By Jim Zuckerman
Shooting horses can be very frustrating because all too often they are doing what all herbivores do most of their waking hours: they're eating. An animal with its head in the grass rarely makes a strong picture, no matter if it’s a rhino, a deer or a horse. In order to capture the grace and beauty of horses, they have to be animated and alert. This could be simply a head shot with ears erect or it could be a horse at full gallop.
Unless you have an endless amount of time at your disposal and infinite patience, you could be waiting for a long time to get the kind of pictures you really want. Therefore, it’s necessary to set up the kinds of shots you envision. This entails working with a horse trainer or someone who owns horses and is wiling to run them for you at the right time of day.
That’s how I got the photo you see below. This is one of the white horses of the Camargue in France that I shot with the help of a French farmer who owns a small herd of them. I had arranged to photograph them twice a day, at sunrise and sunset. At these times, you have the most options with respect to lighting – front light, side light, and backlighting. The exquisite backlighting on the galloping horse that I was able to capture makes this image successful, but the other all-important ingredient is the graphic design of the horse’s body. The position and shape of the legs, the tail, and the head make or break the picture. It’s so easy snap the shutter at a moment when the graphics just don’t come together in a pleasing way. Since it’s impossible to freeze images in your mind and examine them critically as a horse is running past the camera, you have to shoot a lot of frames in the hope a few will be great.
I took this picture at 1/20th of a second while panning with the horse. I didn’t want to completely abstract the image with a slower shutter, and I felt that a faster speed wouldn’t give me the artistry I was looking for. I experimented with speeds in the 1/8th to 1/30th second range during the entire shoot and felt that given the speed of the horses 1/20th worked out best.