August 13, 2009

My Big Wide World

When taking photos of horses, one of the huge rules of thumb is to use a zoom lens. 100mm or more was a guideline I was once given and the longer the better. Wider angles distort the horse, often horribly. Huge noses and tiny legs... You see them everywhere in family pet snapshots and once you learn to see it, you find it often crops up in many artist's paintings and drawings because they were working from a photograph shot with a less than ideal zoom. I have dutifully stuck to this rule for ages with the exception of taking pictures in small spaces, such as the vet clinic exam and surgery rooms for documentary work.

In my quest to give the horse event competitor the best and most unique shots of their horses, I constantly experiment with angles, shutter speed, depth of field, light and now lenses. I spent many years searching for the best angles from which to shoot horses in action or just hanging out. I know pretty much all of the "ideal" angles for which breeds, types of events and actions. AKA, the shots competitors expect to see from that discipline. They get boring after a while, especially when I can do them without even thinking. I have begun pushing the envelope, experimenting with less than cliche pictures in venues where I can.

Over time I have tried to get in closer, pushing the limits of composition within the frame. I've tried slowing down the shutter speed to get interesting motion blurs. I also play with unique light when it's available and now I'm drawing back to show a place. Many show competitors are still looking for the same ol' same ol' and get uncomfortable with out of the norm shots. So I still strive to make them happy too but recently I have also been adding in a second camera with a wide angle lens to shake it up a little.

Seems that many are able to appreciate the unique angles better than some of my slow motion blur experiments and I've played enough with the wide angle lens to figure out some viewpoints that really work well and plenty that are still so very, very much to be avoided. I'm enjoying being able to create competition images with a sense of place, as well as showing off the equine athlete in good form.

August 9, 2009


While in New England I had the chance to be a second camera at the University of New Hampshire dressage show. I jumped on the chance since I had never officially shot at a dressage show before. Oh, I've shot plenty of dressage tests, but it's all been the dressage phase of horse trials or 3-day eventing and mostly only lower levels of it. I have also been to dressage shows and shot a few pix, but never as the Official Photographer all day long and never with a lot of the upper levels like Level 4 and above. Needless to say, I was quite excited at the prospect of shooting more than one horse at the Prix St. George, Intermediare and Grand Prix levels.

I wanted the most to find out if I could catch a good canter pirouette image. So many things have to come together, the horse, the rider, the angle and background as well as my ability to read and time it. At the UNH show I was fortunate to gets lots of practice and one really good Freestyle ride where everything came together to let me grab it.

If you wish to see all the proofs from the UNH Dressage Show, the Official Photographer that I worked as a second camera for is Mystical Photography.