The photo essay is posted at KLM Images.
Nature vs architecture
The front gates of the Blue Ridge Hunt kennels have two lovely metal fox silhouettes mounted on top. The kennel building is nothing but straight lines, of course: bricks, bars, shingles, and all the other architectural elements, but we get just that bit of nature which gives it personality. Whenever we look at the kennels there are hounds behind the bars (this is their home), but the foxes run free along the top of the gates.
In a more natural context, these two does disturbed by the hunting activity retreat past the barn. The barn is aligned with and echoes the nearby Blue Ridge mountain that ascends behind it, but is dwarfed by it as well.
Though the lighting is attractive on the gable end of the barn, our eyes are drawn to the moving deer.
In both cases, it is the animals that are telling the story.
Photographer as part of the story
This is not stealth nature photography. I’m standing around with a big old camera lens and drawing the attention of the subjects whether I want to or not.
This isn’t always a bad thing. The quiet look from this horse keeps us from just being observers.
In these two pack pictures, the second is much more interesting than the first. The acknowledged presence of the photographer does nothing useful for the first picture.
In the second picture the huntsman is looking at the lead hound on the far right who is bounding ahead eagerly and about to earn a reprimand to stay closer to the rest of the pack.
On the other hand, sometimes drawing attention can give you a group portrait as the various subjects interact with the photographer.
For example, both of the next shots have interest, but of a different kind. In the second one, we get a parade of some of the hounds. It emphasizes their unity as a pack, a tool for hunting.
In the first one, where the hounds look at the photographer, we see them as individuals, each with an opinion.
Much of the hunting action had the car followers far from the invisible pursuits along the banks of the Shenandoah River.
When they returned, first staff and hounds and then field, they approached at length over wide fields with the bright sun at their backs, and this made for very trying photography. We were treated to a view of a fox and some lovely hound action, but getting attractive pictures was next to impossible.
In such circumstances, it helps to just keep trying. You can see from the picture that this whipper-in is riding into the sun, but happily I was able to get a somewhat lateral view of him, and enough of the slant of the body and horse’s head were illuminated to keep it from being a hazy blown-out silhouette. As an added bonus, he was well framed between the gap in the trees.
There were many shots of this sequence that were unusable, but random chance can be your friend if you keep snapping away.