The inimitable Pioneer Woman.
So here's something that doesn't happen to me every week: on Wednesday morning, I flew out of Houston to Tulsa, Oklahoma. I'd been invited by BlogHer (with generous sponsorship by Macy's) to visit the ranch of Ree Drummond, otherwise known as The Pioneer Woman. The purpose of the trip was to tape a video with Ree and another blogger, Holly Burns, on the subject of what makes a man beautiful. Since I hate to skip out on any opportunity to make my point that authenticity makes everyone beautiful (not to mention meeting the woman behind the site that provided early inspiration for my photography), I was only too happy to accept.
The 24 hours that followed proved to be one of the most fun business trips I've ever enjoyed -- I don't think I stopped laughing from the time I met Holly at the airport to the moment I boarded the return flight. And Ree? She positively glows. She's a lovely and gracious host -- incredibly welcoming, with a surprisingly irreverent wit that immediately puts everyone at ease. Everything went smoothly and without a hitch.
And then there were the faces. Oh, the beautiful faces.
The beautiful Holly Burns. Don't let her poised elegance fool you: this woman has a keen wit and a very easy laugh. A confirmed city girl, she could not get over the cowboys and the wide open spaces and life on the ranch. It was highly entertaining watching her take it all in.
Jenny Lauck works at BlogHer, and arrived a day before Holly and me to make sure things went smoothly (which I interpreted as meaning she was there to make sure that Holly and I didn't get into trouble on the ranch. Which is rather ironic, since if there was trouble to be gotten into, I'm pretty sure Jenny would've led the way).
"You know," he said, his mouth full of chewing tobacco, "that hill's a lot of fun to go down, but it's a pain to walk back up. How 'bout you jump in, I'll show you around, and then drive you back up to the lodge."
I climbed aboard and he drove me all over the ranch, telling me about the cattle industry, horses and life out in the country. His smile was warm and his eyes twinkled and I liked him immediately. After he drove me back up to the lodge, he joined Holly, Jenny and me and regaled us with stories of the genesis of artificial cow insemination, the delicacy that is fried calf balls and the merits of having a well on the property.
In fact, he was so funny, so kind and so charming, I didn't even mind when he told me I had feet like a pig's.
The next morning it was time to work. Riccardo is the Executive Producer and Creative Director at BlogHer (and the creative mind behind all the videos that BlogHer is developing with Macy's). He's funny and easygoing, and from what I can tell, a really loving and devoted father. It was a pleasure to meet him.
Hugh was the producer and director of the video. When I took his photograph, he warned me that he never, ever smiles for photographs. A pity, I think -- because he clearly has a great smile.
Me, getting ready for my close-up. Photo by Jenny.
Donna is this great, highly animated make-up artist, who seems to get real joy from her work. As she was putting on my makeup, I kept watching her sparkling eyes, and enthusiastic laugh, and finally said,
"Donna, do you mind if I take your photograph after we're done here?"
Without hesitation, she said, "Sure!"
And then she flashed me her cleavage.
It was at this point I decided that Donna and I could be great, great friends.
Beth was the hairstylist for the shoot. When she was finished styling Holly's hair beautifully, I jumped into her chair.
"Um, Beth?" I said, "No disrespect, but I really don't think you want to try to do anything with this hair. Seriously."
"Oh, I'm not going to do anything," she said, "except tuck in the coily bits that keep trying to spring away from your head."
"Ookay," I said skeptically.
During the next three hours, during every break, she'd run up to me, trying to tuck in the Coily Bits. "Sprooingggg!!!" I would say as she approached.
Bless her heart, my hair and I gave her a serious workout.
And finally, because a portrait series of faces on a ranch wouldn't be complete without horses:
... meet Baldy and Bug-Eye, two of the sweetest horses I have ever met. They were older -- "retired," Cowboy Josh said -- and seriously, they were like puppies: all curious and nuzzly and lovely.
Yup. Good old Baldy and Bug-Eye.
Cowboy Josh named them.
Images: All photos taken with my Nikon D300. I photographed the people with my ancient 50mm manual lens, and the sweet horses were shot using that lovely 10-24mm wide angle lens that Nikon lent me. More about this lens in the next couple of weeks.