Monday, June 6, 2011
Book Review: Horse Photography by Carol J. Walker
How could I pass up a book about my two great loves - horses and photography? In fact, just recently I was thinking that we need new books that are specific to horse photography. There are plenty of books on horses in general and plenty of books on photography in general, but for those of us who photograph horses, whether it be for a living or as a hobby, we know there is an art to the entire process of photographing horses.
After just finishing another book that took me four months to read, because each time I picked it up I either got easily distracted or fell asleep, I really appreciated having a book like Horse Photography that was engaging, to the point, and a fast read. One of the topics that author and photographer Walker goes into in great depth is timing -- both the timing of capturing a horse's legs in the best positions as well as the length of a horse's attention span, and how to prepare for the best shots in advance so that you don't waste time experimenting and lose the horse's freshness. She obviously took the reader's attention span into consideration when writing this book, because she selectively hit on the most important points of horse photography in plain language without repeating herself. She's an author after my own heart.
Walker brings us knowledge about the different horse breeds and encourages us to study their desired conformation and gaits. I remember the first time I mentioned to an Arabian horse breeder that I planned to practice horse photography. She said, "Oh, you wouldn't even know how to position an Arab. It takes years of showing to understand that."
Of course, I felt insulted, as I have owned Arabian horses for over 10 years of my life, and I attend Arabian horse shows on a regular basis. I even entered one of my horses in halter classes, so I wasn't completely clueless. But she had a point. What about all the other breeds I don't know about? If I were asked to photograph an unfamiliar breed, I would have to study up beforehand, and ask the owner a lot of questions. Fortunately, the owners usually know how to best position and move the horses.
I've studied both studio and outdoor lighting for photography and didn't think I could learn anything new in that area, but I did. Walker discussed the quality of light in different seasons, locations, times of the day, and weather conditions, bringing up points I had never considered before. She also encourages photographers to go out in the rain and snow with proper covering or even a plastic bag to protect your equipment. Part of the reason why I haven't practiced photography much over the past eight months is because it's been snowing and/or raining non-stop and I've been afraid I would ruin my equipment. Also, the author does address that age old problem of attempting to photograph moving horses within an indoor arena. Remember all those dark, blurry pictures we complain about?
Walker photographs and teaches workshops on photographing wild mustangs. She has another book called Wild Hoofbeats - America's Vanishing Wild Horses. She offers tips on how to locate them and discusses the best way to approach them as well as how to look out for your own safety. I can't tell you how many times I've stumbled upon wild mustangs when I wasn't even looking for them and when I didn't have my camera. She inspired me to go off-roading with my equipment to intentionally find them for a photo shoot.
If interested, visit Carol J. Walker at her Wildhoofbeats website. She has two blogs and a product page where you can order her calendars and books.