A Lusitano Discovery

Equine Photo Workshop with Rita Fernandes



TEXT Lusitano World


PHOTO Rita Fernandes , Renate Skeie

' A Lusitano Discovery ' - A life-time experience for equine photographers

Lusitano World has organized workshops for many years now with renown equine photographers. Each with different themes and sceneries, but all with a common theme - the love and passion for the Lusitano horse!

If there is one thing a photographer should do at least once in their lifetime, it would be to attend a photo workshop. There is something unique and special that happens when different people with one common interest - to take pictures of horses - get together, share their experiences, and join an experienced equine photographer on a photo adventure for life. A great photo workshop should inspire, educate and create good memories, new acquaintances and wonderful photos, and give the participants an insight to how a photographer thinks and creates their masterpieces.

Between 10th and 15th of September 2018, a group of photographers from around the globe came together to learn from Rita Fernandes. They represented countries like Mexico, Hungary, USA, Switzerland, Germany and Ireland. Everyone came with different connection to horses and skills in photography - from complete beginners, that had just gotten their first camera, to more experienced students of photography and professionals.
The workshop presented the participants with a huge variety of scenarios to play with and explore. From a mystical forest, to a traditional Alentejo field with grazing mares, dramatic sunsets on the beach, colorful round pens and typical Portuguese architecture. But of course, in the heart of every scenario was the Lusitano horse, which did not disappoint with their playfulness and unparalleled expression - a mix of beauty, power and elegance. 

Rita Fernandes, leading photographer, explains: «A Lusitano Discovery was planned to be an unique journey into the homeland of the Lusitano horse and the spirit of this incredible breed. Focusing mainly on the poetry of motion of Lusitanos in liberty, it nonetheless gave photographers the opportunity to shoot in unique landscapes and invited renown riders to perform for the cameras. Because the soul of the Lusitano horse cannot be separated from the country, its people and culture – and it inspires photography that comes from the heart.» 


Reveal the horse and capture his soul

The key ingredients for great equine photography come down to three elements: the settings you program in your camera, knowing how to make the horse shine in the best way possible, and how to use light to create the photo. The photographer’s eye makes the photo, but like any artist, it needs to understand the technique, the horse as its subject and the light.

Each morning of the workshop began with masterclasses on equine photography or photo editing, to inspire the participants for the afternoon photo-sessions and help them get their images reach full potential.

Perényi János from Hungary reinforces the importance of combining theory and practice: «I learned a lot about shooting horses as models, but the training sessions at the computers in the mornings were also very good». The practice on location with constant help was also key for the learning curve of the photographers: «Although I am a beginner, Rita helped me with settings, and I was surprised to take so much beautiful pics home » said Bergit Baumgartl from Germany.

The importance of light in photography

The different ways to photograph a Lusitano horse - be it in liberty, ridden or posing - and reveal it as the majestic creature that it is, was explored in many different light situations. Photography uses light to shape images, and combined with the horse’s expression, it builds the mood of the picture. The challenge for participants was also to understand light and how to achieve vivid images in many different light situations - direct sunlight, spectacular sunsets, dramatic backlight, low light and even experimenting with indirect light, which can give even more creative opportunities.

Breaking boundaries and learning how to make even difficult light conditions work in favor of the photographer is always a bonus in workshops, where photographers are pushed out of their comfort zone and free to create without reservations. For Mafer Garza, photographer in Mexico, the light topic was specially important: «My main achievements were to capture the horse correctly even at freedom, to lose fear of high ISO, and to know how to pose the Lusitano correctly. Professionally to come back with amazing material! And knowledge especially from the breed, for my Master’s thesis.» 

Noble warrior horses playing in freedom

In equine photography, and especially in photo-workshops, the success of a photo-session is heavily correlated with the backstage process, preparation of the shoot and choice of horses. It is truly a collaborative team work - between the organizing and photography team and the riders, breeders, grooms and assistants. When horses know and trust their handlers they are most likely to show their true personality for the camera, and often a playful one!

At Salgadas stud we had two such horses posing for portraits who let themselves be teased to do the jambete for the cameras. This spirited nature comes out especially at liberty - at Ana Batista’s riding facilities, her stallions were more than happy to show off their fierceness and playfulness, that has been such an important part of the history of the breed, especially when facing the “tourinha” - a fake bull’s head mounted on a wheel which they loved to tease and chase in the bullfighting ring.

For Bernd Engelhardt, who came from Germany with his wife, team work and the relationship between horses and humans was a highlight: «We were very impressed about the close relationship between the breeders, riders and the whole staff in the stables and the Lusitano horses. These horses are very much related to us humans! My favorite moment was to meet the female bullfighter Ana Batista, and to see the close relationship between Paulo Sergio and Ulisses.»



True to the Lusitano horse’s nature, the same spirited nature was photographed in the horses of Coudelaria Freixo - one of the oldest stud farms in Portugal, where horses grow surrounded by cork and olive trees, vineyards and other livestock. In an old courtyard of off-white walls, photographers had the chance to register spectacular moments as stallions played in liberty, jumping, rearing and turning in a show of strength and athleticism. After the explosion of movements came the calm, and photographers moved to spend some time with the herd of mares and when the sunset come, the stud had one last surprise for the participants - a stallion posing near an ancient cork tree in the sunset, creating strong silhouettes against the orange sky.

Joao Freixo was a fabulous host: «It was a pleasure to welcome a group of people from all over the world who share two common interests: horses and photography. Very interesting iniciative for both photographers and breeders, like myself - in the end of the day we had a great time and one more story to remember - congratulations to Lusitano World!» 

Freedom shots continued at Escola de Equitação de Alcainça, that welcomed us with some of their most photogenic horses, two of which played together in the sandy riding arena, twirling up sand and dust into the air and creating the most spectacular and dramatic effect against the light.


Tradition, heritage & superb locations

Portugal has a strong tradition of riding and horsemanship and a discovery of the Lusitano could not go without a display of our equestrian tradition. The newly crowned world champion in Working Equitation, Gilberto Filipe brought some of his best horses to the riverbanks of the river Tagus, the longest river in the Iberian Peninsula. He requested to Zinque das Lezirias – his champion horse - bareback in the water, showing the close relationship and trust between a top rider and his horse.

«It was a different experience in an unexpected place, where it was possible to create beautiful moments, and where Zinque and I could truly connect in an intimate moment.» said Gilberto Filipe, who achieved the title of World Champion Working Equitation earlier this year.

His talented student Leonor Almeida also brought her striking metallic buckskin stallion Feitor - the pure joy of riding a Lusitano horse shone through her performance, that impressed everyone!

Andrea Mumenthaler discribed this day with emotion «Arriving at the beach...Leonor was wearing a traditional Portuguese costume with Feitor, in the water, and that light made Feitor shine even more golden! That was a moment that made me cry.» 

Enchanted Woods of Sintra

Following the river to its estuary, the workshop finished at the enchanted woods of Sintra with horses of Paulo Sérgio Perdigão, former rider for the Portuguese School of Equestrian Art and expert on long-reins work.

Two of his veiga horses posed in the enchanted woods of Sintra, amidst the stones and vegetation and the closing photo-shoots was again a show of horsemanship –  Paulo’s long-reins horse Ulisses performed for the cameras, with incredible Spanish walk and piaffe framed by the preternatural background: «The mystical aura of Sintra´s hills was the ideal setting for this photo-shoot. When LW invited me to participate with my horses, I thought reaching the location would be complicated and with two young horses, I did not know how they would react. But the result is incredible – photos are amazing and the morning spent with the group was wonderful

After this last location Birgit was so rapted by the experience that she stated: «The photo workshop was my birthday gift for my husband Bernd, because we are both lovers of Lusitano horses, and the portuguese country, people and culture. And now we want to become photographers!» 

A Genuine Lusitano Discovery: the voice of the photographers

Lusitano World is already preparing the next photo-workshop with Rita Fernandes for next April 2019 – we would like to invite you join us to discover the soul of this incredible breed that is the Lusitano and its gorgeous country of origin, Portugal. Join us in the next photo-adventures.

The photographers teamed for this experience left a few words about what they take home after 6 intensive days that they will not forget!

«Do you want to capture incredible moments? Are you fascinated by the magic of Lusitanos? Do you love to experience different situations? Do you want to meet people from all over the world? And also learn more about photography and image processing?
Then this is for you!»

Andrea Mumenthaler, Switzerland

«This was a life experience I will treasure forever. I have been waiting for years for this opportunity to learn from Rita and not one moment of the workshop was a disappointment. Great people and super horses - logistics well planned. Don't miss the next workshop from Rita and Lusitano World!»

Susan Irene, USA

«I attended this workshop because I wanted to experience another equine photographer; to get a different view and to be exposed to the beautiful Lusitano horse. It was an exceptional experience that will never be forgotten.»

Jennifer Walsh, Ireland

«High-level teaching of Rita Fernandes, amazing settings and filled-up days! We can fully recommend this photo workshop and we hope to come back and join another one!»

Bernd Engelhardt, Germany

«I would totally recommend this workshop to fellow photographers  you learn a lot about horses, photography editing styles how to pose the horse... 100% recommendable»

Mafer Garza, Mexico

«Excellent organization, beautiful models, keeping the events in constant control during photo shoots.»

Perényi János, Hungary

«The photo workshop was my birthday gift for my husband Bernd, because we are both lovers of Lusitano horses and of the portuguese country, people and culture. And now we want to become photographers!»

Birgit Baumgartl, Germany