'Winter Horses' was taken in a section of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park called Cades Cove - a place I've photographed in 50 times or more over the years. For some context, Cades Cove is a scenic valley inside the park with an 11-mile loop road running through it. It has historic cabins, fence lined roads, some horses and a lot of wildlife. For good reason, it's one of the most heavily visited sections of the park and in my experience almost always crowded.
It's been over ten years since I took this photograph, but the memory of the day is fresh in my mind. It was memorable from the start because we woke up to heavy snow. It usually snows several times of year in east Tennessee but not like this - it was blizzard - like. So, hoping for something special, I grabbed my camera and headed off to the mountains. They're usually quick to close the mountain roads even with light snow, so I drove to the park entrance fully expecting to turn around. Well, to my surprise the road was open - this had to have been a mistake. I got excited and then I got a little nervous - the road was covered, and I was in a truck with two-wheel drive and summer tires. It was not an ideal situation, but I was not about to miss this opportunity, so I headed up the mountain road.
On the way up and several miles in, I noticed I hadn't seen anyone at all since entering the park, not a single car. Could I be the only one stupid enough to be here? Even in the worst weather, there were always at least some photographers out. Well, I was either uniquely stupid or lucky that day because I ended up in Cades Cove in the heaviest snow I'd ever seen there, and I was completely alone - it looked like a winter wonderland. To be in such a beautiful and usually crowded place with no distractions is an incredibly rare treat for a photographer. I spent the next several hours there before fear of getting stranded took over and I headed out.
Everything about that day in Cades Cove was special but what impressed me the most was how quiet and still it was. Other than the falling snow, absolutely nothing was moving. The horses stood perfectly still like statues and the only sound was falling snow hitting the few remaining leaves on the trees. Maybe it was the solitude, the silence, or the fact that I recognized the rarity of the day - I'm not a skilled enough writer to do it justice with words. I'll just say that it was as close to a perfect day as I've ever had in photography and one that I'll never forget.
So, that's a little back story to 'Winter Horses'. It's one of my favorite images. My goal was to compose an image that would convey the stillness of the day - I hope I did.
Thanks for reading!