I have had my Canon Rebel T3i for about 3 years. Previously I just set it on Auto Sport or Auto. In March when I started my own blog site Horse Addict I decided I needed to do better than that. I had one advantage as a photographer of horses; I am a rider and I understand the movement of the horse. This enabled me to get the right moment for the picture. But if I was taking photos at night or in a dark arena……then what?
I think that photos are an essential element to add to my blog posts because they are not just an addition they are a bridge for the reader to cross over and see what I am describing with words. Then I saw a professional photographer friend on Facebook recommending the online course offered by the Equine Photography Network (http://www.equinephotographers.org/), I knew I had to take it.
The course is offered over six weeks. Each week has a new assignment and you can upload your photos for the instructor to view and receive her suggestions on how you can improve them. Some weeks were harder than others. Week one was all about getting to know your camera. Shutter speed, aperture priority, ISO and all those little buttons and dials on my camera. Oh my Lord! I was intimidated. But week two we got a photo assignment: get out there and take photos of a horse. There had to be a 3/4 profile, a full profile headshot, and a shot of a horse coming out of a doorway into strong light. With my husband David to be my assistant and my horse Biasini as my model we began.
You can’t say to the horse:” Can you just move your left foot back a bit.” or ” Can you hold your head up a bit higher”. You have to be ready to snap the photo at the precise moment it presents itself. Horses get bored easily so having a stick with a plastic bag on it or a jar with pebbles to make a noise are all good to get the horse looking up and ears forward but you still need to be quick. They will only be in the position you want for a second or two.
Here is the head shot profile with the background blurred ( aka “bokeh” in the photog world).
Here is the 3/4 profile . For this we were advised to be well back from the horse and shooting with a long lens to avoid distortion. With distortion the horse looks like either a giraffe or an elephant.
The next assignment was to do the “confirmation” photo. This is the photo that is used to show off horses for sale or for breeding. There is a very specific stance that must be captured. The two legs nearest to the camera must be out and the two farther away must be in together. Here is the correct stance. But the chain goes across his mouth. No good!
This next photo is not the correct stance but is a better composition and expression.
Photographing the horse in motion is a different sort of challenge. As I mentioned before I understand the tempo of the horse’s gaits and the sequence of movement as I am a rider. For photos of the trot our assignment was to capture the moment that the offside front leg was at its’ most extended.Here is Belinda Trussell riding Giacometti, Irina Moliero de Muro’s horse.
For the canter I must try to capture the moment when the horse is ‘up’ in front. If the down moment of the canter is captured it looks like the horse is about to do a nosedive. Here is Belinda Trussell again on Giacometti with the upward moment captured.
One of our final assignments was to take a horse in fast motion and achieve a “blur” of the background. There is not a lot of speedy movement in dressage so for this I borrowed the pony Penelope from barn manager Carl Callahan. She may be small but she can go!
We were also assigned a silhouette photo. I was not successful with this while I was taking the course but more recently I did get one I liked. This is Belinda Trussell on her own horse Tattoo.
Finally I want to finish with my favourite photo of all. This is Biasini coming out from the indoor arena. I took it sitting on my bum on the gravel driveway. Ouch! but it was worth it. I do not have Photoshop or Lightroom ( I will be graduating to those soon I hope) and for this photo I added contrast in the basic editing function of Picasa to make the background darker. But the photo looks very much like it was shot originally.
I really enjoyed the course and got a lot out of it. I am still practising and in Florida during the winter season of horse shows I am hoping to get some great shots. Horses are such beautiful animals and they deserve to be photographed well.