Devon Horse Show 2022 Mega-Post

Decaseconds may have begun as a photo-a-day website, but I occasionally like to break our rules and bring a mega-set of images for full immersion in a surreal event.

In this case, that event is the 2022 Devon Horse Show—a folded-together hyperspace of top-tier English riding and county fair inside an otherwise-upscale residential neighborhood outside Philadelphia. That overstuffed experience is best captured in this image of riders warming up in front of a Ferris wheel.

Fun and Games

“Devon blue” is a lovely, light-blue shade that’s covering almost every surface at the show.

Jumping with an Audience IThe small amount of space means the spectators are close to the action.

Watching the Jumpers at Devon I

The warm-up ring and storage areas are likewise squeezed in amongst the barns and area homes.

Warm-Up Ring and Shops

In spite of the odd setting, the same special moments of human-horse connection still remain.

Horse Pats

The maroon barns seem an… odd choice… in combination with Devon blue.

Devon Barn

This rider got the same color-choice memo the seats did.

Spectator on Blue Seats

The warm-up ring is a place for more than just warm-ups; a lot of conversations seem to fit well into its edges.

Warm-Up Conversations

Though the show occurred over Memorial Day, unseasonably cool weather kept many riders in winter jackets.

To the Ring

When I say that the horse show is taking place in a residential area, I’m not kidding: the gray house just behind the bands in this shot is a private home, outside the horse show. Everything is happening in a tiny space.

Pony in front of House

This shot doesn’t have anything profound to say beyond a bright explosion of the importance of water to horse shows: from the drinks in riders hands to the water used to keep rings from becoming dusty nightmares.

Water Bottles and Water Trucks

A moment of rising energy in the warm-up ring.

Kicking Off Devon

Jumper divisions produce some dramatic images, whether in profile…

Jumper in Profile

Or three-quarter view.

Jumping with an Audience II

This view again highlights how close the stands are to the action. Off in the distance, the concession area is also visible beyond the fence.

Watching the Jumpers at Devon II

Dramatic jump shots are most easily obtained when the photographer is practically under the jump.

Devon Show Jumping

The high rise of the stands also opens new opportunities to capture horses from above, as in this shot of warm-up ring traffic.

Warm-Up Herd

Riders waiting to compete (or recently finished) relax in the stands.

Rider Over the Shoulder

Another view of the warm-up ring and the local homes and businesses just beyond.

Warm-Up Ring at Devon

Jumping must be different with such a large and visible audience.

Jumping with an Audience III

Grays match well with bright orange jumps.

Flying Over

None of this would be possible without the hard work of the jump crew.

Devon Jump Crew I

A happy face after a solid round.

Exiting the Ring at Devon

Before an under saddle, many riders crowd the in gate.

Massing for the Class

Another member of the jump crew, enjoying  the weather and company.

Devon Jump Crew II

The under saddle appears chaotic to an outside observer…

Devon Under Saddle

But those riding are focused.

Focused Under Saddle

BERMUDA in Devon, PA

The Devon Horse Show in Pennsylvania is currently happening, and what a happening it is: the nation’s most prestigious horse show, sandwiched together with a county fair, all folded up into a posh Philadelphia suburb. I’ll be posting more from the show in coming days, but figured I would warm up figuratively with this literal warm-up ring shot from the first morning of the show.

BERMUDA in Devon, PA

Sinister Colors on Stone

I want to contrast the bright fall colors from my last post with the broad spectrum of colors that can originate from different types of light sources used by humans every day. Where better than the neutral-colored stone of the Cathedral of Learning? Magentas, greens, warm yellows: emission and reflection can both offer a rich array of photons.

Sinister Colors on Stone

Tiny Doors to Knowledge

On a cloudy day, the Cathedral of Learning at the University of Pittsburgh has a softness to its stone exterior. (Its interior, as I’ve shown in the past, is equally stunning.) The sense of scale to the image (and the distortion of the wide-angle lens) can play tricks on your mind, making the whole scene seem smaller than it really is. To get a feel for the imposing/soft contradiction, concentrate on those improbably small revolving doors. They must be human-sized, right?

Tiny Doors to Knowledge

The Great American Road Trip

At the end of May and beginning of June 2013, I left California and traveled east. Along the way, I photographed the journey—not beautifully composed DSLR images, but on-the-move fast snaps from my iPhone. This is the (rare) long-form story that those images tell:

The Great American Road Trip is a rite of passage (literally) and an occurrence woven deep into the psyche of the twentieth century. The creation of the Interstate Highway System fundamentally changed travel in North America (and lead to numerous fantastic movies in the second half of the century.) Here is my own experience of a just such a road trip.

We got a late start out of Berkeley, and climbed up to the chain-scarred roads of I-80 around Tahoe. Rolling mountains, oddly bare of snow, and curving roads of long shadows.

American Road Trip: Tahoe I

Between the mountains were the broad fields of scrub brush that survive the winters here. The sky was Norman-Rockwell-esque blue (not that he painted landscapes, but in the sense of being all-American) and the clouds were perfect.

American Road Trip: Tahoe II

As night fell, blues dominated the sweep of the highway and we headed for the Nevada border.

American Road Trip: Tahoe III

In Nevada, without as many hills to block the sunlight, time seemed to move backwards for a moment. We raced a train and basked in the last glow of Pacific-time-zone light.

American Road Trip: Nevada I

The hills kept rolling in the distance, but the high forests transitioned into real desert. The highway straightened out, we had another caffeinated beverage, and marveled at the sheer number of insects that left their marks on the windscreen. The effect was something like an evil, exoskeletal rain.

American Road Trip: Nevada II

I hadn’t appreciated how far removed we were from civilization in just half a day’s travel until I saw this particular sign. Note again the grotesque bug strikes decorating the image, for the full effect.

American Road Trip: Nevada III

The next morning, we covered the deserted deserts of eastern Nevada, marveling at the Atomic-age, Tatooine-esque landscape. Along the way, we drove side-by-side with a fellow red car: this fantastic truck—Old Red. The V8 rumble became part of the landscape while we were together.

American Road Trip: Nevada IV

Crossing the hills, we found ourselves in western Utah, the site of the famous Bonneville Salt Flats. Flat, white salt, laid out to the rough crumbs of hills at the horizon, were only interrupted by the occasionally man-made perturbation.

American Road Trip: Bonneville I

I have no words to describe the emptiness and brightness of the place; I’ll let this image convey some degree of the alienness:

American Road Trip: Bonneville II

As we got closer to Salt Lake City, however, the hills became greener and the salt flats flooded. Life seemed to have returned, and our insane trip across the desert tapered back into civilization.

American Road Trip: Utah

Passing through Salt Lake City was the familiar combination of ramps and interchanges that decorates the exurbs of any major metropolitan area. Before we knew it, we were passing through more hills and into the hugeness of Wyoming. Piper was at the wheel, and the optical ouroboros of reflection between mirrorshades and horizon exaggerated the landscape into new projections.

American Road Trip: Wyoming I

Particularly coming from the empty forever-blue skies of California in the summer, we were astonished to see clouds. They made the sky seem taller an bigger and more of an infinite dome than we had ever before realized. The landscape returned to empty desert from the green hills of eastern Utah. Despite being close to Salt Lake City, Wyoming had its own aesthetic identity.

American Road Trip: Wyoming II

As the day wore on, the clouds continued to gather. The dome became a flat ceiling.

American Road Trip: Wyoming III

Along the way, we marveled at the snow fences, designed to prevent runaway snow drifts in the winter, and signs warning us of turnaround points. It all seemed to surreal in the summer, but when the rain arrived later, we could imagine the ferocity that an equivalent blizzard would bring.

American Road Trip: Wyoming IV

To appreciate the scale of Wyoming: day has passed into night, and we’d traveled no farther from the hill in the image above; now, we saw it from the other side. Spots of snow still hid in the June shade.

American Road Trip: Wyoming V

Every ten minutes, the clouds changed again. Sprawling settlements dotted the horizon, but they were generally too far off to be anything more than minor flavor to the landscape. They were never part of the world of the highway.

American Road Trip: Wyoming VI

At the end of the night, we crossed the border into Nebraska and stayed in a tiny motel plucked straight out of 1956. We spent almost the entire next day in the flat, bland state of Nebraska. That’s not a fair analysis of a state that has some very positive aspects, but as I looked back through the photographs I took of the trip, the only remotely interesting shot I found from the entire state was this one:

American Road Trip: Nebraska

The fields of Nebraska gave way to the fields and hills of Iowa, and though both states have many things in common, the feeling was thoroughly different. Not only did the topography vary more, but the whole environment seemed to shift from “alien agrocorp” to “mom-and-pop hometown good times farm.” Far-off houses seemed charming and cozy instead of crass and isolated.

American Road Trip: Iowa I

Once again, I loved the chrome and mirrored surfaces of other vehicles, and the way the expanses of road and sky were reflected in them. I took advantage of this particular truck to grab an automotive self portrait (not show here—but it may appear later.)

American Road Trip: Iowa II

I struggle to describe Iowa without resorting to cliché; it is the most American place I’ve ever visited. Every image of apple pie and baseball and muscle cars and baby boomers was emulated and amplified by this state, but with a degree of genuine charm that was hard to resist.

American Road Trip: Iowa III

From there, the photographs slow down. We spent time in Chicago for a week, recuperating from the journey (and visiting the lamplight horseshow and other Chicagoland sights that I’ve shown on Decaseconds in the past), and when we started back on the road to head to the east coast, the magic was gone. The road lacked the same empty deserts and crazy clouds of the west. Though the east has many things to recommend it, it doesn’t quite offer the same variety of imposing environment.

On the way to give a talk in Pittsburg, the Mini broke down (and was repaired), and when it returned to life I took this shot of it. (Note the Cathedral of Learning in the background.) The journey was nearing its end, and the industrial, old, stony cities of the eastern seaboard were the perfect contrast to the west.

American Road Trip: Pennsylvania

Finally, we rolled into Salisbury, Connecticut: comfort and home and quiet and safety after the road. In a way, this was coming back to my beginning. Not only had I been a boy here, but I also learned that I got the job that brought me to New York in this house. The impetus for my journey had brought be back to its origin. Though we still had much more to do to finish our move and establish our new home, just being in one place was enough for this moment. The day ended and that rocking chair on the porch was calling my name.

American Road Trip: Connecticut