View Full Version : Equestrians! I need your help!

28-Apr-2007, 12:50
(aka, my first outdoor LF experience!)


I sorted the Dogmar 150/4,5 aperture-less lens into a lens panel, and the Korona is pretty complete.

Decided to brave it for the first time ever - going out with a large format camera! It wouldn't be so bad if I was a few miles from my home, but going round the back felt a bit like cheating. I carried the camera and tripod, plus dark cloth, one DDS and my Leningrad 8 around to the small stream with steep banks. Propped everything up, even placed the tripod legs in the muddy stream! Yep! The whole shebang!

Turns out the stream looks rubbish on the GG, so I wandered off.

Remembering there's a field a few minutes away -in fact it's one of many in Lydiard- I was considering it as backdrop for some portraits one time. Seemed private enough I could take someone there for outdoor nudes or something. Maybe that would be nice?

So I get to the field, a whopping great 2 minutes walk away. I rehearse in my mind the "I'm a student, just taking a photo, if you want a print then I'll bring you one" speech in case I come across a farmer.

Trundling into the field I think, "Jackpot!! It's full of horses!" forgetting my only lens was a shutter-less, aperture-less 150mm, and it was getting on 7:30pm pre-dusk, with Ortho film in the camera :eek:

Set everything up again... The horses (probably 30, maybe more maybe less, a whole load of them anyhow) look like ants on the GG, so I wander along the perimeter of the field, with a thorny thick bush on my right hand side and nowhere to run except TOWARD the horses.


Okay before I continue, the last experience I can remember involving horses was during school about 5 years ago, being forced to groom and clean up the muck, then attempting to ride one around a small pen. My horse decided to lean and try and eat the daisies and flowers and consistently threw me off balance. I was scared to tears. My fragile teen persona dancing on the edge, with a gentle beast that wanted to freak me out as much as possible!

Oh, and my mother once told me a story that when she was in her teens, she was chased and cornered by a herd of cows.


With that in mind, even entering a field full of black and white and brown horses was a step higher on my fear factor. Calm breathing all the way, don't be more than 1 minute's walk from the fence.

So I tip-toe my way into the open space, towards the group of horses. A young'un slowly gallops toward me, mother in tow. I start to walk backwards, to avoid the cute quadruped from befriending me and incurring the mother's wrath. Remember, I'm no horse tamer.

It gets bored a few yards from me and clears off. So I wander back into the clear space toward the herd.

One quite white horse, with a few spots of dark brown in places, moves closer, but not towards me, more to feed on the grass. I make way for it, but try to maneuver myself, it was the perfect distance to get in the frame, with a shutter speed of half a second and seemingly great composition - fair sized horse in foreground, herd of horses making up the horizon.

It starts tapping its hind foot against the ground. I wait for maybe 5 taps and glance to see a larger brown male, with flared ankles jogging my way.

I hold one hand out calming saying "woahhh..." (cmon, my only experience of horses is cowboy films and a repressed teen memory!). It backs me up toward the tall hedge as I slowly, yet quite speedily, re-trace my steps; I was far from the gate and known freedom however.

My heart is racing!

I keep thinking, "can I drop the tripod, get my hand through the handle on the Korona, and duck and roll out of the way of the horse if it charges? Can I avoid the many dung patties I've already stepped in whilst staring this horse in the eyes!?"

The horse stares at me and it calmly walks right up. I stroke its nose, uttering gentle words and showing I was no threat. Heart in my throat, I can feel my body shaking, my knees screaming at me "hey are we gonna run here or am I gonna buckle and see you collapse??". A few moments pass, but the old cliche stands, it felt like an eternity.

I can't remember the next moment, but the next thing I know the horse is trotting to join the herd again.

I set the camera up one last time, decide that I REALLY don't think I'll get a good photo, not from that distance, and not with a fear of being trampled. :D

I wander out the field.

Further along there's a trenched area by a drain, and a felled broken tree that looks like an arch. I make do with my weak-nerves and set up and photograph it. The exposure was now 8 seconds. Light was going fast anyway.

I can see the horses galloping past, the perfect distance away, but this time on the other side of a stream and fence.

A couple horses look at me as they go past. One really nice young black horse has an extended look at me, I make "tick" sounds with my tongue through my teeth. I go to pick up my tripod, it makes a metallic clacking sound as it jolts on the dry mud - it spooked the poor horse!

I can't win. :rolleyes:

Walter Calahan
28-Apr-2007, 13:21
Every horse has its unique personality. What is scary for one, isn't to another. Like people, you can't generalize. They are also curious, after all you were visiting their space. Usually people are the food or treat provider, so it's worth their time checking you out.

The other thing is they will test your dominance. As they forced you around they learned you were a push over. With horses it's important to hold your ground, and some times push back. When they feel that you are the dominant horse they will respect you.

Anyway, just enjoy taking pictures of them.

28-Apr-2007, 13:25
I think next time I'll take a few carrots with me, and as you say, stand my ground,

I wasn't quite sure of the etiquette, whether to stand my ground would have resulted in some interesting scars and conversation material :)

Ted Harris
28-Apr-2007, 13:42
Well, there are other things that can happen too when you stand yoru ground with curious domesticated animals. The image below is an illustration of that. See the two sheep coming through the gate? Well, I quickly changed film and was getting ready to take another picture but not only didn't I move fast enough, the brown sheep came right up and licked the lens. End of session for that time and place:D

28-Apr-2007, 13:48
Hah! Awesome! I think the horse that came to me would have swallowed my tiny Korona whole!

I have the rubbish branch photo drying now, will have a scan later tonight

william linne
28-Apr-2007, 13:50
I had to click on this post. It sounded like a Monty Python sketch.


Eric James
28-Apr-2007, 13:56
There's a movie from the 60s named The Russians are Coming, the Russians are Coming - you'd enjoy seeing this for the horse content Ash:)

I happened upon a Dall ram two summers ago. He posed for me for 5 minutes or so - I felt it was a gift. At one point (6 meters or so away) he showed me his horns by tilting his head down - what a great shot, what a gift! Then he started with the hoof tapping and I realized that he had a different kind of offering in mind!

Ted Harris
28-Apr-2007, 14:27
This is getting to be more and more fun ... and it just so happens that I ahve lots of animal near disaster images right at hand. This one was part of a series I was doing on Mail Pouch Barns. I had the shot all set up after trying for a couple of days to get the light right and then the bull walked out of the barn :) So I thought, cool I'll wait until he gets set and then make him the centerpiece of the picture. Then out came the sheep adn the bull came closer and closer. When I took this he was standing some 4-5 feet away. I was real hopeful that he didn't decide to come closer as I was shooting.

28-Apr-2007, 14:28
Horned creatures had best not be crotch-height or else I'd wear a cup :D

Here's the shot from the Dogmar, as posted on my compact-4x5 thread also. Obvious flare on the left. I had to cut back to save tones, contrast isn't as high as it could have been.


Wayne Crider
28-Apr-2007, 18:32
I come from a little bit different perspective then you as I have owned two of the beast and am more comfortable with them. Domesticated horses recognize humans and were just coming over to check you out and see if you had any treats. Now if it was wild horses that is another matter entirely. You would stay behind the fence and use a long telephoto. The thing is though that they sense fear and will try and get their way with you "if you ride" so you have to take a firm reign. That also encompasses meeting them for the first time. Be gentle and be relaxed. If you fear them stand back and observe for awhile. If you reach out, reach out slow, not quick. The thing you have to remember is they all have different personalities. Some will be aggressive and some downright loving. Figure that out before you make any moves. Out in a pasture they may just be riding ranch horses; What do you think? The animals you really want to stay away from are bulls, goats, geese and some cows as well unless you were raised on a farm and know the animals.

I have not seen where I needed a lens less then 200mm on a 35mm camera to get good pictures of horses out in a field. They will come over but will not pose for you. Figure higher shutter speeds and handheld shooting unless you have a long lens. You will still need to stop action tho. They move around unless being held.

29-Apr-2007, 02:10
Wayne, thanks for that confirmation.

I'm pretty sure the herd were at least semi-domesticated. There's no way you'd have wild horses in Lydiard. The real estate is too valuable, I'm sure a farmer keeps tabs on all the livestock :)

My heart was in my throat but I kept a calm low voice, I think the horse that came to me must have been one of the more assertive ones. He seemed very interested when the rest just ignored me.

All that in mind, I hear what you're saying about that longer lens and freezing motion!

Randy H
29-Apr-2007, 04:07
I had to click on this post. It sounded like a Monty Python sketch.W.

Still does:rolleyes:
Wish I could find the pic I had taken in school. We had to do a "photo-story" and I was doing abandoned farm equipment. So, I was out driving around the southern Oklahoma back-roads, and came upon a field of Apps and Palaminos. There was this one huge Palamino "stallion" (stud, in Oklahoma) that decided to strike a pose for me. Turned sideways to me, facing into the wind, head held high, leaning forward and stretching out, mane and tail blowing gently in the breeze. Perfect light at 45 degrees off behind me. He stood there forever waiting for me to set up. Set camera on rapid advance, f4.5, 1/120, Delta 100. Cool! Never saw the big bush blocking the shot from mid-chest down in the front. All I had to do was move two feet to my left and it would not have been in the pic. Showed the pic to the instructor. He saw the bush! His only comment on the pic was "Might have been a decent shot, if it wasn't for the bush blocking your shot. Could you have moved a little one way or the other?"
Ah well, such is life.

John Kasaian
29-Apr-2007, 07:14
Randy H. has brings up a good point. Domesticated horses in a pasture are more interesting in eating and exercising or sleeping than anything else, unless there is a stallion in the herd. Avoid stallions! They are on a mission and people they don't know---heck, even people they do know can be taken as a threat/love interest and a 1000 pound animal with an attitude is bad news, even if they are grass-eaters! Going into anyone's pasture without permission is asking for trouble unless there is a darn good reason for doing so.

OTOH portraits of livestock can be a profitable venture. I knew of an old time 'tog, Mr. Beatty I think his name was, who made his money during the depression taking photographs of bulls and stallions while travelling around the country in a Model A Ford. He used a Speed Graphic I think. I'm sure he's passed away by now, but when I was in high school he'd make the rounds of swap meets selling old lf photo gear and antique sharps rifles (of course I didn't have money for either!)

Colin Graham
29-Apr-2007, 08:50
My wife keeps horses and I found the best way to approach is to 'tack' in long shallow angles like a sailboat into the wind. I usually have to use a medium format with a waistlevel finder because our horses associate me with carrots and apples and I can never get a tripod set up before they come over and start fogging up the lens...Unless of course she's already eating something she likes better. This shot was 4x5 with a 135mm xenar.

Robert Hughes
29-Apr-2007, 09:20
If I don't know the animals I like to give them their space and not provoke an argument. So I wind up with a fencepost in the way...

29-Apr-2007, 21:36
After a day of maintaining trails, my brother and I would play a game of frisbee golf in the pastures around the log cabin we were based out of. Just as it was getting dark we'd call the last hole for the night to be the mules. We'd let the frisbees fly at the same time, but the mules usually took off when they saw them coming --definitely only a one-shot hole.

PS...lens shade!

Mark Carney
30-Apr-2007, 07:00
Horses are hormonal driven 1000 pound animals with the intelligence of a gravel driveway.

AVOID all stallions and even geldings.
AVOID any rear approach or any position that puts their hind end toward you.
Proceed slowly and with caution.
A firm hand when touching is better than a gentle hand.
They can respond to a firm voice.
They can sense fear.

Mares would rather eat then fool with you.

You can get hurt so be careful.


30-Apr-2007, 09:00
My Conley 10.5" RR arrive in the post this morning!! Couldn't resist whacking it on the camera. I used a 10mm body jewelery bar (don't ask what piercing it's for, you don't wanna know) to secure the barrel as screws (and most of the innards) are missing from the shutter.

I decided to stay on the other side of the fence today. Fortunately the Conley lens is a longer focal length, a little longer than I would favour I think, but pretty nice since I could get the horses looking fairly well sized on the GG without hopping the fence again.

Course, bright sunlight this afternoon. Meter read 1/250 at f/4. I had my hand as a shutter. That's no fun when you have a rubber lens hood whose circumference is larger than your palm!! The shot looks blurred and nasty. So let's forget about that one :)

For the second shot I decided to stand behind the ditch and hedgerow/tree/fence perimeter. Brilliant, my metering would be shot to get the main horse properly exposed - it would kill off all the highlights in the background. Silhouette horse it is, without lens hood. By the time I had sorted out what I wanted to do, the horse had moved away from central position, and turned away from me. Dammit.


I hate scanning these negs. I don't get any useful tonal range, I gotta stitch two halves to get a picture, and I have to play around with curves in photoshop for every shot!

8-May-2007, 11:47
Photographing horses is tricky, and can be frustrating. There's a lot of good comments in this thread already. To get into the mindset of a horse - imaging being a 1000# animal who thinks a mouse can eat it.... ;) They're prey animals, and as such are skittish and fearful. They're also pack animals, so tend to try to "rank" the newcomer in their group (and they can view you as a newcomer in this regard) - so they test you. Some of them are quite curious - and you may get investigated in ways that make you uncomfortable. Some of them can be aggressive - especially stallions (and especially when there's a mare in season somewhere nearby...) (2nd shot down on this page is me being charged by a 1400# Hanoverian warmblood stallion... - http://www.daverephoto.com/equestrian-general.html ).

My wife is an equestrian - I usually take her along as an assistant. When I'm in a pasture, she "watches my back", so I can focus on taking pictures. It might help to have someone with some horse sense along with you - both to educate you about them, and to look out for you.

Because they do tend to keep moving around, and unless there are rare circumstances that make them want posture, you basically have to be ready for anything. If you want to take a specific type of shot, do all the prep you can ahead of time - taking ad hoc horse pictures with a LF camera is going to be challenging, so anything you can to be ready, and to be able to shoot quickly will help you out. Heck, its tough enough w/ a dSLR... ;)

I'm in the boat w/ you, Ash - horses can be pretty intimidating, especially after having a negative experience as a child (me too... ;) ). But, once you start to learn about them, and spend some time with them, they tend to make a little more sense. Be wary, and keep a watchful eye - but there's not a whole lot to fear, if you take appropriate precautions, and stay alert :)

John Kasaian
8-May-2007, 12:36
Pshaw! Cowboy up! There ain't a horse that can't be rode and there ain't no cowboy that can't be throwed!

I routinely shoot my Speed Graphic while galloping with all the afterburners kicked in (I hold the riens between my teeth so I have a hand free for reloading!) Talk about induced bokeh!

Well, no, not really, ;)

Horses actually do know when you're afraid of them and will often test you if they sense it.They also don't like pussy-footing around---your actions need to be purposeful and deliberate (but not loud or startling)---horses don't like having thier time wasted (they could be eating) They do like being spoken to---a couple of thousand years of domesticated service as a noble companion of warriors, farmers, pioneers teamsters and milkmen kind of has instilled a soothing response to soothing human conversation, which is why Hoppy, Gene and Roy always spoke to thier horses---they weren't expecting a dialog ;)

Try this---walk out in a pasture (with no stallions in it) and remain motionless and be patent. Most domesticated horses, after they notice you, will approach you out of curiosity (you'd be curious if you saw a horse in your fridge, wouldn't you?) Shake a bucket of barley at them and they'll come running.

Nice horsey!

Eric James
8-May-2007, 12:49
...and when all else fails, use a tripod that clears the fence - as I did in this shot of an Alaskan Quarter Horse.

Beautiful photo Colin!

8-May-2007, 13:40
...and when all else fails, use a tripod that clears the fence - as I did in this shot of an Alaskan Quarter Horse.

So what is the other 3/4's?


8-May-2007, 14:43
I've never seen a horse being scared from an LF camera.

If fact, this particular horse really likes to use full plate cameras...


steve simmons
8-May-2007, 16:17
I would almost never walk out into a field of unknown horses. If there is a stallion there he may see you as a rival, if there is a mare with a foal and you get between them watch out, and there is that old dominance thing and king of the herd mentality even if there is not a stallion. I have seen geldings act much like a stallion with their brood, and if there is an old dominant mare she may be protective of her younger companions. There are certainly other variables - are they eating and how hungry are they, mares do get PMS, etc., etc.

Fences are great protection.

steve simmons

Vick Vickery
8-May-2007, 20:56
Eric James...great shot! Wish I had taken it!

Eric James
8-May-2007, 21:10
Thanks Vick!

Vaughn, the other 3/4 is composed of ornamental tree bark, garden veggies, and the occasional alder.

Geert - I like the custom dark cloth:)

9-May-2007, 16:14
A couple of additional observations about safety around horses:

The breeds vary quite a bit in general temperament, along with the variations in individual horses. Thoroughreds tend to be flighty and skittish; the Hanoverians someone mentioned are a bit more stable, but can also be more curious and inventive. A Thoroughbred is more likely to panic at the sight of a flapping dark cloth, whereas a couple of Hanoverian three year olds are more likely to want to play either tug-o'-war or keep-away with it. (ask me how I know this...)

Having carrots or other treats on your person may well subject you to more (and more personal) attention than you really want. Horses use smell for the close-in location of food...

And finally, I was cautioned by a very experienced and competent horse breeder to never stand closer than arm's length in front of an unknown horse. A horse's head weighs a lot, and if the animal "tosses" it into your face, it is like getting hit by a sandbag (only, with more bones).