Interstates may seem a natural part of the American landscape, but the drone’s-eye view reveals the truth of how highways were laid atop the earlier landscape. I like the convergence of the headlights along both the country road and I-64, like two different eras running to a shared future.
Equus Run, a Concert, and Margaux
Last Wednesday, I showed you the light trails of concertgoers leaving Equus Run Vineyards. Today, I bring you a bird’s eye view of the same moments. In the distance, Margaux is quiet for the evening; in the midground, car headlights bounce off the grapes; in the foreground, light trails highlight the bridge and the road through the trees.
Leaving a Mary Chapin Carpenter Concert
Equus Run Vineyard holds summer concerts, using the ample space available among the vines.
Our little cottage is across the street; after listening to the concert, we got a secondary show watching concertgoers depart.
Legend Mary Chapin Carpenter was playing, so the line continued for quite a while.
Big Kentucky Skies Above
Kentucky Paddocks and the Sky Beyond
Pony Finals 2022 Day 3
After exploring the first two days of Pony Finals 2022, we’ve reached the last day of my coverage. The positive vibes are rolling…
But already, there are some sad faces as horses and ponies start to ship out.
The warm-up ring is filled no only with young equestrians pursuing its eponymous activity, but also trial rides for folks considering purchasing or leasing.
I really enjoy the “follow the leader” pattern of this image.
Over by the Rolex, a loner rider slowly walks back to the barn.
I love the energy of an excited rider, fresh out of the ring after a great ride. Hanging out by the Rolex’s in gate gives me the perfect opportunity to captures shots like these.
Overlooking the scene gives me some opportunity to make additions to a recent photographic trope I’ve favored: pictures of a grand scene with an obvious place from which a view can watch.
Can you see the pony jumping in the distance in each of these shots?
Too Many Ponies at Sunset
Pony Finals 2022 Day 2
Continuing from our Day 1 post, we now move into the second day of Pony Finals 2022. Given the dust and debris blown around on any given day, I rarely swap lenses once I make my choice. Day 2 meant a lot of shooting with the 70-200 mm f/2.8 and its buttery bokeh.
The first step is, of course, getting to the ring. (It’s not really—lots of things come before.)
And what a ring it is! Pony Finals has been held in the Rolex for the past few years. In this flat class, the full extent of the space starts to become apparent.
Big classes mean a bit of a traffic jam getting in and out of the ring. This palomino circling while waiting provides a nice contrast: one forward face, while the rest face away.
Tom O’Mara, President of the US Equestrian Federation, was on hand.
A parade of riders matches the parade of sponsor boards and seats.
As with most horse shows, Pony Finals features a lot of “hurry up and wait.”
Lined up for the judges.
An exiting-the-ring parade.
What a proud face. The 70-200 mm’s bokeh is going to great use here.
I love alternate angles on posed shots.
A lot of young riders are learning to work hard at Pony Finals.
Though horses can’t compete during Pony Finals, there are still a few practicing around the Kentucky Horse Park.
The leaves really frame this rider well.
Back in the ring, we’ve reached the over-fences classes.
It takes a whole team to get a rider to the ring.
And sometimes some behind-the-scenes negotiations.
Old and New Kentucky
Rays from the Barn
Drones open up all kinds of new perspectives, but these vantages don’t always have to be extreme or dramatic. The equivalent height of an aerial work platform presents just the correct geometry to get these rays from the setting sun to explode from the roof of a recently renovated barn outside Lexington, Kentucky.
Pony Finals 2022 Day 1
After posts devoted to my photography on the days leading up to Pony Finals 2022, we’ve finally arrived at the main event.
Days start early and run long; this pair is already heading back from the ring in spite of the morning light behind them.
Nearby, this trainer waits to lunge a pony.
And this young rider hurries to groom.
This was my first summer working with Sony’s 70-200 mm f/2.8 lens; the narrow depth of field (with its buttery bokeh) in combination with the eye-detecting autofocus has taken all of the luck out of capturing shots like this one.
Speaking of luck, the passengers on this overloaded golf cart might be pushing theirs.
Some pictures seem like they’re emitting sound. This is one of those.
Warm-ups in the Rolex Ring were a high-traffic affair.
In spite of the traffic, moments emerge in which a single rider is isolated.
I love those moments in which horse and rider seem to share the same expression.
Though there are no events in which adults compete during Pony Finals, this wouldn’t be a Kentucky photoset without Piper and Reuben in the mix.
Emily Elek, one of Piper’s trainers, is always exceptionally busy during Pony Finals. This picture of Emily talking on the phone is rather special for folks who know her constant refrain: “Don’t call—text!”
Now for an amusing pair of shots: two head-on pictures of smiling riders—one with a somewhat larger mount than the other.
Lastly, a shot of Will during his last Pony Finals (he just aged out of the under-18 competition) riding alongside his father in the electric golf cart. (The cart is affectionately called “blueberry.”)
First Ride on Taco
Bridge Between Counties
Bridges between counties in the approximately southern United States mostly remind me of Smokey and the Bandit, but this one between Woodford and Scott counties in Kentucky differs both in that (1) it’s not currently out, necessitating a dramatic jump, and (2) it’s experiencing a far more peaceful evening.
The Day Before Pony Finals
Progressing through important summer horse show days finally brings us to the verge of Pony Finals. To whatever extent the event was subdued in 2020 and 2021, 2022 brought back the full experience.
Around Stonewall Farm, Pony Finals wouldn’t have been possible without the work of a whole team of young equestrians. Catching them in a rare group shot felt like a rare alignment of planets.
Naturally, that was because of the amount of time spent ferrying to and from the Rolex ring. As in past years, golf carts play a key role.
In the ring, young riders have time to school and explore the space before they return for scored trips beginning the next day. Behind this squad, the VIP sits empty.
There’s a mix of high stakes and informal context that makes this day before Pony Finals fascinating.
The formal riding clothes that will make up the next few days, the spectators in the stands, the judges, the jumps—all are absent.
There’s even time to stop for a snack…
…Or for a group photo.
The huge expanse of the Rolex’s footing makes for some remarkably neutral backgrounds. Details in horse and rider are all that stand out.
Back at the barn, pony after pony goes out for schooling or trials.
Will awaits a pony on the way back from the ring.
Megan gets Piper’s horse out of his stall…
And grooms him.
Piper heads off to ride.
The schooling ring is as busy as the Rolex.
In the warm-up, young riders focus on perfecting their rides.
Piper in the ring—with some good advertising.
“Maybe the real Pony Finals champions were the friends we made along the way.”