Posts Tagged ‘competition’

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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The year certainly kicked off in style and other than the first weekend we were booked for all subsequent weekends. Year on year this was a large increase as have been the bookings for the entirety of 2017. We either have odd days on a weekend spare or no space at all until the second week in December. Word of mouth has seen us be snapped up over several regions and now with the equestrian work a weekend off will be rare. We have however reached agreement that for 2 weeks in August I will not take any bookings and leave 2 weeks empty as agreed in 2016.

The middle two weekends were both gymnastics with the North West BSGA Zonal Qualifiers followed by the North West NDP Individual & team qualifiers. Both huge weekends for not only ourselves but those involved I would say some 800-1000 competitors were involved over each weekend. A massive undertaking for both organisers and ourselves which I am pleased to say ran smoothly for both sides.

We now offer some new versions of our popular event montages which have gone down well. Maintaining prices at £10-£25 depending on how many images are chosen we have simply mixed the orientation of imagery that can be selected. This has allowed imagery such as team photo’s that tend to be landscape in orientation to be mixed with action images that tend to be in portrait orientation. Further options are currently being trialled for offerings.

January ended up being our busiest January for the last five years. It also yielded the highest take and subsequent conversion to profit too. With repeat bookings for next January we can hopefully rely on a good start to 2018 also.

This blogs image is a triple montage from one of the gymnastics events.

Jan 17

 

New up were the NW Championships held at Wigan’s Robin Park Arena. The Arena and indeed the centre as a whole is superb with some excellent facilities.

It’s only downfall for us is the dismal lighting afforded in the the main hall. Rows of old failing strip lights adorn the ceiling with many having long since expired from this life whilst others make last ditch attempts at lighting the floor like distant stars burning out never to be seen again. We have made enquiries as to if the lighting is on the agenda to be changed yet sadly, as with most things council run, until we are basically holding competitions by candle light there is no plan or indeed funding to replace these lights.

An easy comparison as to how poor the lighting has got is to compare it to a more updated lighting hall. An example of this is in Hull and having recently had a complete lighting change to new strip lights allows us a shutter speed of 1/500th sec at f2.8 and a very credible indoor ISO of 1000. This allows us to capture all the action with lovely stills and quality exposures which require very little in their post event processing. To compare we are pushing the limits at Robin Park with a reduced shutter speed of 1/400th sec at f.28 yet a whopping ISO of 5000. Now I won’t begin on how increasing ISO and reducing shutter speed affects exposure values and stops of light etc as I will assume most of you know. With that knowledge you will understand that we are thus pushing boundaries with the quality of printing. Yes things can be modified and “improved” in Photoshop but it’s always nice to simply take a correctly exposed image, at quality settings which require little doing to them. Post production requires constant white balance corrections dependant on where in the hall we shoot from owing to the vast difference in lighting quality across this single ceiling of light.

The event as always was a roaring success for all involved, with the added bonus of Olympic Trampoline Silver Medallist Bryony Page turning up to talk with the competitors and also present some of the medals at the close of the event. To be fair she was an absolute star even though the onslaught of kids wanting a signature or selfie with her was relentless. I’ve seen some so called stars who can be quite off with hoards of kids yet Bryony simply soaked it all up like a true professional. Nothing was too much and it took her being rescued by one of the organisers to give her a break from it all.

Some 400+ competitors and the associated swathes of parents and family there to watch made for an excellent day.

For us it was another 5500 images, a queue long after the event had finished and home for 2130hrs.

The image below shows the afternoon medal winners with Bryony and the bouquet of flowers she was presented with. The full image was somewhat larger and included all the judges for the day.

NW Champs

The beginning of October saw us covering the third and final Kingston League trampoline  event in East Yorkshire.

This is a typical localised event which garners around the 150 entrants mark for a days competition. As with all local events this gives the newcomers a chance on the big stage in front of their peers and those more used to competition a chance to battle for honours against just team or school mates.

This event has been held at a local school for the last two years sine Hull City banished all the local amateur clubs from the Arena. In some ways this was indeed detrimental owing to the smaller space and subsequent lack of seating. For us however it was actually an improvement. Quite simply the lighting is superb, new and ever so bright. If every indoor event location we worked at had this amount of lumens emanating from the roof lights we would be happy people. Shooting at our usual hight shutter speeds we are using low iso’s that are simply unattainable at even so called prestigious locations such as the Velodrome in London.

All in all a low key event but great fun to be had by all involved.

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September saw the 4th round of the Uk Trampoline / DMT League take place in Newcastle. These events are huge and extremely demanding for us not only as a business yet also on a personal level.

The weekend starts a few days before with the preparation of online galleries being set up correctly and with coordinated passwords for guest access. Equipment checks follow with essentials such as all batteries receiving a last top up charge to ensure we at least have power. We drain at least 4 of the Canon LP-E6N’s each day depending on usage. Usage obviously varies depending on the amount of competitors which dictates how many clicks are required per day.

We aim to capture at least one present to the judges followed by as many of the 10 subsequent moves as possible or look good and then the final present at the end of the routine to the judges. This can provide a maximum of 12 images per competitor. Consider that every competitor does 2 routines and it becomes obvious that with a minimum of 400 competitors at an event we easily reach 10,000 images when podium images are included. Earlier in the year at Cardiff there were 800 competitors over the 2 days and we came away with some 15,000 images to process.

The weekend starts with a drive to the host city on the Friday evening where we have a pre-booked hotel for the 2 nights. If there is time we visit the venue and start our setup if possible. This saves us a little time on the Saturday morning yet as we have been doing this some time now we can set the desk up in some 10 minutes from bare tables to fully functioning sales desks.

The weekend then just steam rolls along taking us along with it. Photographers almost hold the 4.5kg of camera & lens to our faces for 9hrs straight. This can be extended if delays are incurred by competitors crashing out and requiring medical assistance. This has a massive effect on your arms and back which can start to stiffen by lunchtime. The Sunday becomes a mind over matter exercise with the pain that just doesn’t go away. The desk is a continuous queue of people wanting to view, and hopefully purchase the images taken. As Sunday ends for the photographers the desk continues to run. It can, and has, run on for over 2hrs after an event has finished. Still with a queue of parents waiting, the venue almost cleared and up to a 4hr drive in front of us every potential purchase is important so we stay. We arrive home late on the Sunday night, sometimes gone midnight, and after unloading the van its bedtime.

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and sometimes even Thursday are then solid editing and uploading of images to the respective galleries.Whilst most people understand the process I can guarantee at least 2 emails are sent on the Sunday, whilst we are still shooting the ongoing competition, asking what they can’t yet see any images in the gallery. We even place a notice at the start of every gallery notifying visitors of the process and yet they still email. Sometimes you just wonder how some people cope with life.

Once Friday arrives its simply time to check everything again if we have work on that upcoming weekend too. We are working almost every weekend of 2017 with just a few free or deliberately crossed off because of birthdays or holidays etc. You have to be busy to survive yet sometimes you just wish things would stop or at least slow down.

This particular weekend produced a reasonable 10,100 images which were edited by the Wednesday. With just one more qualifier to go in a few weeks time it’ll soon be the finals down at the Velodrome in London and thats a big one.

The images are simply what we post on social media to announce when certain panels and beds have completed galleries, though the second one just goes to prove that the competitors can still have time to enjoy themselves too.

You can read all about the league here – Trampoline / DMT League

All serious but with smiles –

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Having a bit of fun too or in one case how not to bounce –

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As with most gymnastics eventing and as per the previous two years of covering more regional and national events August was a relatively quiet month for us. Two weeks were spent on holiday with the two weeks either side allowing for some additional R&R.

We did cover a couple of events with a fun day at the Humber Bridge photographing the jet ski championship competitors preparing to travel down to the marina area where they were racing. Some of the warm up stunts we saw really opened peoples eyes to what level these guys are at in their sport. At high speed it would appear that simply keeping the thing attached to the water, for propulsion, along with speed and stability gives you the best chance of winning. The variable is wave intensity which can throw a serious spanner in the works for even the most experienced of riders. Thankfully the river was calm and so we saw some fun warm ups in our time down there.

A couple of summer weddings were also completed, one of which was our first same sex marriage. This was slightly damp though that never dampened the spirits of those involved and indeed an excellent day was had. Even a mishap with our rainbow brolly and the breeze simply caused waves of laughter throughout those there.

All in all August was as expected with just enough tick over work mingled with a nice rest abroad in the sun.

Below are a couple of images with one showing a selection of jet skiers just before a warm up and the second showing the unexpected moment that wind crashed the wedding party.

1

When the wind blows…….

2

One series we now cover had its 2015 finals last weekend in Wigan. Odd but they don’t actually start the qualifiers until late in the year and then have the finals in the first quarter of the following year. Must be an educational thing.

Anyway the culmination of all the qualifiers and subsequent knock out rounds around the country led us to Wigan for an excellent days competition. Some 400 competitors, all of school age, battling it out for an array of age and ability awards. The atmosphere within the competitors and most of the parents was one of excitement and positivity. As always there were a couple of moaning minis but hey ho the world needs these miserable gits to laugh at.

Whilst there was the usual array of Elite gymnasts form other series we now cover there were also the novice and disabled individuals of which some were truly inspirational. It was superb to see that all the gymnasts encouraged and even assisted in helping some of these gymnasts achieve their given goal. Grassroots sports is all too often neglected these days owing to money etc yet this is where, I personally see, the truly compassionate side of competition regardless of age, gender, money, disability etc etc. Whilst I agree some degree of elitism/dedication is required to reach the pinnacle of any sport people shouldn’t abandon or forget their roots and where they once started at the bottom.

Our coverage of the UK National League starts this weekend down at Southampton. This should be interesting as the whole series of qualifiers is maxed out at the 750 competitor safety limits. Last year we were dealing with 350 – 750 competitors per event so this year will see a marked increase in the obscene amount of images taken and GB storage used with our equipment. I still await the announcement for the 5D Mkiv specification before making a decision on at least one new body owing to the telephone number shutter count one of our 5Diii’s currently has. Nice and quick please Canon 🙂

A quick image showing some of the winners from last weekend.

Twin Image