Archive for July, 2017

Sunday saw us booked to cover a regional qualifying round for the British Riding Clubs UK Championships. Winners and, I believe, certain others would be qualifying for the National finals in a few weeks which is quite some achievement when you consider what they have to do on a horse.

Horse jumping has always intrigued me, especially those jumps where the height simply doesn’t appear achievable, yet the horse somehow gets over without knocking off the poles. So, as a non rider myself, the fact that people can actually make a horse complete any number of manoeuvres, which include almost dancing, to me, is exceptional. I know full well that many hundreds of hours go into practicing and training so when something goes wrong even I tend to be a little disappointed for the rider. Equestrian riding is almost an art with the subtle ways in which they guide and instruct the horse. There are no verbal commands just fine control of the reigns, stirrups and seating position of the riders. There may be more and I’m happy to be corrected if there are.

So take the difficulty of equestrian competition and place a twist into the mix, with the twist being two horses doing the same routine at the same time. Oh yes and with a maximum of 20% of the allotted time spent apart with the other 80% of the routine side by side, around the arena.

I saw this “Pairs” riding for the first time on Sunday and was totally impressed with the four groups of competitors who took part in their respective groups. The look of concentration was clear for all to see on their faces throughout the routines, with the elation of finishing what they obviously knew was a solid routine visible too.

As a photographer this was no different to any other equestrian event I shoot with just one exception, capturing the 2 horses in complete harmony and literally mirroring each other step for step. Now that sounds easy yet I assure you it isn’t. This actually happens only a few times in any routine owing to all the turning and change of step etc. Ideally, so one pair told me, they have 2 horses of the same size etc etc. As this is not too easy to find at club level you tend to get one horse which is slightly bigger than the other. This is like having one tall human walk alongside a smaller human and expected to walk stride for stride for 8 minutes. It rarely happens but thats the image they want capturing.

Knowing my strides and turns I was able to second guess when the pairs were likely to come together in that perfect harmony moment. Even then only two of the four actually achieved this whilst travelling in a direction that gave a suitable image. Standing and watching this happen as they trotted away down the arena, away from you with bums and backs onshore, is rather demoralising. In those instances you simply capture what you can from the opportunities given when they are correctly positioned in their line of travel.

The day for us was great with the lovely weather and a few cool drinks to boot. With many of the competitors asking about images we also hoped for a good response with the galleries which I am pleased to say has actually been superb. We have also received several messages complimenting the quality of our images.

I know, from a riding friend, that a lot of the local clubs either use someone they know i.e. a rider or parent for photography, with some clubs having serious amateur or even alleged professionals shooting them. Now I am not here to slag anyone off so I will just say that a lot of these  images tend to be somewhat lacking in technical ability.

On Sunday and ,as an example of this, we had a very ice lady who came to stand near us to photograph several different horses, all from one club. She quite openly declared herself as the club photographer, for those horses, and was most impressed with our setup and the way we conducted ourselves. After the first horse she captured, someone came over and asked her to turn the camera flash off. She had a Canon DSLR, with pop up flash, the camera set to auto and was just clicking away happily with the flash trying to doing its thing against the sun. She asked for some advice and I suggested changing the settings to either TV or AV and adjusting those to shoot what she wanted. She admitted to having not much of a clue so I showed her two options that would improve the images shot and, more importantly, not require flash. Did she listen …. nope she went to the other end of the arena so the sun was more to the side of her. Oh well you try and help lol.

So the images we took. I’m going to keep this down to the usual couple of images I like to add at the end of a post.

If you would like to see the days images click here – Cecil Paul Studios Equestrian Galleries

Image One :

The one where it all comes together, just at the right time, right angles, riding positions and just togetherness. Riding like this for an 8 Minute routine is not easy.

Pairs1

Image Two :

When you just know it was excellent. The elation at completing a quality equestrian pairs routine. I do believe these two ladies came first and thus through to the national finals.

Pairs2

 

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When not on a commissioned job, or working in the studio and I actually have a weekend free I like to take a look at local motor racing circuits and see whats on. Usually there’s nothing of interest happening or the wife has something organised for us. Last weekend however my Saturday was free, yes totally free and with the VMCC holding one of their racing events at my local circuit Cadwell Park I was on my way.

I love Cadwell Park as the place is quite simply a superb circuit, non of the flat round and round places that are all too common these days. Full of hills and sweeping bends with the infamous mountain it ticks all the boxes for spectators and photographers alike. The VMCC events are totally open so you can have a good, unrestricted wander around looking at the machinery on show. The facilities are good, there’s always a burger van there for lunch and coffee which is reasonably priced and finally the toilets are clean and functional. There is a hospitality building, if that’s your Raceday thing, excellent access to a good 80% of the racing with just one small strip inaccessible. Official photography is exclusive to one chap, which I find odd for such a big place. Access to the prime spots is therefore a non starter, though there are plenty of places you can stand if the crowds aren’t too big. A nice 200-400 zoom or fixed 400mm 2.8 would create an even keel though as you could reach across to achieve those angles. Justifying the £8k spend to the wife would be a tad difficult though lol.

I enjoy this racing for two reasons. Firstly I rode motorbikes in my youth having range of Yamaha’s from 350cc through to 750cc over several years. Fabulous carefree times where the adrenaline rush of twisting a throttle and being catapulted down the road made my youthful brain buzz. Living in Germany for three years and having speed limit free autobahns made fun for modding the latter, bigger engined machines, and in the early 90’s and quieter roads having an absolute hoot out there. Secondly I love capturing motorsport and movement. Motorsport, like gymnastics, needs to have a perspective of movement. All of the top publications will show on track imagery with a sense of movement. This will be within the tires and spokes of the vehicles as nothing else really moves. A adjusting settings to continually provide this effect, coupled with some clever planning helps produce some lovely imagery. Doing this consistently to provide a gallery of the days events takes some skill. I see many online images that are simply awful in tat the bike has been shot at such a high speed it simply looks stationary. Not ideal when trying to provide that sense of movement.

I was actually approached by a group of men, from a local amateur photography club, who stated they were struggling with aperture speeds around the 1/1000th of a second. They had recognised my “Gear” and labelled me either Semi Pro or Pro so popped over for a chat. Lovely blokes, well mannered and respected the fact I was cracking on capturing the racing. In short they where simply after the fastest shutter speed they could grab to freeze the action. They almost had a seizure when I showed them a shutter speed under 1/250th sec. To put it simply they tried it, failed at the panning and surprisingly went back to high shutter speed, high ISO’s and medium apertures of F4+. Using stock kit lenses didn’t help their cause on flexibility but with the day being clear and bright they could easily capture imagery like mine with a bit of effort. Even under 1/250th and an ISO 100 gave me apertures of between f.35 – f11 through the day. Anyway they stayed at their super speed options as I came across them again when I moved to the chicane. Blasting away on high speed shutter with high speed apertures and ISO’s it was like they were shooting some rare, single moment, wildlife rather than repetitive circuit racing. Oh well.

All in all I had a fabulous day. The smell of 2 stroke oil in the air, rasping engines all blessed with some bright dry weather made things great. From traditional motorcycles to scooters, sidecars and the odd rare one off’s that survive into today an excellent day out for any petrolhead. A plus point, for me anyway, being that a few riders came to me for business cards made things worthwhile.

A couple of images from the day now follow. To see the entire days images see here 2017 VMCC Cadwell Park

A Norton, I believe..

bike

These sidecar guys are brave or a little unhinged or potentially both.

bike 2

A BSA Bantam in full flow.

bike 3

Equipment wise all images were captured using a Canon 5Diii with Canon 70-200mm IS ii zoom. Settings varied owing to location and light available but nothing shot over 1/250th sec thus portraying the speed involved.

Oh for one of those magic Media Passes to reach the prime shooting points 😂