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Secrets to Photographing Horses by Bev Pettit

My photographic specialty is horses. I love to photograph horses because of their beauty of course. I also find them to be fierce yet intelligent, independent yet tolerant, and certainly a gracious subject to photograph. I began my career as an equine photographer when I moved back to the USA in 1996, after having lived in China and Europe for nine years. While living overseas I worked for a large American investment bank in publishing. During my free time I would travel the back roads of Asia (Vietnam, China, Cambodia, India, Malaysia) with my Minolta film camera to capture the people and their cultures within small villages. After too many years of living in big cities I was anxious to get back to my rural roots. Settling down on a small ranch in Northern Arizona, surrounded by wide-open spaces, enabled me to concentrate on what I love the most, equine and nature photography.

I’d heard about Kathleen’s wildlife photography from a number of colleagues and wanted to sign up for her Horse Roundup in Winter workshop for a long time. I finally got the opportunity to join her on this workshop in Kalispell, Montana in January of 2017. The entire experience, from sign up to finish, went way beyond my expectations. Her teaching style is professional and fun. I appreciated the extra mile Kathleen always went to provide her groups with thorough information well in advance of the workshop, including what to bring, where to stay, detailed itineraries, and what to expect. The photo sessions provided lots of opportunities and plenty of time to get the right shots. I look forward to joining Kathleen on a future workshop.

I feel so honored to have had two photos that I took at Kathleen’s Horse Roundup in Winter Snow in Kalispell published in two separate publications.

Back in the Saddle Catalog cover of the Winter 2017 issue. Taken at Kathleen’s January 2017 Horse Roundup in Winter workshop, Kalispell, MT.

Western Horseman Magazine, December 2017, Opening Shot. Taken at Kathleen’s January 2017 Horse Roundup in Winter workshop, Kalispell, MT.

Another honor that I recently received for my work was an award at the 2017 Siena International Photo Awards in Siena, Italy, for my photograph of a white Andalusian stallion. I was thrilled to attend the awards ceremony and the gallery opening in Siena in October. The awarded photo below was taken practically in my own back yard here in Skull Valley, Arizona.

Currently, the work I’m most excited to create is that with the wild horses. I have traveled as far away as Nova Scotia to photograph the rare and remote Sable Island Wild Horses. And to Cumberland Island, Georgia, to photograph the wild horses living there. Over the past two years I’ve photographed wild horses at Sand Wash Basin in Colorado, the Onaqui wild horse in NW Utah and the Navajo horses along the Arizona-Utah border.

Sable Island Wild Horse family, Nova Scotia

When traveling to such remote destinations I carry all my photo gear, my meals, and a comfy camp bed in the back of my trusty 4-Runner. This is my home for 5-6 days while I move along with the herds over thousands of acres of range lands. My favorite spots to photograph the horses, which number well into the hundreds, are at the water holes, which are spread out miles apart. These ponds offer wonderful photo opportunities to capture natural reflections as well as provide colorful backdrops for hundreds of horses at sunset and at sunrise.

When trekking out into these isolated locations I recommend taking at least one backup camera, back up SD cards, good leather hiking shoes that won’t let the pokey grasses in, and two lenses: a wide angle to capture the vast landscapes and a longer telephoto (70-200 mm and/or a 100-300 mm) for closer up portrait shots of the wild horses.

The two mindsets that you will need over any other when photographing horses in general are perseverance and patience. I spend hours with the horses I photograph, observing their behavior and getting to know them first. When out on the range it may take a day or two with me hanging around them so that they feel comfortable enough to let me get close. Remember horses are animals of flight. The quickest movement or the smallest noise can set an entire herd of grazing animals into a fast and furious stampede, on a heartbeat. So be aware. You certainly don’t want to be in the path of one hundred, thousand-pound, wild horses running in your direction.

Onaqui Wild Horses, Utah, 2016

About Bev Pettit

Bev is a USA based fine art photographer. Her work has been recognized throughout the world. She has been invited to exhibit in numerous art shows, galleries, museums at home and overseas. Her work graces the walls of fine art collectors worldwide. Today Bev enjoys helping people find that perfect image to complement their homes or offices. Her images are for sale as signed, fine art prints.

To see more of her work and where her work has been published, visit her website And while you’re enjoying her beautiful images, follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

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