Last year, I was invited down to Spring Wood Farm in Ohio for a commercial farm shoot. As luck had it, I was in that awful horse accident and wasn't able to make it for our scheduled shoot. Fortunately for me, the farm owner, M., was pretty determined to have me down there, so we re-scheduled, and she waited (patiently!) while I healed. Then, we both waited on the weather and our calendars to clear so that we could schedule it - again. M. raises Andalusians and has a selective breeding program that focuses on producing beautifully balanced, level headed youngsters. This isn't a massive breeding program, these horses are all carefully selected, paired, and raised with lots of thoughtful handling and preparation. I knew this was going to be a treat for me as an equine photographer, but my expectations were exceeded on all fronts.
Dragging one of my best friends with me (bless her, she also allows me to hire her services as a camera and lighting assistant, I'd be lost without her on trips like this), we made the trip down. I had been looking forward to this shoot for a very long time, and after some telephone conversations and e-mails with M. over the course of the year, I had a pretty specific idea of the images I wanted to produce while I was there. Of course, the best laid plans are the ones you never make, and the beautifully sunny spring weather I had planned and ordered for our work was replaced by rain. Lots and lots of rain.
So...what do you do when you have a barn full of horses to take pictures of - nice pictures, images of conformation for sales and breeding that will make horse people hunt the breeder and horses down, head shots - nice head shots where buyers and breeders fall in love with the face that they see and HAVE to have it in their barn or breeding program, want to add a unique twist to reflect the client's brand and quality of animals, AND it's raining???
Get out the studio gear and set up a fully operational portrait studio in the middle of the barn, of course!
It was raining so badly on our first day that there was no way we were taking my photo equipment or those immaculately groomed horses out in that weather. So after going over our limited options, and wanting very badly to not waste the trip, the client's time or money, OR the opportunity to be forced out of my comfort zone (talk about nerve-wracking!), we set to work. I've worked with horses and studio lighting pretty extensively
, so I am really good at getting them used to all of the scary things we use: the strobe lighting, back ground, reflectors, and a host of other things that under most circumstances, horses would be convinced would eat them. We spent the entire day going down the barn row and photographing each of these amazing animals. The foundation stallion, Fin, is a testament to his breed - he took everything in stride and posed like a pro the entire time. He was such a gentleman to work with that most horse people would be amazed that he is a stallion and was working,
quietly, only feet
from his harem of mares. The girls were equally as talented in front of the camera, and regardless of all of the distractions, equipment, and stimuli, they gave Heidi Klum a run for her money. I had quite a time culling the images from our first day because there were so many beautiful shots. The horses absolutely gleamed under my lighting, and the images have such an elegantly polished feel that I think Spring Wood Farm's brand is represented beautifully. I couldn't be happier with what we achieved, especially given the circumstances.
Day two was a bit better as far as the weather went. The rain slowly came to a halt, we shot a lot of video footage (still, no sun, and it wasn't like I had envisioned, but it was functional), and we ended our time with conformation shots of the horses. It was a very productive trip and we accomplished a lot in under two days. I think by the end of it we were all exhausted, but it was the good kind of exhausted where you feel accomplished and ready to take on the next step with energy. For me, that meant several weeks worth of editing images and video footage, but I enjoyed every single second of it.
I learned a very valuable lesson on this trip, because being pushed out of my comfort zone is one of those things that I'm a bit reluctant to allow when I'm on a job, for a client, working within a budget and on a production schedule. Had it not been for the rain, my studio equipment likely wouldn't have been unpacked, and I'd still consider my adventures with horses and studio work to be more of an experimental venture rather than a great starting point for a farm's marketing campaign. So, here's to making lemonade when someone hands you a bucket of lemons. Thank you, Mother Nature, for the reminder to roll with things, be creative, and step outside that comfort zone.
Sending out lots of affection to everyone at Spring Wood Farm. I worked with their horses intimately for several days, under conditions that would overwhelm a lot of horses, and these amazing creatures were rock solid, sane, and safe to be around. I highly recommend their horses for anyone looking for a dressage prospect, as they had seasoned professionals and some unbelievable youngsters to choose from. Visit them by clicking HERE
, and please tell them that I suggested them!