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Snapping Photos for a Good Cause: The Horses at Duchess Sanctuary

Photography workshop records the beauty of horses in motion

  • Becki Watt's photo captured the spirit of horses at play. Becki Watt

  • This buckskin horse showed off his splendor in repose. Keta Bilderback

  • Robert Brownell's photography caught active horses in motion. Robert Brownell

  • Silhouetted against the skyline, a herd of horses created a peaceful moment. Illusional Arts Photography

by Jennifer Kunz

It was a serene, mid-September morning when six amateur photographers showed up at Duchess Sanctuary for a lesson in the fine art of equine photography. 

Leading the six photography students through the workshop was retired photographer and Duchess volunteer Bill Stormont, assisted by Duchess Sanctuary ranch manager Jennifer Kunz. 

Starting small

In the early morning glow, the aspiring photographers headed toward the pastures, first to mingle with the sanctuary's "light herd," a group of tough little mustangs and smaller-breed horses. As if inspired by the rising sun, the sprightly herd galloped up and down the hills, stirring up dust and some stunning photographic moments.

While Bill answered technical questions and helped people with their camera equipment, Jennifer recounted the background of each horse: their names, origins, and their roads to recovery.

The draft horses and draft-horse crosses in the "big herd" one pasture over made their own impression. Significantly larger and somewhat slower than their smaller counterparts, these refugees from the Premarin industry vied for attention, sticking their noses in cameras and nibbling hats and ponytails. 

Venturing farther beyond the pastures, the shutter-snapping group made its way to a central hilltop for a bird's eye view of the grounds. Overlooking the two new pastures, they hoped for a glimpse of some of the sanctuary's wildlife visitors. While no wild neighbors made a showing that morning, the views from atop the hill crest were spectacular.

It's a wrap

As lunchtime approached, the group gathered on the grounds for a noon-time vegetarian repast. Catered by Oakland’s Grist Mill Café, it provided a perfect denouement to a magical morning of crisp fall air, displays of equine splendor, and a newfound appreciation for the finer points of horse photography.

As the students reviewed their morning's photos, the thrill of having met each horse, up close and personal, had them chattering excitedly about the next workshop.

At the end of the day, the workshop benefitted not only the visiting photographers, but also the horses—with 100% of the class fees going directly toward supporting Duchess' 190 resident equines.

Next up: Duchess Sanctuary's spring 2013 photography workshop. Email Jennifer Kunz to reserve your spot.

Jennifer Kunz is ranch manager at Duchess Sanctuary, operated by The Fund for Animals in partnership with The HSUS.

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