Friday, May 15, 2009

Shooting With Handicaps

(Click on the thumbnail for the bigger, better version)

I have been doing my best to squeeze in some shooting sessions along with the prep work for the next show. Some of my sessions are spent out in the pasture with one or both of the horses. Since Fadwah’s Lancer recently turned 17, I thought it was appropriate to post this shot of him taken a few days ago.

On these occasions, I am often shooting in undesirable conditions—and that’s by design. To begin with, I often shoot at odd times of day rather than choosing optimum light. I also work without a wrangler, and that means I have to go out there resolved to be patient and make the best of whatever I see. A wrangler would be able to move the horse or horses to the end of the pasture where I have the best possible background. Moreover, the wrangler would be equipped with a some type of prop used to get the animals’ attention, or get their “ears up”. Furthermore, if I am out there with both horses (and without a wrangler), I have to pay close attention that I don’t get underfoot. You really don’t want one of these beasts stepping on your toes, believe me. Horses are amazingly sure-footed. Ask any competitive rider, and that goes for any of the equine sports. But, and it’s a big but, horses don’t count stepping on a human foot as hazardous, so sometimes a foot is stepped on. It smarts. Particularly when they are “horsing around”, I have to fend for myself with no one to stand between me and them to wave arms and send them safely by me. I work with extra caution.

None of this is meant to imply that either of the horses would purposely harm me. Most horses won’t hurt a human on purpose, unless it’s in self-defense. (Of course, in the case of an abused horse, the horse may always be in defensive mode.) The potential for harm with horses such as ours is all about nasty accidents that can happen. These guys are big, strong, and sometimes play rough. I keep my distance when they are excited. People who are strong and agile can take a great deal more chances than I. I have to work within my limitations.

Besides these conditions, I am still lugging the 70-200mm f/2.8 around.
Still, all in all, this setup works wonderfully for me. If I can get a shot or two that I like when working under these less than desirable conditions it only prepares me to deliver better photos when conditions are ideal.

Of course, all this raises the question, Why go to all this fuss? I suppose it’s like any other creative endeavor. You do what you have to do. Over and over we hear the advice to “shoot what you love”. So, there you go. For me, making pictures of horses that please me, and move others besides, is a major reason for owning a camera.


  1. This is just a wonderful image. So evocative of a mood (to me, at least).

  2. Chris - Thanks for that particular comment. I like the head-on "glamour" shots, but particularly enjoy capturing these moments that have more mood.

  3. Sounds like you need a rodeo clown to help you! :-) Looks like Sir Lancer is checking you out over his shoulder. He's a pretty handsome horse. 17 years, eh? How long do horses live?

    I don't care how strong and agile one might be, those guys are BIG and HEAVY! I'd hate for one of them to step on my no-big-deal human foot! Ouch!!!

  4. A rodeo clown might not be a bad idea. Fortunately, I was only stepped on once, but it isn't something you want to repeat—ever.

    It's fairly common for horses to live into their 20's. If all goes well, Lancer could live to be in his 30's. (That's not common, but it's not really extremely rare, either) He has great feet; the phrase "eats like a horse" would have had to be coined for him had it not already existed (he's a bottomless pit, but works off everything he eats; and, his digestive system has never yet been a problem. There are Arabians completing endurance rides(25-100 miles) who are in their 20's.


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