Artistic Horse Photography: When Memories & Art Become One

By SUZANNE MILLER

Artistic horse photography has a way of creating pure magic.  For those around the photographers, there is the joy of enjoying the results of their art as well as learning from the processitself.

Over the years, Dunrovin Ranch has formed a special relationship with two very talented artistic photographers, Pam Voth of Pam Voth Photography in Missoula, and Debi Lorenc of Red Egg Gallery in San Jose, California. Both women have traveled with Dunrovin Ranch on various horseback expeditions across the state and their art has completely transformed not only the recorded memory of each trip, but the trip itself.

This is what surprises me the most – that merely having the artistic eyes of one of these women along on a trip makes everyone else on the trip see and feel the experience on a much deeper level – pulling those of us without their vision and keen sense of observation into other worlds, grasping different perspectives, and developing a totally fresh understanding of both the familiar and the new.

During the fall of 2009, Pam Voth partnered with Dunrovin to conduct an artistic photographic expedition to the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Ranch along Montana’s Rocky MountainFront.

Clients brought their own cameras and worked with Pam throughout the trip to increase their photographic skills and powers of observation. While I was the expedition guide, I was also one of the photographic students. Pam gave us all some simple photographic assignments each day and each night we critiqued our collective work.

One of those assignments was to take a series of photos of our respective horses. We would be learning nuances of artistic horse photography by doing. I thought I knew all there was to know about the features of my horse, Power, the big handsome bay with whom I had shared many years and many, many miles.

The mere act of holding a camera and trying to capture his character and beauty caused me to see him anew. I noticed again the tiny little dark spot on his right hip, studied the way he held his head with confident curiosity, and took in the beauty of the way the sun and shadows highlighted his muscles. Little did I know that this expedition in which his image was a focus of my attention would prove to be the last one with my beloved horse.  What a treasure! What a memory!

More recently, Debi Lorenc’s participation in our Old West Montana Expedition to eastern Montana completely saved what could have been a totally miserableexperience.

As everyone in Montana knows, this spring was the wettest on record for eastern Montana. What we had hoped would be an exhilarating week of attending the Bucking Horse Sale in Miles City and working our horses with cattle on a nearby ranch, turned into a deluge complete with rampant flooding that resulted in our having to head home early to avoid being stranded by the overflowing Musselshell River.

Montanans gamely go on regardless of the weather – living out the motto that there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes. So in spite of a sea of mud in the Miles City Fairgrounds, the Bucking Horse Sale proceeded without much delay and few cancellations. To say it poured is to greatly understate the situation.

Through it all, Debi’s total commitment to her photographic art, and capturing the hardship of performing in such adverse conditions, totally engaged all of us on the trip. Her focus made us forget the many problems caused by the rain and mud, and totally engrossed us in how the conditions enhanced the beauty and strength of both the animals and the competitors involved.

Debi’s pictures tell the entire story on her blog at Wild West Horseback Trip. Her incredible artistic horse photography captures both the essence of this hardscrabble, rough and tumble eastern Montana tradition, and of our group of western Montanans’ fascination with the culture from which it springs – a culture so very different and yet so very much the same as our own.  Take a minute to visit her blog and relive our trip.

Thank goodness for the eyes of these photographic artists and thank goodness for the windows that Pam and Debi have opened for all of us at Dunrovin Ranch. May we share many more trails and may we continue to benefit from their artistic inspiration.

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Like this blog by Suzanne Miller?  Chances are you’ll like her blogs about: A Sterling Horse Husband,  This Montana Place,  or Summer Sounds.  Please  leave comments below, or check out Suzanne’s other posts at the Horse Around, Missoula blog home page.

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SuzAnne Miller is the owner of Dunrovin Ranch, a small guest ranch nestled against the Bitterroot River and the Sapphire Mountains, south of Missoula. She shares her home with her husband of 42 years, 2 sons, 20 equines, 2 or 3 dogs, the resident wildlife, and anyone looking for high adventure.