Intrigued by Kathryn’s gorgeous horse photos on labels and business cards along with her text “In search of the wild ones…”, we went in search of the story behind them. Turns out, it’s quite a rich, romantic tale that we feel honored to know and are excited to feature. Thank you very much to Kathryn for sharing it – along with more of her wonderful photos. For a larger collection, please visit: www.johnkathrynwheland.smugmug.com
Tell us a little about yourself and how you got interested in photography?
I became interested in photography in college, I lived on a ranch and photographed horse shows, rodeos and created marketing brochures for horse breeding ranches.
Your wildlife/scenic photos are stunning and feel really intimate in the moments you capture. How do you get such natural, close-up photos of wild animals? Are you hunkered down wearing a shrub suit for hours so they don’t notice you – or are you around so often they’re comfortable with your presence? And, how did you get that amazing shot of a glowing, desert sky with a shooting star streaking across it?
As a lifelong horsewoman I became interested in the plight of the American wild horses a couple years ago. I began to follow some of the wild horse photographers on Facebook. After doing a photo shoot of the Salt River wild horses in AZ I posted photos on Facebook. One of those photographers (John Wheland) saw my photos and reached out to me asking about those herds (as he was heading that way). I shared my information and a friendship began. We talked on the phone daily.
I lived in La Quinta, CA (near Palm Springs) and was a corporate executive, he was a business owner/rancher in Roseburg, OR. Several months later I was attending a work conference in Bend, OR and decided to take a few additional days to search out some of the eastern Oregon wild horse herds. I mentioned it to my new Oregonian friend and he offered to be my guide. So I spent 5 days with him and a couple other Oregon wild horse photographers taking photos of several herds. I was hooked!
Some herds are used to people and are easy to photograph, but others do require you “hunker down.” John has used a cow decoy to get their photos. I mostly rely on a long lens, it helps me stay safe and yet get up close. As to my night shot, well, to make a long story short, I fell in love with that photographer who offered to be my Oregon guide…. and I invited him to the desert. I took him to Joshua Tree National Park and we spent the night photographing the beautiful skies. We set up on tripods and used a number of different settings learning together how to take night sky photography. He has been a renowned wildlife photographer for a number of years, I was a street and landscape photographer so it was a new application for both of us. John and I were married shortly after that night ;-).
If you don’t mind sharing professional information, what kind of camera(s)/ lenses do you use?
John and I are Canon shooters, We use 7 D, 5D and 7D Mark II bodies with several different lenses. My go to combination is the 7D Mark II body and a Tamron G2 150 – 600 mm lens. John has several Canon and Sigma lenses.
What is your favorite image and why do you like it most?
My favorite image is a late sunset shot of a wild Maricopa mustang stallion. We searched for 2 days for horses on the Gila River Indian Reservation in Arizona and finally found a herd at dusk – not an easy time to capture good images. The white stallion kept his eyes on me the entire time we were taking pictures. The image speaks to me in so many ways; it tells the intensity that wild stallions have in protecting their bands and the magical part of the light, with the sunset reflecting off his head and eye, and the pure joy you feel with you are out with those living wild and free.
Please talk about the horses, which seem especially significant to your work.
Yes, the horses brought my husband and I together, so they are special and our favorite subjects. John had two adopted wild mustangs when we met and we have adopted two more since I moved to Oregon. While we say “we will ‘shoot’ anything that moves, and some that don’t”, the horses are a shared passion.
Are most of your photos taken near your home or do you often travel to find them?
We will travel all over the west in search of the wild ones. John was one of the first photographers to bring these horses to light through his images, so he has photographed herds that no others have even seen. Since we have been together we have photographed several Oregon bands, a few Nevada bands, Arizona bands and will be heading to Utah this summer to photograph the Onaqui wild mustangs.
We saw that you offer prints for sale on SmugMug. Do you show in galleries or is there another place interested people could see your work?
We currently have our images in the Silver Leaf Gallery in Roseburg, Oregon and will have a booth at the Summer Arts Festival in Roseburg, Oregon June 22 through the 24th.
How are you using the labels for Wheland Photography?
The labels we had made go on the back of every photo we sell. As you can gather our story has a touch of romance to it, I hope it gives you an insight to just one of your happy customers.