by Sarah Ernst
I had a lucky day out shooting but a lot of thought went into the “luck”. Photographing horses tends to be like that…you can shoot for hours and not get anything usable..they just aren’t always photogenic on command. It’s the reason I am hesitant to “shoot” other peoples’ horses without time spent at their place and getting to know habits and what is typical for a particular horse.
The first step in these two photographs was a walk to the barn on a foggy, misty day and noticing the light. The fog was just the right thickness and light was pretty. I decided to take just one lens for ease of the hike and to challenge myself to get a shot w/out switching lenses. I also didn’t want to crop anything..I wanted straight out-of-camera and had in my mind..photographing my gray horse in the fog in a black and white and maybe my palomino for color..however, the palomino tends to be more awkward and harder to shoot. The second step was finding the horses in the fog in the pasture. It was that thick. I knew that typically when put out for the day, they headed up the hill and then worked their way down as the hours went by…so I went looking.
Found the gray up near the top and the palomino mid-ways. I had to keep one eye on him and where he was…he will walk right up on top of you…no sense of personal space. Then the gray…I could tell right away he was watching to see what I was up to…but stayed interested in his grazing. Seeing as its hillside, I was really paying attention to slope and his body form and background. I shot for a while..just getting standard and nothing I wanted..meanwhile he began to move up the hill and getting in a “place” that I really wanted to use as a background. I waited and waited..shot and shot a little more. I was waiting and watching for all four feet to be clearly separate, body collected(as thats prettier) and head and eyes seen and preferably ears up and tail quiet. I got it. No cropping..I shot a few more shots but was pretty certain I had the shot I had come for. This horse is in his late 20’s and although a pleasant good-natured horse is a grouch. He was not happy that I was following him and no privacy for him. I happened, just to play w/him..hollered at him as I was leaving..and it was just enough to break him into a gallop. He was looking for any excuse to leave my area and be left alone. I wasn’t going to shoot it as it was half-hearted and he was just going to stop at any second but I did shoot..about 3 maybe 4 frames of him and boy, am I glad I got it! It was the shot! I did end up have to crop that image as that ground is starting to roll downhill and I probably, in my surprise, I turned also and shot a little crooked..and although it didn’t hurt the shot, I didn’t like the downhill feel. I kept the crop in a 2:3 aspect ratio and straightened it. What I got in both images is what I had ideally gone out to get..but never dreamed I would. The black and white I love much as I see the tree limbs above the running horse mimic his movement..and I also see that you can tell exactly where I am at…because the horse’s eye is watching me and his ear is pointing directly at me. It’s a favorite photo now. The color photo I love because of the color and the fog and the quiet stillness of the horse. Your eyes go directly to him as he is the light on the page and then your eyes began to wonder up through the fog in the trees. Both are favorites!
As soon as I left the pasture…the fog lifted..it was gone and didn’t return for the day. I am glad I chose right then to take advantage of the light that I saw.