Photos by Denise George
Text by Madoline Markham

A blanket of hazy fog covers the fields around Denise George’s Montevallo property as the sun starts to rise over the horizon. “I love the light as it comes up over the trees,” she says. “It’s sometimes mysterious, and sometimes it’s magical.”

And when it does, she’s often there to capture both the scenery and the horses who call it home. The photos from those moments look like a serene painting capturing the natural beauty of it all.

“I try to keep my camera with me at all times,” Denise says of her process. “It’s always spontaneous. I don’t force things to happen. Because I am in a relationship with my horses, I like to catch them in whatever they are doing naturally.”

For the past 21 years her horses have lived on the Southwestern corner of the American Village campus adjacent to her family’s land, and in many of her photos you can see the village’s chapel steeple in the background. For 15 years Denise and a group of her female friends would dress in character for the Revolutionary War time period like men, Patrick Henry style, and greet visitors on horseback for Fourth of July at the village.

Usually Denise is behind the camera, but here she poses with one her horses.

Denise might have grown up in the west side of Birmingham, but her heart has always yearned for pastoral views and life on horseback. She learned to ride English style as a kid at Patchwork Farm on Highway 280 and moved out to Montevallo with her husband 42 years ago when she was 26. They have since raised four children on that land and now welcome seven grandchildren for visits.

Right now there are six horses and one pony on her property. Denise owns a Rocky Mountain Cross Spotted Saddle Horse named Sirbe, a Quarter Horse named Sundance and an American Paint Horse named Breeze—plus a Shetland Welch Cross Pony named Midnight. Three of her friends’ horses—a Quarter Horse named Freedom and Tennessee Walkers named Trickery (for his Halloween birthday) and Sterling—call the land home alongside them too. “They all have different personalities and gifts like people,” Denise says.

When she’s not teaching piano lessons—another artistic pursuit—or riding horses, Denise loves to capture each of the horses moving around as they wish on the land.  “They just seem so happy and often they gallop for no reason,” she says. “So often they look like wild horses.”

Follow Denise’s photography on Instagram @denise6217.

Midnight, a Shetland Welch Cross Pony, was a circus carnival pony originally and now at age 40 has a completely grey face.

Denise often finds wild swans on Ballard Lake around the corner from her home in Montevallo.

Denise’s dog Lizzy waits for her in her farm truck on a friend’s property in Montevallo.

You can see the American Village steeple in the background of this early morning photo.