Saturday, January 13, 2018

Why we do what we do.... Ben's Chase

The air is beginning to cool after 95°F (35°C); dusk is settling over the Basin. Karen and I saw horses heading to the waterhole just below the Pony Express Cabin at Great Desert Basin, HMA in Utah. We had just finished photographing another herd way out on the plains and returned to the campsite. The Pony Express Cabin is very close to our campsite, so we immediately hopped back in the truck and arrived ahead of the horses.  Observing most of the horses heading to the far side of the pond, we parked the truck on the north side of the pond and walked up the hill to get an unobstructed view.  We did not see the horses arriving over the hill behind us until they startled us with their proximity. We were surrounded, and the truck was parked a distance away…

Why we do what we do…

There’s the thrill of photographing horses living free. There are no retakes, there are no ‘do-overs’ out on the range. We must be swift, precise, and always alert. Rarely, such as that evening at Great Desert Basin when we are tired from a long day of shooting under a hot August sun, we become less attentive, but those instances are rare. There are rattlesnakes out there and help is far away.

The horses do not pose, there is no handler guiding an impeccably groomed horse towards the photographers. We don't mean to disparage our colleagues who do photograph domestic horses. They take extraordinary photographs but I have done those (horse shows, outdoor photo shoots, on location photo shoots etc) and I feel something vital is missing.

There are no amenities on the range, we eat reconstituted food, we bathe out of basins, there is no WIFI, no cell service, and no air conditioning except in the truck as we travel from herd to herd.  We spend weeks on the range living with the horses. The temperatures can range from 40°F (4.4°C ) on Pryor Mountain to over 100°F (38°C at Sand Wash Basin in Colorado. We miss refrigeration; cold drinks are a luxury we don’t have very often. There is no electricity, so we charge our devices via the cigarette lighter in the truck as we travel. We carefully gauge our gas consumption, often travelling nearly an hour to refuel.

There’s a freedom out there on the range, an unpredictability, and a heightened sense of anticipation. We never know what we will see each day, sometimes we witness stallions sparring, or perhaps a new foal on shaky legs. We watch the sky and wonder whether the storm clouds will bring thunderstorms or pass by harmlessly. We must always be ready and vigilant. Once, my daughter Abby was nearly trampled out on the range. A stallion was chasing another away from his mares.  He had a huge open plain and he chose to head directly towards us.  We had nowhere to hide because safety is a car and horses seldom stop near the road.  We had to do our best to predict which way they would turn… we were lucky, a few feet to the left and they might have run over her. My son Ben captured the entire incident while I was in the process of a small nervous breakdown...

Ben's chase
McCullough Peaks, Wyoming 2013 
Abby was ten years old, and Ben was eight.
Click on the image and it will open a larger version-simply click each image and it will scroll to the next...

Peacefully grazing in the distance

The Chase begins


A bit closer, we can tell they are probably cutting between myself & Ben and Abby

Even closer

They pass in front of Ben and I

Abby appears, on the right

Shes dashing out of the way...

Abby disappears...

You can just make out Abby's leg just behind the second horse's foreleg

She appears, we all breathe a sigh of relief

They continue the chase

Abby, ever the professional, continues shooting...

  These are my photographs of the same scenario.

You can see how close Abby's purple boos are to the hooves of the stallion

It’s intense out there and it is challenging.  The horses don’t pay much attention to us, so our photos are raw and natural. For myself, I want the viewer to feel as though they were standing next to me when I took the photograph, so I do not use artificial filters. Because of the unpredictability of the photographing, they are not always perfectly focused, but the power and energy are undeniable. For Karen, she has learned to paint with astonishing speed and accuracy. She can paint without interacting with the horses, effectively capturing their natural essence.

We give up creature comforts for the privilege of photographing wild horses. There is a vitality and unrestrained passion that flows through the horses; we try our humble best to bring that life to you.

“In photography, there is a reality so subtle that it becomes more real than reality.’ 
-Alfred Stieglitz

“Painting is the representation of visible forms. The essence of realism is its negation of the ideal.”
-Gustave Courbet

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