Horse Photography

with
Rebecca Kimbel

Horseman/Photographer Rebecca KimbelHorseman/Photographer Rebecca Kimbel

Meet Rebecca Kimbel - photographer, artist, videographer and life time horsewoman. In the 80’s she wrote a column for the local paper called “Horse Sense”. Besides being into horse photography, she acted as trail representative for California State Horsemen’s Association she spearheaded the implementation of the Hammond Trail along the Northern California Coast and fought for trail rights for horsemen across the northern state.

She was one of the founding members of the Humboldt County Chapter of Back Country Horsemen, a political organization created to preserve horse trails. At the time Back Country Horsemen only existed in 6 states and has now spread to 37 states! As a dynamic member of the community, she is a Distinguished Toastmaster and now hosts her own TV show called ‘The Rebecca Kimbel Show’ on Channel 12 Access Humboldt.

Rebecca, it’s great to talk with you! First off I want to say thank you on behalf of all horsemen for the work you’ve done to help keep trails open to us. With all you’ve done involving horses, how did you get started with horse photography?

Western Horseman Photo by Rebecca KimbelWestern Horseman Photo by Rebecca Kimbel

I was fascinated with the beauty of horses since I was a child. Capturing that beauty on film was a natural desire when I got my first camera. I took a photography class in Vegas back in the ‘70’s and I’ve been hooked ever since.

When you are looking at a horse through the lens, beyond getting the shot, what do you try to capture?

I want to capture the emotion, action, power and beauty of the horse. A picture should speak volumes all by itself.

I find it challenging to photograph anything that moves! What’s your biggest challenge with horse photography and how do you overcome it?

Horse photo by Rebecca KimbelHorse photo by Rebecca Kimbel

Taking close up moving action shots is a never ending challenge. The dust is a problem. It’s a sport to keep the focus in a moving shot. If the camera is on automatic focus, a bit of dust on the lens will cause the camera to focus on the dust and everything behind that dust is out of focus. If the camera is on a set focus, it’s a challenge to follow the action fast enough to keep a moving horse in focus. I can’t say I have “overcome” the challenge. I can only say it’s a challenge with horse photography that I love and continue to improve upon.

Any horse photography tips for people wanting to get a great shot of their horse?

Anticipate action shots in advance if you can. Be mindful of surroundings and background in a picture. They do have an affect on the mood of the photo.

Also use lighting to your advantage when you can. If you are posing your horse for a still shot, for a portrait, you will get the best results if it is cloudy or overcast outside. An overcast sky eliminates the dark shadows that you get with bright sunlight.

Rodeo photo by Rebecca KimbelRodeo photo by Rebecca Kimbel

And another thing, horses will almost always give you that gorgeous perked ear look within the first few seconds of your approach. After that you’ll get but a bunch of goofy expressions. So be prepared to act fast and be patient if you miss that first shot. A ¾ view tends to be the most attractive for head shots.

Would you be willing to share one of your most memorable horse photography moments?

Absolutely! My most memorable moment was never captured on camera, but it seeded my desire to preserve such beauty and drama in an unforgettable way…….with photography.

It happened when I was young. My brothers used to catch and train wild mustangs for the cattlemen to use in rugged country where they didn’t want to risk a Sunday Horse.

Rebecca, what’s a ‘Sunday Horse’? I’ve never heard that term.

Oh, that’s an old time term used by the ranchers to describe their fine riding horses. The ones they used for light riding. They never used Sunday horses for cattle work out in that rough country. They needed something more sturdy for that. Many of them turned to the hardy mustangs for working cattle.

They always did the roundups in the spring when the mustang herds where still underweight from the harsh Utah winters. It made them easier to catch and most of the mares would have new foals.

When I was eleven years old my brothers let me come on one of their roundups. My job was to hold the fresh horses in the draw while my brothers exhausted their original mounts by chasing the mustangs down the canyon toward me.

What I saw was so thrilling; I remember it like it was yesterday.

Horsemen photo by Rebecca KimbelHorsemen photo by Rebecca Kimbel

The Stallion ran frantically from the front to the back of his herd, trying to speed them up and gather them. In an effort to protect the mares, he would rear, spin and run as his agitated energy attempted to ward off the oncoming riders. His attitude was angry, anxious and threatening. Even then it was amazing to me, just how beautiful horses are, especially when they are “naughty”.

The mares ran, turning their heads toward their foals, protecting them in the curve of their own necks, so the cowboys couldn’t get a rope over the colt’s head. All the while the stallion circled, reared and called out to the mares loudly.

The softness of the new foals, the gentleness of the mares and the power of the stallion created a picture that imprinted forever on my memory.

It was a moment of a lifetime, forever unforgettable.

What a fantastic experience Rebecca! Thank you so much for sharing your story and your horse photography tips with us. I know you're always up to your elbows in a new project. What are you doing with your horse photos and what are you up to now?

At the moment I’m using my horse photography for my own projects. One of these days I may slow down long enough to make them available for sale along with my oil paintings on Fine Art America. Right now I’m just having fun producing footage for TV on Access Humboldt, especially the local events that take place in the summer.

Recently I met a couple who are into horse driving competitions. They have a wonderful horse who is completley blind and still pulls a buggy! They gave me my first buggy ride with a blind horse. It's expierences like that, that make my work so enjoyable.

I’ve been incredibly busy shooting and cutting film and loving every minute of it…and when I get the chance to film and photograph horses I just keep that camera clicking!

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