‘Horse Dream’: The Story Behind an Astonishing Aerial Photograph

Debbie Hooper explains how through the lens of her camera, an island shoreline transformed into an image all horse lovers will appreciate.

Debbie, who alongside her husband Jon specializes in part in aerial photos (Joe Bay Aerial Photography), was flying over St. Vincent Island and adjacent Bird Island off the Florida Panhandle when something grabbed her eye: a crest of rippling waves along the island’s sun-kissed shore.

Instinctively she grabbed her camera and snapped a few shots as they passed overhead. “I noticed it was really cool to see the wave action,” Debbie explains. “It just really caught my eye.”

It wasn’t until later that she noticed the equine optical illusion. “I didn’t see the horse until I looked at it on the computer,” Debbie says.

The image went on to earn prestigious honors at the annual convention and showcase for the Professional Aerial Photographers Association (PAPA), but it was special in a more personal way to Debbie as well.

She’s a horse lover, who learned to ride as a kid and got her first horse when she was 13: “a palomino named Trigger, of course,” she says. More recently, she lost her beloved Arabian “Z” in a freak accident–the horse was running toward Debbie, tripped on a big rock that was flush with the ground and went down hard, shattering her leg. Debbie was with her in her final moments.

“After losing Z I wrote a short poem, kind of like a prayer, to help me get through her loss,” Debbie says. “I used to say it several times during the day.”

How do you say good bye to a dream?

Galloping and snorting inside my mind,

her dark eyes still shine

and mine glisten as I watch her Arabian grace

race towards me with her blond mane sailing

across her high arched neck and elegant face

of beauty, so noble and proud,

I know she’s still running,

only now with wings above the clouds.

“I remember her fondly,” Debbie says. “What I missed most was how she used to run up to meet me when I got home from teaching school. She’d run to the edge of the fence like in my poem, with her head held high. She was always so proud!”

The title of Debbie’s photograph, “Horse Dream,” is something of an homage to Z and the way horses touch our lives in mysterious, unexpected ways.


A filtered version of the photo, “Horse Dream Bronzed”

12″ x 18″ prints of “Horse Dream” are available for $80 plus tax and shipping. To order, contact Debbie via the “Contact Jon or Debbie” link here.

Go Riding.


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