Butler County Times Gazette
  • Getting to know the woman behind the camera: Crystal Socha

  • A look inside Crysta Socha's world
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  • The term Renaissance woman suggests a woman of many accomplishments and Crystal Socha of Augusta fits the definition perfectly.
    The active 34 year-old Wichita native moved with her parents and brother to this area in 2000. The Sochas enjoy a rural life, along with a few horses and dogs.
    Many people in Augusta are familiar with Crystal’s talent behind a camera. She became interested in photography while attending Wichita’s Southeast High School. She also studied at Wichita State University. Her creativity combined with a natural flair has produced some amazing results. She has won awards and sold several of her photos.
    She’s also published a book containing many of her photographs.
    Most residents are familiar with her award-winning photo taken a couple of summers ago as a thunder storm rolled through town. A print of it currently hangs in the city office and is the backdrop to the slides that play before every movie.
    “That was a lucky shot. I don’t consider myself a professional. I just love it. I always have my camera with me,” she said smiling.
    The beautiful landscape images she captures - many of the Flint Hills - are proof of her vision, which extends beyond the camera.
    “I love the Flint Hills. That area of Kansas is simply beautiful. Sometimes my brother Casey and I grab the camera, jump in the truck and explore all the wonderful places - we’re always looking for new roads.”
    Crystal may be one of the few photographers who don’t rely on Photoshop to enhance her photos. She uses a high quality Canon digital camera calibrated to the appropriate situation, the available lighting - most often, the perfect lighting - and it all collides at the same time to produce some great shots.
    Her love of photography paved the way to another interest. She is the projectionist at the Augusta Historical Theatre most weekends.
    She is excited to be a part of the theatre and enjoys being in the projection booth, whether it’s running the 3D projector or showing old 35mm reels of cartoons.
    Getting physical
    Other activities for Crystal are more physical. Her day begins around 5 a.m. and her head doesn’t hit the pillow until almost midnight.
    “I’m too busy to sleep. There’s too much to do,” she laughed.
    Being physically active began when she was only five years-old and began competing in roller figure skating. At the age of 11 or 12, she was ranked third in the region of Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Texas, and Missouri. She also did some speed skating.
    “Before I stopped skating - I was probably around 10 - I told my parents that I’d really like to ride horses,” she continued, “My mom made sure that I did more than ride - she wanted me to know all about cleaning stalls and all the other things that went along with taking care of the horses.”
    Page 2 of 3 - Through her years of riding, training and working at an area horse farm and stable, she became acquainted with and now participates in draft horse showing and competition.
    She spends part of her days at a stable near Goddard giving lessons, breaking and training horses, while the rest of her day is spent at Mohney Farms near Benton, working with Belgian draft horses.
    In the past, Crystal had always helped get the Belgians ready for driving competitions and shows at state fairs. But this year she took the reins and participated in team competition, with two draft horses hitched side by side on a shown wagon.
    Belgians and Clydesdales are two breeds of draft horses in the U.S. and she has worked with both.
    “Clydesdales are more docile - and great for activities like parades, but the Belgians are more horse to handle - more of a challenge.”
    A variety of aspects are judged, including the physical conditioning of the horses, conformation, hoof size, cleanliness, movement of the horses, quality of the action, manners and how well the horses work together as a team and as a “hitch” as a whole. The presentation and soundness of the wagon is also evaluated, as well as the driver’s ability to drive the hitch.
    In her first show, Crystal took fifth place at the Iowa State Fair last month and most recently took first place at the Nebraska State Fair. She didn’t take a lot of time basking in her success, as she is currently working hard to compete at the upcoming Kansas State Fair.
    Yet, there are even more dimensions to her personality. She worked on theater sets throughout high school and her theater major at WSU included work in stagecrafting. She enjoys carpentry and can often be seen swinging a hammer.
    Archery is another hobby, as well as acting. She has been a member of a number of local productions.
    When she gets home at the end of her busy day she takes time to care for and enjoy her quarter horses and paint horses.
    By the way, if you check the Guinness Book of Records for the horse with the longest tail, you will find that a mare JJS Summer Breeze, owned by Crystal and Casey Socha of Augusta has been confirmed to have the longest tail at 12 ft. and 6 inches.
    Crystal enjoys her life and has no plans to slow down.
    “I like Augusta and don’t want to live anywhere else. After growing up in a city, this is a great place to be. I love the seasons we have in Kansas. There’s beauty everywhere,” she added, “When I want to stop and enjoy some solitude, I just get on my horse and take a ride in the Flint Hills.”
    Page 3 of 3 - To see Crystal’s photography, find Crystal Socha Photography on Facebook. Her photos can be purchased at: fineartamerica.com. Her book “Mohney Farm Belgians” is available at blurb.com.

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