How do we even start to describe how our 2020 year went? With the start of the year hitting us with COVID-19, we all felt the strain when events were cancelled left, right and centre. We had no idea how horrific the year would be, how many large events would be cancelled and rearranged, only to have our hopes dashed again with a further two lockdowns!
We wanted to have 2020 to be our statement year, with big events planned with our wonderful main venue, Wellington Riding, with an FEI 2* Showjumping competition, followed by the fantastic Premier League, and finishing the year with International Horse Trials, we had our hopes set on really making a statement within the Equestrian Photography world. Despite best efforts made by the BEF, British Dressage and FEI, two of our main events had to be cancelled this year, it was sad to see all the riders hard work over the last year go to waste, the feeling of not knowing when we were going to be let out to compete again, see our friends and loved ones, and do what we all love to do.
Thankfully the Wellington Horse Trials ran ahead, with it being our first year of shooting an International Horse Trials and trying to calm nerves, we had an absolute blast!
With so many beautiful new fences put in place by DHA Equestrian, the course set and built by the incredibly talented Adrian Ditcham, and of course not forgetting the entire team at Wellington who made sure everything was as COVID friendly as possible, there were classes put on to cater for every competitive ability, arenas set out in front of the stunning Highfield House for the International Dressage, smiles from all volunteers and a team who we couldn't be more proud to work alongside, not forgetting the fantastic team of photographers and sales unit staff who helped us out during this event, with last minute cancellations, staff breaking ankles the night before the event started (Sam) and a leaking tent, this year was certainly one to remember.
We then moved onto Cornbury House International Horse Trials, this was a new fixture to the British Eventing calendar, the International Dressage was set in front of the iconic Manor House, the grounds were phenomenal and the fences were built using materials from the estate itself! Flowers and fence dressing were arranged by Mrs Howden and really made these fences stand out!
We were asked to take photographs of the Howden Family for Hello! Magazine, this was an incredible experience and we were thrilled to see our images publicised in such a well known magazine that isn't equestrian based, we must say a huge thank you to Emily Arundale who took the images on our behalf!
We have made the jump to upgrade our onsite printing unit, Terry the trailer has done us a fab job for the last 4 years but it was certainly becoming time to retire the old chap, with our major events finishing for the year, and another lockdown looming we decided that it was the right time to look into getting something new, not secondhand new, built specifically for us NEW! We cannot wait to see the finished unit, with over 9m of frontage it's certainly going to make a statement at any event, no more crowding in to try and peek at a tablet, we will be able to have screens inside and also outside (perfect for those hot days) and a fixed canopy, so no more blowing away in the wind!
We wanted to thank every person who has supported us this year, it's certainly been a difficult year to try and stay motivated and positive, for us, doing our job is what keeps us going, seeing all of your smiling faces, our photographs tagged on social media, and general well wishes, it really does mean a lot to us.
Here is to seeing you all in 2021!
Hope you are all keeping well, I never had myself down as a blogger but since this lockdown has started, I've found myself thinking about my business in a different way, so I thought I would share some thoughts and tricks for shooting Dressage!
Dressage for me is one of the hardest disciplines to really get correct, there are so many different movements and timings that you need to know in order to really make different levels of horses look the best that they can. Usually for a lower level tests Intro and Prelim, most of the horses and ponies that compete are learning the ropes, and getting used to being inside a dressage arena, often the style of shot that the riders are looking for is what we call the "AA" this is where the two front legs and both hind legs are making identical A frame shapes.
Walk & Trot Shots
We often get asked why we don't photograph walk within a dressage test, the main reason is because the horse does not look hugely active compared to trot or canter, the shape that the horses make during walk tends to be long and low (especially for free walk on a long rein) the front legs are always more active than the hind, compared to the movement in trot where the horse is working and active equally behind as they are in front. For Intro tests and Para tests Grade I and II this is an important part of the test, therefore we shoot the walk element of the test to ensure that competitors get the same amount of shots as the higher level tests. For the majority of Dressage tests from Prelim - Elementary and even Medium, the trot is an imperative part of the test for the judges to get a good idea of the movement of the horse, a good trot consists of a horse with a good contact in the hand, active hind legs, being responsive from the leg, and working through their back as opposed to being on the forehand. For a good Dressage shot a rider normally likes to see the "AA" as mentioned above, usually when photographing this stride a photographer will be looking at the either the offside hind or nearside front leg, personally, I watch the trot as the riders are warming up around the arena to see how the horse moves, I always shoot based on the front knee action for levels between Prelim and Elementary, for Medium and above I focus on the action of the hind leg as it's the action of the hind leg coming underneath the horse that we find is most popular with our riders, with the higher level trot there is a lot more action with the hind leg and the front leg is often elevated higher and sometimes the horses point their toes! For the advanced riders, it's still about the hind leg but also the power coming through the back and shoulders of the horse, often you will see higher level dressage riders choosing a slightly bent leg in front as opposed to a straight leg, a straight leg means that the movement is on the way down on the higher level tests.
During a dressage test, the canter elements can really boost your marks, judges look for a balanced, equal and an uphill, powerful movement. In order to get the best collected canter shot, we follow the front nearside leg whilst keeping an eye on the inside hind, as the hind leg comes through and underneath the horse, the front inside knee comes up and just before it reaches the highest point, that's when we take our shot, the ideal shot we take is almost a "P" shape made with the front two legs, with the offside leg preferably off the floor or just about to be lifted, this creates the elevation motion in the image. With an extension it's all about POWER! with that hind leg really pushing off the floor and those front legs really elevated, ideally the front inside leg would be higher than the dressage boards with the offside leg not far behind, the inside hind leg coming through and showing some serious power and elevation, the neck needs to be strong and not too high nor overbent, occasionally you can see ripples through the hind quarter - really showing off the muscle!
The Advanced Moves
When you start to adventure into the highest levels of dressage, PSG, INT I, INTII and finally into Grand Prix, the expectations of horse and rider are enormous and no space for errors, with years building up the horses stamina, understanding, flexion, balance and strength, the riders at these level really are quite outstanding. A dressage horse of these levels needs to have great elasticity throughout it's body whilst maintaining enough strength to execute the more complex moves such as; pirouettes, half pass, piaffe and passage. To photograph a half pass movement, as photographers we are looking for the hind leg to cross underneath the horse, an equal balance throughout the body of the horse and for a good rhythm to be maintained throughout the movement, there are two ways of shooting half pass, with the front legs crossing or the hind, for me personally, I like to shoot the hind quarters coming underneath the horse and if possible, for the inside hind leg to be between the two front legs, really showing off the balance and action of the movement. Pirouettes can be done in walk or canter, for the INT II and Grand Prix tests, it is mandatory to do the pirouettes in canter, the art of the pirouette is that the inside hind leg lifts and returns to the same point, acting as a pivot, whereas the outside hind leg is working in a small circle around the inside leg. The pirouette is performed in a collected canter albeit slowed down a lot, the outside foreleg crosses over the inside foreleg whilst using their hind quarters to collect and lift, judges will be looking for accuracy of the hind leg and the collection and athleticism in front. In order to get a good pirouette shot you need years of practise, something that as of yet, we are still learning, however we do know that ideally to take a good photograph, the best timing is when the outside hind is just about to touch the floor, with the horse turning towards you rather than away. And then we move onto the elusive Piaffe and Passage, two of the hardest movements to photograph as the horse moves a diagonal pair off the floor at the same time, with their knees and hocks flexed, the movement sees the leg suspended for a longer period of time compared to the trot movement. This is an incredibly hard movement for the horses to complete as they need to maintain balance and impulsion within the movement, passage is completed whilst moving, and piaffe is the same movement but the horse stays on the same spot, with hooves landing in the same spot as lifted.
If you have found this insightful or have any questions, please don't hesitate to leave a comment or email us :)
Hope you're all doing well, I thought I would share with you a few thoughts, tips and tricks for photographing show jumping, if you are an amateur photographer and use rapid fire in case you get "THE SHOT" here are a few pointers to get you out of bad habits.
Burst Mode V Single Shot
A professional photographer will have the ability to be able to shoot on single shot during a show jumping round, they will be looking at the style that the horse jumps in - whether the horse is getting deep and cat leaping into the air, if the horse appears green, if the horse has a lot of scope, if the horse is really stretching their front legs over fences etc. The benefit of shooting rapid fire is that you are able to get every part of the horse jumping over a fence, take off, stretching over, on top of the fence, and landing, however, most professional photographers choose not to shoot like this as this means you end up with 3-4 photographs per fence, multiply that by the 4-5 fences you would shoot during a round, times this number by 50-80 riders per class, soon the amount of images needed to be uploaded is huge! Sometimes I like to shoot on burst mode if I am shooting higher level show jumping as I like the different points of take off and stretching. There are some types of jump that you only need one photograph of, such as an upright fence as the horses aren't stretching over and upwards compared to an oxer, normally you would shoot an upright fence in portrait orientation so that you frame the horse better in the photograph, otherwise you risk losing the horse in the frame.
Choosing your fence
Selecting the right fence is tricky, you have to take into account a lot of different variables; the course route, where riders may cut in to save time on the jump off, where the timing beams are, are you going to be in the way of another fence if you want to shoot a particular jump, light - where is the light strongest (general rule of thumb, shoot with the light behind you!) what is the background looking like? Is it appealing or is it busy with the warm up, spare jumps, bins, toilets etc. To shoot a show jumping round we would often select 3-4 main fences, usually oxers and one upright, and we always have a backup fence to photograph, this ensures if one of your main fences gets knocked, horse cat leaps over the fence, or doesn't jump nicely, you've got your back up fence to use so that competitors have the same amount of photos as everyone else. Getting the right angles
It never fails to amaze us how a different angle on a fence can completely transform the appearance. Normally we would shoot an oxer with a 35° angle as this allows us to see the majority of the fence whilst making the fence look as big and as wide as possible. For a super wide oxer the horses will be really stretching out over the top of the fence, therefore we would shoot this as side on as physically possible, this gives us a side on view of the horses position over the fence, usually with all four legs really tucked up and powering over the distance. When it comes to shooting an upright fence, we normally shoot headon/slightly off to one side, this enables us to still see the stretch of the horse but also to see the front end of the horse clearly, knees tucked up and ears pricked forwards, these types of shots are usually the more artistic style of photograph that you could expect to see on our website. How to photograph fences with Busy/Big Wings
We are super lucky to have photographed at a lot of competitions with Show Jumps provided by Cheshire Show Jump Services Ltd, this company is renowned for creating and having a fantastic array of fences with big, bold, artistic wings, as a photographer we often find that fences that are bright and colourful really help emphasise a photograph. When a fence has large wings/complex wings, this can often impact the angles that we can get, for example the geometric fence below is a prime example of how different a fence can look when the angle is wrong, versus when the angle is correct. Often with courses 1.00m+ the horses are jumping a lot higher and powering over fences therefore we have more angles to play with, with lower levels of show jumping the ponies and horses can get lost in a fence with large wings, so for the lower levels we tend to shoot them more side on than in front of the fence, avoiding the fences with the huge wings as this often blocks the little 12.2hh ponies zooming around the arena. A big winged fence can really enhance how big the horses are jumping in the bigger classes, they create an iconic photograph - Royal Windsor's named Show Jump for example.
Watching your light
Lighting plays a huge part within event photography, it can quite literally make or break a shot. The general rule of thumb is to shoot with the sun behind you, this enables the subject to be well lit and balanced. The most common thing I hear is that because it's bright and sunny this must make for cracking photographs, this can be very problematic, especially for show jumping as you could be shooting in three different directions, with the pace of the riders competing trying to adapt your settings in between fences can be tricky, especially if your fences come up in quick concession. An ideal light to shoot in is a cloudy day, as this gives us flat light, this means there aren't many shadows and the fences look equally balanced for light.
If you have any questions about anything above, feel free to leave a comment below or pop us a message!
During this lockdown I have had a few questions about what it is that is involved in running a business, specialising in Equestrian Photography, so here is a breakdown of how we operate and the work that goes in behind everything you see.
First of all, you need to be passionate about the job, you need to have a fire in your belly to do the best you can, a willingness to stand outside in all weathers, rain, snow, hail, gale force winds and extreme heat. An understanding of how a horse moves and understanding of what makes a good shot is hugely beneficial, as a photographer you learn that horses move differently, and the timing may change depending on the type of horse and also the activity. For example, you would shoot Prelim Dressage completely differently to an Int II/Grand Prix test, as the riders like to see the movements at different times, for Cross Pole showjumping it's about getting over the fence, for National 1.30m and above, it's about the horse stretching over the fence and sometimes the landing. Once you've mastered the timing, you then need to make sure that your photo has the correct composition (subject in the middle of the frame) this is hard to get consistently correct, even now, I have my off days where I am wonky slightly, or over to one side of the frame. Every day is a school day!
Booking a venue/Booking an event:
This is a very hard thing to do, as you are technically competing against businesses who may already be in touch with that venue, have photographed there previously, or have inside contacts (committee friends, livery yard etc). I was incredibly lucky to secure Wellington, it all started because I was fed up of working in an office, answering emails, making phone calls and taking deliveries, this wasn't a job for me, I'm an outdoors person, always have been. So during my lunch breaks I would scour the internet for venues, venues with competitions that would push and progress my business, venues with shows that would enable me to showcase not only my ability, but also the businesses potential. I came across Wellington's website and thought to myself, if I don't try I'll never know, so I popped them an email, enquiring whether they had a photographer currently, and included an introduction into my company, where I had trained and what I had experience in photographing. I was shocked when the email came back to say that they did not have a photographer and would be keen to have me and my business as their official photographer and the rest is history :)
Choosing what products to offer:
What products do you choose to offer to your clients? This took me forever to work out exactly what I wanted to provide to my customers, you have to take into account cost, both to the business and to the customer, popularity of products and where to get stock to produce the products. From doing research on other websites, and seeing what other photographers were offering it was easier to gage what products I wanted to provide. There are still items that we would like to offer, but we do feel that sometimes, you can be given too much choice and it ends up being an unenjoyable experience as the whole process feels overwhelming. We like to keep our products simple, clean, easy prices and offer savings on bundles. Pricing is another thing to consider, think about it this way - if you go into a shop and they're giving away all of their stock, you question why in your head "because it's cheap and tacky?" "because it's no good?" this is why getting your pricing structure right is so important, you don't want to be overcharging as that will put people off, you don't want to go too cheap as people may think your products and images are also cheap, but also remember that trying to increase prices is harder than reducing them down.
Ensuring you've got the right kit:
Having the correct kit is like buying the right type of horse for your sport, you wouldn't buy a Shetland and expect to jump it round a competitive 1.20m track, nor would you buy a Clydesdale and expect it to win the Grand National against Racehorses. We choose top level cameras because of the capabilities within the cameras, fast burst modes, greater depth of fields, quality of the images, and the ability to change minor settings so we have more control over the produced image. We also ensure that we have full waterproofs for our cameras, if you're spending thousands of pounds on a camera, you don't want to risk it getting water damaged! We are constantly looking at the latest equipment available to see if we could do with updating any of our kit. All of our team have top end equipment, and for the newer team members who are training with us, they learn on one of our older cameras which we used as a backup.
Having the ability to print images onsite is a huge bonus, to not just to competitors, but also to us, as this allows us to see what images are most popular, and also gives us an opportunity to listen to any comments made whilst browsing, if there is any feedback to give to the photographer/s then this is relayed immediately. Using the most efficient style of printers is another, until I started LEP I had never heard of a Dye-Sub printer - this means there are four layers of colour that are printed onto the photograph, giving you a cleaner, truer copy of the image on the screen, we use Dye-Sub printers when printing onsite as opposed to laserjet as the quality, speed and cost is more efficient. Part of a onsite printing facility is ensuring that its spacious and easy for customers to navigate their way around, we use tablets inside our unit as viewing screens, as most people now own or regularly use one, we selected 10" tablets so that this maximises the amount of screens we can use within the unit and also the largest screens that would fit comfortably.
If you have any questions about anything you've read above, feel free to pop me a message:)
Stay Safe Everyone,
It's been a manic few months here at Lottie-Elizabeth Photography.
We have been able to photograph some amazing competitions recently, starting with Wellington Premier League.
We were so lucky to have amazing sunshine throughout the competition, the team were incredible during the heat and long days, producing some cracking images! One of our highlights was watching the man himself, Carl Hester competing Hawtins Delicato, winning the Grand Prix on 76.80%. We also had the priviledge of photographing the Para riders including Olympians; Sir Lee Pearson, Sophie Wells MBE, and Sophie Christiansen CBE, how truly incredible to watch these riders compete! We finished the 5 day competiton with just under 12,000 images!
July was a pretty relaxed month for us, with lots of freelancing for other photographers, shooting at events such as Dauntsey Horse Trials and Royal Welsh - one of my favourite shows to attend as a photographer, the atmosphere is insane in the main arena, often you can hear the cheers and support from arenas at the other end of the showground! We did have one major event in July, the wedding of Marketing Manager Rachael Corry, the venue was perfect with a local church on the estate, and then we headed over to the most perfect location for a horse mad bride! The Wellington Horse Trials water fence complex, a stunning bell tent was set up nearby with a live duo playing guitar and singing, fresh canapes served by the water over looking the surrounding fields and beautiful countryside.
August started with lots of Junior Camps at Wellington, and ended with their wonderful Horse Trials, we always get excited when it gets to the middle of August because we know it's almost time for us to get prepared for three fantastic days of eventing! We love scouting out the course a few days before to work out what fences look best - this is often tricky as almost every single fence is a contender! Creating a team plan of who is shooting what fences for which classes, Show Jumping walked the night before the event starts, fences selected, unit set up with rider folders, classes and MISC folders for those cute candids! We are so lucky to have such a well regarded event secured under our belts, the organisation that goes into this event is immense! For us, this event is an great way to start winding down our busy season, our team can relax on the cross country course, whilst enjoying the incredible combinations that come flying past, with huge smiles on their faces and ears pricked (the horses that is!)
September bought us closer to the end of our season, with lots of local shows, we also covered Jump for Life, held at Addington. Jump for Life is a charity run event raising money for Cancer Research UK, with classes ranging from Newcomers to 1.35m Grand Prix, Ride and Run classes and also a raffle, this show was heartfelt by everyone involved and those who attended! Including A.P McCoy who entered the Ride and Run with Poppy Stronge, finishing in a competitive fourth place! We finished the month off with shooting our first Royal County Show, Berkshire Show, we had full coverage of all rings inclusive of the main arena, where we had stunt bike displays, heavy horse displays, Area Trial Showjumping, International Stairway Jumping competition and loads more!
And to finish our season we had our busiest month yet, October. We started the first week with two competitive final, PetPlan Southern Finals at Parwood, and BD Quest Regional Finals at Wellington, we had two teams out during this weekend, with Lottie and Emma at Parwood, Richard, Molly and Adam were based at Wellington over the three days. Over 10,000 images were taken over this weekend alone, which meant a solid day spent just uploading everything onto the website once we got home! We then ventured over to Northern Ireland with the unit to photograph the Pony Indoor Championships, with over 20 hours spent driving and sailing, we finally arrived in Londonderry, we then had 4 days of pony Show Jumping from 50cm upto 1.20m and then finishing on the Children on Horses Grand Prix. Most days averaged out to be 16 hour days, to which I was very thankful of being able to swap with Sales Team Leader, Sam, who came and took over whilst I had a break and some food! We took over 5,000 images over 60 hours shooting! We then travelled back and arranged for rooms on the ferry for the way home so that we could sleep a little during the trek home, once we got home we then spent the next day and a half uploading and processing orders. With only a days break inbetween Ireland and the next show, we started to prep for Senior Home International at Wellington. Home International was a huge show for us to photograph, as the shows changes venues every year, with the first day being the opening ceremony and trot up, we saw all British Dressage Teams from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, divided up into regional teams, each team had their own mascot and theme, in the hope to win Best Dressed Team. Over the next two days we had four arenas running all day, with three photographers out photographing and two sales team members, this was our busiest Dressage show since Premier League. Most days ran from 8am - 4pm, with the last day concluding with closing ceremony and presentations, the last day was our busiest, with our unit being rammed to the roof with eager competitors viewing and ordering photographs from 9am, our last customer left the unit at 9:30pm! This was a fantastic way to finish our season, with lots of lovely people, beautiful horses and happy team mates!
Overall 2019 was a pretty big year for us, here's to 2020!