A Horse is a Horse

A horse is a horse, of course, of course,
And no one can talk to a horse of course
That is, of course, unless the horse is the famous Mister Ed.

Those famous lines are, of course, from the American TV show Mr. Ed, which aired on CBS from 1961 to 1966. Those of us named “Ed” have had to endure countless (usually bad) jokes about this talking horse business, but it’s all good.

Well, back in 2008 I decided to go out to eastern Washington and Idaho to photograph a beautiful farming area I’d heard about called “The Palouse“. The autumn harvest was in full swing, and one afternoon as I was driving my convertible down a rutted, unpaved farm road (more like a dirt path, really), I actually had to pull out of the way for a harvester to go by! Those guys probably don’t see anything but pickup trucks on those farm roads, so they probably had to look twice when they saw my bright red sports car! Trust me, if the road had been muddy I would not have been out there in that low clearance car. It would not have ended well!

Anyway, eventually I spotted some rustic fences made of barbed wire and wooden fence posts skewed in all directions, and I just had to stop and see if I could do anything with them. I parked my car right up against the fence, leaving barely enough room for another vehicle to pass, and got my gear out of the trunk.

Now you have to understand. I can see for miles. There’s no one around at this point, man nor beast. So I extend the tripod legs, mount the camera on it, choose a lens, and start “working” the composition. I took exactly one exposure, which I wasn’t particularly happy with, but it shows the general lay of the land quite well.

Palouse Fence, The Palouse, Washington

Palouse Fence, The Palouse, Washington

And then, my face still glued to the viewfinder, I get this feeling I’m being watched. I look around, and there is this beautiful Appaloosa standing just a few feet away. Where did that horse come from? Talk about getting absorbed in your work, but this is ridiculous!

Well, change of plans! I now have a willing subject, one that moves, so the fence can wait!

Appaloosa and Fence, The Palouse, Washington

Appaloosa and Fence, The Palouse, Washington

I fire off four shots in rapid succession, but something isn’t right. I’ve never photographed horses in my life before, so I’m not sure what’s wrong. Then it occurs to me that I have a strong telephoto zoom mounted on the camera, enough to get a nice portrait, so I zoom way in. Bam! One exposure, and I now have my most popular image ever.

Watchful, The Palouse, Idaho

This beautiful animal kept close watch on me as I photographed his owner’s farm. Unhappy that I was leaving, he leaned over the fence and started chewing on the antenna of my car, in The Palouse, Idaho.

Of course I didn’t know that yet. The first time I showed it in public was at my first Getty Images employee art walk, and a fellow employee immediately asked if he could buy it for his daughter. That event and several others were instrumental in my decision to start selling my images at art fairs and other venues. Up until then, I had only posted them on the photo sharing site Flickr.

And it’s the art fairs where people started noticing it. First I did small prints on metallic paper, then larger prints, then canvas prints. It’s now my “Masterpiece”, displayed in a 32″x48″ canvas that dominates my booth at fairs. People come running from the other side of the street when they see it, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “Hey, there’s that horse I was telling you about!”. Another one I hear a lot is, “Um, is that a painting or a photograph?”. I blame the selective focus of the telephoto lens for that one!

Mother and Daugher Looking at my Booth

A mother and daughter look at the horse photographs in my booth at the Issaquah Salmon Days Festival, in Issaquah, Washington.

So, yes, the horse spoke to me that day. He said, “Hey, you, over here! I’m a horse! You need to photograph me! It’ll be great, trust me!”. And clearly, my friend has spoken to many of my customers, because they simply cannot resist his good looks. “I know I shouldn’t, but I’ll take that one right there.” Or, “My friends say I shouldn’t buy any more horse photos. I’ll take that one!”. One woman even ran into my booth at Salmon Days and said, “You must be Ed. I have that horse on my wall!”. It seems a friend had bought it for her.

People keep saying I must really like horses, since I now have many more horse images on display in my booth. One little girl at the Redmond Arts Festival actually came into my booth and shouted, “Wow, it’s a horse-a-palooza in here!”. Well, I do like horses well enough, but they really seem to like me, and I certainly enjoy photographing them. In fact, as I packed the gear into my trunk after photographing the Appaloosa, he wandered over to the edge of the fence and started chewing on the antennae on my car! Either he thought the rubber-encased antennae was tasty, or he was trying to tell me not to leave. So yes, I like horses. I just wish they wouldn’t try to eat my car!

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One Response to “A Horse is a Horse”

  1. Sue-Z says:

    Great horse with fence. Congratulations on your first Salmom Days run!