| March 21, 2009 3:13 pm

It’s a beautiful day outside.  We’ve been very lucky to have five or six such beautiful days in a row.  They are the type of beautiful day that generally encourages irresponsibility and miscellaneous recklessness.  The practical and otherwise successful have argued that being able to put off temptation, in this case enjoying such an amazing day, show the type of tenacity required for achievement.  They’re probably right, and while I might make claims on practicality; I harbor no delusions of success.  As a result, yesterday I decided to lay aside work and do things other things.

For the past several months, I have intended to write a series of small posts about basic and not so basic horsemanship.  Part of this desire stems from an utter dearth of information on important things: rawhide braiding and the making of a saddle horse, amongst others.  While I have the posts more or less drafted, I’ve felt that they lack a certain degree of clarity.  Horsemanship is a visual and physical activity and cannot be learned from reading, no matter how clear the words.  My little articles require pictures and illustrations.  A beautiful day gave me the perfect opportunity to go and take those pictures.  There was only one problem, I lost the telephoto lens to my camera several months ago.

Wild West Mustangs

Blondie(Actually, that’s not quite true.  More accurately, I loaned my very expensive camera and telephoto lens to my younger brother so he could photograph a car race.  The problem of having professional equipment is that everyone likes to borrow it.  And while the camera returned, the telephoto lens did not.  Of course, this isn’t his fault, it’s mine.  After all, “You shouldn’t have loaned me the camera!” was his response when interrogated about the lens.  The only response to such an accusation is, “Apparently not.”  Persuading him that he should replace the lens is beyond my ken; short of breaking bones that is.)

Thus, I also used the beautiful day as an excuse to purchase a new telephoto lens.  After all, I need spectacular photos!  The lens a Quanta-Ray, 18 mm to 200 mm zoom with a 3.5 to 6.3 F aperture.  If you don’t follow the numbers, don’t worry.  Just know that my new lens does wide angle to super-zoom, very nice!  Oh, and it has image stabilization.  I decided that horse photography requires image stabilization.  The fact that I’ve never owned a stabilized lens is a mere detail.

With the right conditions (a beautiful day), and the right equipment (telephoto lens); I figured that I could easily create stunning photographs that would wow, amaze and generally Horses-2009-0321-7illustrate my points and desires.  After all, the pros make it appear so easy!

As the first photo of this post shows (which I grabbed from iStockPhoto.com), horses and cowboys with a helping of dust make for an amazing image.  Of course, part of this is due to the mythology of the cowboy, but a great deal more is simply due to a fantastic visual elements.

Turns out, though, that taking incredible photos of horses and riders is substantially harder than taking photos of landscapes and sunsets.  During a stint where I fancied myself a pro photographer, I learned that amazing photo shoots require absurd attention to detail.    Like painting or illustration, beautiful photography is all about fore-thought and planning.

Great landscape photographers will often visit the site where they intend to take their photos the day prior.  They think about where they want to be and at what times they need to be there.  This doesn’t work when trying to photograph horses, in fact, horsemanship is essentially a chaotic exercise.

There is a reason why so many clinicians present their material in free form.  You have to adapt to the horse, not the other way round.  You can’t walk into a stall and patiently explain the material before hand, or the goals of a planned session.  Some horses insist on thinking and voicing their opinions.  I generally find this particular insistence to be quite obnoxious, at least when it comes to photography.  (It’s one of the main reasons I’m fairly dedicated to horsemanship at all other times.)  For my little photography session, I wanted to work on one thing, and the horse I was riding decided that we needed to work on another.  Quite unfair, if you want my honest opinion.

After a half hour of wasted shots, I finally decided to adapt to the conditions and I was pleasantly surprised.  Rather than try and take photos for my posts, I decided to capture the stories unfolding around me in the arena.  Some of those stories were practical (and the photos will work great for my series of articles), while others were more artistic.  I figured that some of the artistic shots deserved their own post.  Enjoy!

A Soft Eye


A Candid Moment


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