Spring is foaling season and there is almost nothing on earth as fun as photographing new foals. Well, maybe playing with them and bottle-feeding them, like the Tempel Farm staff gets to do, but if you're on my side of the fence, it's a good thing to have a camera in hand.
Lipizzan foals are born a deep chocolatey color. Most of them fade out to grey and then whiten as they mature though there is always one stallion in every Lipizzan stable that maintains his deep, chocolate hue into adulthood. What that means, from a photographic stand point, is that you have a tricky scene in front of you. The lighter speckled white or dappled grey of the mare reflects light. The dark chocolate of her foal absorbs it. If you don't meter correctly, when momma is exposed perfectly her foal can be a miniature horse-shaped blob with no details. If you're ever in this situation, meter off the foal (or darker horse) and then experiment with rolling your + exposure compensation up by 1/3, 2/3 or even a full stop. You'll likely blow out the sky - as I've done in these images - but if you care about that sort of thing, you can replace they sky in Photoshop. The most important thing to me is maintaining detail in the horses.
Really, the most important thing to me is the relationship between the momma and her baby. Mares and foals have a magical connection. It's like a short, flexible cord that invisibly keeps the foal tied to the mare and, as the foal grows, the cord lengthens, till the yearling only checks in with his momma now and again. Newborn foals, like the 5-day old baby in the image above, are always curved into momma's side. That's the relationship I love to capture - the foal "velcroed" to his momma, not yet ready to investigate the world on his own.
All babies learn intuitively from their mothers and nothing delights me more than catching a foal mimicking her mother exactly, right down to the tips of her pricked up ears. One major consideration to evaluate when capturing the interaction between a mare and her foal is the size difference. The mares are so much larger than the foals that unless I ignore a few golden rules of photography, I end up with pretty lackluster pastoral scenes that have too much landscape and too little nurturing relationship. One of the rules I ignore in this situation is cropping out parts of the mare in my composition. If it reinforces the relationship, it works for me.
This running mare and foal, below, is a classic composition. They have plenty of room above and below them, and they have some place to run to as well. It's a nice capture and I like it but I have to say, I far prefer the "tension" in the lead image where the mare is walking out of the frame. It's an unusual composition but the movement really pleases me, and it's one of my favorites from this part of the shoot.
While I've thrown in a few tips on composition, metering and exposure, I'm still really talking about vision. My vision was to capture nurturing relationships. Everything else fell away so that I could make that happen in my images. Camera club judges might tell you that's not OK but it IS so go out and try it, then let me know how it went.