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Jim Meads (1930-2024), The ‘Running Photographer’

The king of horse and hound photographers, incomparable in number of hunts photographed, nations covered, mileage on foot with camera in hand, and career longevity, died just a month shy of his ninety-fourth birthday. Jim Meads earned his sobriquet, the Running Photographer, early in his career as a professional photographer in the hunting field. Frustrated with the static set shots of horses and hounds posing at the meet and loving the woods and fields where the action was, he realized he would have to rely on his legs and feet. He had hunted as a pony clubber and knew the rules of the field. His presence in the hunting fields of England, Ireland, across the U.S., and Canada was unmistakable. My mental image? A tall, long-legged fellow in a loose, forest green slicker, long wool sox up to the knees, a woolen hat pulled down to his ears, holding a camera. Yes, he’d be snapping away before the meet until the huntsman moved off with hounds to draw the first covert, the field bouncing along in the huntsman’s wake. Jim might be seen somewhere near the first draw, standing quietly and ready. But you’re there to hunt. And hounds would find. And you’d be galloping after the music, this way and that for maybe thirty or forty minutes, and hounds would check. And you’d stop with the rest of the field while the huntsman let hounds cast themselves to recover the scent. And, son-of-a-gun, there’s Jim on one knee, camera to his eye, capturing the action. And hounds would recover the line, and you’d be galloping along after the music again for perhaps another forty minutes, really covering some ground. And you’d finally ride up, horse in a sweat, hearing the huntsman blowing “Gone to Ground” and making much of his hounds. And, son-of-a-gun, there’s Jim snapping away as hounds paw and scratch at the earth. Action is fleeting when one is holding a camera, with little time for the photographer to consider artistic composition and a background that will enhance rather than interfere with the subject. But looking at his split-second action photos, it seemed like Jim always had that part of the process solved before he ever positioned himself for whatever action might develop. There’s a bit of genius to that, and Jim had it. Some Career Highlights Frank Meads, Jim’s father, was a photographer and undoubtedly a mentor to him.  At age sixteen, in 1946, Jim quit school and went to work as a trainee photographer at DeHavilland Aircraft Company. The work was exciting. World War II had just ended, and he found himself flying with many famous wartime pilots, photographing one plane from another, often in close formation. In the late 1940s, he did an eighteen-month stint in the Royal Air Force. He shot foxhunting meets and hound shows and began seeing his images regularly published in Horse & Hound. By 1950, Jim began his career as a self-employed sports photographer. A freak career milestone occurred in 1962. On a Friday afternoon, while caring for his two young sons, Jim drove to the Hatfield aerodrome where he had worked during his flying days a decade earlier. He thought his sons would enjoy seeing the airplanes taking off and landing. Jim writes, “For some inexplicable reason I took a camera along with me, something I never do unless I’m working. As we watched a Lightning jet fighter coming in to land something went wrong and the plane went into a vertical dive, at very low altitude, while the pilot left his cockpit in the ejection seat. The ensuing photo was voted Picture of the Year 1962, [published worldwide,] and I was famous for a few days….”[See this article for more information about the photo above: Fear of Landing – The Story Behind an Unbelievable Photograph.] In 1968 Jim started a partnership with Sir Andrew Horsbrugh-Porter, a hunting correspondent for The Field magazine, as Sir Andrew’s photographer. It was a happy partnership that lasted for thirteen seasons. When Michael Clayton was about to become editor of Horse & Hound magazine in 1973 and was publish his famous series of hunt reporting articles under the pen name, Foxford, he called Jim Meads. Clayton wanted Meads as the cameraman. Jim also worked for The Field and Shooting Times in the U.K. He was a regular contributor to In & Around Horse Country and graced the pages of Covertside and Foxhunting Life with his images here in the U.S. He has published five books of his photographs, starting with Full Cry, My Hunting World, They Will Always Meet at Eleven, They Still Meet at Eleven, and Going Home, his last book, published in 2008 by the Quiller Press, UK. Achievements, Awards and Recognition Jim achieved a personal goal he’d earlier set for himself. He wanted to photograph five hundred distinct and separate hunts over his career. He achieved that goal at the Loudoun Hunt West (VA) while on his 186th visit to the U.S. The date was December 5, 2010, and he was eighty years old. The achievement was memorialized in Foxhunting Life two days later with photos of the Running Photographer taken by America’s own Eclipse Award and Bryce Wing Trophy winning photographer, Douglas Lees. At age eighty-six, Jim Meads was honored for his seventy years of photographing the Peterborough Royal Foxhound Show in the UK. It is a stunning achievement, considering that Jim first photographed the show in 1946, the year it was resumed after the conclusion of World War II. For the 1948, 49, and 50 Peterborough shows, a period when Jim was serving in the RAF, he had to secure special twenty-four-hour passes from the Service. Leading the ceremony at Peterborough in 2016, as the crowd seated around the show ring applauded, Sir Philip Naylor-Leyland, MFH and chairman of the show committee, presented Jim with a bronze fox sculpture in recognition of his faithful commitment to the show. Lord Annaly, ex-MFH and ring steward for many... ...
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British Trail Hunting Video

The British Hound Sports Association put out an informational video explaining Trail Hunting versus hunting live game (now illegal in the England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland). This video comes on the heels of Scotland passing legislation to outlaw trail hunting, and the Labour Party in England announcing their intention to follow Scotland in banning trail hunting. Trail hunting has become under attack from those who believe that it is a cover for illegally hunting live game with hounds. A statement from the British Hound Sports Association was released with the video, “Following on from our trail hunting demonstration days, we have produced a short video which explains how the sport effectively replicates a traditional hunting day, but without an animal being chased, injured or killed.” See here for the full video:  Trail Hunting Explained (youtube.com). Published June 24, 2024. Author Gretchen Pelham View all posts... This content is for subscribers only.Log In Join Now
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A Whipper-In Lays Down His Whip

Barclay Rives Retires from Keswick Hunt Club Barclay Rives decided that at the end of this 2023-2024 season, he would retire from hunting with Keswick Hunt Club in Virginia. Rives has been whipping-in for 53 years with Keswick, and he is a prolific writer (his book called “See You at Second Horses” is a personal favorite). To meet Barclay is to experience the most gentle and charming smile. I was privileged to interview him at Keswick’s Closing Meet party this past March. When did you start hunting? My first hunt was when I was 11, and my childhood friend, John Kohls, was whipping-in for Keswick for the first time. My first job was to unbox the hounds from the truck. I have always hunted with Keswick. But when Grosvenor Merle-Smith was Master and Huntsman for Bull Run Hunt, I had many good runs with them. There were some seasons that I hunted with both hunt clubs. Once when catching up with Deep Run Hunt MFH Jim Covington, better known as Red Dog, I said, “Red Dog, I’ve hunted 115 times this season.” I had bested him. And he said in that deep southern accent, “Barclay, you are my idol.” How many years have you hunted? I’ve hunted for 58 years. But the proper answer is that I’ve been hunting since I was in utero because my mother (Mary Jo Rives, MFH for Keswick) hunted with me while pregnant and Master. Then she went hunting ten days after I was born, which isn’t such a great thing to do. Certain things gotta heal! Why are you retiring? I’m retiring this year because of my two horses – one can’t jump and one can’t breathe. And while it’s better to be on one that can’t breathe, I decided that both horses needed to retire. So, I’ll retire with them as I’m not ready to get a new horse. I also had a hard fall recently. The sound of the helmet hitting the ground was not fun. I watched my father go downhill as he aged, and he was a much better rider than I am. He had several ghastly falls. I thought to myself that I wanted to leave the party early to avoid what he went through. I also have some new books that I want to write. And I have two granddaughters ages 5 and 8 living next door to me. Both of your parents were MFH of Keswick. Have you ever been a Master? No, and I haven’t wanted to be either. My father, Alexander Rives, was MFH for Keswick for eight years. Momma and Daddy were not joint masters at the same time, but when Daddy was Master two disgruntled members came by one evening to complain about hunting. Daddy was a gentle soul and practiced some passive resistance. Mamma was upstairs listening to this going on. While out to here pregnant with my brother, Mamma threw on a robe and went downstairs to give the two of them hell for foolishly complaining. What is your career? Instead of saying, “Do what you love and the money will follow”, change that to, “Do what you love and just do without everything else”. I was a blacksmith for a while and was also a tin roofer and a writer. So my resume is blacksmith, tinsmith, and wordsmith. Does your wife hunt as well? Before my wife, my utility bill was $4 a month. I had power in my house but did not have running water. Someone once sketched what would be my life when I was in my twenties, it was a picture of a scarlet coat hung on an outhouse door. It was so perfect for me. But then my wife came along, and she demanded plumbing. My wife Aggie of 38 years, who does not hunt, has supported my hunting all along. Unlike some people who say, “Oh, we’ve been married nearly 38 years and never had an argument”, but that’s not true with us! Aggie has been wonderfully accepting of me and my riding. I introduced Aggie to one of this country’s great equestrians, the late Elli Wood Baxter (1921-2023), who set the standard in the show ring for brilliance. It wasn’t how many strides between fences that mattered to Elli, it was how many strides did she leave out! Elli (MFH Farmington Hunt) would go around the ring or hunter trial course as if hounds were running, and she had to keep up. (In 2022, Ellie Wood was awarded the National Show Hunter Hall of Fame Founder’s Cup for Excellence, joining Olympian William Steinkraus as one of the only two recipients thus far.)  Elli’s mother taught me how to ride. I introduced my wife to her, and Elli said upon learning that my wife didn’t ride, “Isn’t that great that you don’t have to find a horse for her!” Where have you hunted? I’ve hunted here, Ireland, and England (before the ban), and have outridden at several steeplechases. What has been your favorite thing to do on horseback? That’s easy, it’s to be hunting hounds in full cry here with Keswick. Radios are necessary, but I never carried a radio. For one thing, if it’s necessary to have a radio then I could always find someone with one for me to borrow. But to me the whole thing of hunting is to use my instincts, use my horse, and get myself in the right place to help the huntsman, all so I could enjoy the hunt. Have you ever wanted to be a huntsman? A couple of times I carried the horn when the huntsman was unable, and it’s a whole different experience. I was able to get all the hounds back. Once hounds got on a fox when I had the horn, but I didn’t swing wide enough. The hounds got on the heel line. I am an introvert and a solitary person, so whipping-in is much more me than being the huntsman.... ...
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Jim Meads Photographs His 500th Hunt

Douglas Lees photo

Sporting photographer Jim Meads achieved a personal milestone and undoubtedly established a world record on December 5, 2010 when he photographed the Loudoun West Hunt near Leesburg, Virginia. This was the five hundredth unique hunt that Meads has photographed over the course of a career spanning sixty years.

Meads, who lives in Wales, follows hunts on foot and in vehicles and always seems to appear where the action is, even before the mounted followers arrive. His long legs and astounding endurance has allowed him to capture many of the greatest action shots of foxhunting ever recorded on film. He has photographed hunts in England, Ireland, Canada, and the U.S.

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Southern California Flower Bloom

The third weekend of May this year, the Santa Fe West Hills Hounds, based in Southern California, hosted a trail ride to enjoy the flower blooms at the historic Garner Ranch in Idyllwild, outside of Palm Springs. This working cattle ranch has been a fixture for the hunt for a long time. It has also been a film location for several Hollywood B-Westerns and the television series “Bonanza”. Many of the opening credits scenes for “Bonanza” (1959 – 1973) and its episode “The Grand Swing” was filmed on the ranch.
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British Trail Hunting Explained

The British Hound Sports Association put out an informational video explaining Trail Hunting in response to the Labour Party announcing their intention to follow Scotland in banning trail hunting.
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Coyote Serenades in the High Desert

Paulette Schneider, Senior MFH to the new hunt Sierra Nevada Hounds, saw this coyote in early April having a loud discussion with the hounds just outside the newly built kennels (about 30 minutes north of downtown Reno). The elevation is almost 6,000 feet. Turn your volume up to hear the beautiful voice of this coyote. Author Gretchen Pelham View all posts... This content is for subscribers only.Log In Join Now
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gray horse jumping fenceline

A Kiwi Hunting Adventure

Kristy Lathrop has been a member of the Fort Leavenworth Hunt in Kansas since she was a junior, where she also whipped-in. Her whole immediate family has colors with Fort Leavenworth, and her mother, Gayle Rue, is an ex-MFH. Last season Kristy helped design an educational platform for her hunt’s juniors to be successful for the junior field hunter championships, and it was impressive.
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canadian17.toronto north yorks blue ridge wentworth

Photography I: Shooting Foxhounds at the Hound Show

This may come as a surprise to new hound show photographers, but... ...your primary purpose at the hound show is to produce hound portraits that clearly display the conformation of those hounds recognized by the judges as superior examples of the breed.
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