Sunday, February 20, 2011

My Letter From “The Queen of England”

For the past two years I have been working on a huge project

“The Equine Heritage Exhibit”

The purpose of this project was to create a permanent record of all the breeds of horses in Alberta.

It was entrusted to me – to locate – photograph and document as many as possible over two years. My original list had 40 different breeds, however by the end of the project I had photographed 60 different breeds of horses that are actively being bred here in Alberta, plus documented over 25 different disciplines outlining how Albertan’s enjoy their horses. This was an incredible journey for me personally, I met some amazing horsemen and women and photographed an array of fabulous horses.

For those who don’t know me – I was born and raised in rural England, so I knew the Queen was an avid horsewoman and as a frequent visitor to Alberta – Canada, I thought she may be interested in this project. So I sent her a letter.

I couldn’t believe it when 8 weeks later I got a reply

This is what she wrote:

Dear Mrs. Finstad

The queen wishes me to write to thank you for your letter and the present of the DVD “The Horses of Alberta” which you sent.

Her Majesty was interested to learn that you undertook to photograph the enormous variety of horses that are being bred in Alberta and that this record will eventually be held in the Provincial Archive Museum.

It was kind of you to send The Queen the DVD of this project and Her Majesty is grateful for this thoughtful gesture.

I am to thank you once again fro writing as you did, and your loyalty good wishes are greatly appreciated by The Queen.

Yours Sincerely

And it was signed - by her lady in waiting.

I was thrilled - especially knowing how many letters and parcels must be delivered to Buckingham palace every day.

So of you ever come over to my house, and have to visit the washroom, you will be able to read my letter from the Queen whilst sitting on the throne.

To learn more about the Equine heritage exhibit and see the pictures of “The Horses of Alberta” please visit

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Secret life of a show photographer

The Secret life of a Show photographer

Linda Finstad – Owner of A Sharper Image - Photography

It comes up a lot. Usually when I’m standing in line for another hot dog (staple diet of a show photographer)

Or when there’s a slow time during the day when I’m not taking pictures.

“So you’re the official show photographer?”

“Yes sir, I am, and I absolutely love it.”

“Well I don’t doubt it. You’re doing a great job out there. It must be great to Work only one day a week!”

There seems to be a lot of misconceptions regarding what horse show photographers actually do all week.

It’s perfectly understandable, after all, the only time most people see us working is at the show.

So I thought I would reveal to you what most self respecting show photographers really do besides take pictures every weekend.

Hopefully it will give some insight into what goes on behind the scenes after we leave the show.

The Reality is

Not the glam, high paying “Part time” job you would imagine, just like all the competitors after show its back to the office - we spend lots of time in front of the computer working on both the images and the business.

And not even a tiny time slot for “Partying like a Rock Star”

The hours are long – there are no benefits – paid holidays or retirement plan.

You are constantly under pressure to capture “The Shot” and recalculate your camera settings as the light conditions change throughout the day.

At the end of the day I am usually sun burnt - bug bitten - smelly and exhausted.

But I wouldn’t change it for the World – Nothing turns my crank quite like the sight of a beautiful horse.

And the thrill of capturing that moment of perfection in a dressage test as the horse rounds and softens and everything goes just perfectly.

To see the fruits of my labor please visit

Sunday, January 16, 2011

So you want to be an Equine Photographer!

Equine photography is one of the lesser known, though nonetheless still popular forms of photography. For those of you who do not know what it is, Equestrian Photography is the Photography of Horses, both in their natural surroundings and in competitive situations.

Equestrian Photography can be divided into 2 categories:

1. Competitive Equestrian Photography

This is not a bunch of photographers jostling and pushing each other out of the way to get the best shot. I am simply referring photographing horse sports!

Horse Sports include the following disciplines:

  • Racing
  • Showjumping (known in America as stadium jumping)
  • Dressage
  • Showing
  • Eventing
  • Equitation
  • Driving
  • Vaulting
  • Western Pleasure
  • Western Trail
  • Rodeo
  • Barrel racing
  • Gymkhana
  • Polo
  • Polo-cross

There could be others, but these are all the ones that I can think of right now.

What is the Key to Being a Successful Equestrian Photographer?

The Key is to know your subject, the way portrait and wedding photographers, know theirs.

Related Coverage

Sony World Photography Awards is one of the most comprehensive photographic competitions in the world. The shortlist for the 2010 global program for both professional and amateur photographers was

The way that fashion photographers understand models. That, in a nutshell, means that you should be a horse person. You should understand horses. And more importantly you need to understand the way a horse moves.

Your success as an equestrian photographer is absolutely dependent on being able to capture a horse in their most classically correct positions, and make all the riders look like top athletes.

Let us take Dressage as an example. Dressage is a highly specialized form of horse sport. Each movement requires the utmost precision by the rider, and years of training for the horse and rider to get it right.

Time and experience will teach you how to take good photographs, but only passion and interest in your subject will make your photographs truly great. Since making money by capturing equestrian competition, is largely dependent on selling your photographs to the competitors (sadly newspapers often have bigger sports in mind), you need to understand the sport, to be able to make your competitors look good.

This means knowing what angle to capture each movement at. It often, in the case of dressage, means memorizing the test being performed, so that you know exactly which move is coming and when, so that you can be prepared for the 'extended trot' for example, and be sure to get at least a few great shots of that.

The better you can make your competitors look (in other words the closer they look to that image of perfection seen in the very top riders) the more likely they are to buy your photographs.

However, do not be despondent, if there is one thing that horsey people like nearly as much as horses, it's talking about horses. If you don't know what you're looking for when you start out, ASK.

Meet people, pat their horses, ask about their breeding, their training, and learn as much as you can. People will be very happy to share information with you, and how they want their horses to look, so there is always hope, if this is the avenue of photography that you wish to pursue.

2. Natural Equestrian Photography

This area of equestrian photography focuses on equines in their natural state at home.

While this draws many parallels with competitive photography, in that you need to understand (or at the very least not be afraid of) horses, it is a different ball game.

It is usually best to charge, as you would for a 'human' portrait session. Chances are your subject is going to include the rider anyway, whether in their riding gear or not. Usually the natural side of it will include numerous head shots of the horse with or without the owner/rider, and also shots of the horse running free. There are many techniques one could employ to get your subject moving, and getting the best out of them, but this is not the place to go into those lengthy explanations.


To succeed as an equestrian photographer, you need to have the following personality attributes.

  • love horses.
  • You need to love standing, a lot. Like for 8 hours a day. You will be the first to arrive at the show, and the last to leave.
  • Be willing to work in all types of weather. You will get rained on more than once, I can assure you.
  • You need to love fairground food (hot dogs/hamburgers) or be disciplined enough at packing sandwiches.
  • Horse poop is basically just grass, so when you stand in it do not scream like a girl. It is okay. You should be wearing boots anyway.
  • You need the bladder control of an elephant! If you want to get all the shots, then you *can't* go when you want to. Hope for a lull in proceedings and then run like hell.
  • Not be squeamish about less than sanitary out houses.

Smile and make friends with other equestrian photographers, and HELP each other. Chances are you're the same kind of person, and will actually become life long friends.

If you would like to learn more about equine photography consider attending one of my “Equine Photography Workshops” You will learn more in half a day about how to photograph horses than 6 six month college course. It is a fun Hands on afternoon with horses and models who are happy to pose and ride over jumps until you “Get it”.

Visit for details – dates and locations

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Easy Money for Equine Establishments

I want to tell you about a way Equine businesses can both increase revenue and attract new clients to their premises without it costing them a penny.

It is a way for them to utilize what they already have and offer more reasons for people to come to their yard to learn and enjoy horses.

Allow me to introduce myself

My name is Linda Finstad and I have earned my living in the equine industry all my life, as a trainer, riding instructor, tack shop owner and fro the last 6 years (after retraining in college) as an equine photographer.

However the last couple of years were challenging with a poor economy I noticed more and more people taking their own pictures at the horse shows and also posting their own shots when they advertise their horses for sale – these shots range from the good the bad to the down right ugly. But for many the thought of hiring a professional photographer was just out of the question on tight financial budget.

So I had to think about how my business could evolve and thrive in this “New” economy.

So I figured if more and more people are taking their own pictures - maybe I should capitalize on that and teach them how to do it well!

So I created an

“Equine Photography Workshop”.

I wanted a fun afternoon of “Hands on” photography that would promise the participants all the insider scoop on how to shoot like the pro’s.

I guarantee after attending my workshop -your chances of getting “The Shot” are improved by 100%

But that’s not the best part

I wanted to tell you about how I partner with riding schools and horse associations. So they too can increase their bottom line with very little effort and absolutely no expense.

It is such a sweet deal for everyone:

A Photography workshop is new service they can offer clients and visitors without any stress or expense. Because it is a New Service it may attract visitors to your facility who may otherwise, not have had reason to visit.

All the photography workshop participants become fabulous advocates of your facility as they share their pictures with family and friends and describe the beautiful horses. (Enthusiastic word of mouth advertising). Very often they share their pictures on Facebook opening up a world of possibilities and connections

However because I advertise it as an Equine Photography course - usually all the participants have either a love of horses or are horse owners.

Much of what I cover in the workshop involves the natural behavior and body language of horses - it is with that knowledge you can make sure you are in the right place at the right time to capture “The Shot”

The workshops are very easy to host and do not disrupt the day-to-day lessons or operations.

All the Host has to do is round up a few volunteer models and their horses, and provide the location – the workshop takes place outside and a makeshift classroom fashioned from either straw bales or picnic tables works just fine

· I look after the marketing and administration

· As host you receive 20% of the registration fees – on a full class that would be $350 (20 people is a max class size)

· You can earn extra money if you want to provide a lunch (optional)

· We provide you with a couple of posters one to advertise the workshop the other one to help you round up some volunteer models.

· Supply you with some postcards advertising the workshop (these are great for boarders or people visiting your facility to take away as they also might want to participate.

· The workshop can take place in any available outdoor location - a spare paddock or outdoor arena is perfect.

· We may scout a couple of different areas for the portrait section

· The workshop usually lasts around 4 hours so either Morning or afternoon time slots would work just fine.

· I take lots of pictures throughout the workshop of the participants and the models – these I make available to the Host Free of Charge for you to use in and future advertising or on your web site.

· I also give the models a couple of 8x10 enlargements as a Thank you gift.

As you can see it really is a win / win situation.

Please feel free to share this Money making idea, all I ask is you give "A Sharper Image - Photograhy" credit, and if you would like to talk to me - for more info

drop me a line at

I hope you found this information usefull

Linda Finstad

A Sharper Image Photography

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Purpose of a Race Horse

“The greatest gift God gave mankind ---- Was the Horse”

Horses are much more than a means of transport or beast of burden they are integral to man discovering his purpose in life.

As a Christian woman I have always strived to live life with purpose but discovering my purpose has been a life long struggle.

However when taking pictures at the race track, it became clear how interlaced the lives and purpose of those working at the track are, with the horses.

If it were not for the race horse there would be no purpose for the jockey and only a horse ridden at speed by a skilled jockey can claim to be a race horse. So they need each other to fulfill their purpose.

The trainer needs a young athletic horse to develop into a race horse however without the trainer’s expertise the horse is just a young unbroken thoroughbred with potential. Again one helps the other to fulfill his purpose in life.

These young thoroughbreds need very special care and lots of attention which is lavished on them by the groom

There are a team of people called outriders who act life life-guards to the race horses and jockeys both in training and on race day. If there were no race horses there would be no need for the outriders

Do you see a pattern developing?

This one race horse has given purpose to the lives of 4 people so far - they too have helped him become all what he could be.

The race horse has a deeper reach into the lives of still more people

The race track vet - the feed merchant – the tack and saddlery supplier – even the track photographer all depend and rely on the race horse to provide purpose.

The horse would be just as happy eating grass in a field - he doesn’t need all the work and glamour of the race track just being a horse would fulfill his purpose.

What a blessing the horse is to mankind - He puts aside his own needs and desires to help man achieve his.

“If God made anything more beautiful than the horse ………… He kept it for Himself”

to see more images from A Sharper Image photography -

Monday, January 3, 2011

Top Photo Locations in Edmonton

One question I get asked quite often is, "Where should we go for our portraits?" To help with planning your outdoor portraits or family photo session, here are a few suggested photo locations from Edmonton and area, including both indoor and outdoor spots for great pictures. Of course this is by no means an exhaustive list, but it is a great place to start! If you have other suggestions please let me know

My personal favorite photo back drop is the Whitemud Park

There are some great locations - interesting trails, bridges and access to the river front - the going is sometimes a little uneven so wear comfortable shoes.

Great opportunities whatever the season

Alberta Legislature
(Outdoors open free to the public; indoor photographs are not permitted.)

The Alberta Legislature grounds is one of the most popular - and populated - parks in the city. With amazing variety of mature trees, beautiful architecture and plentiful flowers there are abundant photo opportunities here. There are often other weddings on the grounds as well as tourists, but there is so much space this rarely creates a problem.

Some of these location charge a fee, for formal photo shoots like weddings so please check out their appropriate web sites to see their rules and regulations regarding formal photo shoots

Royal Alberta Museum & Government House
Contact: Administration at (780) 453-9100

The Museum grounds and the Government House are very popular for wedding photos. An excellent blend of landscaping and architecture provide lots of visual variety within a relatively small area. This is a public park, so there is no charge to use the grounds or building exteriors for portraits.

Citadel Theatre
Contact: Administration at (780) 426-4811

The Citadel theatre has a large indoor garden featuring an upstairs lake and a waterfall wall. An atrium upstairs may be rented for indoor ceremonies. Daytime sessions are best as most of the interior light comes from their large windows.

Edmonton City Hall
Booking Clerk:
(780) 944-7740

City Hall is a beautifully designed building with a selection of railings, pillars, staircases and smaller features which keep portrait backgrounds interesting. A high-key (light) colour scheme dominates most of the interior. Most days the interior is fairly quiet although on a nice summer day the fountains outside do attract waders.

Devonian Botanic Gardens
Bookings at (780) 987-2496

Although this is an outdoor-only location - and a bit of a drive too - the Devonian Gardens provides almost unparalleled beauty and variety. The Japanese Garden is the most popular section, featuring a waterfall, bridge, lake (with stepping stones), walkways, and varied foliage for a wonderful variety of beautiful photo locations.

Fort Edmonton Park
Photos site -
Phone: (780) 496-8787

For a stunning historical look to your portraits Fort Edmonton offers an amazing variety of beautiful locations. The river valley setting and the many different faces of this facility add a unique character to your portraits. Some churches and buildings on the grounds can be booked to add character to your ceremony or reception.

John Janzen Nature Center
(780) 496-2925

Located right next to Fort Edmonton Park, the Nature Center offers a varied natural parkland for beautiful photo opportunities. A bridge leading over a small pond leads into a system of nature trails which are great places to spend some time exploring - and taking pictures!

Muttart Conservatory
Contact: Bookings at (780) 442-5311 or
Cost: see details on website
Beautiful any time of year, the Muttart Conservatory contains four indoor gardens of differing style. Lots of flowers, indoor waterways and bridges, and paths through the greenery make for excellent photographs. I have used the grounds for family photos and pet portraits

Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village
Contact: (780) 662-3640 or email

Very few locations in the Edmonton area bring out the sense of history and beauty that you will find at the Ukranian Village. Just 20 minutes from Edmonton city limits, the trip is very reasonable and the results are worth it. Unique photo opportunities and a rich historical character to the park all make for an enjoyable visit.

Outdoor Locations that are also lots of fun
Here's a brief list of alternative ideas you may wish to consider!
- Alberta Railway Museum -
- Celtic Hall -
- Windship Aviation (Hot Air Balloons) -
- Edmonton Valley Zoo -
- Ukranian Cultural Heritage Village -
- Edmonton Queen Riverboat -
- John Walter Museum -
- Edmonton Aviation Museum -

Corn maze - is a seasonal location but offers lots of unique opportunities

City Golf courses – please contact each one individually to get permission and enquire about their booking and fee structure .

City Parks - there are oodles of parks throughout Edmonton usually one in each small community

Lets use Edmonton as the perfect photo back drop for photo packages and pricing

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New years resolutions versus the bucket list

This year I am taking a very different approach

No more thou shalt not’s and focusing on less , you know the things we take for granted as life’s simple pleasure’s. Most New Years Resolutions revolve around less of everything, starting with food and relaxing on the couch. But certainly not limited to those.

So this year I have written a “Bucket List” of things I want to Experience, try, taste and see over the next 12 months.

Now don’t get me wrong - I am not dying or have such great aspirations like finding a solution for World Peace.

All the items on my Bucket list will be fun, some will push me outside my comfort zone others will make me feel pampered.

I devised a list of 100 items and it was much more fun than examining my shortfalls as a human being and making un-keepable resolutions to “Do Better Next Year”

I wont bore you with My List

However I challenge you to do the same and write a “Bucket list for yourself”.

Lets make 2012 the best year ever - even if we are a little chubby and not a fit as we think we should be.

Lets learn to embrace the day and fill it with things that make feel alive, then when you have crossed one more item off your list.

Relax on the couch with a well deserved snack

Linda Finstad - owner of A Sharper Image - Photography