In the first post, I mentioned the friendly family atmosphere. In this post, I’ll mention some of the other photography challenges I observed.
Photographing this competition is not as easy as it seems to get good, compelling photos. It had a lot of challenges.
Challenge #1: The competition arena was under a large shed – pretty dark with contrasting bright sunlight blasting in the sides across the arena from the viewing stands. Without flash you get silhouettes of horse and rider. Question: do I dare use flash? After all, these are animals with riders at risk on their back. Last thing I wanted was a freaked-out horse crushing a rider or an angry rider mad over a flash affecting the horse’s performance. Answer: Seems to be OK to use flash. Saw a professional photographer by the business name of Big Daddy Photography who was shooting away with (counted them) 7 Alien Bees strobes on tall light stands. 6 were 1600 watt-second monsters and when they all fired they nuked the arena.
You could see and hear them an eighth mile away. Big Daddy said flash “should not be a concern. If they want to compete, the competitions that are bigger than this one have hundreds of flashes going off all the time. If it affects them, they are not ready”. OK, mount flash and make better photos and hope the horse and rider are not new to it.
Challenge #2: Would like to have shutter speed 1/1000 or faster to freeze motion. In those dark conditions it meant high ISO settings and associated noise – even with flash. In my gallery you will see a handful of images from the competition. But I knew my results would not be to my liking so I spent most of my time in the practice/warm up arenas under bright morning sun using fill flash. Next time I won’t be afraid to bring my Einstein strobes (related to Alien Bees but only 650 watt-seconds) and see if I can get competition images.
Challenge #3: I kept cutting off the horses feet or tails. I always tried to make the rider be in focus with a shallow depth of field to reduce background distractions so I kept my focus point on the rider. Zooming in I kept getting feet or tail out of the frame. Maybe that dream camera (Nikon D800 with 36 MP images) would have allowed me to shoot wider and still crop for quality close ups. (Sweetheart – hint, hint).
Challenge #4: Everyone wears a cowboy hat. In bright outdoor sun it casts strong shadows across the faces. Candid shots are not so candid when I have to get close and low with the fill flash to light under the brim. Needless to say – most faces are in partial shadow.
This morning’s experience was a good one and I want to do it again when I have more time. To those who shoot rodeos or other horse competitions and do it well, my hat is off to you!
Photos I took from this day’s events can be found here: http://www.creatorspalette.com/Life/Sports/Adult-Prof-Sports/Equestrian/VCHA-Horse-For-A-Cure