Now I have to say I’m getting very attached to shooting this event. Equestrian photography is something that I’ve really enjoyed for the past couple of years – there’s a good challenge in getting the shot well framed with my usual style, the people are ever so friendly, and the horses are often quite curious about the camera (more about that later). So this year I have a monthly outing to an unknown location, where I find the right fence ready for the shoot on the day. Now this is the first of a few challenges to be honest. I’m a good event photographer but a lousy map reader, so I get shown the location and then promptly forget exactly where it is. So I’ve taken to carrying my phone and dropping a “pin” on google maps, so I can find it again. Great idea, except the location is often in a field, so I sit there in the car with the pin perplexingly close by and have no idea how to find it. Last time I nearly found it again but there was a locked gate in the way. My pin was tantalisingly close but I had to reverse for what seemed like a mile and then take a five mile detour.
Anyway – on the day I’ve taken to setting up a remote camera, which is triggered (courtesy of Canon’s WFT transmitters) by the main camera. It’s amazing when it works, but there are two distinct problems. 1) it takes a lot of careful positioning to make sure the autofocus works and locks on the horse – very annoying to find that it hasn’t! Canon ‘s autofocus algorithms are quite complex and it takes a bit of experimentation to get the right position and settings so at the point the horse (hopefully with rider attached) enters the frame, the focus is locked on ready for the shot to be taken. 2) Canon’s flagship camera, the 1DX, has a very loud shutter. It’s so loud that it can spook a horse so I have to wrap it in foam to try to deaden the noise. The problem then is that the thing on a tripod with a load of foam around it then spooks the horse instead of the noise. God knows what they must think is going on 😀
When it works it’s fantastic, it means I get two very different views, with the front camera set to my usual style and the side camera capturing a more traditional shot. When it doesn’t work, I get an unusable blurry mess – or a very sharply focused tree in the background. Thankfully more often than not it works as intended but it’s taken a lot of careful experimentation to get everything right.
I also like to keep a long lens set up on a gimbal mount (too heavy to hand hold), which I can use to track more distant riders and get a nice set of candid shots. This doesn’t always work out, my main aim on the day is to get a position where I can get the riders taking a jump, but on the occasions when I’ve got a bit of space around me the shots can be very artistic and effective.
Of course, the impact of all of this is that I have three times the amount of photos to edit when I get home! I always aim to have the gallery loaded onto our web site by 7pm, 8pm at the latest, so it’s a long day – I’ll have set off at around 8am to get to the ride, left at around 2:30pm and then gone straight into editing, which takes around 3-4 hours to complete – we don’t just throw the photos onto the gallery, each one that we present has been colour balanced and cropped to give our customers the best possible presentation.
I’m looking forward to our next outing in June which has water jumps, I’d better make sure nothing (including me) manages to fall in! Come to think of it I’ve got to find my spot as well. I went over yesterday to meet with Neil, the organiser and he took me off road through fields and bumpy tracks so I hope I can work out where to go, there was a gate somewhere and a very steep hill! I’m sure it’ll be fine, let’s face it I’ve got plenty of time and this sort of thing keeps me on my toes, it makes life quite exciting to be honest! 🙂