Posts Tagged ‘horses’

February saw us have an almost complete calendar filled with equestrian competitions other than one weekend of gymnastics in Wigan for the NDP 3 qualifying.

The equestrian work continues to grow and our images have been used in both the Equestrian Life and Horse & Hound Publications since we began. As I have mentioned before the work is not particularly difficult other than standing outside for several hours at a time. When the weather is kind, the job is great though if the weather is not so good then it can be a real headache. With persistent rain I usually start shooting and see how things go. Sadly if the images are being spoilt by the intensity of the rain and its affect on the images then I pack up and go home. I did stick it out in the early months of 2017 though quickly realised that we had not, and still have not, sold a single image when it is either raining or misty.

Thankfully all of the dates that I covered in February all stayed dry and so I captured full days of competition.

The NDP 3 Qualifying event at Wigan was almost a repeat of the NDP 2 event, the previous month. More fierce competition with competitors trying to grab the all important points to take them into the national rounds. Again the day was a success for us on both the image and sales fronts, though thats now it at Wigan until the Autumn when the NW Championship series returns.

Some equestrian images including jumps.

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We already knew that December only had the one large event for us. This was the Trampoline & DMT League 2017 Finals which were to be held at the Velodrome in London.

Whilst this is a prestige event it is also a right royal pain in the butt for us. The two days are simply manic, if previous years events are to go by, along with two huge drives to and from London along with overpriced accommodation. Prestigious though not glamorous by any stretch of the imagination.

We arrived nice and early only to find that, for the third year running, we had not been issued laminates or passes to the event. This put me in a bad mood, from the off, which I found hard to contain when speaking to representatives of the League. As always one individual, the same individual as previous years, was blamed for our omission for the sponsors list. As sponsors we are promised the earth each year and yet delivered almost nothing once we have paid our sponsorship money to them. This fact alone is making me wonder if the whole series is with continuing with beyond 2017. There are some lovely and genuine people involved with running the League, though sadly there are also a couple of soft heads who just don’t seem to care about anyone other than themselves.

The weekend, as always, was utterly manic in every respect. Panels over running, accidents delaying competition and organisers running about like headless chickens trying to resolve the monumental pile of issues being thrown at them. Sunday’s presentations were rushed because of over running which meant our desk receiving an unwarranted barrage of complaints that winners had not been given suitable time on the podium for pictures. We happily sent them to the organisers as this also affects our sales.

To top things off, on the Sunday, we ended up almost being evicted from the premises for not having sponsors laminates. Yes almost 48hrs after we had arrived there was still no sign of our laminates. Thankfully our request for the security supervisor to intervene and talk to a representative of the League calmed things down and we continued to trade until the last image of the day had been sold.

The drive home was taken after a deep sigh and a quick chat about us and the 2018 series. What is true is that we won’t be continuing with them in the current style of agreement without concrete guarantees and penalties for failures on their part.

December also saw us cover the Fenland Flyers Xmas function, which also happened to be their 10th anniversary as a club. An excellent evening as always.

A few remaining dates were filled with equestrian competition, though you can see from the image I have posted, the sun is low and the air is now cold. Already looking forward to spring next year with this particular strand of work.

So that was it for 2017. Year on year we have grown substantially in events covered and takings. Profits, after costs, are also up and we have bookings in to not only 2018 yet 2019 also. Now for a nice two weeks off over Xmas & New Year.

The Trampoline & DMT League’s impressive medals.

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An example of the rushed podiums, which caused complaints.

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A pic from the Fenland Flyers function, taken against our portable studio back drop.

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And finally a cold chilly pic from one of the equestrian events.

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Merry Xmas & Happy New Year.

 

November is an odd month for us in that we have been booked to cover the Yorkshire, North West and North East Schools BSGA Trampoline Competitions for the last four years. This leaves us with little room to squeeze anything else in. This year however saw the North East committee leave things so late that the only weekend they could secure a venue we were already booked (covering the NW event) so we had to decline the booking. Whilst we were saddened not to be covering it, and indeed it wasn’t covered by any photographer, we did have the backup of the equestrian work and a late gymnastics event booking too.

The Yorkshire weekend was first, followed by the North West with the gymnastics event being on the third weekend of the month. The equestrian events fell nicely into the gaps and so yet again we had a full month of events to work at. With only the League Finals in December this is the time when some good sales carries us nicely into the new year when things begin to happen again.

Again this was our fourth year of covering these BSGA events and so we knew exactly what was coming. The entire set of weekends went as planned and we came out of November in a very buoyant place. The gymnastics event was also a success as they had not previously booked a photography company to cover the event. Lots of first time purchasers there then.

Finally and yet again the equestrian work filled in the gaps. Yes its getting cold and the purchases are slowing, due to the drop in competitors, though any business is better than no business. To be honest its not much fun standing outside, for several hours, in November. I’m wrapped up like an eskimo and should the sun decide to make an appearance I will face it, absorbing its brief moments of warmth, until it becomes obscured by clouds again. The wind chill is the absolute killer now and so if there’s no wind at all I’m a happy Chappy standing beside the competition rings.

BSGA Yorkshires

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BSGA North West

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Gymnastics

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Equestrian competition in November, with sunlight.

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And just to prove that gymnastics can be fun too …..

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October was yet again another busy month for us running around the country covering events. Any spare days were filled with more equestrian competition which simply left us with no weekend days free at all. It still amazes me how many people were trying to book us for events only 10 days or so before they took place. It goes to show how much people don’t think about photography or having the event covered until the last minute.

I am always polite in my replies and suggest that once any future event has a date confirmed, that they contact us promptly for a potential booking. One request was even for a wedding which either meant an extremely late booking, their booked photographer had blown them out or a distinct lack of organisation. I was surprised by their reaction that we were unable to cover it for them owing to being booked. They were very disappointed by all accounts ……. go figure lol.

So firstly we covered the Trampoline & DMT League Series 4 at Gillingham. This was the final time that any competitor could secure points and claim a slot in the finals at the Velodrome in December. The weekend was manic to put it bluntly. Over the two days the entry card was massive, as was expected. From 9am to 6pm both days we were shooting constantly with a total image count of just over 13,000 images in total. This was almost the same count as with the 2016 finals and yet only a qualifier. We did ok on the sales, as usual, and it took me almost 4 full days to edit and upload the images.

Below is the Facebook & Twitter promo image I pit out into the public domain. The League themselves had been very lacklustre in promoting the event so I took it upon myself to remind people that photo’s could be purchased from the event.

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Our second big weekend of the month was covering the English Regional Cup (Trampoline, DMT & Tumbling) Finals at the EIS in Sheffield. A first for us with this particular series which we were offered due to a competitor continually not turning up or providing poor quality service when they did. Our whole business has been grown on word of mouth about our excellent product and customer service. We never promise what we cannot deliver and so things are easily achieved. Why some photographers seem to offer the earth, when clearly they are unable to deliver, eludes me. All this does is impact on your reputation, as a business and as individuals. Thankfully though our honest approach has seen us taking events and regular commissions from individuals who have failed to deliver the promised product. Thanks people.

The finals were busy, as expected, and we had an excellent weekend covering it all. With the finals being structured a lower count of only 8000 images were taken. Plenty of competitors knew us from our coverage of other events, which made things a little easier, though the running order was a little skewed. This meant that our lunches were somewhat rushed, though if that’s all I can recall as being negative, you can see why we have agreed to cover the 2018 series in full.

Below is the Facebook & Twitter gallery notification image.

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Our montage being used by British Gymnastics – Montage

Our third full weekend of the month saw us back at Wigan for the North West Trampolining Championships. Our fourth year of covering this meant we knew exactly what was coming, what was expected and how to deliver. The weekend was busy, fun and most of all a success for the organisers with no complaints or dramas. Again we have been fully booked to cover the 2018 North West Series so a fifth consecutive year for this particular series. It is great that many of the coaches, some of the kids and many of the parent now know our names. We have regular purchasers of products along with the new competitors looking for a quality memento of their day.

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As previously mentioned the remaining weekend and a few odd weekdays were filled with equestrian competition over at Manor Grange Stud & Show Centre. Summer was certainly over now and back to the large coat and warm hat for standing outside for several hours at a time. To be fair if the weather stays dry the day is bearable. If however things get all rainy and wet then the job is a real pain and no fun.

The lovely colour that the summer sun gives outdoor images is also fading so things look a little flat, other than if we are blessed with a sunny day.

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Our final job of the month was to cover the Leeds Trampoline Club’s annual awards night in Leeds. Again we have done this before and so know what to expect and what is indeed expected of us. We capture all of the awards and then have the portable studio (white wall) in place for additional family photo’s and fun images. Finished by 10pm, as most of the kids are tired, I enjoy the evening with the proud parents and huge smiles from those kids who win awards all on show.

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November next.

Firstly I would like to state that all images on this blog are copyright to Cecil Paul Studio’s and we do not give any permission for any individual or company to copy, transfer, alter or amend any image in any known or unknown format without permission. Don’t be a digital thief and pay for the image if you like it that much!!

The above statement comes after one particular radio station robbed an image from here and used it for a promotion. Unbelievably another radio station then robbed that copy for their own radio promotion. The music industry complains about kids downloading songs for free and yet they are thieving when it suits them. Double standards at work which doesn’t surprise me in the slightest.

So onto September –

Things kicked off for us on the first weekend with the third series of the National Trampoline & DMT League, held at Birmingham University. This was a superb venue and being almost new gave us possibly the best balanced lighting of any event this year so far. When you can have your speed with a nice low iso its almost xmas as a photographer and this place delivered in swathes of light.

The weekend as a whole was manic as expected with some 600+ competitors over the two days. We were constantly busy and without barely time to visit the loo for most of both days. The evening meal and a few cold ones, on the Saturday evening, to wash it all down makes things worthwhile though and helps us get a nice nights sleep.

We took some 8500 images in total and had our usual excellent response to the quality of our image and montage offerings over the weekend. Sadly the organisers hadn’t produced the promised event program and so, with no advert, all things regarding our gallery codes went out of the window which had a knock on effect to the subsequent online sales. You’d think they would learn from this, as we were not the only disappointed sponsor, yet you’ll see in Octobers roundup they never. Incompetence at the highest level.

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One thing can always be said for the competitors though is they have a good laugh when there and will happily pose for images such as this one below.

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Our equestrian coverage also continued with several dressage events over the month, one of which was our own business dedicated event. This was a lovely day not only with the quality of competition shown but we had our own branded rosettes. Manor Grange Stud had commissioned a whole series of garlands and rosettes with our name and logo on which was absolutely lovely to see.

The other equestrian events were, as usual, slick and with no messing about. Thankfully the weather held out and so there were no monsoon days where I end up hiding under the main building canopy to shoot from. Our business from these events continues to grow at a steady rate and thus I believe we will chose to continue providing coverage into 2018 and possibly beyond.

These galleries remain our only open event galleries and can be found here – Equestrian Galleries

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Gymnastics also played a key part in September with two competition weekends hosted by Bridlington Gymnastics. This is proper grass roots stuff and we love it. No big arenas, no ego’s, just lots of enthusiastic kids and parents doing what they do. The competitors start around 4-5 years up to the seniors around the 16-17 age group. We are well looked after by the hosts and have a fantastic rapport with both the organisers, adults and kids alike. We are already booked for the 2018 events and look forward to them as its just a fun set of weekends.

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Back in July this year I did a bit of work with the band Wayward Sons when I covered their first ever live gig down in Bristol. This had come about from my involvement with their promotional videos for the new album which can all be read about in an earlier post.

September saw them out supporting UFO on their 2017 UK Tour. One particular date, the 15th, was also the official release date for the album. Thinking it would be a good idea to capture that night I emailed Toby and he said thanks, yes, pop along and do your thing. The night was superb and in my personal opinion the Sons were head and shoulders above UFO in musical deliver and enthusiasm. The crowd were bouncing along to the music, which noticeably stopped once UFO had taken to the stage. The UFO set was slick and polished though I feel lacked a raw feel. I could honestly say that you could have listened to this on the radio as visually and engagement wise things were seriously lacking. To put it into context I was sat uploading and editing my images in the main hall area whilst they were on. Looked up a few times just to make sure things were still going when the music stopped.

On a working basis the Picturedome at Holmfirth is not actually too bad to work in. Yes it is compact though the fans are all stood on a sloping floor leading upend away from the stage. Tis allowed me to move up and down and simply shoot over the top of those in front of me. Non of the usual clamouring about to secure a gap between heads and phones which is nice. Setting were mediocre as though the lighting operator did give some light it wasn’t nearly as much as that given to the headline act. Thank the lord for full frame cameras and f2.8 lenses.

The night finished, I had a good chat with the band and then it was away home, still damp from sweating in the pit for a nice warm shower and bed.

The images from this event are behind a secured gallery and only for the band to see. Images from the gig will be released as and when they see fit which is sad in a way as I like to see my images out there in the wild. To stop any thieving radio stations or any other publications grabbing images of the band you’ll just have to put up with this montage again. Shame how people spoil things for others.

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The month was topped off with a visit to City Of Leeds Trampolining & Gymnastics to undertake a specific shoot of gymnasts who had qualified for a host of national and international competitions. With all new leotards the head coach wanted a series of portrait images taking to help promote the club within the Yorkshire region.

The whole thing took around 4hrs to complete and with a happy head coach, general coaches, kids and parents I headed home.

That was not quite the end though regarding this as we are returning in January to film a whole series of short films about the club, their offerings and what kids can expect to be doing if they join the club. Really looking forward to that.

This image was a fun pic taken after all the kids had individually paraded in each of their leotards for their portrait to be taken. I know from my school photo experiences this isn’t fun so when the coach suggested a pic in the foam pit, we ended up with this.

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I’ll try not to leave things too long before blogging our October exploits.

 

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.

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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.

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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 –

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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 –

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And when things require that exceptional extra control –

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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 –

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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.

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Equestrian Life –

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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 ……

2017 started off with a whole host of new bookings within the gymnastics event coverage. Building on the success and increased work of 2016 we had been booked to cover a whole host of UK gymnastic qualifying events throughout the North of England. Whilst at the same time last year we were taking stock of the year ahead, assessing our existing and planning new equipment we were planning hotels and travel for the January event bookings.

Now let’s be honest here in that we all want to be busy, all year, and this year we have indeed almost reached saturation point for weekend bookings. There are literally a couple we have free in July/August though I’m expecting those to probably go with our new line of event coverage.

Whilst being busy all of the time is indeed nice and rewarding it does cause an issue for some basic requirements such as servicing equipment. Items such as the die sublimation printer should be serviced every 2 years and ours has now slipped into its third year owing to this quick start of business. Our servicing centre wanted 2 weeks for turnaround and with them being closed for the whole xmas period this was just not tenable. Reading the forums though this shouldn’t be a cause of concern for up to 5 years. I just hope the stories of longevity and robust build quality also apply to our printer which I will give a big cuddle before each event.

Both of our Canon 5Diii’s have now exceeded 100,000 actuations with one now over 160,000 actuations. The cash to replace or repair them sits patiently in an account as I’m not just purchasing against a what if scenario. We know the higher shutter count body is the main issue having exceeded the 150,000 manufacturers guarantee yet I know of 5Diii bodies well in excess of 200,000 clicks and still going strong for fellow event photographers. Spending oodles of cash, on a “what if” policy, to simply have the latest bodies is not my style. Indeed I could replace the current 5D’s with brand new 5D’s & grips for less than a single 1Dxii after the recent price drops. This will be explored when the inevitable happens and I see how deep my pockets are yet how short my arms seem to have become.

The only new piece of equipment, so far this year, has been the acquisition of a new Mac Book Pro to replace the windows laptop which was simply pathetic at handling large amounts of RAW files. This gives us two MBP’s for events which are now making the whole desk workflow system work superbly. I’m certainly not going to slag off the windows laptop as I’m sure it will have uses for some but as a large RAW file handling machine and Photoshop processing tool it just didn’t cut the mustard for us.

So I really ought to mention our new avenue of work which we have been signed up to cover. This opportunity arose, as almost always, through a recommendation from an existing customer. The world of all things equestrian was requiring a local photographer to cover some regional competition work and would we be interested. To cut a long story short we applied, exchanged business details/models, discussed expectations and agreed to a one year trial contract. It was a great decision, business is brisk and being published in national horsey magazines certainly doesn’t harm our reputation. More on this in a future blog.

The image I will leave you with today comes from the studio. Yes we still have the studio going between all the weekend event work, not as busy as I would like it to be but then we have never promoted it and just rely on word of mouth.

This lovely young lady just had the most beautiful eyes and amazingly didn’t require oodles of bribery from her parents to look into the camera.

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