I love to photograph horses. I think they are some of the most beautiful animals in the world. I enjoy the graceful way they move and the effortless connection they have with their owners–the relationship is just so special. So when the opportunity presented itself to photograph a young woman with one of her horses while I was in Kentucky during the Keeneland Horse Races, I jumped at the chance. The following images are from that session.
My first consideration when setting up this session was choosing the lenses. My 24-70mm F 2.8 IF EX DG HSM and the APO 70-200mm F 2.8 EX DG OS HSM got the call for this assigment. I knew I wanted the flexibility of including as much of the scenery as I could while still being able to make my subjects a big part of the story. The second one, the APO 70-200mm was for the portraits that I would be creating of Alex and her horse close up and some of her riding in the field. This pair of sharp, fast, constant aperture zooms covers a great range for this style of photography.
Next, I had to decide where on the property I wanted to photograph. It was early morning and a little hazy, so sunlight was not an issue just yet. I asked Alex to ride around the pond so that I could pre-visualize what this portrait was going to look like. We already had a conversation about what she wanted and what she liked best as far as scenery. Once we had that narrowed down, I began the session with her walking her horse down the pathway, photographing them from behind. There is great storytelling in a portrait that is simply about the relationship between the owner and the animal. The way they walk together, how they look at each other, and how they look together. I photographed Alex and her horse walking away from me as well as walking towards me. These images are a wonderful addition to the slide show I will present to my client after the editing has been done and I’m ready to share the finished images. I processed this image in PhotoShop CS6 and oversaturated the colors and added a little bit of warmth to the overall image.
Next, we moved into the open field. Alex had mentioned she loved the pond and wanted me to include it in the portrait. The sun was just starting to come up on the far side of the pond. I decided to place Alex and her horse facing into the light before it got to bright. I also choose to have Alex on the ground standing next to her horse as if they were taking in the beautiful scenery, creating a very reflective scene. Using the 24-70mm was the perfect choice for this image. I was able to include all the scenery I wanted while still making Alex and her horse the main part of my portrait. I added a graduated blue filter using NIK Software to create a blue sky. The sun had reached a point where my sky had turned almost white and I wanted a softer look to the whole image. This way, all your attention goes first to Alex and the horse and not the sky.
This next portrait was photographed using the APO 70-200mm. I had switched lenses by this time and had Alex riding around the property so I could see which angle would work best. The sun was still at an angle and I really loved having the barns and the house in the background. I felt it added to the overall feeling that we were trying to create. Both Alex and her horse have a beautiful side light on their faces so there is just enough light to show some detail in their expressions. The feeling of moving freely without limitations was exactly what we wanted. Very little processing in PhotoShop CS6 was required on this image. Just a little bit of color correction in Abode Camera Raw to keep the overall image in the cooler tones.
Moving in closer now, I used the APO 70-200mm because I wanted to photograph just Alex and her horse. No scenery, just the connection between the two of them. With the sunlight to their left, and little bit of wind blowing through Alex’s hair, I had the perfect portrait. I’ve learned to shoot fast and take as many images as I can to catch these little nuances. They can make all the difference in the world. Once again, very little processing was required with this image. I wanted it to look as natural as it could. The magic is in their expressions, how they look at each and how she holds her horse. This image was one of her favorites for all those reasons.