Photos of Pet Horses: Colts, Fillies, and Foals
Regardless of your taste in photos, if you love animals, horses, dogs, cats, or any other pets, you'll have to agree that nothing stirs the soul more than images of their young. With that in mind, we have created this, our favorite section, to the beauty of birth, and the endless cycle of life.
Equine owerners share a great love
for their tool, the camera, and their muse-the beautiful steed with its exquisite physical form and unshakable stoicism. This area of photography, as a specialization, has great potential. People who own horses love them as much as dog or cat lovers wax passionate over their pets. But to keep a horse you need to have a healthy income. The horse needs a place to stay, lots of food and frequent grooming and attention. That's a lot of work, and a substantial investment of both time and money. Hence, for the photographer who loves horses and has good skills, is it's possible to thrive in the field, drawing the attention and purse strings of a large audience of admirers.
Horses are more closely linked to the carriage than the camera. Now, the camera and the horse share a close bond, one that is both lucrative and for many infinitely rewarding. But whether one is taking pictures of horses or the family pet, it's important that photographers choose a subject that touches them in an integral way. With the right lighting, angle and necessary simplifications, recreating the animal's personality on film can yield magnificent results. Still, capturing the precarious, enlightening, and occasionally awe-inspiring nature of any animal can sometimes be a great challenge.
Because of the shape of most animals, it's important to think about lighting. Is your subject most comfortable inside or outside? If you too are outdoors, it's often good to photograph in the early morning or late afternoon when the midday sun won't cast an unflattering shadow over your subject. Some of these pictures were taken in Germany in the dewy early morning. If inside, use a high-speed film such as ISO 400 or 800 films, which works best under low-light settings.
Tips for Photographing Any Animal
Make sure your animal is comfortable. Often, an animal will treat a camera in the same manner as sick children at medicine time. Allow your pet to sniff the camera, not lick, but simply become comfortable around the tool. After a little investigation, most pets will pay no attention to the camera, but don't forget the treats and the props! Whether it's a meaty bone or live roaches (for the snakes), snacks will keep your pet happily active-a perfect time to catch those spontaneous pictures. Regardless of how animated your subject is, using a fast shutter speed-generally 1/125th of a second or faster – will stop the action and make sure that you get a clean, sharp image of say, the animal's legs moving crazily about.
Unless your pet is doing some sort of extraordinary trick, focusing on the head and neck will surely capture his/her personality. Before you get to that point, observe your pet. Possibly they have an unusual habit, such as a cat that fetches gum wrappers or a dog that bows to the ground whenever the door opens. These are the moments that need to be recorded!
With an animal noted for its distinguished form and beauty, such as the horse, look for a setting that fully captures these trademarks. All in all, photographing animals can be immensely rewarding, though at times, frustrating. It's through practice and developing a solid working relationship with animals in general – or with your family pet – that trust develops. This comradeship comes through in the quirky and heartwarming expressions and actions that your pet will begin to exhibit in front of the camera! Next, we'll look at photographing the majestic and stately show horses, and in preparation for the Annual Kentucky Derby beginning in May, we'll be discussing capturing racing horses and the frenzied excitement that surrounds the derbies of today and yesteryear. Right down to the most exciting race of all-the photo finish!
Equine Photo Part II: Horse Racing
While you may not regularly photograph horses, through the insight and expertise of others, you will gain the direction needed to take your photography in a different direction - around the track. Shortly after people started riding horses, they took the next logical step - racing these magnificent animals.
With the advent of the digital camera, derby photography jumped into the future. While many horse photographers use an SLR, digital cameras fit a definite purpose on the track allowing the professional racing photographer to upload images quickly to their newspapers.
If you are using a digital camera and there's lots of light, you can use the slowest ISO rating on your camera. If there's not a lot of light, try a higher ISO rating to gain a bit more shutter speed. Lighting can be a real problem on the track. Either there's too little or too much. The sun may strike from the side, blinding the photographer. If it's directly in front of you, try metering the horse, using a digital camera, and panning the movement with a 70mm lens. While most of the horses and jockeys aren't in focus, this photo succeeds in mirroring the movement of the race. We can imagine how fast they are racing, and feel the adrenaline being released from all involved. The mix of colors helps emphasize the movement of the horses.
If it's not essential that you take a photo finish, there are many areas around the track from which to photograph to create diversity. For instance, photographing the horses rounding a curve or coming over a small hill can magnify the action and excitement of the race. You never want to crop the horse that is your main subject so pay careful attention of what you are seeing in your viewfinder. This is especially important if you are photographing a horde of horses. While some of the animals on the borders may end up being cropped, it's important that the main subjects are not. You also never want to cut off the horse's nostrils, which can easily move in a direction that puts them out of view. Chopping them off is similar to doing the same to a person at their eyebrows. It just looks funny.
The horseracing season lasts from April till November. The weather in many places is starting to turn nice again. Take what you've learned about equine photography and apply it to the racetrack. It's a great way to expand your talent. Photographing an array of subjects will challenge your work and consequently, make your photography better in the long run. On top of it all, going to the racetrack is a great way to spend an afternoon, sipping the nostalgia of yesteryear and the romance of the race today.
Equine Photography Part III: Rodeo
It was one of the biggest unexpected upsets in horse racing history-this year's Triple Crown hopeful, War Emblem, stumbled out of the gate at the Belmont Stakes, and victory slipped past him. To the astonishment of onlookers, Sarava, the horse ranked as having a one in seventy chance of winning, won! As the saying goes, "That's what makes a horse race." There may be a favorite, even an odds-on favorite, but absolutely anyone can win in a horse race. But absolutely anything can happen in a rodeo. The level of unpredictability in a derby is minor compared to that in a rodeo for the photographer. In any horse race, the thoroughbreds come out of the starting gate, run in the same direction around an oval track, and then rush to the finish line.
In rodeo events, the direction the action takes is far more unpredictable. For example, photographing bucking broncos can be very exciting. While the cowboy or cowgirl is thrown into the air and the audience is at the edge of their seats waiting to see if the rider hits the saddle or the ground, the photographer must be prepared to capture the unexpected. This ability to anticipate the next fall or jolt makes taking good rodeo pictures an especially difficult and unique skill. Even if you don't enjoy watching people trying to match their strength to that of 800-pound steers, learning to photograph rodeos will give you skills that extend far beyond the arena. Capturing the hi-jinks between an angry hooker (a bucking bull that throws the rider forward toward its horns when bucking) and the barrel man in those few chaotic, frenzied moments will greatly improve your ability to react quickly and take better pictures.
Photographing a rodeo involves three considerations-capturing the action, focusing attention on the action, and getting rid of any distractions. These tasks are also known as focus attention on your subject, and simplify the picture. There are technical concerns that vary according to uncontrollable elements, such as natural lighting and your distance to the action. But getting your photo to fully capture that adrenaline pumping, crazed movement inside the arena involves focusing on the action, drawing attention to it, and eliminating any visual clutter. In following these three steps, we also consider the aperture size, speed of film, and angle at which the picture is taken.
To bring more attention to the action, Walt used a large aperture and focused on the front of the scene. Using a large aperture combined with a fast shutter speed will throw the background out of focus and create a shallow depth of field-two very important elements in bringing more attention to the action. Also, using 200 speed films (in bright light) will help make the action pop off of the picture.
A trick to cutting down on the visual clutter and making the action appear alive is to photograph from above. Looking down at the subject will cut out the background activity that takes place in the stands. The visual chaos is totally gone because he has made the ground the backdrop. This eliminates any distractions from the rider who in this event is called a steer wrestler or a dogger. The subject's expression of intense concentration and physical strength are more illuminated because the background is simplified. Frank had only seconds to capture this moment as the steer wrestler jumps off his horse and onto the steer. In those few seconds, the photographer must be prepared for that picture-worthy moment. By ensuring that the background is not a distraction the photographer helps the viewer concentrate on the action at hand. As a result, the subject is more clear and vivid.
Remember that with rodeo photography eliminating the clutter will help make the action jump off of the paper. Plan to shoot lots of film and remember that sometimes the action will head away from your vantage point. If you don't have something good in your viewfinder wait until the unpredictable events at the rodeo turn your way. Then take lots of pictures! Your results should be colorful, wildly expressive, and action-packed. The goal with your work is to recreate the excitement that bursts out from the arena as soon as the horse or bull charges from the gate. Finally, don't forget to tip your hat to the cowfolk, even if it is your ball cap.
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