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U.S.A.: Photographing Horses
Posted on Monday, November 07 @ 19:43:30 MST by iljiana

Horse Tips and Suggestions by Dusty L. Perin

To produce outstanding photographs you must learn to become an observer. You must learn to see everything through the lens of a camera, not just the horse.

Copyright 1998 Dusty L. Perin - Photographer

The most critical lesson for all photographers to learn, is to observe. Most of us, myself included, wander through life only seeing a small percentage of what is there in front of us.

Here is a little test to prove the point. Ask a friend to look around the room and take note of everything blue. Now ask them to close their eyes and to describe to you all the objects that are RED! Chances are they can't remember many and the reason is because they were only thinking about looking at things that were Blue. Photography is no different you must constantly remind yourself to see all that is in the picture, the light, the shadows , the colors, expressions, emotions, the background and of course, last but not least, the horse!

Today's subject is learning to see and to find the beautiful, natural light.

Some of the prettiest light of the day occurs at sunrise and then a few hours before sunset. This type of light from a low angled sun has a very warm golden quality that enhances the colors of everything it touches. When the sun is low it creates a highlight in the eye of the horse that photographically brings the horse to life for the viewer.

Copyright 1998 Dusty L. Perin - PhotographerA low angled sun is also wonderful for black or very dark horses. They require a lot of side lighting to show the detail in their muscles as they move. Look at the galloping black Morgan stallion ( Immortal Command of Rumbrook Morgan Farm, NH) this was taken at 8 AM ( later than I would have preferred but the sun was still Illuminating him nicely)

Copyright 1998 Dusty L. Perin - Photographer
While sunrise and late afternoon are two of my favorite times to photograph this light can be made even better on a day with high humidity when there is a very slight haze to the air.Look at the two pictures of the Bay Arabian mare. This is the same mare photographed in the same pasture on two different Saturdays 1 week and one hour apart.

Copyright 1998 Dusty L. Perin - PhotographerIn the first picture the mare looks dark bay the sun was very strong and the air was clear. In picture #2 the mare looks like a reddish bay. This was taken 1 hour later as the sun was lower creating more of a golden glow and there was a slight haze in the air diffusing all the strong shadows. This mare can be seen cantering across a Mini horse calendar in 1999.

Copyright 1998 Dusty L. Perin - PhotographerA slightly overcast day is another great choice the light is evenly distributed, no harsh shadows on the horse or the rider. A bright overcast day is to your advantage especially if you are taking pictures during the middle of the day, or if you are photographing a gray horse. Bright sun on a gray or white horse can overwhelm the light meter of your camera resulting in pictures that are too dark. Look at the nice even light on this gray horse, Delta Deuce, ridden by Stephen Bradley. This was taken during mid day at the recent Groton House Farm Horse Trials

Copyright 1998 Dusty L. Perin - PhotographerSo when isn't the light beautiful? Usually in the middle of the day when the sun is shining brightly your picture results will be the worst!!! We all were conditioned to think that we need a nice bright day to take a picture. Unfortunately as the high noon sun beats down on our favorite equine the horse's body creates very undesirable shadows on himself . His body shadows his legs, his mane shadows his neck, his head shadows his chest and even those pitched forward ears cast a shadow on his face!!!!

Copyright 1998 Dusty L. Perin - PhotographerYour assignment - become an observer!!! Start watching the light see where the shadows fall. Start noticing when the colors change as the sun gets low and the difference between a strong sunlight and a hazy one.

Good luck and Great shooting!

For more information about Dusty L. Perin and her wonderful equine photography, contact her at Ladyhawke Images, 1984 Route 109, Acton, Maine 04001 or by e mail at

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