Winter Horses in the Trees
My wife and I were out at the Folk Tree Lodge near Bragg Creek, Alberta to give the kids a night with the grandparents. We spent New Year’s Eve there with a great group at the invitation of Paola and Alvise so it was great to spend another night there – such a great retreat.
In the morning I had plans to wander the trails around the ranch and find a good spot to photograph the sunrise. I threw those out once I came up to the fence for the horse paddock. Paola and Alvise have a small herd of horses they take care of. In the pre-dawn I could make them out on the far side of the large field so I decided they would be the subject of the morning’s shoot. All the horses had to do was cooperate. Horses can be wary but their curiosity will usually takeover if you can remain still and just wait for them. It took a while but once two horses approached the rail and, after a good pat, went back to the herd, then the rest of the horses relaxed and followed me around as I worked with the increasing light and rising sun out of the east. I really enjoyed talking to them and playing with them as I was photographing.
In the processing of the images, I worked on a few different approaches. I will give the summary of what work I did in post for the applicable images in case you are interested.
Shooting towards the sun washed this photo out a little bit so I brought it back by increasing the contrast and black level in Lightroom.
This mare was easily the most curious in the group, followed closely by the black horse. Both enjoyed the attention and the scratches on the cheek and behind the ears.
The curious horse playing shy among the trees on her way over to the fence.
Brightened slightly in Lightroom and then I increased the saturation in the coats and trees while cooling the white balance in the snow. I spent about one minute on this image which is more than usual but I like the result.
This was the first horse to approach once the herd had moved across the field, into the trees and close to me on the fence. The sun was still a while away from rising so the deep colours in the coats was not there yet so I preferred this image in black and white. I converted it using the split tone functionality in Lightroom’s develop module. I like to use a a pale gold color for the highlights and a blue gray for the shadows. I increased the exposure to accomplish two goals: bring out the details in the foreground horse’s face and to lend an abstract, graphic feel to the other horses.
I desaturated this image in Lightroom and then used Topaz Adjust to bring out detail and to do targeted exposure adjustment. The sun backlit the horses and I loved the way it highlighted their coats. I used the adjustments to brighten the faces and bring out the detail.
Great subjects and fun to work with these images a little bit on the computer. Thank you to Alvise and Paolo for enabling a night (and morning) in their wonderland.