Allison Howell, DVM, is a member of the Belle Meade Hunt in Georgia, and she is also a great photographer. She has written down some helpful hints on getting superior photos from the hunt field.
Photographing equestrians, horses, and hounds has been a decades-long passion for me. I enjoy capturing the bond between horse and rider in a natural setting. The excitement, exhilaration, and the unexpected when hounds are in full cry is the reason I’m there, whether behind the camera or in the saddle. It’s a blessing and a privilege to be a part of this sport, no matter the conditions or presence of game.
I’m striving for the sharpest and most creative photographs possible. Much depends on my skills, the camera, and just plain luck. I’ve put together these suggestions for riders to help me achieve this goal, which creates the best photographs for them. I hope to promote and spread the appreciation of foxhunting through photography by documenting it most positively.
First and Second Flights - Relax, breathe and smile! This is supposed to be fun, and you won’t be judged. Keep your head up and look forward over the fence, where you intend to go. You can even look at me and throw me a grin or wave if you’re comfortable with it. Don’t peek down at the jump; it’s not going to move, no trolls are hiding under it, and I promise it won’t bite!
Separate yourselves so the photographer has time to focus on each rider over the jump. This is also safer. If you want to jump together, one of you should count a rhythm out loud to make it easier to get the horses’ strides synchronized. You can count out loud when you get seven or eight strides away, or if you’re like me and can’t focus on counting, try to find a rhythm by saying canter, canter, canter. The further out from the jump you start this, the better.
If you are interested in photographs of yourself, please don’t be shy, introduce yourself, and let me know, if possible, at the beginning of the hunt. I appreciate this because it’s a great way to meet people and put faces to their names. When I ride, I appreciate photographs and let my colleagues know. There’s never an obligation to purchase and oftentimes it can be educational to see yourself and the horse in action. As an equestrian and fox hunter myself, I would never want any “oops” photos for public viewing. You can be assured that any unflattering photos of you or your horse won’t be visible on my website. So, if you have an awkward jump, don’t worry, we’ve all had them; just leave that jump behind you, gallop on, and enjoy the rest of your ride.
Hilltoppers - You are delightful to photograph and usually have the best smiles of the day. Often, Hilltoppers end up in the most scenic areas of the hunt country, and if I’m in sight of you, trust me, I’ll notice. I’ve taken many lovely images of equestrians trotting and cantering as they follow hounds.
Hounds - Interaction between hounds with the members of a hunt club (riders, staff, horses, etc.) can make for some very meaningful photographs. I LOVE hounds and they take priority over riders when I’m out shooting, especially when they’re in action.
My best suggestion is to enjoy your ride and appreciate the rich blessing of being out in God’s country with your friends. Have fun! Every effort will be made to capture the action along with all the emotions that go along with the sport of foxhunting.
Orginially Published on October 10, 2022.