Naperville Child Photographer | Danada Equestrian Center

August 02, 2014  •  4 Comments

What started out as location scouting has evolved into a deep love of the Danada Equestrian Center (aka Danada Horse Farm).  From it's rich history which began in 1929 when it was built and founded by Dan and Ada Rice to it's 152-acres of lush pastures and trails (perfect for photography) the Danada Equestrian Center has become a personal pastime favorite for my kids and myself.   It's the place we picnic, the place we wander, the place we waste away time enjoying the long lines of white fences and the open aired barn that once housed a Kentucky Derby winner.  Just a few short miles from my now family home in Naperville, Danada Equestrian Center has become a weekly past time for us.  Located just north of Naperville, in Wheaton, Illinois Dan and Ada Rice built not only the farm, a training track, and starting gate, but their family home.   As a closet horse racing fan and an non-closet admirer of horses, being at the farm is like fulfilling a childhood dream of mine.

Naperville family photographerNaperville family photographer and Danada Equestion Center in Wheaton, Illinois.Captain in his stall at Danada Horse Center in Wheaton, Illinois by family and child photographer Carrie Cheng.

Once a would-be client mentioned she was looking for a barn setting for her family photographs, I set out with my two kids for what would be  several test shoots across the western suburbs.   We started at the big red Barn off of Hobson in south Lisle.   The "Greene Farm Barn" as it is called was so majestic in pictures and offered much potential.  Despite the extensive green lawns of the park that surrounds it, with a concrete bottom, no way to get inside, and signs that read "Keep Away" I didn't see much inspiration in this beautiful barn that just didn't lend itself to pictures of children and families.

Next we ventured to the St. James Farm just north of Naperville in Wheaton, Illinois.  It's beautiful lawns, long sweeping fences and blue blood barn were everything I was looking for.  However, it fell a little short for me as well as farm as the barn was concerned.   Without being able to freely move in and out of the barn and the lack of friendly volunteers (like there are at Danada Farm), it just wasn't quite as versatile as I was hoping for.   I'd still love to do a photo shoot there one day, but Danada hands down won on my favorite location.   

What is it about Danada?   

First, the horses.   Grazing in the pastures, watching their movement, watching them watch us in return.   The power and fluidity in the their strides as they race right up to the fences.   Nostrils flared, throwing their heads in the air.   Their sense of wild un-tameness, but then relenting to the commands and wishes of the volunteers that work with them.   In the arena, lessons, training, listening.   In the barn, we get so close, so much bigger.  They stomp their feet, we take a step back.  The scent, the noises, the excitement.  The getting to know the horses by name, like Tucker the smallest of the horses with the same name as my son but who doesn't sweat and stays in the barn more with his industrial fan blowing on him...

Naperville child photographerNaperville child photographer Carrie Cheng captures Tucker the horse at Danada Horse farm in Wheaton, Illinois.Naperville child photographer Carrie Cheng captures Tucker the horse at Danada Horse farm in Wheaton, Illinois.

The kids.  Running down the paths, finding shade among the trees.   Climbing on the lines of white fences.  Enjoying, learning from the site of the horses in an environment that is much the same as it was nearly 100 years ago.   Leaning over the fence, daring to get closer.   Yearning to be old enough for lessons, to climb aboard the giants and move as one with them.   Climbing on the saddles in the barn.  Pretending to be aboard California Chrome in route to another big win.   Searching for the barn cats, which is often more exciting than the horses.

Naperville child photographerLeaning over the fence to get closer to the horses at Danada Equestrian Center in Wheaton, Illinois.Naperville family and child photographer Carrie Cheng photographs the beauty in Danada Equestion Center, just north of Naperville.

Me.   Seeing the light bouncing between the trees.   The way the wind blows the kids (and the horses hair).   The barn, the grass, the flowers.  All these things that make perfect backgrounds for photographs and makes me take in a long deep breath of relaxation.   Yes, the barn and the light. Oh the light... Glowing in through the doors.  Beaming in through the windows.   Backlighting the rows of stalls.   Illuminating the children as they watch and play, as I watch them through the eye of a mother and the lens of the camera.   Seeing the horses, being part of their life, I life I so wanted to be close to as a child.   

Naperville child photographer.Naperville child photographer at Danada Equestion Center in Wheaton, Illinois.Giggles and laughter at the Danada Equestion Center in Wheaton, IL by Naperville child photographer Carrie Cheng.

The volunteers.   Always friendly.  Remembering my childrens' names on only our second visit.   Offering their time for the horses and equally taking the time to stop and talk to us.  Their belief in the cause they give their time to.  A friendly face to a wonderful place. 

Naperville child photographer Carrie ChengNaperville family and child photographer Carrie Cheng at Danada Equestrian Center in Wheaton, Illinois.A volunteer at Danada Equestrian Center tends to Tucker. Photographed by Naperville child photographer Carrie Cheng.

Danada certainly is a magical place for me.   It makes me feel alive like a child and allows the children to be themselves, running, exploring, and climbing.  It's these moments I love to watch and love to capture in photographs.   We've spent many a days there this summer and I can't wait for the fall.   I'm always open for a photo session there.

In the meantime, we are off to explore another farm this evening.   We'll be attending the Cabernet Cabaret and the polo fields in Oswego.   Hoping for a good time and a potential new location for photographs ... 

Naperville family photographer.Naperville family and child photographer Carrie Cheng at Danada Equestrian Center in Wheaton, Illinois.A mares mane blows in the wind of her fan at Danada Equestrian Center in Wheaton, Il. Photographed by Naperville child and family photographer Carrie Cheng

And finally, a video because there are so many photos to share from Danada. Naperville family photographerNaperville family photographer at Danada Farm and Equestrian Center.

 

Comments

4.Mary(non-registered)
My granddaughter and I have been visiting there, too, for a few years. She loves the kitties, and I love the horses. It is a magical place.
3.Stephanie Necessary(non-registered)
Okay - I'm in love! You make me want to pack up my bags and head up there now! I took a trip to Kentucky once with my grandparents when I was a teen. There was nothing like the feeling of being on a horse farm. I really adore the one of the little cowboy and cowgirl on the fence!
2.Kay(non-registered)
Great photos! I especially love the third one down!
1.Lauren(non-registered)
You make me wanna be at Danada Horse Farm too! Your words are lovely, and youphotos are beautiful. Pure and rich and simple and light and airy. Just beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing this place with us.
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