A cute little smile from Ella ;) - Photo by Keara

No one can be grumpy after seeing a cute grey pony. No one.  – Photo by Keara

The absolutely most common question that I get asked when people recognize me at Spruce (I still find it odd when this happens), find me on Facebook, or stumble across my Instagram account is this: What settings do you use on your camera?! Well, my friends, I wish I had a nice packaged answer for you, but the truth is that I don’t. Sorry. But don’t stop reading. Through a few posts I am going to attempt to tell you about what I do, and give out some hints in regards to equine photography. Something that a few bloggers have been throwing around for a while, this is actually a little series that a few of us are going to do so that you can have a variety of perspectives and ideas. Sound okay? Am I back in your good books? No? Well, I guess I will just keep trying.

Before I get going, I want to put a little warning out there. I’m not a professional- keep this close! In fact, I think I may be the queen of dumb luck, and I say that with a straight face. Things I say might be totally “wrong”, but are methods and ideas that have worked in terms of my photos. Remember, photography is art, and as such, every artist will approach it differently and have different preferences. Finally, and I swear this is the last bit of preamble, don’t think that you can’t take nice photos because you are not “artistic”. Ask anyone who really knows me, there isn’t an artsy bone in my body… or at least I thought there wasn’t for a long time. If you want to start taking photos, do it! I stumbled into this whole thing and, 4 years later, have progressed leaps and bounds and am almost even getting consistent. I know, I never thought the day would come either.

Richard and Cristallo. -Photo by Keara

Richard Spooner and Cristallo. -Photo by Keara

So, what do you want to know first? Ha, right, I guess I’ll have to get us started. How about this- what I do to  not look like an idiot while in the International Ring at Spruce Meadows (or at least try not to…).

Rule #1: Be Prepared. You are super excited to shoot a class. You have been reading about your camera, you have a new lens, and it is going to be good. The first horse comes into the ring, you find the jump you’re shooting, compose the shot, and here comes the horse…. whoa, your camera didn’t fire. Battery? Memory Card? Yep, those are important. And, yes, I’ve dropped the ball with both of those things. Know your equipment and be sure that you have everything you need with you. If your card is small, carry an extra. If your battery is weak and you know it’s going to be a long day, pack a couple. The sun is shining and it’s glorious out? Bring rain gear (for you and the camera!).

Rule #2: Know your surroundings. Being in photo pens at Spruce taking some of the anxiety away, but I still always like to know who is around me and where they are likely to go so I can a) shoot around them and b) stay out of their way. It’s can actually be funny sometimes. During the $1.5 million CP International there were at least 10 of us on the table top. After the first couple of horses we literally all had a set spot down the one side in order to shoot that line – some would stand, others would get down to make room. It was quite the production, but it worked. Of course, you likely won’t be facing this kind of traffic, but common sense is still super important. Have a look around, know the rules of where ever you are, and try not to block anyone. They are easy steps, but are often overlooked.

Rule #3: Get comfortable. Classes get long and tend to either be really hot or really cold (especially at Spruce, ugh). Although I didn’t use one my first year with my small camera, but after upgrading I now always use a monopod in the ring. It keeps my arms from wanting to die halfway through, and keeps things steady if I’m pushing my zoom. Yes, it does limit movement a little, but the pros outweigh the cons for me. With that said, if I’m taking candids or something outside of the ring itself I much prefer the mobility without the stick, so this really is all situational and personal preference. Still thinking comfort, what are you wearing? All day shooting is a marathon, so don’t make it harder on yourself than you have to. A hat can be good, but beware that it can get in the way if you are shooting a lot of portrait (vertical) shots. I personally wear sunglasses, but many people will tell you not to. Again, if you asked anyone that knows me well, I just about always wear sunglasses, so…. haha.

Rule #4: This actually goes back to #1, but I’ll keep it separate. Know the course so you know where to point that camera! Walk it if you can, or have a peak at the map. There are always some great opportunities for salute and galloping pictures, but you have to know where to get them. When I “pick” a spot (ie. one of the pens), I try to make sure that I have at least a couple jumps, preferably with different angles. With that said, if it comes down to it, I tend to prefer a 45° angle/ side shot, over one that is front on. Although I think I’ll end up talking about this in another post, also remember to think of the light and how it may change through the class. If you are fortunate enough to be able to easily move, great, but if not you really do have to be careful.

Rich Fellers and Flexible. -Photo by Keara

Rich Fellers and Flexible. -Photo by Keara

Enough rules for now? Yes, I think so too. But, if you have anything to add, please do so in the comments!

Furthermore, although Nicole, Sue, and I will end up hitting a lot,  I’m curious – what do you want to know? What do you need help with? I will get into my gear and settings in a future post, but what else? I will also be sure to share some of my big fails with you – completely bunging the second round of the Nations’ Cup because I forgot to change a setting after I moved? So, so, so guilty.