Lessons from a foxhunting photo essay

The full photo essay is here.

Arcs

29 - Portrait
Continuous horizontal curves

This is not the conventional head pose for this formal pack shot, but I was struck by the lines of horizontal arcs.  The eye travels from the rump’s inverted “U” curve to the “U” curve of the coat’s skirt and back to the inverted curve of the horse’s neck.  The echo of the coat’s curve with the belly provides stability.  The combination conveys balance and permanence.

35 - Portrait
Vertical curves in motion

The horse on the right, by contrast, has vertical arcs, particularly the tail closely echoing the rear.  Unlike the shallow stable arcs in the first picture, these are deeper.  We know the hind leg will straighten, so we see the deep curve as a spring that will uncoil, driving the horse forward.  We also know the matching curve of the tail is impermanent, and that increases the sense of a fleeting second caught and frozen, adding to the sense of motion.

A massive spring
A massive spring

The curves of the Belgian in the next photo are like clock springs tightening and loosening.  The mass of the horse is emphasized by the glimpse we get of her chest, and though she’s trotting she almost seems to be trotting in place and not moving forward.  The obvious coiled power encourages that illusion, and we see the curves, correctly, as engines of stored energy.

Rising like the phoenix
Rising like the phoenix

The estate at Long Branch has two pairs of gate pillars surmounted by old eagles.  The pose is triumphant rather than ascendant, but with the view from below and the maples like flame behind, the curves of the wings look ready to thrust it aloft like the phoenix reborn.

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The path not taken

The-path-not-taken-400-706114

Let’s start with something simple. What makes this photo so appealing?

This comes from a recent January meet with the Nantucket-Treweryn Beagles in the Shenandoah Valley of northern Virginia. It’s a view of an interior road of a largish farm in a rural area. Despite the timeless air to the place, I know these oaks are less than 100 years old, and that the path probably intersects a public road not far from where it vanishes here, but none of that matters to how the picture registers with me.

There are formal elements that are pleasing — the straight lines of the fences contrasted to the winding line of the lane, the various vertical angles, the flat lane against the low hillocks in the distance, the proportions of sky to land. But I find I have projected personalities and narrative into the scene, and that is the foundation of its appeal to me.

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