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Professional is offering two equine photography workshops in May

Professional is offering two equine photography workshops in May

by Kelly Waterhouse

BELWOOD LAKE - Photographer Sylvia Galbraith never leaves home without her camera. She never enters a barn without one either. While commercial photography has been the emphasis of her career, Galbraith has expanded her portfolio to include portraiture, aerial, wedding photography, stock/art images and other works as the entrepreneur behind Silver Creek Photography. But horses are her passion and always in her sights.

“I can’t think of anyone who isn’t moved by the sight of a horse running around,” Galbraith said.

“I’ve always had horses,” she said, noting she became a professional photographer after graduating the commercial photography program at Sheridan College in the early 80s. Smiling, she adds, “What else would I photograph?”

Her equine photos, many sold as stock images, have earned her a reputation for capturing the strength and composure of horses through the professional eye of her lens.  

“Sometimes I work for private horse owners who will have me photograph their horses for advertising, such as stallions, for breeding,” Galbraith explains.

“A lot of my images end up in magazines, on calendars, book covers, things like that. It’s interesting to see the different uses and interpretations.”

Her work caught the attention of the faculty at the University of Manitoba’s extensive equine department, who cold-called the Belwood photographer with a request to host equine photography workshops on their campus.

That led the artist to similar equine workshops at Humber College in Toronto.

The success of those sessions encouraged Galbraith to  share her experience and passion for photography with her fellow horse lovers.

For the past six years she has featured equine photography workshops at Travis Hall Equestrian Centre in Fergus.

“They’re wonderful to do this for me,” Galbraith said, adding many of the student riders at this facility act as models when required. Travis Hall owner Dave Johnson and his daughter Cindy, an equestrian coach, are very accommodating and have made this an ideal working relationship. Galbraith joked, “Cindy bathes the horses for me even though I tell her not too.”

This spring, Galbraith is holding two workshops at Travis Hall, with a Basic Equine Photography workshop running May 5, and Advanced Equine Photography on May 26.

“The workshops are popular because they are so challenging,” Galbraith explained, noting the greatest challenge is the four-legged subject itself.

“There is always a certain stride to their movement. A horse can be so gallant and poised one minute and so awkward and ungainly the next, simply because of the way they move.”

For the students and instructor alike, the challenge is worth the effort, Galbraith said, noting not all of her students are “horse people,” but are interested in expanding their photography skills.

“Some people have an interest in just taking photos of their own horses,” she said.

In the basic equine course, the day begins with lessons on understanding which cameras, lenses and equipment are best for working in the equine theme. Issues such as lighting,  action shots and setting poses will be discussed.

Out in the field and barn area, Galbraith has the students focus on the horse’s confirmation, taking photographs of the horse standing still and head shots.

Later, they will add human models allowing the students to photograph horse and rider.

“Then we have the horse run free,” an exercise in capturing the horse’s movement in action, she said.

Throughout the workshop, students learn how to use their camera settings to get the best results.

“The advanced course is a little more structured,” Galbraith explains, adding that workshop focuses on photographing horses in show competition settings, such as jumper courses, dressage tests and mounted games.

“It’s about knowing how to pick the right spot at say, a show event, where you are limited in placement and movement.”

For this course, Galbraith encourages participants to use an SLR camera, designed for high speed photography, as there is a lot more shooting involved.

“Not everyone who takes this course is a horse person, but it is designed for people who like to shoot fast,” she said.

Photographing dressage, she points out, is about the horse’s speed and the turns the animal takes with the rider in the dressage arena.

“The difficulty of photographing that is you have to shoot quickly, know where the horse is going and where the horse will look its best,” Galbraith said.

Jumping requires the photographer to understand the layout of the jumper course design.

“It’s about good angles,” she explains. “I teach them how to read the map and to know which jump is best for shooting.”

Photographing the mounted games is a whole new set of challenges.

“It’s full speed ahead and they [horse and rider] don’t hang back for photos,” she said. “It’s all about timing.”

At Travis Hall, riders will put the photographers through their paces in these disciplines, both inside and outside the arena.

“People will come away with the skill required to photograph a horse in these venues,” Galbraith assures.

She know this because she has seen the results at the end of each workshop, when people share their work.

“I want people to come away with a sense of appreciation of their own abilities to photograph a horse,” she said. “Seeing people realize they have the potential to take the kind of photos they admire is great. People find it really rewarding.”

As a horse lover, she hopes they appreciate the beauty of their subject matter.

“Horses are beautiful,” Galbraith said. “In a nut shell, they are elegant and strong, and not to pull out all the cliches here, but to be able to capture that is really something. Horses are majestic creatures.”

The group dynamics help too, she believes.

“It’s always a fun kind of day, with a really friendly group of people who always seem to have a lot in common beyond photography.”

The Basic Equine Photography workshop runs May 5 at Travis Hall Equestrian Centre from 10am to 4pm. The cost is $125 plus HST. Lunch is included.

The Advanced Equine Photography workshop runs May 26 from 10am to 4pm, at a cost of $165 plus HST. Lunch is included.

Participants can sign up for both workshops for one price: $260. These workshops are open to teens and adults. Gift certificates are available.

For more information on Sylvia Galbraith or her workshops, visit To register, call 519-787-7040 or e-mail

April 27, 2012


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