Kate Hall is proof positive that a picture is worth a thousand words. Just take a look at her website Aster Equine Photography and you’ll be met by moving images of beautiful moments with horses. Her subjects are captured with an artistic flare that needs no narrative. Yet Kate’s story of how she came to stand behind the camera is unique; Northern Virginia Working Equitation (NOVAWE) proudly Spotlights and welcomes Aster Equine Photography as a NOVAWE Business Member.
While Equine photography is Kate’s main passion and vocation, she is also a college professor at the University of Maryland where she teaches small business management and entrepreneurship. “I have the knowledgebase to start a business and have helped several women begin their own journeys into small business ownership,” said Kate leveraging her “Sage Advice Small Business Consulting” services. Kate has started not only her photography business, but also her Pet Services business 15 years prior.
It was her pet sitting and dog walking business that provided her years of models to practice and develop her photography skills. Walking dogs is how Kate financed graduate school, but the business and photography skills developed over those years seeded Aster Equine Photography’s success. (Kate had to finance a lot of college — she earned a PhD in Public Policy.)
In addition to owning her photography business, Kate is also President of Clifton Horse Society, a non-profit equestrian organization that promotes educational and fun events as well as development and protection of horse trails.
Kate’s interest in Working Equitation flowed readily from her love of dressage. “I love dressage; I just think it’s the coolest,” said Kate, who regularly serves as the show photographer for Beaux Reeves Equestrian’s dressage shows in Hamilton, VA.
Kate has participated in a NOVAWE clinic and hopes to have the opportunity to participate in more WE in the future. She also volunteered at a NOVAWE schooling show earlier this year and enjoyed capturing the action for NOVAWE through her lens. Kate currently is leasing a 3rd level horse, Splenda, and owns a beautiful mare Sage, who was retired at the age of 9 due to injury.
Even though she spent years behind a camera shooting pets, nature and horses, it wasn’t until Kate had her own professional portrait session with an equine photographer that she fell in love with the product. She adored the “connection” the photographer was able to capture between her and her horse, Sage. “I so appreciated that the photographer was able to capture me with this beautiful animal as we were facing her retirement together,” Kate explained. She set out to offer that special value, that beautiful moment of connection and memory, to others.
Even though Kate is an accomplished photographer with long experience, that sitting she had with Sage inspired her. She sought out an equine photography mentor and linked up with photographer Amy Lathorpe-Reid, who owns Indy Equine Photography in the United Kingdom. “Like everything with horses, there is always more to learn,” said Kate. Amy has helped Kate with shooting and editing and has provided other tips and support, guiding Kate to further develop her senses as to “what makes a good shot.” Kate has developed a rich, beautiful, and deeply unique style.
Horses were introduced early in Kate’s life. Like so many little girls, Kate was horse crazy, and after much begging, her parents finally allowed her to purchase her first horse, an Appaloosa named “Cookies and Cream.” Kate began her riding career in Western Pleasure. Next, Kate came into an off the track Thoroughbred name Orion (Brother Leo) who had been eventing at the Preliminary level. She obtained Orion after he had suffered a rotational fall, “I got him on the healing path; I couldn’t even canter him when I bought him,” Kate explained.
Kate went on to college at Syracuse University and was a member of the Syracuse riding team. She brought Orion with her for all four very chilly years in upstate New York. Upon graduation in 2003, Kate moved to DC for graduate school, taking Orion with her. “I sold my car so I could keep my horse,” she laughed. Orion lived to be just shy of 33 and gave Kate some of the best experiences of her life.
Kate and her roommate started Tail Wags Pet Care in 2004 and has taken care of hundreds of pets over the last 17 years. She still has the pet business and has achieved zillions of “steps” walking dogs. She loves all dogs but is particularly fond of the “oh so smart” Border Collies and Australian Shepherds.
As a rider, Kate’s current journey is largely guided by Brandi Benedict, “a phenomenal dressage trainer and an incredible person who always wants to do right by the horse,” Kate said. In addition to dressage, Kate is a big proponent of natural horsemanship; she has learned (and is still learning) better ways to connect with horses. “I am goal oriented and love learning mindfulness. Being able to think about the individual pieces of our connection to these incredible animals is something I really value.” Kate said she also loves the constant learning experience. “I’ve had horses for 25 years and, as I continue to learn, I am amazed at how much I never knew.”
Paramount is Kate’s ability from behind the lens to document that connection for others with their horses. “My sessions are a ton of fun; we laugh, we share stories, and we smile the whole time. I love showcasing the bond that you and your horse have.” Kate offers many different looks and feels, and her many different packages range from 30 minutes to an hour and a half session. “It’s a treat but its affordable,” said Kate proudly. Visit her website to see photo examples and learn about her offerings. Also check out her instagram Instagram.com/asterequine. She would be happy to have you reach out to her and together plan your unique shoot. Contact Kate Hall at [email protected] or on her website: www.asterequine.com
By Diane Hutchinson