For this exercise a planned a visit to the Burnham market Horse trials a three-day eventing competition for riders in various classes from Juniors through to Olympic hopefuls. This event takes place close to where I leave and had attended in some years ago when it was just starting up and trying to establish itself on the eventing calendar.
Prior to attending the event I worked on a plan that involved trying to capture some unusual shots of the riders using my 70-300 telephoto to try and capture their expressions as they jumped some of the large fences in the cross country section. I know form my previous visit in some cases there was some expression of fear as the horse took off followed by a sense of relief once they had cleared the fence. I also planned to catch some pictures of ‘characters’ around the show jumping ring and browsing the many stands that sell horse paraphernalia, country attire and other typical country show items.
My intention was to get a series of photographs of riders framed like head and shoulders portraits as the horse jumped and anther series of people attending the event. However, things rarely go to plan and just after I arrived the my 70-300 lens decided to stop working with the camera body started generating error messages about not being able to connect to the lens and neither the autofocus or aperture worked correctly. I tried a few shots on manual focus but it was obvious that even that was going to work satisfactorily. rather than give up and go home I walked around the cross country course and found a couple of locations where I could get close enough to take the pictures below with the 17-85mm lens I had brought to shoot the crowd shots.
What I particularly liked about the three pictures about is the rider’s expressions: in the first picture the rider looks like she is hanging on praying that she will not fall into the water. In the second picture the rider looks so confident she almost seems like she has time to smile for the camera and in the third picture the rider has a look of absolute determination, nothing is going to prevent him from getting over the fence.
Beyond the actual eventing there was less to shoot than I had been expecting, I shot a lot of pictures of the crowd but I wasn’t really happy with any of them. I liked the picture of the two judges sitting in the shelter of their car taking notes on each rider as they past. In some ways this was a fairly surreal science they were parked at the far end of a field across which they had obviously driven but the way I choose to frame the image really doesn’t capture the absurdity of the scene. It would have been better to show more of their surroundings.
There were opportunities to take picture of riders discussing they performance with friends like the two below. These were the most successful of the crowd scenes I took. In the picture below I can imagine the rider is reliving details of her round with friends and Family.
Finally, people always bring their dogs to events like this indeed in some cases the dogs are more interesting subjects than their owners. Although in most cases the dogs just look bored by the whole event. For examples the owners of the dog below are engrossed in the show jumping by their dog seems more interested in the people and other dogs passing behind them.
Prior to attending these trials, I had done a lot of research on the times of various events and classes and worked out some locations to take pictures but in the end I was disappointed with the results. I like the action shots I took of the riders and in many ways I think being relatively close worked better than standing back with a 300mm lens. I had expected there to be a lot more spectators and more opportunities for good crowd shots and I really struggled to get anything that I really felt happy with. I don’t believe that I have captured the real feel of the event, in the end I have a few good shots but they don’t tell the story of the horse trials.
I have thought about what I would do differently if I shot this type of event again and I am sure that a working longer lens would have help with the crowd shots to enable me to shoot the crowd on the across the cross country course and maybe around the edges of the show jumping and dressage arenas. My expectations would also be different; I would look for shots of riders just before or after an event rather than expecting interesting crowd shots. I got the idea of shooting the dogs towards the end of my time there and with more planning I think this idea could result in some great images.