Of Horses and Humans


No project calls on all of my experience more than portrait photography of horses and humans. Bringing out the personality of one subject from your own species is one challenge. Predicting and capturing the essence of a horse is another entirely. When you add in the factors of the atmosphere and a new location and you can understand why catching those great shots require knowledge of subjects, technical skill, patience and of course, a little bit of luck! For example, while a fashion photographer would be able utilize all manner of equipment, you can't have light boxes and diffusers umbrellas reflectors

There's a very well known saying, "fortune favors the bold". However, when it comes to equine/human portrait photography I find that "fortune favors the photographer with extremely well trained horses"! It's much easier to work with a horse that has been well trained to stand still! Sounds like a simple request, but horses by their very nature are inclined to be "distractible". Being prey animals, its' simply in their nature to be a bit wary in new surroundings and a horse can go from looking interested and curious to jumping off their feet in a heart beat. Literally! So, it's always a pleasure to work with a well schooled individual.

Equine Portrait Photography by Mike Troxler

That's why when Eliza Puttkamer-Banks contacted me about the possibility of doing her "dream" photo shoot I jumped at the chance. The opportunity to combine the ocean and a black Arabian stallion was irresistible! The timing would be challenging, but Eliza had the perfect spot for the shoot, a beach just about an hours drive from her place in New Jersey. Eliza has owned this lovely Arabian stallion, Jeremiah, since he was two years old and the fact that Eliza has trained him to successfully compete at the Prix St. George level speaks to her skill as a trainer. But as a trainer I found Jeremiah's poise at being introduced to the ocean for the very first time (as a thirteen year old, mind you) was every bit as impressive and also a demonstration of Eliza's excellent horsemanship skills.

Our location for this adventure? Island Beach State Park, a preserved barrier island just off the coast of New Jersey. When you look at it on a map, the island looks about as wide as a toothpick and, in fact, the location we were heading to was about 1,500 feet across! A narrow, ten mile strip of land lying less than two miles from the mainland with the southern six miles available for horseback riding. It's a very popular tourist destination during the summer and open for all kinds of recreational activities. However, while horseback riding is allowed, it's only between the months of October and April.

Equine Portrait Photography by Mike Troxler