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Łukasz Kowalski is an equine photographer, who regularly travels Eastern and Southern Europe to cover competitions. Here’s a look at the man behind the camera...
Kowalski was dragged into photographing his equestrian sibling at competitions, much like many other family members of riders. But when your brother is Grand Prix dressage rider Tomasz Kowalski, and you have a talent for photography, it can turn into a successful career, travelling all around Europe.
This outcome could have been predicted at an early age, when Tomasz, now one of Poland’s top riders, was all about horses, and Łukasz was “bouncing around with a camera, capturing everything.”
He grew up riding a bit, but was “more into basketball.” Now, he’s at the stables daily, and when he’s not there, he’s at working at shows. But despite being in the constant company of horses, his hectic schedule leaves little or no time for riding them.
He doesn’t mind - being close to nature and seeing the bond between horse and rider always amazes and inspires him.
He states that “patience is a trait important in both photography and working with horses.” He looks for the emotional aspects of the sport when shooting, waiting for the perfect moment to present itself.
A look through his photo galleries shows scenes almost any rider could find familiar and relatable; expressive horses, anxious audiences, triumphant riders, hardworking grooms, and the occasional barn aisle pizza party. Unafraid to experiment with angles and candid moments, Kowalski’s images hit close to the heart of any equestrian.
Luckily, Łukazs counts travelling as a source of inspiration, as well as music. “Working without music is impossible, it is a kind of inspiration and sometimes motivation for me,” he says. If you spot him at a show, he’ll most likely have his headphones on. With such a variety of musical preferences (jazz, electronic, ethno and classic rock to name a few), his Spotify has a hard time keeping up with him.
For sport photography, Kowalski is never without his trusty Nikon and telephoto lens. While taking a break, he’ll switch to a 35mm 1.4, and head to the stables.
“I love being close up to the riders, although sometimes it scares them!”
His idols include Tomasz Tomaszewski, a fellow Polish photographer, who has worked for National Geographic. Others he looks up to include Jason M. Peterson, and (in the equine photography world) Arnd Bronkhorst and FEI photographer Richard Juilliart (read our interview with him here).
At the time of the interview, Kowalski was in Zakrzow, fulfilling his role as official photographer in this year’s CDI-W. When questioned about his favourite shows to work at, instead of citing beautiful cities or levels of competition, he focusses on the importance of the “people power” of the events. Mariakalnok, in Hungary, is top of his list.
“Some forget that it’s the people putting on the show that contribute to its’ success. Even when the facility isn’t the best or fanciest, friendly people and atmosphere make it memorable.”
Check out more of Łukasz’s work at www.lukaszkowalski.com
Text by Katelyn Woodburn