Now, I might be a little controversial here, but horses are only good for one thing… betting on. But before anyone starts writing hate mail to me, my perspective changed when I was asked to photograph a cross-country event in Leatherhead, Surrey.
I arrived at the Pachesham Equestrian Competition Centre on a cold Sunday morning not knowing what to expect. Well, I say that, but I did at least expect plenty of horses. This would be my first ever attempt at capturing a cross country horse trials. Actually, it would be my first ever attempt at photographing horses full stop.
The setting was perfect… a hazy but otherwise sunny morning across the rolling landscape of Surrey would ease me into the day. I set off around the cross country course to look for perfect spots in which to shoot. I was able to fire off some shots of the hazy hills as the sun burnt off the cold air.
Soon after, the competition began. I had staked out a few places around the circuit to which I knew there was the potential for some great action shots. Taking care of where to position myself, I set about making sure my settings were right. This was sports photography and the first key was to keep the shutter speed high in order to perfectly freeze the action. Good light throughout the morning allowed me to not have to worry about my ISO levels too much.
I spent the morning moving from one location to another. The beauty of cross country events as opposed to standard show-jumping is that the competition takes place around a more picturesque setting… through fields and woodlands. The only disappointment I had was the water jump didn’t lend itself to any decent action shots, as it’s positioning on the course was less than ideal.
Still, I thoroughly enjoyed the day and was surprised at how kind and friendly everyone was. Lunch was provided courtesy of a decent little tea hut (with awesome cheesy chips to boot) and based on the photos that I took, have been welcomed back whenever they have an event. Happy days.
Capturing these graceful, yet powerful beasts in action has somewhat changed my opinion. Still – An on-site bookmaker wouldn’t have gone amiss. Fancied a punt on the outcome.
Author – Stuart Tree