Friday, December 9, 2011

Holiday Cards and Equine Photography

It has become a common practice for people who have children, or pets, or vacations to take a photo and slap it onto a sliver of photo paper with a brief message (typed in) and print off a bunch and call that their Christmas or other winter holiday card. Now personally, I like my cards to fold so that you can write something personal inside them, instead of on the back for every postal worker on the job to see, but either way you need that iconic (in your own mind) image to start. Of course in my case I have to throw in a horse. I truly believe I don't photograph well without one. They are the ultimate accessory.
The internet has been around long enough that I think everyone has seen or read (at least once) the article or a variant thereof "How to Bathe a Cat." If you haven't, here it is, please enjoy.

Taking pictures of horses is not that bad. However it does take a little bit of skill, a lot of luck, and preferably a camera suitable for action shots, to get a nice photo. The invention of digital cameras (and large memory cards) is a great thing, as you can take many many attempts at getting the right photo and not worry about wasting money developing bad ones and mistakes. I would probably cry if the hundreds or even thousands of blurry, too dark, too early or too late, 1 ear down, eyes closed photos I have taken had to be developed before I discovered how inadequate they were.

So I had help with my Holiday card photo shoot this weekend, and of the close to 100 photos taken, there are probably less than 10 that I like well enough to put on a card. (With some editing.) Now I am not going to blame this all on my horse, who was a very good sport about the sidesaddle, and the wind and the flowy dress, and the multitude of paparazzi in her face. I had my share of eyes closing, talking, weird expressions and parts where I was looking the wrong direction too. But I thought I would try to share some of my insight into what went wrong and what went right.

Weather. We have been what I consider very lucky this year, and have not yet been inundated with the cold, wet, white stuff, some people cheerfully call snow, and I call white misery. Unless it is Christmas day, then I am OK with it for ambiance. That being sad, mud and bare brown trees do not a picturesque card make. But with the help of Photoshop and a tech savvy friend (or yourself if you are the techy one, as I marginally am,) weather is of little importance. You and your horse can be on a mountain with Santa, or on the beach in the surf, it is up to you.
Now I am a little bit out of practice, and I just started working on these yesterday so I apologize for the unfinished state of these pictures, and the blatantness of the photoshop jobs. The finished product will hopefully be much better, but these are for demonstration purposes only.

That said, since background is not much of an issue, the most important thing is to get the right pose, the right light, the right expression, and ears! Ears are a trial and a tribulation well known to anyone who has ever tried to take a picture of a horse. There are different tricks, noises, candies, throwing things to get a horse to put his ears up, but the best recommendation I have is to have 2 people, one in charge of attracting the ears, and the other in charge of snapping the picture once it happens, because it may not last for long. ears could be manipulated in photoshop as well I suppose that is beyond my level of skill.

Or you could add prostheses, but you will note that in the photo above not only is Jack wearing antlers, his ears are up. (Amalia's ears are up also, but that is much easier to accomplish.)

And sometimes you get lucky, and an itchy nose makes it look like your horse knows how to do tricks.

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