Photographer Donal Boyd has a mission to conserve nature through visual advocacy. In this case, his photos of Iceland’s symbol of culture and heritage explore the connection between nature and humanity of his home country through portraiture.
In a story published on Adorama, Boyd says that the story of the Icelandic horse is deeply tied to the people of the country. The breed was developed in Iceland and is smaller than other horses — about the size of large ponies. Icelandic horses tend to live long lives and are considered hardy, much like the people of the northern island nation. Iceland law prohibits horses from being imported into the country and any that are exported are not allowed to return, which means that the horses are subject to few diseases and the Icelandic horse is the only breed of horse on the island.
“I’ve been a resident of Iceland since 2016 and as long as I’ve lived here, I’ve been drawn to the power and mystique of the Icelandic Horse,” Boyd says.
“What impresses me the most about the Icelandic horse is their strength to endure the elements. In any condition, they can survive — whether it be snow, rain, or powerful wind.”
Boyd’s portrait series features the Icelandic horse in two environments: a studio and in the wild. In the studio environment, Boyd uses controlled lighting and the help of experienced trainers to pose the graceful animals in a way that brings focus to them and their unique characteristics.
But the story of the Icelandic horse is, as mentioned, deeply tied to the environment. In order to showcase that, and their adaptation to the harsh winders, rugged terrain, and intense weather, Boyd also photographed the horses set against the landscape.
“No matter your approach to taking horse portraits, what’s important is that you take into consideration the people who know the subject well, create a comfortable environment, and get creative with lighting to help tell a story,” Boyd says. “When you combine all of these elements — plus the right gear — you can create intimate and expressive portraits.
Boyd has written a series of tips for photographing horses both in a studio environment and in the wild, which can be found on Adorama’s website. More from Boyd can be found on his website and Instagram.
Image credits: All photos by Donal Boyd.