The first competitive trail ride I photographed yielded far more snap shots than photos, a rather discouraging reality. At that time it seemed reasonable to conclude that the best way to improve was by experience so, by taking a great deal of images I would, by brute force if nothing else, become proficient. I naively decided that I would be proficient after 25,000 images. As I approach the second anniversary of my first “official” ride it is appropriate to review and reflect. Fortunately the digital asset management program I use, Aperture, is a pack rat when it comes to images. As it does not easily throw any of the originals away it is possible to come to some numerical values describing two years of photography.
Images are assigned a zero star rating on import. They may be assigned a rating from one to five or given the ‘big X’ and hidden for future discard. For my purposes a one star rating goes into the online photo gallery for the participants and a five star rating would be something “as good as it gets.” So here are the numbers after two years:
The first surprise for me is the low number of discarded photos. These are typically out of focus shots that can not be fixed in the digital darkroom. The quantity of these has gone down dramatically after upgrading my primary camera body to a Nikon D700. The new camera has much better low light and auto focus technology and is a better fit with the photographically difficult places I like to work.
Out of 28,494 images, 6,398 were something better than a ho-hum snap shot. Portrait sessions and cantering images tend to result in the most number of wasted shots. Early morning motion blur images have a very poor success rate but are also lots of fun. On average it took 4.5 shots to make one image for the gallery.
However over time my standards of what makes a good shot has also improved. As the result must be better than before I still seem to take a lot of zero star shots. Perhaps it is an endless chain of increasing expectations requiring more images that result in an increased expectation.
What does it all mean? Heck I don’t know I’m new at this. I know horses are difficult yet strangely satisfying to photograph. I know competitive trail rides and horse events are what I want to do for now. And, I know I need a lot more practice. I’m thankful to have that opportunity afforded to me by the riders and ride managers who have so patiently helped me improve over the last two years. With the support of my wife and the grace of God I will continue this journey. Perhaps after another 25,000 images I will, at last, become proficient at this … but really, I’m beginning to think it’s a circle.