My freelance season is over for another year. Much like last year it ended where the season began, at the same venue… only this year that venue wasn’t Bicton Park in Devon, but Pontispool Equestrian Centre in Somerset. Weird how this same basic situation has happened two years on the bounce!!
So, what have I learnt from this seasons exploits?
I’d say the single biggest lesson this year is that it definitely helps my freelance head to have a great range of equestrian events or disciplines to photograph throughout the season. In many recent seasons much of my life as a freelancer – defined by those days/events I’m employed to shoot on behalf of, or as part of, the official onsite photographer and not as Sweet-Images Photography – has been heavily dominated by British Eventing dates. Last year I aimed to improve that and try to accept more bookings from other disciplines and this year I pushed on with that theory even more.
Freelance work is about representing the company you are employed to work for at that specific event and to ultimately to provide the images that fit that companies own brief. Some companies I work for have a very defined image they want from me based on the discipline or level of horse show we are shooting at, others give me a lot more free rein (yep, there’s the pun!) to look for something else. Even when the reins are looser we still need to shoot within the rough parameters of the discipline itself as there’s no point going into a ring full of Dartmoors at a County show and photographing the audience… that might be great for magazine copy or sponsor briefs but its not going to work for the competitors.
Moving from discipline to discipline throughout the outdoor season definitely works. It has helped keep my head fresh and my eye looking for something else that the riders might find appealing. The riders often get bored of the ‘same old’ and so do we. Well, I do anyway. So if 20% of what you shoot annually in these situations is just a bit different (maybe the angle or the crop, possibly the perspective you are shooting from or the actual focus point) then it helps keep me on track with the 80% where you know you’ve got to be on point with a more standard image.
So for all those times you set up the weird shots, it’s worth the effort when one sells.
However, back to my year behind the freelance lens… this year started at Pontispool EC. I’d not been there before but it turned out to be a gorgeous location. It plays host to British Eventing dates through the year, together with unaffiliated eventing, lots of Hunter Trials, Adult and junior training camps and much more in-between. The course team are always moving the fences around so from event to event you’ll always find something has moved or being introduced. Particularly during the eventing season.
As the season progressed I hit Devon and then Royal Bath & West shows. There was British Showjumping bookings, Burghley Young Event Horse qualifiers, Riding Club shows, Country Fairs, pure Dressage and more. I had a great time up at the Trailblazer championships at Stoneleigh and hit some regular haunts, such as Barbury Horse Trials. All in all I travelled a lot, used the camper van a lot (but probably not enough) and rediscovered a love for Hoisin Duck wraps for lunch. I didn’t see Charlie Coffee nearly as much as previous years, so I ate less brownies but I did get a fair kick from a young welsh pony at one point. Devon County I think.
I’ve seen some stunning examples of breeds, some superlative training being unleashed in competition and many a pony I’d wish to take home (a game I play during county show classes generally). I’ve discovered show horses that love a ginger nut biscuit, or a donut. Then there’s the riders who told me they can’t get an ounce of sense out of certain horses at home but bring them to a party and they come alive. The stories that come out of a days shooting, from the ring or my fellow photographers, can be great!
I’m incredibly lucky that some of the photographic event companies I work for actually work hard at the teams they have to draw from. They care about each of us representing them. You get too old in the tooth to just go where the money is, I want to feel part of the team and enjoy what I do. I’ll take a day at a local Riding Club annual show with a company who love me being there than 3 days somewhere prestigious where those that employ my camera and I couldn’t care less if I’ve not eaten for 7 hours or had a loo break since breakfast.
These are long, tough, tiring days on your feet, so you need teamwork to keep things rolling. I travel thousands of miles with my photography too. So if your team mate is waiting at the ringside with a brew, a chair and is happy and ready to step in and give you a 10 minute break then thats often all it takes to keep going. For those that look out for me I always pull extra for them in return.
Let’s see what 2018 offers.
Have a fabulous week!
Images used courtesy of JayPhotos, HoofPrintsPhotos & Ultimate Images