Tag: Black and White

Horse Photography Tips and Techniques

Bicycles, buggies and horses
Bicycles, buggies and horses

When you think about photographing horses, you probably picture a naked woman riding an Arabian stallion on a sandy beach at sunset. It’s a good plan if you can manage to put it all together, but until then you may want to practice locally.

Living in Pennsylvania it’s easier to find horses than it is to find good lobster and they all love to pose. If you have trouble finding horses where you live consider going to a riding stable or school.

Tip 1: They usually have crud in their eyes. You don’t have to point this out to them but see if you can find one that has less. Another option is to get further away and avoid head shots.

Tip 2: As soon as it gets really hot they’re often covered with flies. While this may not seem like a big deal it really does take away from the beautiful animal that you’re trying to capture.

Tip 3: Horses are very friendly and will come up to you to see what you want. Despite the warnings, I always pet them and have never had my fingers bitten off. Your results may vary.

Tip 4: Consider converting to black and white. Unless you’re lucky enough to capture the perfect light, choose one of the many ways to do this then lie like a professional. Tell everyone how color is distracting, that black and white forces you to focus on the image, and that you were going for that aesthetic, artistic look.

Tip 5: This is the big one: you want to get a good composition, an interesting pose and ideally something in the background. Most horses have very little to do during the day so they just sort of stand there, which is good because you’ll have plenty of time to think about the shot.

Finally, don’t ask them why the long face, I’ve never met once that thinks that’s funny.


Clouds and train (obviously)
Clouds and train (obviously)

Equivalents is a series of photographs of clouds taken by Alfred Stieglitz from 1925 to 1934. The Equivalents trace Stieglitz’s emotional response to nature through periods of ecstasy and darkness, romance and confronting mortality.

I like clouds as much as anyone but I’m not reading that much into it. After the storm cleared the wind picked up and there were some beautiful clouds, but I wanted something in the foreground. I thought about a bird or a plane when I  heard the whistle of this train coming my way.

On his Equivalents series he said: “My cloud photographs are equivalents of my most profound life experiences, my basic philosophy of life.” He also said: “Photography is my passion, the search for truth, my obsession.” It seems that we have a lot in common.

The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle

Sunflower and spider
Sunflower and spider

The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, discovered in 1927 states simply that the act of observation changes the thing observed. In this case, when I set up to photograph a flower it moves just enough to make getting a sharp image unlikely.

It might have been the tractor trailer trucks going by inches from where I was standing or it might have been the breeze from the coming storm, but I don’t think so. By observing I changed the thing observed.

So there are a few options to bypass this principle: the first is to raise the ISO to get a faster shutter speed. The second is to use a wider aperture for the same reason, and the third is to pretend to be satisfied with a fuzzy shot.

I left the ISO at 200 and the aperture at f/4 just as an experiment and almost all the shots were so sharp I could see the daddy long legs laughing at me. But I liked this one at f/2.8 better.

As Werner Heisenberg himself said: “There are things that are so serious that you can only joke about them.” In other words, don’t sweat the small stuff and if necessary convert to black and white.

But it’s not Perfect

Sunflower 6-12-19
Sunflower 6-12-19

I stopped at an Amish flower stand to check out the sunflowers I saw last week and an old woman on a bicycle rode up and said hello. I mentioned how big they got and she told me that she didn’t plant them, it was the birds.

When I asked her if any were flowering she told me there was one on the end of the row but something was wrong with it, it wasn’t perfect. I walked over with the curiosity of Schrödinger’s cat and wondered what she meant.

As soon as I saw it I knew that it was absolutely perfect! The leaves protecting the flower were growing at an odd angle but it was very healthy and probably happy to have someone care so much about it.

I took a few photos as the clouds burned off into bright sunshine, the kind of bright that makes color photos of flowers look washed out, so I knew I would end up converting this to black and white. I thanked the woman and told her she made my day.

“Do you think it will be OK?” she asked me before I left. I was a bit surprised at the question but I figured she was used to dealing with two headed calves and vegetables that grow to look like genitals, the Amish hate when that happens. I assured her the flower would be fine.

The Buddha said: “Aim for success, not perfection. Never give up because you will lose the ability to learn new things. Move forward with your life.” I didn’t tell her that because she was close to 80 and I’m sure she has life pretty much figured out by now.