When Rick Osteen was 28-years-old, he walked into his first horse show, camera in hand.
“I was actually working on a Master’s Thesis and took a photography class at the time,” Rick chuckles. “It was an assignment and I needed to show a freeze action image, so I shot a Jumper going over a fence. It might never have amounted to anything except that the pictures were pretty good and people wanted to buy them.”
Soon Rick was working for noted Chicago equine photographer June Fallaw and had his first show assignment over Thanksgiving weekend, 1978. “Howard Schatzberg and I both worked together as show photographers for June Fallaw in 1979,” says Rick. “We were both young and single. It really didn’t matter where we were sent, we had a great time. It was lots of adventures and very educational.”
Within just three years Rick had logged hundreds of hours in the ring and worked a total of 42 shows in 1980 alone.
By the time that Rick was in his thirties his show photography was being published in horse magazines and he was enjoying his passion for photographing surfing and custom made motorcycles, that is, when he wasn’t running off to another horse show. He also spent several years photographing his children’s passions, ballet and gymnastics, eventually being hired to photograph several of their events.
“The shows I shoot today are primarily Arabian and Saddlebred” Rick notes. “Of course, the Scottsdale Arabian show in February is one of the highlights of my year and I have been working Scottsdale with Howard Schatzberg since 1996.
The photography business has certainly changed in the past decade. With the advent of the digital camera I now shoot upwards of 8,000 photographs at an average show, where I used to shoot about 1,600. At the 2011 Scottsdale Show we shot 84,000 images. The quality of the images has significantly improved at the shows too. With the new lighting techniques and zoom lens it is possible to photograph an exhibitor almost anywhere in an arena.”
Rick also shoots the Rose Parade every year sun, rain, or fog. Lately Rick has been working on increasing the number of private shoots, while reducing his concentration on horse shows. His environmental portraiture of children and pets, un-posed and natural, shot near his home in California, are gaining favor and creating new business for him. “The kind of photographs I’m taking now are more meaningful for parents and family,” says Rick. “These images are special and unique. They defy the rules of a studio and people really respond to the out-of-the-ordinary results. I photograph at beautiful locations . . . on the beach, in a park, on a golf course, close to my home around La Jolla and Rancho Santa Fe.”
Rick greatly appreciates spending more time at home with his wife Joni and two daughters, Lindsey and Julia. Lindsey, a writer, is in her second year at Duke University and is working on her first novel. Julia, a sophomore in high school enjoys ballet and modern dance and hopes to become a dentist. Prior to Joni joining Rick in the photography business, she trained, showed and judged hunters and jumpers. When the girls were born, Joni became a full time mother but continued judging. Joni has her “R” in Hunters, Jumpers and Equitation, and judges a number of shows a year, including the occasional Arabian Regional.