Horse People: Gail Morey Amateur photographer and rider focuses on the sport's emotional moments.
Written by Kim F. Miller
Sunday, 14 September 2014 02:29
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Amateur shutterbug Gail Morey shoots what she likes. "I don't care if anybody else likes my pictures," she says. Turns out, a lot of people love Gail's photography. Her images grace the homes of friends and contemporaries on the hunter/jumper show scene and frequently pop up on social media and websites in those circles. They've been effective fundraisers for her children's schools and some have been purchased for commercial purposes.

"It started out as just a fun way to kill the downtime at horse shows, and it's evolved into something that I really enjoy sharing," says the Menlo Park resident. She hasn't had any formal training, but is grateful for the input of friends. Longtime pal and pro photographer Kate Houlihan and PR professional Alden Corrigan are among her mentors. A "ride along" with Cathrin Cammett many moons ago was another influence. "Cathryn let me sit with her at one of the old Indo shows and I asked her a lot about what she was shooting and why," Gail recalls. "I'm a sponge for anything that will help make my pictures better."

Switching from film to digital triggered a leap forward, eliminating the hassle and cost of printing the misses that any photographer produces in pursuit of the perfect shot. The next milestone came last year, when Gail took her camera off of automatic and began using manual settings for shutter speed, aperture and other factors.

She got a handle on using her camera's full capabilities while recovering from elbow surgery last fall. She couldn't ride, so she decided to take a photo seminar in the desert. "It was kind of a good challenge because I really don't like the desert scenery that much," she laughs. "But what I learned helped me improve with the equipment I have, rather than going out and buying a bigger camera and a better lens."

Compared to other sports—say, trying to capture her kids playing soccer—shooting jumping action is relatively easy because the subject's location is predictable per the course route. And riding experience helps in timing the shot. "If it's a line of six strides, I count and anticipate when the horse will take off." Over fences, Gail trains her focus on the horse's knees. "That will give you the best picture you're going to get of that horse jumping," she explains. "It may not be a great picture, but it will be the best you'll get of that horse."


• This was a lucky shot of Captiva. It was taken last year at Flintridge and the natural light was so pretty.

• This is one of my all time favorite shots, simply because of the emotion it conveys to me. Crown Affair was on his farewell tour and John French was going into the ring for a hack the afternoon before Crown Affair's final Derby Finals. They were both relaxed, but ready.

• These are the types of photos that I love to take. They capture the pure emotion that this sport allows us. This is Kaitlyn Von Konynenburg

•This is my friend Tonya Johnson and her dog Milo. Horse people love dogs and Milo and Tonya have a special bond, which I think this shot captures.

• This is an all-time favorite. It is Heather Roades and her buddy Campari. He is her favorite, which is obvious from this shot. Taken last year at Flintridge.

• I find the pony ring difficult to capture, but the candids are amazing! This is Avery Glynn and her pony Linus at Thermal this year.

• This was taken years ago at Pebble Beach of Shelby Drazan. She was in the ponies and now a top junior. The fog at Pebble Beach allowed for great shots with great natural light and no shadows.

• This is Hope Glynn and Campari this year. I took this on shutter priority and zoomed right in to get a more powerful shot.

• Sonoma Horse Park is a beautiful venue. I took this at one of their shows last year. I loved the natural light and the beauty of the horse amidst a typical Northern California background.)

In Gail's view, pony and lower-height jumping classes are the hardest places for good action shots because the horses and ponies don't spend much time in the air. Conversely, big jumper classes and, more recently, the beautiful courses set for the Hunter Derbies, make for great shots. The obstacles themselves are photogenic and typically inspire horse and rider's most dramatic efforts.

With any class, an advance evaluation for good fences to shoot is critical. "Obviously, course designers don't build a course with the photographer in mind," Gail notes. An ideal fence to fix on is often a spread of some sort and, critically, one without distractions in the background. Watch out for light poles and porta potties, she advises.

A Rider's Focus

Gail is currently between horses, but probably not for long. She rides with Hope and Ned Glynn at Sonoma Valley Stables and had been making great strides with her latest hunter, Quinnus, before he was injured at Devon this past spring. She's the proud owner of the Holsteiner sire, Crown Affair, the champion Amateur and Hunter Derby performer now standing stud at Wild Turkey Farm in Oregon. By Cor de la Bryere and out of a Capitol 1 mare, Crown's bookings may get even busier with his August approval by the Oldenburg registry.

Gail's earlier hunter star, Saturday Matinee, enjoys the lush life as a happy retiree at Wild Turkey. Barb Ellison's spectacular breeding and training facility is also where Gail found what she hopes will be a future starlet: a yearling by Crown Affair and out of Willow, the hunter ridden to success by Meadow Grove Farm's Dick Carvin.

With or without a horse to campaign, Gail is a regular on the West Coast show circuit, usually with her lens at the ready. She has great respect for professional show photographers and no desire to infringe on their turf. Even though she shoots just for fun, it pains her to see her own images used without permission. She knows the reality for pros is worse and encourages all equestrians to respect them by securing the rights and/or permission to use their images. That goes for photos posted on Facebook and other social media sites and websites and those provided to the press, etc.

When asked to shoot by friends and contemporaries, Gail usually asks that they donate to one of her favorite charities. Ron & Danny's Rescue and Giant Steps Therapeutic Riding Center are faves, as is Just World International. Gail's twin sister Sara Jorgensen and her niece, recruited Baylor equestrian Abby Jorgensen, are Just World ambassadors. Abby is also a talented photographer and she just won the CPHA Junior Finals (see story).

Gail loves taking photos of family and friends and she's currently experimenting with flowers—"It's harder than you'd think!" But horses and the show scene will always be a favorite focus. "The main reason I ride is for the relationship with my horse," she reflects. "We all want to win a blue ribbon, but it's really about the journey with each particular horse that counts." Her favorite pictures are those that capture the emotions generated by the horse/human bond. The backgate, the cool-down circle and the walk back to the barn are often good backdrops for magic moments.

Capturing each horse's personality is her main goal. "Whether it's landscapes or flowers or horses, the better you know your subject, the better your photographs are going to come out."

Gail's Gear: A Nikon D7000 and her favorite horse show lens is a Nikon 70-300M.