For photographer Midge Ames, it’s always been about the horses.
“What I love most though is seeing the really good horses and trying to capture that moment when you know they’re showing the intensity on the cow,” she said. “That gives me the thrill, to capture that on film, or in my camera.”
Ames, who has photographed Western performance shows since the 1970s, stood with her camera in her normal spot under the judges’ stand for the final time this October at the Pacific Coast Cutting Horse Association Futurity at the South Point Hotel, Casino and Spa in Las Vegas.
Although she’s retiring from show photography, Ames doesn’t plan to hang up her camera any time soon. Instead, she may be busier than ever. She plans to continue photographing her travels and adventures. An avid scuba diver, she would like to dive in Indonesia. She also wants to see and photograph the Northern Lights.
Members of the PCCHA, which gave her a rousing send-off during its annual Hall of Fame ceremony on Oct. 12 during the PCCHA Futurity show, presented Ames with a check to help fund her new adventures. Ames was the official photographer of the PCCHA and a past recipient of the Ed Smith Sportsmanship Award, an honor now called the Ed & Modine Smith Sportsmanship Award.
Although she initially studied journalism at Cal Poly State, Ames quickly realized she preferred film developing and photography to writing. She soon found herself processing film for other students in a darkroom and, after graduation, often took photos of her then-husband’s horses at local shows.
Her first show was a futurity in California put on by horseman Chester Dennis. After that, she eventually began shooting black-and-white photographs for the PCCHA. She’s been photographing with them ever since, making the transition to color film and, although she was admittedly slow to adopt it, moving from film to digital photography.
Equi-Stat Elite $5 Million Rider Tim Smith told the audience at the PCCHA Hall of Fame dinner that Ames always had an eye for a good horse, particularly a young one with talent.
“She loved the young horses. That was always her thing, the futurities. And if you had a good one, she’d seek you out and say, ‘That’s a good horse.’ She knew,” he said. “And, that’s probably why she’s probably the greatest show photographer there is in the history of our sport.”
Of all the horses Ames shot over the years, it’s the ones with intensity that stand out the most. National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) Open Champion Hottish and $850,628-earner Dont Look Twice come to mind.
“[Hottish] was so intense and so strong,” she said. “When horses like that go out to cut, I get so nervous and excited that sometimes I miss a shot, which irritates me, but those kind of horses really are exciting.”
Her message to aspiring photographers? Get good equipment. Shoot in RAW format, if possible, and get out there to get your timing down.
“You need a good camera, a good lens,” she said. “Just go out there and practice.”