Penkridge Horse Show

    Canon 1dx, 400 2.8

I love a horse show. I’ve said it before but I’m happily saying it again. The competitors are great fun to talk to, and it’s good to see kids involved in something that involves skill and dexterity and care – a far cry from a PS4 or an xBox. So we’re delighted to be covering the shows at Penkridge again this year, it’s an event that I look forward to – apart from being a challenge covering three rings and show jumping I always manage to get great shots across ridden, in hand and jumping, and we’re managing to fit in some really nice equine portraits as well.

Over the winter I had a good think about how best to present the 700+ photos that we publish after the event, so now I’m organising them into separate galleries on our web site to make it easier for people to sort through and see their photos.We spend a long day at a horse show, here’s how it pans out.

Canon 1dx, 200 f2.

The day before: Load the car with all the equipment for on site printing and check everything. I come from an IT background and making sure everything works is key. We run a Mac network with 3 mac minis, monitors, secure wireless network and generator to run it all. Photos are transmitted wirelessly and it all has to work, so the event equipment gets tested the night before to make sure that there are no problems.

08:00: Set off. We do like to arrive early ?

09:00 Arrive at the show. On occasions I’ve had to turn back because I’ve left something behind, like lunch! We set up and run test prints and shots to test the network. Sometimes it works fine, other times there are teething problems, e.g a camera refuses to transmit, despite being Canon’s flagship kit. We have a backup process but I do like to get everything ticking along, it’s a distraction otherwise. There’s a lot more here than taking photos, getting the network up and running is fundamental. Today I’m shooting my usual lens, a 200mm f2 which blurs the background beautifully, it’s been my main lens for three years. I’m also shooting a 400mm f2.8 for the jumping, which means I can stay out of the ring, so there’s no risk of distracting anyone. I don’t mind going in of course but once there I don’t like to move – and if there’s something going on elsewhere I want to get there quickly.

09:20: Restart the generator and glare at it. That normally fixes things and it behaves. Have a bacon sandwich and a cup of tea, I probably won’t have time to eat anything else during the day!

09:30: Have a chat with Dave, who’s a fellow photographer. I like to arrive early at any event for a chat with everyone, including the nice couple who have the mobile coffee bar 🙂

10:00: Showtime! I’m working whatever ring is active, which is often all of them. I’m not just aiming for the rosette shots, I want to capture the emotion of the day, so a lot of the time when people view photos they’re not in sequence because I’ve shot them at different times during the day. The cameras send photos in sequence and we’d love to be able to sort them but it isn’t always possible to do that as the day gets more hectic – and there are a lot of photos taken.

12:00: Andrea arrives if she hasn’t come with me. It’s a relief because this is the time people start to want to look at their photos and she’s wonderful with customers and won’t pressure a sale, and she’s brilliant at finding the shots from an ever increasing catalogue. We’ve talked at length about how to make her life easier as the day progresses but the workflow is fine and that’s great for me. I continue to work in the rings and try to spend an equal amount of time in each, including the jumping, and I cause chaos with sales when I come back for a cup of tea and help out and then go off to take more photos. To be fair we do keep in touch by radio and I do come back to fix anything that’s causing a big problem 🙂
16:00: A cup of tea and start to fold everything down. We keep the core computers running in case anyone wants to look at photos, it’s the last thing to pack up, which is quite amusing really because we often turn it off and someone comes up and asks to see their photos – and I’m always happy to turn it on again!

14:00: Someone has taken a heavy fall today and the air ambulance is on its way. I’m not paparazzi so I won’t photograph it. We do hope he’s ok, it’s not something anyone wants to witness and we’re relieved later to find there’s no broken bones. As an aside I’ve seen photographers who think that sort of photo is worth taking. Sorry, it isn’t.

17:00: We’re all packed up. We always find somewhere to have a drink afterwards and talk about the day and relax a bit, it’s good fun but still quite intense if there are any problems so it’s good to unwind because there’s a lot more to do tonight. We talk about what worked well and what could be improved. It’s an evolving thing, we’ve done a lot of shows but there’s always something to talk through and ideas to make things work better. Today we had a persistent problem with one of the viewing stations where transmitted photos made everything jump around – I’m keen to hear what the problem was so I can fix it, we keep spares like keyboards and trackpads in the flight case and I suspect it was a bit of faulty kit that caused the problem – I’m keen to reproduce the problem so we don’t run into it next time. It must have been frustrating for Andrea to cope with so I want to get this sorted out for the next show.

18:00: Home! Copy all the images onto the backup drive straight away – I don’t want to risk losing anything and they then get copied onto network storage. There are usually 1500+ images. When they’re backed up they’re copied to a cloud drive for security. Then we sit down and start to select the images to put onto the web site. We aim to post around 700 images for the gallery which are the best from the day but we’ll always post anything that a customer asks for, e.g if they’ve seen a shot on the day and want us to post everything.

19:00: Start the gallery upload. We aim to have the online gallery posted by 9pm at the latest and the upload can take over an hour if there are a lot of clicks on the day. I can see a lot from our web logs – downloads and of course people trying to view the gallery so it’s important to get it loaded quickly. I want to have everything there for people to look at the same evening. The gallery upload is automated and we also have automation for online sales of low resolution images which is really great, it means customers can get their photos immediately. While that’s running we process orders where customers have bought high res images, and send out free Facebook copies, we offer that for show purchases.

21:00: Select images for Facebook, post and release the link to the gallery. Have a shower and a hard earned glass of wine and something to eat and collapse in a heap! Good day!

Canon 1dx 400 2.8