Photo Essay: Old Dominion Hounds (September 25, 2010)

The photo essay is posted at KLM Images.

The scale of mountains

It's a blue wall, but is it big?

One of the pleasures of living in the Piedmont area of Virginia is the constant presence of the Blue Ridge Mountain.  It’s not a high ridge in this part of Virginia, but it is unavoidable.  Though I see the ridge constantly in hunting situations, I find it a challenge to render well in photos.  Often it is in silhouette because of the time of day or just simply flattened by the lens and made insignificant.

It’s a cliché that a landscape can often benefit by objects in the foreground, either to serve as a point of interest or to provide scale.  In the second shot, I was standing lower than the stable, which was on raised ground.  Without the stable (and the fence) in the picture to provide perspective, it would not be clear that I was looking up at the mountain.

The stable is quite a large building, but that isn’t immediately obvious until you see the size of the rider for comparison.  So the shot without the stable would make the ridge look closer and lower, and the shot without the rider makes the stable look closer and smaller (cover the stable or the rider with your hand and observe the effect).  It takes both objects to help the background ridge seem as large and solid as it does.

A large ridge

In the crowd

Ears & tongue

Hunting hounds come in packs, but each is an individual.  There are things I would wish different about this picture (the busy background, for example) but there are two things I particularly like.  One is the movement of the ears, esp. on the front hound.  This is a hound on the move, and it illustrates the flow of the entire river of hounds.  You know this is a chaotic stream because of those ears.

The second item is the tongue.  These strongly colored hounds were bleached out by the light and create an almost monochrome scene in which that pink tongue is an unexpected sight.  It’s a quiet effect, but once I saw it I can’t ignore it.  (Click on the photo to see the full-size version.)

I had several shots of the hounds along the wooded edge deciding whether or not to dive in.  This one benefited by concentrating on only three of them, each with a different reaction to what they can hear from hounds already in the covert.  One is diving in, one is thinking about it, and one is moving deliberately.

Individuals or not, they are all members of the pack with the same goal, and their unity is caught visually by the line of the vine swinging down from the right across the back of the middle hound and up the tail of the left hound.

A pack made of individuals

Many lines

The master of the straight lines

This rider (one of the MFHs) is leaning back and drawing her horse after her.  The crop around her neck hangs down in two straight parallel tracks echoed by her two legs, but all the leather straps and reins on the horse are curved — except for the rein held short.  Unlike all the other loose or passive straps the left rein has been made active.

The rein and the hand that holds it are the focus of the image.  We know the horse will follow her weight and turn, and I see in that a symbol of the mastery of man.  In that context, the vertical parallel lines of the windows and doorway, also man-made, reinforce the crop lines on her body.

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