x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

A class on horse photography

A pair of experts have started a course that allows participants the opportunity to safely get up close and personal to thorses with a view to taking the perfect  photo.

Aragorn, a one-year-old horse, gets a shower as Kelly Eide, left, and Astrid Harrisson take pictures during an equine photography workshop at the Al Asayl equestrian centre near Abu Dhabi International Airport. Ravindranath K / The National
Aragorn, a one-year-old horse, gets a shower as Kelly Eide, left, and Astrid Harrisson take pictures during an equine photography workshop at the Al Asayl equestrian centre near Abu Dhabi International Airport. Ravindranath K / The National

While events such as the recent Dubai World Cup give opportunities for spectators to snap shots of horses, it's likely that distance from the subject will hamper their quality.

But a pair of experts have started a course that teaches participants how to safely get close to the magnificent beasts to capture the perfect horse photo.

The initiative is a collaboration between the professional horse photographer Astrid Harrisson and Kelly Eide, an equine coach - or "horse whisperer".

In a stroke of serendipity, the pair met at one of Harrisson's exhibitions at the Majlis Gallery in Dubai, where she is one of the artists in residence. Realising their shared passion for the subject, a partnership was born.

Now they run their classes at UAE horse farms. Attending one of the sessions at Forta Stud on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi, myself and two other attendees sit outside the farm's luxurious villa while Eide offers us instruction and a quick lesson in horse psychology. Horses are pack animals, but since they are considered prey in the wild, they tend to be skittish. Hence, their innate response to any perceived danger is to gallop off to safety.

"At times [during the photo shoot] you are within one metre of a very large animal. You have to understand the workings of animals such as horses," explains Eide.

"If you can do this, it is a win-win situation."

The most important skill to learn is to be at ease with the horse.

"To take good photos, you don't want to disrupt the animal at all," says Eide. "Horses get spooked easily, so you want to avoid this.

"If the energy you bring into [the photo session] is predatory - kind of like a paparazzi photographer - then the photos you end up with will suffer."

Eide's experience in this field began when she was studying to be a business coach back in her native US. She was invited to take pictures of a horse training session by the acclaimed life coach Dr Martha Beck and the equine behaviourist Koelle Simpson.

Eide was impressed by the way they could exert total authority over an animal that they had no chance of controlling through strength. So after getting trained she moved to Dubai and now tutors professionals in these skills.

It also forms part of her photography course, which involves running a horse around a pen, spurring it to gallop and having it change direction and follow you just by asserting your will over it.

But the majority of the afternoon's activities involve setting up picture opportunities, with horses being paraded around the grounds of the stable, sprayed with a hose and walked through the desert.

A few days after the course, participants are invited to Majlis Gallery, where Harrisson imparts some post-production skills.

Harrisson, who hails from the Channel Islands in the UK, has been a professional horse photographer and copper etcher since 2007.

"I could quite happily watch horses all day," she admits. "But Kelly has helped me learn how to work with the horses so I can take better photos."She believes that the most crucial element people can bring to the table is passion.

"You know, I could take some pictures of boats that would be architecturally fine, but I wouldn't really know what I'm doing because I know nothing about boats.

"If you're passionate about your subject, no matter how much technical know-how or talent you have, you will invariably get some great photos."

As well as the chance to expand her own portfolio, she was delighted to impart her photographic knowledge and love of horses to others.

"We've had a huge range of reactions from the people who've done the course. We've had tears - of relief and happiness, not of being scared I must add - from one lady," she explains.

"But I think everyone who did the course got something out of it."

 

Harrisson's photography is on display at Majlis Gallery now. For more information, visit www.themajlisgallery.com or call 04 353 6233. For information about the courses, email Eide at kelly@trueyoume.com

 

hberger@thenational.ae

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