Light between Lockdowns: Kerry Hendry
Back in 2014 we interviewed Kerry Hendry, then MD of our PR agency, equine photographer and long term Wilki team member. Kerry is still very much part of the team and has been working extra hard in this Covid-year to support Wilkinson Cameras and provide a lot of the content you see on our social media platforms and blog.
We thought it would be interesting to turn the camera once more and see what Kerry’s been up to with her equine photography more recently.
As someone who normally travels a lot, how has Covid affected your equine photography over the last year?
Well, 2020 was the first year in almost a decade where I didn’t jump on a plane to some wild and muddy, horsey destination. But as we know, 2020 was a year like no other with a very brief window of opportunity, followed by a year of lockdown, a bit less lockdown, a bit more lockdown and then tiers. Oh and as we speak, back into full lockdown!
Generally in life (unless there’s a ‘no swimming’ sign involved!), I’m not a rule breaker, so while I could argue UK travel as ‘work’, with my hand on my heart it felt like staying local was the right thing to do this year.
We live in Herefordshire, close to the border with Wales, so in those small windows of opportunity when restrictions were lifted, I was able to revisit some of the ponies I love the most: the Welsh Ponies.
It’s really interesting, when you are forced to stay local, how much more you notice, enjoy and appreciate. Every day of interesting weather is an opportunity – even the pouring rain. The forecast for snow resulted in much excitement.
Time on the mountain with the horses was even more precious this year. When I’m up there, I forget the rest of the world. It’s been a busy and noisy year.
The Covid restrictions have encouraged me to grab every possible moment and just go – especially when weather and light look promising – I’ve learned to juggle better. Sure, sometimes that means coming back and being in the office til late, but if it means being able to watch the sunset on the mountain, then I don’t mind one bit.
With limited travel, have you found any new locations nearby?
Yes! One of my hobbies is open water swimming – which I’ve enjoyed for the last 8 years or so. So, once the first lockdown restrictions were lifted, I was keen to explore the spectacular River Wye, but also research any local lakes for swimming.
Through wild swimming, I discovered a magical mountain pond near Abergavenny. Nestled high on the mountain it’s like a natural infinity pool, with amazing views. To my joy, I noticed wild ponies in the same area, so have been back to this location, with camera, many times. The ponies roam a huge area, so sometimes I spend as long looking for them as I do photographing them!
Keepers Ponds is a popular beauty spot in the summer and for swimmers all year round (yes, they break the ice!!), so interestingly the ponies are not so nervous of people. Cautious yes, but once you’ve spent some time with them, they become curious and more comfortable with you being around. What’s lovely though is they are still wild.
It’s been like doing the Hokey Cokey with Wales this last year and I really miss being able to cross the border freely – I will be back there as soon as possible. All the best swim spots are in Wales too!
Since we last spoke, you have developed a very recognizable signature style with your dark Equus Noire images.
Well yes, in my mind I always knew what I wanted to create, I just had to work out how to do it. My Photoshop skills are pretty non-existent, so I needed to work out as much as possible in camera, with a little added help in Lightroom…
All of my Equus Noire images are shot in natural light, and it’s just an extension of careful backlighting really. Of course the amazing Lusitano horses in Portugal make for dramatic images, but as the collection has evolved so have the subjects. I love the Camargue (what equine photographer doesn’t?!) but I wanted my own take. You’re often looking in entirely the opposite direction to most people so you get a few strange looks!
I’ve also carried this theme through in my local work, ‘Roam’ is one of my all time favourite images and was shot on another Welsh hillside in mid Wales.
Light is everything. This year, I’ve been far more drawn to colour and particularly golden light – perhaps as a sign of hope and longing for warmth in these weird times.
My outlook has changed this year too – I’m not shooting purely to sell. It feels like the pressure is off a bit, so images have been made more for personal pleasure and connection with the horses and landscape.
The pictures that are selling have changed too – instead of full on drama (I think people have had a belly full of drama!) I’m seeing much more interest in those images which are calm, peaceful, or share a sense of stillness.
Last time we spoke you were one of the first Fujifilm X-Photographers – are you still using Fuji or has that changed?
Well, good question! Bearing in mind that was 6 years ago, I was shooting on the very first Fuji X-T1, which still had some way to go to compete with full frame DSLR, especially for action pictures, which I was shooting a lot of at that time.
At that time I decided to go back to my Nikon kit and I’m still a Nikon person now. However!!! It’s been a while and the technology has certainly caught up now. The advantage of smaller, lighter kit is still very appealing, so I think 2021 could be the year I revisit mirrorless for sure. Fuji would still be my first go-to, but given Nikon now has a very capable mirrorless product, I’d love to check that out too.
Whatever kit I use, I need to know it inside out, so shooting is totally intuitive. With horses you just don’t have time, you can’t ask them to ‘do that again’. If you think too long, it’s gone.
If you consciously see the perfect moment in your viewfinder you’ve normally missed it.
You’ve also often got cold, wet, fingers, so you can’t faff about too much!
Knowing horse behaviour is also so important, being able to predict what they might do, where they might look or how they might react. When a horse engages, there’s literally a split second where energy, curiosity, ears come together. And it’s gone. It’s fleeting, it’s pure magic and often painfully illusive, but it’s those moments which keep me coming back time and time again.
‘With horses, sometimes you’re gifted an experience over an image – which is often even more precious.”
What else have you been up to?
Oh wow, this year has been so varied actually. I’ve tried to stay open to every opportunity, there have been more shoots involving people, equine portraits, foals. I’m lucky to have so many amazing contacts and clients locally.
Golden hour, equine style
One of my favourite moments from late summer was a secret photoshoot, to produce an image of a very special older horse called Billy. Well, very old actually – still glowing 37 years old! A rare age for a horse.
I think Billy is also the most well behaved horse I’ve ever photographed! Just as we were shooting this image, the water canon in the field next door went off to water the potato crop. This caught Billy’s attention for those all important pricked ears. Such a special old fella – and the image is now printed, framed and on the wall of his owner.
I’ve also been sharing some equine photography tips. For example, a friend’s son is very interested in photography and with a super horsey family (Mum and Sister both have horses). He’s also very comfortable, respectful and knowledgeable around horses.
We’ve just started learning about photography and the techniques used for capturing action, portraits and generally getting started with horse photography. Toby was a natural and, for once, I ended up with a very lovely portrait of my own little horse. Hopefully, these mini training sessions will continue as soon as Covid allows and we can look at developing those skills further. I have an apprentice in the making!
Into the Forest I Go…
There’s a quote I really love which is attributed to John Muir:
‘Into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul’.
Just before lockdown, my own little horse moved house and we have amazing woodland in which to explore, it has a truly magical and mysterious feel. The trails are full of deer and wild boar prints, it’s a space alive with wonder and owl chatter.
So at the moment, my Insta is going slightly off piste with woodland photography (often from horseback on iphone) and while lockdown definitely has its dark days, I’m appreciating the light all the more.
Happy New Year and stay safe every one xx
To see more of Kerry’s equine photography:
Instagram – @kerryhendryphoto