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!