Wild Horses (Hearth Magazine)

Posted by on Mar 13, 2014 in Projects | 38 Comments
Wild Horses (Hearth Magazine)

We live close to the sea on the very southern tip of Ireland. The weather here is usually rough, winter storms make for a wild sea and unpredictable weather from November to February. It’s usually dark and gloomy and very often rainy and foggy. It’s also a very quiet time of the year. It’s the time when the tourists are gone and the country finds back to what is left of it’s nativeness. It’s during these moments where everything seems to relax. Somehow everything about the mood in these times reflects in nature too.

These horses and their surroundings were so incredibly calm and gentle when my wife Rebecca and I approached them that we almost felt invited. Their herd counts about twenty animals and a few of them instantly came over and looked at us trying to figure out who we are and what we were up to (and possibly if we had carrots or apples).

We spent about two hours with these horses and during this time we had the most incredible encounter. One of the horses was laying down in the middle of the meadow making noises. I couldn’t figure why he was laying down and wanted to make sure everything was ok with him. While I approached him he closed his eyes. He let me come incredibly close and he wasn’t the least bit intimidated. Not by me nor the intrusive noise of my Hasselblad after I started taking pictures of him.

After I finished my roll of film he suddenly rolled around, jumped up and galloped away. Rebecca caught him do that with her camera, you will find her beautiful images from this day here. We both enjoyed the serene feeling around these wild horses so much and felt very lucky to share this wonderful experience together. I can’t wait to go back and visit them again.

A selection of images from this shoot will be published in an upcoming volume of Hearth Magazine. These pictures have also been shortlisted in “Documentary Projects” by the International Kontinent Photography Awards.

A selection of prints from this series is available for purchase at Aspen Gallery. All color images below were taken with the Hasselblad 503CW and the Carl Zeiss Planar T* 2.8/80 on Kodak Portra 400, all B&W images were shot with the Leica M2 and the Nokton 50mm 1.5 ASPH VM on Kodak Tri-X 400. All images scanned and processed by Richard Photo Lab in California:




















  1. Rebecca Lily
    13. March 2014

    I love your images so much, Johnny!

    I was so curious to see how you shot this with your Hasselblad and Leica – and how the colors would come out with Portra. It’s wonderful to see how perfectly your vision is translated by these cameras and films; the result is harmonious, balanced and exactly captures the calm, serene mood we both felt that day. Thank you so much for making these memories with me. :)

  2. Johnny
    13. March 2014

    Thank you so much, Rebecca! :)

    This was really such a wonderful experience. I think this was one of my favorite outings we did together. Funny how we travel around the world and then find something like this just 15 minutes down the road.

    I love so much how your pictures turned out. Thank you!

  3. Will
    13. March 2014

    Gorgeous photos, Johnny! You’ve managed to blend the landscape, the horses and these weather conditions perfectly. As Rebecca says, the serenity really comes across well.

  4. Johnny
    13. March 2014

    Will, thank you very much for your kind feedback.

    I’m very happy you enjoyed these! The mood was incredible and we really loved spending time with these horses.

  5. Lee W. Chuan
    14. March 2014

    Thanks for sharing these wonderful images! If you don’t mind I ask how would you normally overexpose the Portra 400 by half-a-stop or one-stop (e.g. say treat the film as ISO 320 or ISO 200) and meter for the shadows?

    Thanks in advance!

  6. Johnny
    14. March 2014

    Thank you very much, Lee.

    Of course I don’t mind. I decide that depending on the look I would like to get. I usually rate my film at half box speed and expose for the shadows (so about 2-3 stops over). These were only overexposed by a stop.

  7. Holly
    14. March 2014

    These are so beautiful and atmospheric! True pieces of art.

  8. Johnny
    14. March 2014

    Thank you very much, Holly. I’m happy you enjoyed the post.

  9. Jade Sheldon-Burnsed
    14. March 2014

    Seriously in awe…

  10. Johnny
    14. March 2014

    Jade, thank you very much!

    It was a wonderful experience and we both had so much fun. :)

  11. Olivier Duong
    14. March 2014

    Such nice images, I can feel the fresh air.

  12. Johnny
    14. March 2014

    Thank you, Olivier!

  13. Saikat Dutta Chowdhury
    16. March 2014

    Very nice images, feels like I was there.

  14. Johnny
    16. March 2014

    Saikat, thanks very much. :)

  15. Ashley
    18. March 2014

    Such beautiful photos! And such wonderful horses!

    I love seeing photos from outings that you and Rebecca go on together because you each have such a beautiful but different way of taking photos.

  16. Johnny
    18. March 2014

    Thank you very much for your kind feedback, Ashley.

    It’s wonderful to be able to share the love for photography with Rebecca. I am always more excited about seeing how her pictures came out than I am about my seeing my own. It fascinates me how she sees and how different the feel of the images can be if we photograph the exact same scene.

    I’m happy you liked the post!

  17. Meg Wilson
    19. March 2014

    So very lovely. Thanks for sharing. :)

  18. Johnny
    19. March 2014

    Meg, thank you very much!

  19. Mary Smyth
    19. March 2014

    Sigh, what beautiful images. I’m a big fan of your work and your wife’s. Actually your work inspired me to take the plunge and get into film, in particular a Hasselblad.

    Do you shoot primarily handheld or with a tripod?

    Please keep posting your wonderful work.

  20. Johnny
    20. March 2014

    Thank you so much, Mary.

    I’m very happy to read that you are enjoying my work so much and that you decided to get a Hasselblad for yourself. I’m sure you will love shooting it! It’s my favorite camera ever.

    I don’t own a tripod, I shoot everything handheld. Thank you again for your time and your feedback!

  21. Staci Lee
    27. March 2014

    You truly captured magic and emotion here. Lovely.

  22. Johnny
    27. March 2014

    Staci, thank you very much for your kind feedback.

  23. Sara
    6. April 2014

    My husband took me to Ireland for our honeymoon- and some of it we spent with his family in Dún Laoghaire, but the second half of our adventure was spent just driving around seeing what there was to see. I miss it and sometimes find myself googling for photos- I am so so happy I found these.

    Lovely work!

  24. Johnny
    7. April 2014

    Thank you, Sara.

    Ireland still offers a lot of wild and pristine places that are worth exploring. My favorite place is Co. Kerry with its beautiful landscapes. I love the mix of mountains and ocean and how rough these parts still are. I’m glad you enjoyed these photographs!

  25. Robert Quiet
    23. April 2014

    Beautiful experience and beautiful pictures. And another place to add to my “to go” list…


    P.S. Honestly, Ireland was already on my list after reading your post about Trinity College Library.

  26. Johnny
    24. April 2014

    Robert, thank you very much for your feedback.

    Ireland is definitely worth a visit. There is a lot to discover and it’s a wonderful place for taking pictures. I’m sure you would like it. :)

  27. Tiphaine
    7. May 2014

    Truly beautiful.

  28. Johnny
    8. May 2014

    Thank you very much, Tiphaine. Glad you enjoyed the post!

  29. Wendy
    23. June 2014

    Absolutely stunning!

  30. Johnny
    23. June 2014

    Wendy, thank you very much!

  31. Gail
    12. July 2014

    I live in Philadelphia. I’m a city girl but love the sea & horses.
    It lifted my spirit to see those horses.

    You say you live in the southern most point of Ireland. In what County? Am planning to revisit Ireland some day.


  32. Johnny
    13. July 2014

    Thank you for your feedback, Gail.

    I’m happy that you enjoyed these pictures, Ireland is definitely worth a trip. We live close to Baltimore in Co. Cork.

  33. Kirstie Jones
    21. August 2014

    As an equine photographer – I am sooooo obsessed with these. Amazing work. Horses on film is the MOST beautiful!

  34. Johnny
    21. August 2014

    Kirstie, thank you very much for your kind feedback. I’m glad you enjoyed the post! :)

  35. Elizabeth Pellette
    5. January 2015

    These are just beautiful. I have always enjoyed yours and Rebecca’s work.

  36. Johnny
    5. January 2015

    Thank you very much, Elizabeth!

  37. Morgane
    20. April 2017

    Good evening Johnny!

    As much as I love seeing your work on IG, I still couldn’t get this series out of my mind and am so glad to revisit it here. :-)

    While reading the comments, I realized you only overexposed it by one stop. I understand this is the way you prefer your misty/foggy shots to look. However, I have been religiously aiming for 2-3 stops of overexposing and I seem to have obtained the the same kind of feel to my foggy shots. I was curious to know whether you had an example of a foggy shot with 2-3 stops of overexposure in this series or another one to compare the results?

    I guess I should just bracket and decide by myself, but if you have one around I would love to see it.



  38. Johnny
    21. April 2017

    Many thanks for your kind words and your question, Morgane.

    How much I overexpose really depends on the light and the scene. In this setting there was very little available light and the fog was very thick. I wanted the film to have a soft, muted feel with earthy tones. But I don’t approach every scene like that. Here is an example that’s 2-3 stops over.

    My recommendation would be to keep doing what you’re doing, your results look great. A different lighting situation will have way stronger impact on the look of your images than an additional stop of exposure.

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