Back in the saddle

After a six month hiatus from photographing horses, I stepped back in the paddock last week, excited to start a new series of horses of the Hudson Valley. Walking into the barn, the smell was intoxicating—for those of us who like that sort of thing—the familiar scent of hay, horses and leather eliciting unapologetic tears. My eternal, internal home.

It wasn’t my intention to photograph that day as it was quite gray and rainy, and I was aware of a sense of relief that I could start this project simply by being around my subjects without the pressure of imaging them. Christina, one of the boarders, introduced me to the residents, describing the idiosyncrasies of both horses and owners so I could approach safely, bring a long lens or a grain of salt. It felt good just to be among the herd.

As we were finishing the introductions, the sun found a hole in the clouds and I couldn’t resist asking Christina to bring her Warm Blood to an outdoor arena where I could practice shooting. As her magnificent Syldra raced around the arena, the rest of the world fell away in a beautiful state of absolute presence. I watched the mare’s beautiful form, the swiftness of her movement and the afternoon light coalesce in perfect moments of photogenic splendor. It was thrilling to witness, and that’s a good thing, because my photographer self largely missed it all. Among the blurry, blown out, and completely missed-the-subject collection, I had one barely passable image to offer Christina.

It was humbling, and a reminder of the imperative of practicing any craft. When I mentioned this to Christina, she rolled her eyes and validated my remark with, “Please, I’m a cellist.” It reminded me of the Heifetz quote, “If I don‘t practice one day, I know it; two days, the critics know it; three days, the public knows it.” I take photographs nearly every day, but trees and the Hudson don‘t move in the same way, and never run straight at me. The experience provided a huge appreciation for what I often take for granted. With current technology, nearly everyone takes photographs. Yet it’s different for those of us who practice the craft. Hats off to those who do.