Fantasy Photo Shoot Contest Winner: To The Masquerade Ball & The Huntress

At the end of 2016, I offered my new Fantasy Photo Shoots eBook for Pre-Order. Those who pre-ordered the eBook were automatically entered into a drawing to win a Fantasy Photo Shoot with my Friesian gelding, Douwe!

For the Fantasy Photo Shoots, I am able to provide Douwe as the mainstay of the photographs, adding to the emotion and the depth of the photo. Douwe is also incredible at providing confidence (and the camera loves him!).

The winner of the Fantasy Photo Shoot Contest drawing was Karen Mancuso, who wanted to share the experience with her daughter, and so "To the Masquerade Ball" and "The Huntress" were born. 

Karen's 'Masquerade':

I love it when costumes magically come together! Karen walked into the dressing room with this beautiful, royal purple cape, and from there I was able to draw from my own costume closet and complete the look! 

Photo taken by Taylor Burdin

Photo taken by Taylor Burdin

I just enjoyed the entire experience, honestly; it was playful and fun.
— Karen Monusco

As an artist, it is always fun to use people as canvases! For Karen, I chose an ethereal look, with soft curls framing her face, and added a touch of smoky purple to her eyes. She is also wearing Ardell Self-Adhesive Lashes.

Behind-the-scenes tidbit: I found Karen's forehead jewel at Hobby Lobby for less than $5!


Ashley's 'Huntress':

Ashley's 'Huntress' costume was fun to create and she came onto the set looking lovely and fierce! The layers added to the texture and depth of the outfit and the drab forest colors added authenticity to the idea of her hunting in the woods.

Photo taken by Taylor Burdin.

Photo taken by Taylor Burdin.

Makeup

For Ashley's huntress makeup, we found some photos on Pinterest for inspiration and had fun finger-painting warrior markings on her face. Otherwise, we kept it fairly simple with brown tones for her eyes and a nude lip gloss.

Hair

For Ashley's hair, I used brown cord and weaved it between small braids, tying them together, and completed the look with a braided 'faux-hawk' at the top (which is created with a Dutch-style braid with the edges pulled apart to look fuller).

This fantasy photo shoot was something I never expected, but always secretly wanted.
— Ashley Mancuso
Photo taken by Taylor Burdin. 

Photo taken by Taylor Burdin. 

Tack

From performing with Douwe, I have two sets of tack, and we put them to good use! Both sets were designed and created by Lisa Oberman, of El Sueno Espanol, aka "the Tack Temptress".

Location

For the past several years, I have spent my winters in Florida at Southern Oaks Equestrian Center, owned and operated by my close friend, Marsha Hartford Sapp. Marsha's property, hidden along the farm roads of Tallahassee, is beautiful and lush. The large oak trees dripping with Spanish moss and the forested pastures provided stunning backdrops for the fantasy photo shoot.

It has been an unbelievable experience to draw out the visions inside of others and help them create their
own special experience they can look back on and say,

"Wow, dreams really do come true."

About the Photographer(s)

Taylor Burdin is a former student of mine from Isaac Royal. She currently works full time for L.L. Bean Inc., and does photography as a hobby. She uses vintage Canon and Nikon lenses on an Olympus EPL1 body. The fantasy photos were shot with an older Canon 50 mm f1.4 film camera lens, which gives the photos a softer look and a dream-like quality.

Karen is also a hobby photographer. Karen shoots with a Canon EOS 5D Mark III digital camera.


Q & A With Karen:

Q: When was the first moment that horses came into your life?

Karen: “My family had a ranch in Wyoming. We moved there full-time when I was 10. We had four horses at the time, and I would ride them every day with the cowboy that worked for us. We would fix fences, check watering holes, move the cows…I felt like I had died and gone to Heaven.”


Q: What inspired you to purchase Sandra's Fantasy Photo Shoots eBook?

Karen: I was very excited to pre-order Sandy's Fantasy Photo Shoots eBook, you see, as I needed ideas for a special shoot for my daughter. I wanted pictures of her with her beloved Retto, but I wanted them to be very special pictures; fun photos, not show photos. I wanted it to have an otherworldly feel.

Q: What made you want to involve your daughter in the photo shoot?

Karen: “I love doing things with Ashley; she always makes everything more fun!”


Q: What most excited you about the idea of the Fantasy Photo Shoot?

Karen: “Undoubtedly being able to sit on Douwe! He's magnificent!”


Q: You are a photographer yourself, what was it like to be on the other side of the camera?

Karen: “Normally I'm very uncomfortable in front of the camera, but this time I didn't even notice it; I was having too much fun with Sandra and Douwe.”

Q: What was it like to work with Sandra and Douwe?

Karen: “I felt like I was in very good hands. I felt completely entertained.”


Q: What were some of the thoughts going through your head as you were getting your hair and makeup done for the shoot?

Karen: “I have never worn make-up, except a little blush at my wedding, so having my hair and make-up done was very entertaining. The eyelashes were kind of scary. I just enjoyed the entire experience, honestly; it was playful and fun.”


Q: What is your advice for people who want to create/participate in a photo shoot, but have something standing in their way?

Karen: “Buy Sandy's book! I'm sure it's going to be full of helpful tips. Wardrobe is actually very important, so plan enough time to have that spot on. I struggled, but Sandra helped pull ‘The Huntress’ together. I'm in that position [creating a wardrobe] right now, actually, because I'm still planning my fantasy [photo] shoot with Ashley and her beloved Warmblood, Retto. Retto will always be her first love. He's super cool and I'm working on a cloak for that shoot. I have everything to put it together, I just need some sewing lessons first…”


Find the RIGHT Photographer for a Fantasy Photo Shoot with your Horse - Download the Resource Guide

It can be challenging to find a photographer that understands horses and also has a creative spirit. I created this resource guide to help you find a creative photographer near you. This guide will be updated regularly, just check back periodically for a fresh download. It includes multiple pages with photographers from the USA, Europe, UK, and Australia. If you are a photographer and would like to be added to the guide please email me at beginthedance@gmail.com. 

The image below is just a screenshot of the guide, please CLICK on it to go to the actual .PDF where you can download it for your own use or click on the links to learn more about the photographers.

Are you dreaming of a Fantasy Photo Shoot?

I have had many people ask questions about the photo shoots I have done with my horses.
I decided to pull together all my experience and resources to share with my friends and fans.
I am still in the writing process but you can download the first chapter for free to get started.

Fantasy Photo Shoots Free Chapter Download.png

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Steampunk Inspired Photo Shoot with a Train!

I am having such a great time with my new Fantasy Photo Shoots Facebook group. People are sharing some amazing photos and ideas with each other. I will be featuring some of these creative equestrians on my blog to help inspire you with ideas. Featured in this blog post is Heather Hayes. Heather and I met when I lived briefly in Ashford, CT. I asked her to share the behind-the-scenes details of her recent steampunk photo shoot. The rest of the article is in Heather's words...

About the Rider

I grew up the daughter of horse-loving parents! My mom grew up around horses and my dad was a trainer for over 50 years. I was on a horse before I could walk and never looked back!  My background includes reining, hunters, jumper, eventing, dressage and driving. I hold a BS in Equine Science and am certified for equine massage and myofascial work. 

About the Horse

Cinta de Seda (Sadie for short!) is a 2003 Azteca mare that I found totally by accident in 2009. She's absolutely brilliant, has a huge personality and loves to work every single day! Sadie has top 5 national placings in a variety of disciplines and has shown through Third Level dressage and Level 3 in Working Equitation. 

Heather Hayes with her Azteca mare Sadie.

About the Photographer

Melissa Ferrucci and I met thru the horse show world and have been friends ever since. She does photography as a hobby on the side and has a fantastic eye. Click here to visit her Facebook page.

Inspiration

I am NOT a fu-fu princess girl! My background outside of horses includes work for DOD (Department of Defense) and extensive exposure to firearms. I've been wanting to do a shoot that combines two of my passions and am glad to have finally had the chance! Additionally, I absolutely love the grit and feel of the TV series, Hell on Wheels and wanted to capture some of that vibe. I think we pulled it off pretty well!

Heather Hayes riding her Azteca mare Sadie. Photo taken by Melissa Ferrucci.

Costume

The hat and accessories are homemade, antique firearms are from our collection and the corset and skirt are from Damsel in this Dress. 

Hair & Makeup

I am the first to admit that I am incapable of hair and makeup. It's a good day if I wear lipgloss.  Hair and makeup were done by Jillian Labrie, click here to visit her Jillian & Company Facebook page. I can't say enough how great she is to work with and her background in the horse world made working with her on something like this super easy. 

Heather Hayes modeling with hair and makeup done by Jillian Laurie. Photo take by Melissa Ferrucci.

Tack

The bridle is just a training bridle and the saddle was my mom's wedding gift to my dad. After helping them both through serious health issues the last two years...well...I couldn't have used another saddle for this. That simple. 

Location

We were allowed to shoot at the Antique Machinery Museum in Kent CT. This is a fantastic place and open to the public for the cost of a small donation. Wonderful people, loads of history. 

Back to Sandra

I hope you enjoyed this blog post! To learn more about Fantasy Photo Shoots with your horse, check out my E-Book series!