felt overwhelmed and decided to sit down at the Canon booth and listen to some speakers.

    First up was Scott Kelby. He was hilarious! Or, at least I thought he was. I laughed at all his jokes, but I seemed to be the only one. Haha! Anyway, after Scott, Bruce Dorn got up. His topic was DSLR video and, what do you know, he had some really great equestrian work in his examples.

    As I listened and watched, my heart beat in such a way, I knew in that moment, a new leg of my journey as an artist had just begun.

    I was not home from the conference for more than a week, when I learned of a workshop coming to Minneapolis called “Storytelling with Heart” by an innovative company I was already familiar with called stillmotion. I signed up immediately and was at the workshop just a week later. I sat in the back, just soaking in all the goodness of a full day of inspirational teaching on how to tell heartfelt stories through video. The instructors shared with such passion and clarity, that I knew I was on the right path. I was SO EXCITED to become a filmmaker!

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    Here I sat, like a sponge, learning all I could from the workshop. See all the women there? Haha – I think there were about 8 of us out of 40+ participants.
     

    I was on a creative high after that workshop, but at that point, I had not shot a second of video.

    This is where it got hard.

    Super hard.

    So hard I have wanted to quit. (Which is why I didn’t share about this publicly at first. I wanted to be sure I was going to stick with it.)

    You see, I really love being a photographer. I have achieved a level of mastery that is very comfortable and I like that.

    I like being excellent at something.

    What I didn’t expect when I started this journey was the self-doubt, frustration, hard days, pain, struggle and heartache.

    Then this phrase came to me – just because something is hard, doesn’t mean it’s not right.

    Deep down, I have this passion growing. I want to tell authentic, heartfelt stories of people who love horses. The process of learning a new craft, one that is highly technical and requires a wider variety of skills and gear than I have, almost buried that passion.

    But I took a deep breath, pulled myself up by my bootstraps, and I just kept trying. I started to embrace that I’m a beginner at something; that what I make isn’t going to be excellent at the beginning, but I have to go through this process in order to become excellent. I get to make mistakes, have do-overs, and work very hard to put in the time it takes to close the gap between where I am and where I want to be. (This is great empathy training for myself as a photography mentor, right?)

    Here’s the cool thing. My very first film, “Megan & Justin”, was found online by a few blogs, Horse Collaborative in particular, and it’s been seen over 6000 times. Not only that, but there were thousands of shares and amazing comments on Facebook that blew me away. The best part of that is why – it touched people’s hearts. I see imperfections and things I wish I had done differently, and 2 separate trips, over an hour each way, to get enough usable footage to make the film…and others just experienced Megan’s story and her love for her horse. That’s what matters.

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    Here’s the link to their blog post and the film: http://www.horsecollaborative.com/once-in-a-lifetime-horse/

    And the Facebook post with gobs of comments: https://www.facebook.com/HorseCollaborative/posts/693844450701447

    The film on Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/101017075

    “Photographer and filmmaker Shelley Paulson wonderfully captures the honest love and trust shared by a girl and her horse…”

    Photographer and filmmaker. This just got real!

    So I’ve spent my spare time this summer and fall making films. This is just practice and all at my own expense. I learn best by doing, so I’m doing as much as I can fit in right now.

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    I went back to my friend’s mountain ranch that almost burned in California’s Rim Fire last year, and made a film about the impacts of that fire on their life and business. I should have it ready to share in November or December. Photo by Andra Erickson.
     
     
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    Filmmaker shadow selfie ;)
     
    I have found an amazing mentor, Maribeth Romslo of Hello Sunshine Films. She’s a talented woman who I had met years ago at a wedding photographer get-together. We reconnected at the Storytelling with Heart workshop, which she helped coordinate. I also got to spend some time doing behind-the-scenes photography for the feature film “Dragonfly” that she and two other amazing women made in the Twin Cities this summer. Maribeth and I collaborated on a horse-related film for the Storytelling Parade, which should be ready to share within the next few weeks. (And by collaborate, I mean, I assisted and learned so much from watching her work, my head almost exploded!) She is a true inspiration for me – fearless and creative and fun! I am so, so grateful to have a mentor!
     
     
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    The interview setup for the film Maribeth and I are making. Yes, that’s a horse stall. ;)
     

    At this point, you might have some questions. I will do my best to answer them…

    1. Are you quitting photography?
    Absolutely NOT! I LOVE BEING A PHOTOGRAPHER! As this part of my business develops, I will be changing up the mix of how much of certain types of photography I continue to do, but that’s really up in the air at the moment. My plate is really full now, so something will have to give. Hint: it won’t be anything with horses. ;)

    2. Are you going to film weddings?
    I have zero interest in making wedding films.

    3. You’re calling yourself a filmmaker, so are you going to make feature-length hollywood- or Indie-style films?
    Nope. The goal is to tell short stories for businesses and individuals. Most will be 2-6 minutes in length.

    4. Will you only tell equestrian stories?
    I’m not sure. I would like to focus primarily on horses, but I am open to making films outside of that realm if there is a good story to be told that interests me.

    5. Will you make stallion promotion or horse sale videos?
    Only if you have a good story about the stallion or the horse you are selling. :)

    6. Will you teach me to make films?
    Not for quite awhile, but my love for teaching and mentoring will surely mean that once I feel I have enough knowledge and experience, I will want to pass it on.

    7. When can I hire you to make a film for me and what will it cost?
    These are questions that will take at least until next spring to answer.

    I have one more completed film and a few more in the works, so watch this space and my social networks for more!

  • September25th

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    I will apologize up front, this is a longer blog post than usual. I have a goal with weddings to stay under 50 images, but this day was so full or love and emotion and ACTION that I had to go over that goal just a bit.

    May 31, 2014 was one of the wettest days of the year – almost 3 inches of rain fell in a 24 hour period. It also happened to be Courtney and Paul’s wedding day. But the rain didn’t dampen their spirits or mine. They both have adventurous hearts and took a few risks with me that paid off in memorable images!

    The couple were married at a cute country church, but most of the day was spent on her family farm. Courtney and I have a love for horses in common, and I have to say, this has been the year for weddings with horses! It makes my heart so happy!

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    Maybe my favorite dress photo ever. :)

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    I started my coverage of Courtney getting ready with her opening a gift from Paul. It was a beautiful leather bound bible with their names embossed on the cover. When Courtney teared up, I knew this would be a great day for capturing emotions in my photos. I had no idea how great.

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    Courtney has a sweet bunny named “Bun” and it was important to her to have photos with him that day.

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    Lucky bunny. ;)

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    Feeling the baby kick! So sweet!

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    She’s so beautiful, inside and out.

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    Courtney decided to do a first look with her dad. They have a very close, very special relationship. Her mom told me later, that her dad is a strong guy, but when it comes to his daughters, he’s mush.

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    The storms were so close we could hear the thunder, but they wanted to try and do their first look outside, so we just prayed and hoped the rain would hold off.

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    Courtney had her dad walk her to the first look.

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    Are you teary yet? My camera was a little damp this day. ;)

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    Still not raining, so let’s do some photos around the farm!

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    The rain looked to be staying west, so we went to the park where Paul and Courtney had planned to do their portraits. I am in love with birch trees. :)

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    The thunder and lightning was getting close, so we hightailed it to the car, just in time. Huge raindrops hit the windshield just as we closed the doors.

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    Wet.

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    I drove into the barn and dropped off the couple. We proceeded to do bridal party photos using what light was coming in the doors of the barn.

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    This, right here, is a brave bride! Courtney’s horse was very wet, but she cuddled with it anyway. I love her. :)

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    Inside the church, it’s time for these two to get hitched! Ring the bell!

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    The family spent the whole spring preparing their machine shed for this wedding. They did an amazing job – it was so darn cute!

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    Desserts by Cocoa & Fig

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    Every table had a different farm-themed centerpiece.

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    Courtney’s dad saved a license plate from the trailer they would take to horse shows and gave it to her during his speech. We were all misty eyed as he shared about how special it was to go to horse shows and riding horses with his daughter.

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    The rain stopped, so we went out for some more photos. This was such a serious bunch!

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    A photo Courtney really wanted was the two of them kicking up their heels. Our first attempt was unsuccessful, but made us all laugh!

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    I really wanted this photo of them dancing their first dance, framed with the barn doors. I could hear a roar behind me and just after this photo, Paul warned me to get inside, a wall of rain was coming!

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    Once inside, I played with back light with my off camera flash, I had no idea until I downloaded the images later that there was rain blowing in, creating this very cool image!

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    During the first dances, Paul and Courtney surprised their dad/mom with slideshows of them with their parents through the years.

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    My assistant Tiff took this awesome photo! I think I high-fived her when I saw it!

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  • September9th

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    The best weddings are those that are a reflection of the couple’s personalities. Nick and Merrisa’s wedding was SO MUCH FUN, because they are SO MUCH FUN! :)

    I feel like the word “honored” is a word I overuse when blogging, but what better word is there for how I feel when a couple flies me out to their home town to photograph their wedding? Merrisa is a photographer and a horse lover and had followed my work for awhile. In fact, when she was in photography school, she interviewed me for a project!

    I brought along my trusty second photographer and great friend, Tiff, and we made a fun long weekend of visiting Cape Cod. We have many fun memories, both from this wedding and from our explorations! Including at the end when I accidentally left my camera bag sitting in the road at the airport pickup area. Someone turned it in right away and no harm was done, but I may have added to my grey hair count that day by about double. ;)

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    Merrisa and her girlfriends are so close. I really enjoyed just being around them all morning during the getting ready process.

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    Beauty!

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    I have a crush on Merrisa’s veil.

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    I sent Tiff over to photograph the guys. Things got a little crazy – like grooming the groom’s beard with a very sharp sword! Thankfully Tiff has brothers and wasn’t too phazed by it. ;)

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    Transferring vows to more convenient note cards. These cards will come back into play a bit later.

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    This is a great photo by Tiff of Merrisa’s dad wiping tears after seeing his daughter as a bride for the first time.

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    So girls get to carry bouquets down the aisle, so why can’t guys carry knives? (The knives were their groomsman gifts)

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    So many smiles!

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    Liam was about the cutest little ring bearer I’ve seen! He kept stealing the show that day!

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    The ceremony was originally to be outside, but heavy rain days before, and even that morning meant a change of plans.

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    Merrisa’s mom was their officiant and she told about how Nick and Merrisa have been together since high school and are very close and very much in love. Merrisa has a tattoo that says “I hate you” which is actually how Nick and Merrisa say “I love you.”

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    When it was Nick’s turn to say his vows, he would read a card, and then toss it into the air. It made everyone laugh!

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    Lovey dovey…

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    Real life… Hahaha!

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    Nick has some pretty amazing moves…

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    When the best man got to the end of his toast, he realized he didn’t have a glass, so they handed him a salad and he toasted with that!

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    Fun continued into the reception – where they did a thing where each table passed around a dollar, and the person who ended up with it had to dance up to the couple and drop it into a hat.

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    He lived up to each and every one of his duties!

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