Friday, March 1, 2013

Laura McClure, Equine Photographer

Laura McClure has traveled the world loving horses. A famous photographer of the Western lifestyle, Laura has photographed for well known Western designers and retailers such as Cowgirl Kim, Meredith Lockhart Collections, Brit West, and Olav Jules Designs by Cat Sandstrom, to name a few. She is a key photographer for Heritage Brand horse tack. Her award winning photography has been showcased in magazines including, Country Life, Cowgirls in Style and Cowgirl Magazine. She is an all-around equestrian and knows how to capture the soul of the horse and the heart of a cowgirl…

Welcome, Laura!  

What was your first encounter with a horse?

I have a few really early memories that stand out.

When I was little, I was horse crazy - briers not Barbies… the earliest memories I have of being with horses was when I was three in Houston, Texas, where I am originally from. My dad used to take us to a place called Kiddie Wonderland on weekends. Kiddie Wonderland was one of those little home town kid amusement parks with carnival and pony rides. The pony rides was all I did. There was a row of horses and ponies of all sizes and three half tracks, one for walk, one for trot, one for running. I can remember doing the running. You'd give your ticket and choose your speed. They would put you on a horse with the reins tied to the saddle, you held onto the horn. Once they got you in position they'd hit the horse with a cut off rubber hose to make him go… I assume the more/harder they hit meant faster - and/or they knew to go whichever speed according to the track they were in.

In 1970, when I was about four, we moved to England and lived/stayed at the Selsdon Park Hotel , a great country estate hotel. They had a proper British cobblestone stable and Pony Club. I took lessons and trail rode until we moved to our home in Epsom. The home my parents bought had a backyard overlooking a race horse stable. I used to run, climb the back fence every morning to watch the trainers work out the horses. When they were done, they'd hand walk them down our street (called the Ridings). Every now and again one would get loose. I had a plan to catch one and keep it. Well, the day came I saw one loose and, at six, I ran out into the street in front of the running horse and caught it. There were witnesses and I guess the handler and neighbors were about to have a heart attack watching a six year old run into the street to catch a young, runaway thoroughbred. I  I also used to trek down the bridle paths and hop cross many fields to go play with the gypsies horses in their fields near their caravans.

What is your favorite breed?

I am partial to American Quarter Horse. I love their versatility and build. I lived with my uncle in New Mexico who bred and raced them. He got me hooked.

What is your riding discipline? 

I ride Western. I used to barrel race (rodeo) and have dabbled in reining, ridden friends cutting horses etc. I used to take English lessons when I lived in Hong Kong since that was all they offered. I really developed a good seat, had great instructors, but went back to Western when I moved back to the states.

Where do you like to ride?

I love arena work. Good ground, you can get in the zone when working on exercises. I also like to be around working ranches and play with cattle. With that said, I love trails… desert, mountains, trees or plains… it’s all beautiful. I have ridden my horses on the beach several times too - looking forward to that when I get back to the coast.

Why did you leave corporate America to be an equine photographer?

The main reason to leave corporate America was to get my daughter to a small town and out of the city. I used photography to supplement my income short falls initially. 

Do you have a favorite photo shoot anecdote?

Yes! Kimberly G and I were shooting in a ghost town in Nevada. We were done with the shoot, had wrapped it up. Kimberly was walking in front of me and I heard a gasp. A little girl, she had to be about 10, saw Kimberly's mare and was in love, mesmerized, in awe. I heard her say to her mom, "Do you think she will let me pet her?" I then heard her mom nicely tell her to not ask. I totted ahead to Kimberly and told her what I heard. Kimberly turned around and called to the little girl, "Of course you can pet her, her name is Sadie!".  You wouldn't believe how that little girl’s face lit up! She looked at her mom for the OK (and got it) and skipped over to Sadie and Kimberly. Kimberly asked if she wanted to get on her (Sadie was saddled). We lifted her onto the saddle and oh my… I can not even explain how much joy it brought us to see the joy in that little girls face!

Traveling to location must be thrilling. 
What has been your favorite location?

My favorite location so far has been the desert, both in Nevada and Arizona. I spent many, many years living there and I just love it.

You've worked for many magazines and fashion designers. 
Do you have a favorite shot?

My favorite shots have to be the ones Taci and I did on the Salt River outside Mesa, Arizona. We were shooting for Cowgirl Kim and had borrowed a Rockin Vintage guitar. It was the first time Taci and I met and it was the hottest day on record in Arizona by that day in May 2012. It was evening and over 105. Coming from the midwest, it might as well have been 150. Taci was great to work with, as was her mare Diva. A fellow photographer was nearby and actually lent us a hand for the last hour. He was really nice. The wild Mustangs apparently watered near where we were and a band of mares and foals filtered in. The favorite shot from that day was probably when Taci was sitting on a log, looking like she was playing guitar with her buckskin mare standing behind her.

Taci at Salt River, Mesa, Arizona, USA

Your photography is gorgeous. 
What is your trick to making horse and rider look their best?

Thank you! Lighting is key. I shoot with off camera flash… in the sun, in the shade - all the time. To look best I usually shoot in the shade or into the sun, both the model and horse are more comfortable that way. Another big tip - don't fight the horse and don't stop modeling if horse acts up. If a horse gets mad, it's all over for the horse and model. Let the horse dictate the pose and keep a model face on… inevitably, if you are making faces while pulling on the horse, that's the shot where the horse looks good and now you don't. Fake it!

What are your goals as an equestrian and a photographer?

I am training my now four year old filly. She is/will be an all around horse but she is bred for barrels. I gave up barrels years ago… so, maybe I'd like to win a couple more buckles and saddles with her. Mostly just to enjoy the ride and not take it too seriously.

As a photographer, I will probably get more business minded when I go to California. Right now, with the move on the horizon… I am kind of coasting. I'd like to be known as the go-to for Western and Cowgirl fashion/High End Portraiture. Working on it!

What is the best way to contact you for a portrait?


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