Tag Archives: Equestrian

A Tale of Two Horses

A Tale of Two Horses
A Tale of Two Horses

The Sunday following my birthday I took a road trip into Upstate New York’s wine country, the Finger Lakes Region. The sun was out; There was a cool breeze; Everything was blooming. The experience was even much more entertaining as my friends in this adventure, Lynne and Joe, decided to go off road and take the more scenic routes. This placed us square into a lot of America’s farmland.  It was here that I saw the two horses which became the title of this post – A Tale of Two Horses.

The landscape was littered with barns, fields of corn, fields of cows, and stables. It was on passing one of many roadside stables that we paused to observe a solid black stallion. He was very active and was causing a commotion among the other horses. He became even more frantic when I ventured close to the enclosure. Consequently, as much as I wanted to capture him and his unique beauty, I couldn’t.

Instead, I saw two mares which were huddled to one side of the pen. I found them to be more cooperative than the stallion but it was clear they were agitated by his movements. I liked the fact that they were huddled together and I think that presented a unique composition that I probably would not have gotten at any other time. But shooting theses horses meant I had to work fast as I had another male to compete with. I took several shots but none captured the beauty or the spirit of the moment as the one I captured here. Yes, it was a frantic scene but for a few small seconds, things were calm and I was able to capture the two horses in a moment which I thought flattered them both. In my mind, I  captured them in what I believe is a very charismatic and yet a simple, elegant portrait

Sometimes, you don’t get what you set out for. Instead, life surprises you and you get something better, more intriguing, more distinct than you had experienced before. That is pretty much what happened in this trip to the finger lakes. Although I started out trying to capture a story about a single horse, a stallion. I ended up with a lovely, classical shot depicting a Tale of Two horses.

White Mane

White Mane
White Mane

Like a scene straight out of a fairytale novel, a white maned horse, Jill, pauses and casts here stares in my general direction resulting in the photograph presented on the left which I have titled – White Mane. Indeed, the scene appeared almost majestic as the various elements coalesced into the composition visible here. But to explain how I got to this point let me take a step back to explain the back story.

Since my relocation to Long Island, NY last year, I had been longing for the opportunity to return to the place I now call home, Syracuse. I took the opportunity to visit some family, revisit some old familiar places and to take photographs over the Easter weekend. It was on one such photography outing with some family, Lynne, that I captured this scene.

We stopped at a nearby farm which we have frequented in the past to see two familiar horses – Jill and Jasper. On this visit, we discovered that both had two new companions – Dixie and Tiki. Tiki was not present when I shot this scene but Jill was well represented as she stood out front and center for this photograph. With her striking white mane flowing from her head to her back she stood out majestically among the other horses. Being a draft horse she stands out prominently with muscular legs and tall stature. But, in spite of her size, she is a gentle and beautiful giant.

For me, it is always a pleasure to see this horse. She embodies the sort of qualities which I fancy in horses – strong, majestic and beautiful. An of course, I can’t help but mention about her striking white mane which, to me, is her mos telling characteristic trait.

Jasper the Nipper

Jasper the Nipper
Jasper the Nipper

This post is dedicated to a friend and fellow photographer, Lynne Fordham, whose dedication to getting the story through the lens often means stepping in harms way and risking lens and limb while being ambushed by “animals.”

The title of this post, Jasper the Nipper, is a horrible play on words but with good reason. Jasper, the horse depicted in this photo, is notorious for nipping just about anything that he feels like. In petting him, he has nipped at my fingers; In photographing him, he has nipped at my camera. I don’t think there is anything that he has not tried to put in his mouth. He is a rescued horse and has not really learned how to be comfortable among people hence the compulsion to nip. And, his little habit got out of hand when both Lynne and I visited the farm where he was kept.

I can only assume that the animals were cranky the day we visited. Upon entering the barn where the horses are kept, we were targeted by a rooster which insisted on attacking us regardless of where we stepped. Although we kept our distance from the bird, he absolutely refused to leave us alone and followed and attacked us throughout the entire visit. The attacks, unfortunately, seem to have been inflicted more on Lynne than myself as she is the more adventurous of the two of us.

When we finally got to see the horses, Lynne decided to enter the stalls where both Jasper and another horse, Jill, were being kept to get a closer photograph. She incidentally was using a wide angle lens which required her to be closer to get a more flattering capture. While she was taking photos of Jill, Jasper crept up behind her. I was a bit confused by his advance and had not quite figured what he was going to do next. With her back turned to Jasper, she was unaware and perhaps unconcerned, that the horse had crept up behind her, lowered his head and with the affirmation of her scream, nipped at her posterior. I was both startled and amused at the site as Lynne quickly covered her mouth with her hand, surprised and perhaps a little embarrassed at the experience, but underttered.

Even now as I write this post, thoughts still run through my mind – what was he thinking? It was bad enough that we had to suffer the attacks by the farm rooster but now the horse? But then, that is to be expected from Jasper as he has a habit at nipping at everything. Consequently, he has earned my unequivocal respect as a nipper, Jasper the Nipper.

A Girl and Her Horse

A Girl and Her Horse
A Girl and Her Horse

While I paused talking to a companion photographer, a golden glow caught the corner of my eye. I turned, peered down one of the openings to the stables stationed opposite to the NY State Fair Coliseum and caught sight of a young girl who was tending to her horse – in conversation. It was the yellow in her blouse that first caught my eye and I took a few shots which I considered technically ok, but nothing inspiring; But then, she turned in my direction. Right then, everything, to me, crystallized and I caught a candid moment of a girl and her horse.

I think my presence may have startled her somewhat as she quickly turned away when she noticed me on the far end of the stable. However, she didn’t run away. She instead attempted to appear busy and uninterested. But, every so often, she would pause and glance in my direction to see if I was still present. Although, I took many shots before and after that event, I think the most significant shot was just that moment when she slowly glanced in my direction and the light from a lamp behind her caught her blond hair, accentuating it with highlights.

For me, another equally compelling part of the image is the horse. It turned and looked up at me at just the same time as the girl did. In essence, the scene came across as if I had interrupted a private conversation and the participants turned to find out what the interruption was. But more importantly, through their glassy stares, they made me aware that I was not invited to this privy moment. Sigh! However, it was the capture of that moment which I found most meaningful of all the shots and the one I decided to share as a – A Girl and Her Horse.

The Cowgirl Cometh

The Cowgirl Cometh
The Cowgirl Cometh

The title – “The Cowgirl Cometh” – seems composed of a lot of unrelated words. Here I am mixing a 16th Centry term – “cometh” – which was used a lot in plays of Shakespeare with a 19th century term – “cowgirl”. But, I think it is aptly suited given what the photo represented. The cowgirl was just about to perform in a bit of modern day theater, taking her horse through the paces of pre-planned exercises. Consequently, she was just about to take the stage on the ground of the NY State Fair Coliseum to  begin her performance.

In some ways, I was shooting for a somewhat iconic like photo akin to the scenes of the protagonist of an action flick as the hero or heroine either emerged from the light source, or slowly made his or her way into an arena to face the villain. In this case, the heroine mounted her steed, and slowly trotted into the arena to put on a performance for the awaiting spectators. This was her final performance at this event as this was the last day of the Empire Apaloosa Classic Horse Show at the NY State Fair.

I caught her as she was just making her entrance through the large gates of the Coliseum. The alternate entrance provides a brilliant backlight which enveloped her and provided a contrasty outline of her sitting atop her horse while the perspective added to her mystery as this saddled heroine’s face is not visible. She calmly made her way into the arena with one arm arched to her lap – a truly grand entrance.

Shakespeare once wrote –

“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts …”

In the Cowgirl Cometh, this cowgirl was making her entrance int to the arena to play one of her many parts.

 

Portrait of a Cowgirl

Portrait of a Cowgirl
Portrait of a Cowgirl

She was poised, alert and was unmistakably a cowgirl. While she ready herself for a competition in the warm-up pen outside of the NY State Fair Coliseum, I caught this portrait of a cowgirl looking off into the distance. Well it was more like looking onward at her approaching competition.

Besides her proud stance in the saddle, I think the other thing that caught my eye was her bright orange outfit with matching saddle cover. She definitely paid a lot of attention to detail and it showed. From her rhinestone orange and white blouse to her leather-like orange pants, she was dressed to impress. It is not certain whether her dress was enough to impress the judges. Unfortunately, I was not around long enough  through her competition to know whether her preparation paid off.

I had the opportunity to take other shots of her while she was waiting for the orange saddle cover to be placed on her horse. Although they were good, they were not as impressive as the one caught here. There was another time when I caught her in a shot and that was when she was in the coliseum putting her horse through its paces. If you were to view the previous photo “Patient Little Cowgirl” you can observe her as a blur swiftly whizzing by the little cowgirl. However, she was not the focus of my attention then. Here on the other hand, I giver her an opportunity to stand out on her own without the distractions of other riders in the shot.

I really enjoyed taking the shot but the one thing I wish I had gotten from that afternoon. If only I had an instant printer where I could print on demand, I would have tried to get her to autograph the portrait.

Patient Little Cowgirl

Patient Little Cowgirl
Patient Little Cowgirl

I have agonized over this photo – “Patient Little Cowgirl” – for days. Not because the photo was difficult to develop, I saw something in the development which I knew was going to draw me a lot of unwarranted heat for taking the shot that way. I was so caught up in getting a shot of the young rider in the far left of the image that I completely forgot to pay attention to the large amount of back lighting coming from the open door on the opposite side of the coliseum.

It doesn’t in any way affect the composition. But the lighting, draws the the attention away from my main subject. It leaves the viewer wandering through the shot until it finally comes to rest on the little girl because she is the sharpest item in the image. I had thought about trying to edit the image by adding content into the bright area so that it is not so dominant. But, it goes against one of the pillars of my style of photography – as little photoshopping as possible.

So, I have decided to accept the image with all it imperfections and release it none the less. Yes, it may not be great but I still like it.

Kicking Up Dust

Kicking Up Dust
Kicking Up Dust

The atmosphere was humid, the wind was hot and numerous horses could be seen in the warm-up pen being run through their paces kicking up dust as they trotted by. That was certainly the scene visible at the New York State Fair as I visited once again to observe a horse show that was being held at the location on August 4 and 5. This horse show was being held by the Empire Appaloosa Classic Horse Show. To be frank, it was one of the better horse shows that I have experienced.

I think what made it special were the varied coloured horses that I observed at the show and how seriously that the participants took the competition. There was a lot of preparatory work that went on from grooming the horses, to choosing costumes and of course the warm-up.

The photo displayed in this post is a scene I captured during one of the practice runs in the warm-up pen as one rider readied her horse before entering the arena of the coliseum. I can only assume that the horse was a little hot and winded at that time of the day – I certainly was – as it created a trail of dust as it trotted by. However uncomfortable the moment, the scene did evoke a somewhat classic, almost iconic image akin to riding off into the sunset. And, I couldn’t resist taking the photo. I certainly thought it was worthwhile and that made the humidity all the more tolerable.

Boots and Spurs

Boots and Spurs
Boots and Spurs

I took another spontaneous departure from my usual supplement of fine art nature photography to again have a look at the equestrian events going on at the NY Sate Fair as I did in my previous photograph, “Three-Sixty“. What i came up with, “Boots and Spurs”, can be considered as more a play of colour and motion.

I took this photograph while one of the cowboy dressed competitors rode by me in the warm up ring which covers one of the side entrances to the coliseum. This is and area dedicated to riders allowing them the opportunity to do warm up exercises with their horses before entering. What first caught my eye was the blend of colors – the green long sleeved shirt, the weathered blue jeans, the decorative and protective cloth beneath the saddle and the tan color of the horse as it was being bathed in a bit of morning sun. They all came together in a manner that simply drew my attention again and again as the rider rode past and I just had to capture it.

One one of his many passes in front of my vantage point, I took this photograph while panning to keep up with his motion. Thanks to the fact that he was moving, another element was added to the mix that went beyond color – depth of field. Only one part of the horses body came into view for the brief moment that he trotted in front of me. This resulted in the small depth of field on a small section of the horse which I think adds to the intrigue of the picture. But, of course, I am always up to hear the ideas of others who may think differently about what moves them about the photo.