Show Life as an Equine Photographer – Part 2

//Show Life as an Equine Photographer – Part 2

In this second part to my ‘Show Life’ (Part 1 can be found here) I look at how my day developed…

To recap, it was Day 1 at the Devon County Show and I was covering showing all day in one of the purpose built equine designated rings. The ground was good with a lovely covering of grass and the sun was shining. First job of the day is always to say hello to the judge and stewards. Sounds basic, but for me its a matter of good manners and it will also put you in a good light with them. So if and when you need their co-operation with anything they are more likely to be favourable with their response.

My day was scheduled to consist of Arabs, Part bred Arabs, Cobs and Working types with fences. A real blend. There were plans to cover other rings or classes but these are always constantly re-evaluated based on timings and availability. I go with the flow though and cover what I’m asked to cover.

Initially I smiled at the sun, but then I wonder just where the sun will be throughout the day and how that will impact on me based on where the judges will see the horses move or line-up from. Ideally I need the sun at my back to really get those gorgeous coats gleaming and to keep the overall composition lit well. Obviously it does increase the risk of some harsh light, but on the whole that’s the aim.

For the first couple of hours the sun was sideways on to the ring as viewed from the perspective of the spectators. As judges always like to pull in and line up with the crowds in front, correctly so too, this meant that one side of the competitors was always in the shade, so I spent a lot of time manoeuvring to combat this. Sometimes thats really easy, sometimes you have to be very quick to move as the judge goes through them individually and often at quite a pace.

Anyone who is in the ring needs to be very aware of their surroundings and with horses and it goes without saying that certain parts of their anatomy need some careful monitoring. Front ends and back legs in particular and especially with youngsters or those breeds who can be known for some quick antics!

However, it’s not just about keeping an eye out for a potential side swiping or a quick nip. The need to be aware increases (as does my speed…) when the class involves two judges. A Ridden Judge and a Conformation Judge. I tend to stick with the Conformation judge once the class has got to the stage where the judges have chosen their initial line up. I move to this position so I can focus on getting my shots from the in-hand aspect or watching for interesting moments from within the line-up. However you need to be mindful that other than the rest of the class waiting their turn there will be a judge riding an unknown horse to them around you. It’s a mortal sin to get in their way (I partially jest, most judges are fully aware of what our job is too and happily accommodate us) but it pays dividends to stay alert to where they are in your peripheral vision as you focus in front of you.

As the day progressed and the sun moves too you find yourself constantly looking for the best light and or backdrop as you work. Some competitors don’t mind the shots with a busy background, it proves where they were. However, I still like to try and avoid particularly harsh objects that can distract or be ugly in the background, such as high-vis coats, port-a-loo’s or telegraph poles sprouting from heads!

When shooting a showing class I generally have the following shot approach.

In Hand Class
Head/neck shots on the initial walk round.
Initial trot shots 3-4 strides.
Full front shots in the line up.
Head shots in the line up.
Sideways profile at the Judges individual inspection.
Diagonal trot shot from individual inspection.
Rosette/placing shots.
Lap of honour.

Ridden Class
Head/neck shots on the initial walk round.
2-3 strides of trot on each rein.
2-3 strides of canter on each rein.
Change of rein shot, possibly with another headshot.
Gallop shots where applicable.
Full front shots in the line up.
Head shots in the line up.
Sideways profile at the Judges individual conformation inspection.
Diagonal trot shot from individual conformation inspection.
Rosette/placing shots.
Lap of honour.

Away from these more standard shots I also look for something different. Funny moments, cute moments of kisses and cuddles or maybe just a view from a different perspective. Shots from a low angle can really make a pony ‘ping’ in the frame. So if you see me kneeling, I’m not being lazy, I’m working hard on getting a good image ?

At times its not always possible to get each of the standard shots for each competitor. This can be down to lighting and positioning, the number of horses in the class and often just down to the speed the judge is working at. There are also times where handlers position themselves to best show their breed but actually gives us little clear sight.

The team I worked with on the day had done a great job of giving each other breaks when they could. County shows are tough physically, so having even a 10 minute break for a colleague means you can just eat a sandwich with your feet up. It’s really helpful and appreciated. At points all rings are flat out, but there are usually moments through the day when one or two rings are on breaks or completed. Looking out for each other helps motivate you too.

As the day progressed the skies darkened and the predicted rain came. It then becomes a case of ‘Do the best you can’. All waterproofs were deployed and the camera was safely covered. Sadly the rain persisted and I found myself pathetically trying to get the smallest amount of cover from the decorative foliage next to the Working Hunter fences. Hilarious in reality but believe me, you’ll do anything to keep the rain of your face and camera lens.

My first class started at 0730.
My last class finished at 1850.

It had been a long day but a really enjoyable one and there was more to come the following day…

Have a fabulous week!

Rachel x