Tips for Equine Ride Photographers, part 2

January 28, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

Heading DownhillHeading Downhill This is a continuation of ride photographer tips.  If you missed the beginning look for the Introduction.  As a reminder, the numbering is not significant and while these tips work for me, they may not work for you. Develop your own set.

 

2) Never argue with the ride manager immediately before or during the event.  Afterwards they are fair game but during the event they have way too many things on their mind to deal with a prima donna photographer.  Violate this rule only when there is a low deductible on my paid-up health insurance. (Inspired by Liz Scott)

It's natural for photographers to pursue what we hope is the best shot and, to that end, as a group we photographers tend to push the boundaries a might-bit.  Remember a ride manager has far too many things going on to worry about helping us camp, finding good spots and getting the photographer to them.  Our problems are just that, our problems.  Solve them ourself unless it's absolutely necessary to bother the ride team.  Remember things change and ride management does not need to ask our permission or keep us informed. Most managers will keep the photographer in the loop and go out of their way to help. It should always be an unexpected blessing when they do so.

 

3) Pictures are important but the ride is more so.  In the rare cases I may need to put down the camera and help out.  Find a way to do both without complaining, refer to rule two for clarification. (Inspired by Becky Rodgers)

Good photographers will go to a ride with a plan in mind.  However most events depend on volunteers and sometimes they don't show up or things simply go wrong.  In such cases be prepared to fill in as best you can.  That may mean helping set up, run to town for supplies or filling in for a missing person.  Find a way to do what is needed and still get some photos.

 

4) Be keenly aware of the horse's reaction to what I do and help keep everyone safe. If they lose points or suffer an unscheduled dismount because of the photographer they will be angry.  Don't forget these riders can pull a four horse trailer 300 miles, park it on a dime, set up camp and then ride a 1000 pound horse all the weekend.  After doing all that getting even with a photographer does not present much of a challenge. (Inspired by Jonni Jewell)

We all need to take this tip to heart, especially us guys. Realize that horses are fundamentally prey animals and a human with camera tend to look and act like a horse killer.  Don't even think about jumping out to take a photo.  Likewise concealment will in all likelihood fail miserably.  You will get a reaction to your presence on the trail and you must be aware of the possible results.  When I'm in a spot where the riders will come upon me suddenly I put a 'Photographer Ahead' sign up the trail to give them time to prepare.  Talk to the riders so the horses know that strange looking animal up ahead with one big eye is a human.  If necessary put the camera down, miss the shot and talk to the horse and rider.

This really can not be stressed enough, safety first.  Ride photographers need to be comfortable around horses and observant of their effect on the animal.  Sometimes simply changing the way I stand will cause a horse to alert.  Learn this and use it to make better images without causing problems for the rider.

 

5) I can't make everybody happy with the photos, listen to their advice but trust what I see and feel.  Make photos that match my own image and voice. If I make photos that matter to me there is a better chance they will matter to others as well. (Inspired by Chris Orwig)

I have heard "downhill photos look terrible" a hundred times and for the most part it's true.  But if the situation is right, that moment when the rider reaches the top and looks down the trail below (and right into the camera) can make a great image.  Most riders don't recognize they pause at the start of a downhill so they think I'm taking shots of them in a bad position and with their head down.  I often like the results, see image in the page, so I take them anyway.

On the trail keep in mind that most riders have no idea what it looks like behind them.  They are competitors focused on the trail ahead. They may think you have picked a crazy spot for an image and from their prospective this may be true. Let the photo surprise them. As a side note, you will recognize the photographers who are riding in the event as they often turn around to look at the background.

The list of examples is practically endless. By experience you will learn the times where background, emotion, impulsion or release make a good image.  When you do, follow that instinct and then critically evaluate the results.  If at every event you make a few images that truly matter, you will feel successful.

You will find Tips Part 3 here.  Feel free to discuss these with me by email or on Facebook and Twitter. You will find links on the contact page.

Jim Edmondson

 


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