Posts Tagged ‘britishdressage’

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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So January saw yet another new venture for us at the Manor Grange Stud & Show Centre in Yorkshire. As previously mentioned we were put onto the availability of a photographers position by someone who we knew through regional gymnastics. I will be perfectly honest in that word of mouth and existing customer recommendations have been the most beneficial component to our business growth over the last few years and this was no exception.

A random comment on an equestrian thread which mentioned us, followed by a couple of emails and we find ourselves invited to try things out. We made no excuses to the management that this was a filler job, to our main event work, and as such we would not be able to cover every event. With this in mind they initially took on a second company, though sadly this didn’t work out owing to the rather irrational outlook they had on event photography.

Quite simply event photography is totally hit and miss on sales. You can cover an event one week, take a serious four figure amount with little effort, to barely covering your costs at a similar event the following week. I think the other company simply saw the cost of keeping horses etc and thought that this would transfer into a weekly cash bonanza for them. As a product example they offered a 20×16 framed portrait print of your horse for £600. Yes a whopping £600 for a portrait image framed print. Now I won’t go into markups and profit here yet with our associated costs, for a similar product, I can only see that price as obscene and attempting to take advantage. Oddly they never sold any and found this odd …….. go figure. When the cash didn’t begin flowing weekly they began pressuring the management for the bigger events and trying to squeeze us out. Thankfully the management refused to budge and so the other company bailed on them leaving us a sole photographers. The management subsequently decided to keep us as the primary business and invite random guest photographers in when we are busy. This is certainly working, things are settled & people are happy so we hope it continues without interference. Sales vary at every event and no two are the same even with similar entry numbers.

We are now six months into the contract, things are going just fine for us and the management are happy too. We have developed our imagery with multi image montage options that differ from the gymnastics montages. The equestrian customer prefers soft blending of images and no particular text, other than the location. As a business you listen, tailor and develop your product until people are happy. We have done this and sell quite a few of the montages per month.

An example of a montage –

montage

At manor we cover two styles of equestrian competition which are dressage and jumping.

Dressage is, when it all goes to plan, a wonderful demonstration of harmony between horse and rider. From the basic entry level tests, for beginners, to the advanced where the horses even complete the routine to music is something to see. As someone who has never even sat on a horse I respect every rider out there for the hard work and dedication to just reach these regional rounds.

When it’s all going nicely –

Dressage1

And when things require that exceptional extra control –

_54A7217

Surprisingly I have captured several of these rear-up moments which can appear a little scary at the time. The riders I have subsequently spoken to all seem to laugh it off with the lady above almost resigned to this happening as her horse had been ‘flitty’ all day, as she put it. Well I for one am still impressed at their control of such a situation.

The jumping side of things is far simpler than the dressage side. Dressage riders like the horse to look all flowing and majestic, which can be difficult to capture, whereas the jumpers are simply that, jumpers who like to see them and their horse coming over a jump. A slight angle is normally preferred to show the horse in its fullest so the only real thing we can’t guarantee is the weather. When it rains this particular eventing is awful to cover. Standing in the middle of the arena, wrapped up in waterproof clothing all day, shooting through a steady downpour is no fun. Thank the lord for Canon’s Pro sealed weather sealed cameras and lenses.

A typical jump image –

jump

We have had several of our images published too. Publications Horse & Hound, Equestrian Life & British Dressage all help spread the word that we are out there. Will the call from a major event organiser or publication come asking us to cover a major ever come. Well I never thought I would have been booked to cover gymnastics finals at the Olympic Park, this year, for the third year running so anything is possible.

Horse & Hound –

I have blurred out imagery which is not mine.

H&H

Equestrian Life –

EQLife.jpg

The next six months sees us filling all of our gap days on weekends along with some steady weekday work also from this venture. We have made some new friends, gained a whole new customer base and hopefully something that will grow as the gymnastics has over the years.

Until next time ……