It was spring in San Juan Capistrano, and cold, and we had left very early and in the dark to get to the show. When we pulled in to start our day, I saw a half dozen horses and riders in the warm up ring, all breathing steam like dragons as the sun crested the trees. I’d barely put the car in “park” before leaping out, grabbing a camera and dashing to the side of the ring. As Tobi Coate and Zorren transitioned to a walk break, the steam rose up from his body and enveloped them. Thank you, Tobi, for being a great model, and for being in the right place at the right time!
I think this was the third storm of the week. Maybe the fourth, if you count the two hours of sunshine this afternoon as a break between storms. We in southern California have been delightfully drenched this week, and there is, thankfully, finally, snow on the mountain tops. The sky has been incredible, dramatic, fanciful…. so here are my favorite two photos from this afternoon.
If it’s spring, that means there are baby horses!
This is Dancer, a Lusitano colt, at Donna Richardson’s Fox Run Farm, who was the most independent three-week-old foal I’ve ever photographed. Most foals that age try not to stray far from Mom’s protective Sphere of Influence. Not so Dancer! While Uma grazed, he was busy exploring every corner of his paddock, finding all sorts of interesting things to play with: a strip of bark, the water trough, his halter, a puddle…. He spent our photo session alternately ripping around at full speed and sproinging into the air. I can’t wait to see how he matures!
In between my large commissioned paintings, and my large still life paintings, and my myriad small paintings done plein air, (and in between photo sessions, horse show photos, and photo processing!) I’ve been working on a series of smaller paintings. These are between 11″x 14″ and 18″x 18″, and they’re just the right size for those intimate spots where you can get up close and personal with the painting.* I’ve got a couple this size in my kitchen, my bathrooms, the hallway…. One of the joys of being an artist is that you never run out of things to hang on the walls! I ran out of walls a long time ago, however, so I have a continuously rotating collection.
This one is called “Hijinx” and I’m sure you can imagine why! We’ve all been that person (far, far to the left, beyond the left side of this painting) trudging after that fast-receding lunge line, but I couldn’t resist painting this gleeful, naughty horse!
*and this one is available at a small gem of a price too: $525.00
My painting “Golden Field: Galway Downs” is featured on the November 21-28 double issue of the Chronicle of the Horse.
Cross country courses in southern California are different than the ones on the East Coast: having been raised on photographing Radnor and Essex, Fair Hill and Groton House events, the first time I set foot on the course at Galway I had a moment of culture shock: instead of rolling green pastures, the galloping was on carefully aerated dirt tracks through tawny California wild grasses.
I’d been hiking around the Galway Downs cross country course all that day with both cameras and painting gear, setting up the easel in different places to sketch the mountain backgrounds, open foregrounds and tall trees. I’ve done a number of paintings from this day’s reference material, including “Top Of The World” and “Mirror“. “Golden Field” was from my last location sketch of the day, as the shadows were starting to slant and the light was turning amber.
Here are two new paintings: both are of stunningly beautiful Arabians, both paintings are 24″x24″, and both are all about all that fabulous flying hair catching the early morning light.
The week before Thanksgiving was the annual gathering of our casual affiliation of equine photographers, the Vision 18 Collective. A total of 10 members descended upon (or ascended to, depending on where you were arriving from) Casa Miller-Steiner. Just like any good slumber party, there were people sleeping everywhere: on whatever beds we had, on couches, Aero Beds, the floor…. I don’t have sisters, but this was a great sort of sisterhood: we have shared interests but not so much shared baggage.
So before our gathering, I asked the group if anyone had any special food or drink requests. Now, here at the Casa, one can always count on their being plenty of wine, vodka, Sapphire martinis, fruit, veggies and various organic goodies. The group sounded generally pleased with this fare, but the things that they wanted to be sure were on hand? Diet Coke and Pop Tarts. And a whole lot of gourmet chocolate magically showed up in my kitchen, too. Which I said I would share, but somehow I never got around to it.
Okay, to be fair, the Pop Tarts request came from just one member, Kim, otherwise known as The Mascot. I thought it would be a giggle to have them around, and because they were on sale, Sharon picked up several boxes just for the effect. This was met with glee from Kim, but dontcha know, by the end of the week there weren’t any left…. and I know that Kim didn’t eat them all herself!
The first day, we herded everyone into the Humongo Vehicle (a Ford Expedition, which could transport 7 people in New Millenium comfort) and drove up to Laguna Beach, ostensibly to look at art, but more importantly to have lunch overlooking the ocean at Las Brisas. Bloody Marys were ordered, arranged, photographed, and finally consumed. Need I say more?
The next day, we commandeered Donna Richardson’s and Steve Border’s Fox Run Farm. Donna generously let us have the run of the place, turned out the beautiful Lusitano stallion Postulano for some liberty shots, and helped us turn her barn aisle into a photo studio. Marie Cobb had shipped her set of lights out for us to experient with, so we tinkered with different lighting effects on the various horses, including Steve and his big horse Exuprey, who had just returned from winning the Working Hunter Championship at the National Horse Show. Then Donna played dress up, climbed aboard Postulano and piaffed in front of our lights and backdrops. Thank you, Donna, for sharing your barn, horses and your sense of adventure with us!
Our next adventure took us out to the Imperial Sand Dunes, in the desert to the east of San Diego. If you’ve ever driven Interstate 8 from San Diego to Arizona, this is the area of endless sand which draws tens of thousand of dune buggy enthusiasts. We were meeting friends who brought the ultimate dune buggies: their Arabian endurance horses. As we waited for our last members, Lynne, Cristy and Amy, to arrive at our shoot location, helping our “models” get dressed in Native Costume, the Park Rangers drove up, wanting to know if we had permits. Now, it’s their park and it’s their job to know what’s going on, but none of us knew anything about permits because Lynne was the one who had set the whole thing up … and she wasn’t there yet. So we all passed the buck, chatted with them and asked them as many questions about “sandrails” (as the dune buggies are called) as they asked about horses and photography. I wondered if they were just curious about the novelty of two horses going out on the dunes, and 10 women with cameras following them. It was quite a sight! I did see one of the rangers surreptitiously pull out his point-and-shoot to take a beauty shot of one of the horses. I asked him if he’d like to pose, but he demurred.
You just don’t realize how difficult the fine sand is to walk in until you drape 20 pounds of cameras on your shoulders and strike off across the dunes. Believe me, it looks a lot easier in the movies! My hat is off to our riders and their horses: we were having a hard enough time just walking, and they cantered across the ridges and saddles several times.
The sandrail drivers were just as curious as the rangers had been, and were courteous enough to give the horses wide berth on the dunes we were shooting on. Once we were done with the horses, they showed off for us, running along the dune ridges right in front of the sunset.
Our last day together, we descended on the San Diego Zoo. We split into groups and vanished into the wilderness. We’d been planning to leave before rush hour, but that idea vanished in the course of various cell phone calls and text messages as we spied tiger cubs, hippos, and meerkats, and obsessed on photographing flamingos. We finally posed for a last group photo, which we dedicated to our friend and missing member Susan Sexton, who is undergoing cancer treatment in Phoenix. Get well soon, Susan!
Back Row: Me, Mary Cornelius, Mary Cobb, Karin Naimark, Kim Vickrey, Darlene Wohlart
Front Row: Cristy Cumberworth, Lynne Glazer, Amy Cody
We had our last dinner together at the fabulous Peohe’s on Coronado. When Axel and I lived on Coronado, Peohe’s was one of our favorite restaurants, and it’s only gotten better. We enjoyed great food, great service, and the incomparable view of the San Diego skyline. A great end to a fun week!
Oh, and here’s a gallery of photos from the week!