When I'm on a shoot, you'll often see me shooting everything. I can't help myself. In Morocco, while I was there on a workshop to photograph Arabian and Barb stallions, I always had my camera at hand. I shot doors, shadows, textures, patterns, architecture, flowers, street cats, mountainscapes and seascapes. Don't get me wrong, I think it's good to have a focus or a theme in mind for your shoot but sometimes, when I'm shooting, shooting, shooting, what I find is that a theme naturally emerges.
Shooting more frames also means more practice perfecting what I'm creating. I become more intuitive about what aperture to use, how much + or - exposure compensation each scene requires, and how to really look through my camera and see everything that's in my frame. That intuition translates to manipulating my gear better too. If I were only a weekend warrior, shooting once a month or even less, I wouldn't know my gear as well as I do. Knowing my gear well translates to me being a better technical photographer. Being a technically good photographer frees me up creatively. Being free to create means that that I can focus on what's most important to me: vision.
I realized recently that I write a lot about technique and gear, and not much about vision. I'm going to write a more elaborate post about vision soon but I think you can appreciate that vision is hard to write about. It's very aerie-fairy with lots of fluffy, meaningless language. Because I think by now you probably know the gears and dials I twist when I capture equine images, I thought I'd tell you a bit about why the seven images in this post speak to me, and why I'm sharing them with you.
On the 30th, we had bright, overcast skies. I'd specifically scheduled the shoot with Esther (the Tempel Farm Program Director) so that we would have warm, soft, golden morning light but weather in Chicago is always a crap shoot. We rolled the dice and lost. It didn't rain though, and there are far worse lights to shoot in than bright overcast. A number of attendees were even delighted with "Mother Nature's softbox." I had originally envisioned the soft muted greens and golden highlights I captured during my dawn shoot of the Salt River wild horses. I wanted sparkly rim-lit Lipizzan manes and tails. I even planned to leave my images in color (gasp!).
We didn't have golden light so my original vision wasn't going to work. I decided immediately that my images would be black and white, and maybe a touch over-exposed to give me that other-worldy, dreamy quality I had originally envisioned, only in monochrome. With flat light and no interesting clouds or large trees to frame the mares, as I culled and processed my images, I focused on the complex relationships between the horses, and how they interacted with each other.
I can come up with stories for each of the seven images I've included here. They might not be accurate stories but they are stories. The lead image I call Follow Me. It's a joyous, leaping moment of freedom. The following two images continue the series with the same joyous theme. The square image of the two mares standing rump to rump is so clearly a moment of indecision. This way? That way? What are all those people doing watching us? The other two square images were processed in exactly the same way, and convey that same slightly nervous, questioning energy.
I'm calling the image above Alien Abduction. The mare to the left was in the middle of a jumping buck but in this split second capture, she appears to be levitating. The other two mares were just frolicking but their expressions and body positions work perfectly. Don't they look like they can't get away from her quite fast enough? Not an accurate story but certainly a fun one.
If there's a moral to this post, it's this:
- First, shoot everything. Give yourself the opportunity to learn your gear, perfect your technique and capture everything.
- Second, cull and process your images with vision. Tell a story. Create a series.
- Third, and maybe most importantly, learn to quickly pivot if your vision won't work. I didn't make the images I imagined I would make during this shoot but I quickly revised my intentions and walked away with images I'm proud to share.