Carol Walker is an equine photographer of immense talent and decades of experience. As a fellow photographer, I greatly admire and appreciate her work both from an artist standpoint and a more technical one. Her work captures the noble beauty, energy and expression of each of her subjects and none are more poignant than her photos of wild horses. Carol is an advocate for wild horses and has used her talent for photography to show and educate the public on their current predicament. We can only hope that this will not be a life-long endeavor for her and we can find a way to live in harmony with these wild horses. If this is to happen, we need more people like Carol. Proceeds from the sales of Carol’s products (both artwork, books and calendars) fund her work to keep America’s wild horses wild and free. Consider purchasing from her for gifts for your equestrian friends (the holidays are coming up soon).
How did you become a photographer and how long have you been doing it professionally?
I started taking photographs when I was 4 years old, just big enough to hold a camera. My favorite subjects were always animals. I have been photographing wildlife around the world, including underwater, for over 30 years. Sixteen years ago I started working professionally full time as a photographer, specializing in horses.
What kind of equipment do you use?
Currently I use the Canon EOS 1DX Mark II and for domestic horses, the 70-200 F2.8 lens and the 200-400 with extender F4 lens, both Canon. With wild horses, I like to go a bit longer, and love the Canon F4 600 lens.
Do you do much digital photo manipulating?
This is a question I am asked quite a bit. I use Photoshop on every image that I print or put online, and sometimes it is as minimal as cropping and just tweaking the brightness and contrast. Other times I may put a bit more work into an image, removing a distracting thing like a fence line or telephone pole or nose goo off a horse’s face. I take pride in having my images have a really natural look because I do not manipulate them to death.
How did the horse become one of your primary subjects?
I have always loved horses since I was little, and when I was looking for a new career in 2000 it made sense to start photographing horses professionally because of all the contacts I had in the community in Colorado, and because I leaned that it is helpful to have a niche as a photographer. I might be able to photograph all kinds of animals but if I get known as I have in Colorado as “the horse photographer” then that makes my ability to sell my artwork that much easier. Also, what I tell my students is, if you know horses, their behavior, what makes them tick, how they move, you are going to get much better photos of horses than a more experienced photographer who knows nothing about them. So my many years of owning and riding horses came in handy.
How would you describe the style of your photographs? What do they mean to you?
I would say that my emphasis is in capturing the spirit or soul of the horse. My images are almost always of the horse in motion, because horses are at their most beautiful when they are moving. I also enjoy showing relationships between horse friends, and in the wild in the horse families.
What is your creative process? How do you get inspired?
I am always inspired when I am spending time in the wild with wild horses. It is so peaceful. My favorite time to be out is before dawn to a couple hours after dawn. I find a group of horses, and if they are amenable, I will sit down and watch them observing their behavior, and photographing them in their normal activities. When they let me into their world, let me stay with them, I am honored, because they could so easily run away. I love watching the stallions interact with other stallions – friendly to the ones they know and respect, and possibly hostile to stallions coveting their mares. The mares and foals together is so precious, and sometimes if I am lucky I can capture foals playing together. I like to visit the same herds year after year because I get to know them.
Describe how a photo shoot usually runs for you.
I do not do very many private photo shoots for clients these days, although that was how I got started. Usually I arrive at the barn or person’s home, take a look around with them and find good places with nice backgrounds, and if we are going to shoot a horse running loose, “at liberty” I make sure the horse has been in that pasture or paddock before, for safety reasons – if not I ask them to walk the horse around the perimeter so he can see the fence. Then I go meet the horse, find out what the owner has in mind, and we then start – usually I will shoot a horse at liberty, running in a pasture, and they are at their best the first 10 minutes. Then I might photograph portraits of the owner and their horse in a variety of spots, or just portraits of the horse. We always have a good time, and I think the horses do too!
What is your history with horses? Tell me a little bit about the most important horses in your life.
Currently I have 3 adopted mustangs, two are brothers, Claro and Cremosso who I photographed in the wild in McCullough Peaks since the time they were born until they were rounded up and removed from their home at age 3. Then I have a wonderful gelding from Adobe Town who was a weanling when he was rounded up and removed from his home, and now Mica is 6. He is a very special horse, full of curiosity and personality, and he loves to go to meet the mustang events.
Please tell me a little bit about your most recent book.
Galloping to Freedom: Saving the Adobe Town Appaloosas is my 4th book. It is a hard cover coffee table book with 200 of my photos, and it tells the story of 10 wild horses that I saved during the Checkerboard Roundup in 2014 with the help of Manda Kalimian of Cana Projects. We reunited 3 families, after they had been rounded up and separated, and they are now living together at Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary. It is a story of hope, because they were able to stay together, but it is very sad as well, because they were the lucky ones – 1261 wild horses lost their freedom and their families.
How can our readers purchase your photos?