Black and White

Black and White

As a photographer and a lover of art, I have always loved looking at a good black and white image.

I like how, sometimes, when you remove the color, the true intent of the image just pops out at you with power.

There is something in the simplicity of a black and white image that makes it feel complex — makes it something you can stare at for hours to find all the details.

At the recent Equine Photographers photography retreat in Wyoming, I felt several of the images come through my lens in black and white — even though they were made in color. That doesn’t happen as much any more – I spend  more time in the colorful realm it seems.

Years ago, I used to buy black and white film to make a black and white image — I had to choose between black and white or color. With digital technology, you get to have both, so the image can tell you how it wants to be seen. Sometimes, I forget to listen. That’s what makes retreats like this one so powerful — you can take the time to really create, listen, feel the images.

Here are some more of the black and whites from this same photo shoot:

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Powerful. Capable. Confident.

Ready.

All of these words describe Holly True, the subject in this image.

Around the ranch, she has been dubbed the Stallion Master. That should tell you a lot considering she’s only 18. She is an accomplished horse trainer. She is well educated — she can talk with you articulately and all in the same conversation about politics, poetry and philosophy. She can, as her title suggests, handle stallions — as well as mares, foals, and riding horses. She is good with a gun. She can do whatever the task is at hand — gates, trucks, hay, trailers …

She never backs down. She is always ready for what’s next. That is Holly.

In this image, it looks to me like she’s ready to ride the NEXT horse she decides to cut from the herd.

We’ve all heard the story of some {insert country} tribe that doesn’t allow cameras because they {ignorantly} feel that a photograph can steal their soul. We laugh at the concept of someone so backward that they could believe such a notion. But is not that the ultimate goal of a photograph — to set to record the essence of a person, place, animal or object? Not maybe to “steal,” but at the very least to borrow or capture that subject’s truth in that place and in that moment in time.

When I was in college, I was a creative writing major. My favorite format was the short story — still is if you want to know the truth. Once I had a discussion with other writers and we came to the conclusion that novelists were short story writers who didn’t know when to stop writing and short story writers were poets who used too many words. The more economy to the words, the more intense the writing.

When I look at this image its economy of words speaks to me. Whether you glance at it or study it for an hour, it will tell you a story — and that, to me, makes it my favorite photograph out of the 6000 plus images I’ve shot this week.

What’s more, is that I didn’t force the image. As an artist, I trusted my process and I trusted my subject. I didn’t agonize over settings or measure the light; I didn’t try to wrangle the horses or manipulate the scene. I had just been there when Holly dismounted from the horse she’d been riding bareback — actually, she had caught that horse from the herd, jumped on, run full out for a group of photographers and, having completed that,  slid off to release him back to his buddies. When she walked by me, I noticed she had “bareback butt” — and I liked the thought of that in an image, so I had her turn around so I could photograph her dirty jeans. In the background, the herd of horses were milling around where the wranglers were holding them until the photographers could get down the hill to photograph them as they ran down. Next thing I know, this image was in my camera.

As a photographer, as a story teller, this is the best kind of image — real, raw, powerful, authentic and unplanned.

Below are two more images of Holly from this week’s shoots…