Horse photography lessons at Potcoava

The forecast was of bad weather. Three days of rain and storms throughout the entire workshop. I was a little worried. What shall we do, as there is no indoor manege at Potcoava? I had to take a quick decision.

I was sitting on the terrace, admiring the Leaota Mountain summits threatened by dark clouds. Within half an hour, while drinking my coffee, the plan of attack was ready. Even if it trained nonstop, I would teach my students to take spectacular photos on bad weather. Inside and outside, using studio lights. I even had in mind suitable locations and scenarios.

I was maybe a little disappointed when, in the end, it didn’t rain at all (only one shower during our Saturday lunch). But I kept the idea in mind for future workshops.

Slowly, people started to arrive. Cheerful, eager persons, as well as shy girls that worried they would not be able to handle the workshop. They all had something in common. They didn’t know how to use the camera in the manual mode. So we relaxed, sat down and drank a glass of beer. I took each camera and explained what buttons we needed and where they were located.

I have to admit I was a little bit surprised that some of them, who had previously attended other photo workshops, didn’t have the basic knowledge of the camera. I am not a technical person myself and my class is not a theoretical one. But I began to explain to them, in simple words, how we should think of a photo.

First we think of the mechanical part. With the final shot in our mind, there are a few variables we can play with. Then the artistic part: we look at the light, the background, the subject. Once all the technical and artistic elements are in their place, we try to induce our subject the mood we want in order to capture the emotion and sensations we are looking for in our photo.

In real life situations, all these elements have to be analyzed and changed quickly, sometimes within seconds. As some girls got a little bit frightened by the scale of the entire process, we went for lunch, to charge our batteries with much too delicious home-made dishes.

Sunset and storm clouds. Perfect for shooting. 11 blond horses, with golden, perfectly combed manes, graze relaxed on the hill among yellow dandelion flowers. First photos.  Large frame, clouds, static subject. I explain the settings. For the beginning it is very important that everybody learns how to take technically correct photos, with no extremely white or dark areas.

Tight frame, without clouds. Contre-jour image that shows only the horse’s silhouette and its bright mane. I explain the settings. I hear a cry. One of the girls can’t believe she has managed to take such a photo herself. “I have wanted to do that for such a long time,” she says.

We get ready for action photos. The horses will start galloping. I explain to them the equine psychology and how to behave when they see a herd of horses running towards them. It looks scary, but they all reacted as I told them to and got braver. I say the settings out loud.

The horses pass by us at full speed. We can hear the rattle of the cameras. Again. And again. A sigh of disappointment. The photos are technically correct, but they lack focus. It’s normal. It’s extremely difficult to have focus on a subject that changes its direction so quickly. It’s a matter of exercise and imagination.

The evening is long. We look at the photos, we laugh at the funny moments, we drink quite a few glasses of wine.

We wake up early in the morning. At 5.45am we are out, to catch the sunrise light. It’s cloudy. Nonetheless, we go with the horses on the hills and the sun is out. Somebody out there definitely loves us! I am proud of my students. If at the beginning I told the settings out loud, one hour later all I had to do was to announce what type of image we wanted to shoot and they were able to make their own adjustments. Major step ahead that I’m not sure they were aware of.

Much better photos. First smiles of content.

We get ready for our riding adventure at noon. A short lesson in the maneje, then the walk over the hills. I see happy faces around me. Relaxation. It feels as if we are in a short vacation. In the evening we play with a few other photo situations in several locations.

Fun on Sunday morning, when we plan to create the story of three Romanian peasants dressed traditionally with white embroidered blouses, leather belt and hat. The man has even a gun and the girls flowers in their hair. We go on the hills, among flowers. We improvise on the spot. Two girls ride together in the countryside. They joke and laugh. The man takes advantage of a flock of cows to make a spectacular entrance at full gallop. The girls leave galloping with him. We can see the Potco ava ranch in the background. In the end, the man chooses his bride de rides next to her, hand in hand.

Great attention to details. The light, the framing, the settings, the characters. We rehearse each scene until we get it right. We laugh. The story has a shape. My students know how to make their own settings, we are focusing only on the artistic part now.

We hear a thunder. It’s so lucky we are done. We get back to the ranch. It starts to rain. We eat, smile and talk about key and funny moments of our improvised movie script.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Magda Munteanu