Monday, January 16, 2012

Warming Up the Queen

How do you make "The Queen" look great when it's so cold you can't feel your fingers? Obviously, you have to warm things up a bit.
Rachel Alexandra, in all of her maternal glory, still has a huge following. Stonestreet farm was kind enough to ask Wendy and me to grab a few photos for the fans.
Only problem was that it was 25 degrees. With light snow. And a wind chill of about 10 degrees.

Rachel Alexandra. Photo: Matt Wooley/EquiSport Photos, Manual, 1/250th @ f/4, ISO 200, 125mm
We used 2 lights for this shot. The front light, (or key), does all of the heavy lifting, illuminating her trademark broken blaze. The back light, (also called a rim light or kicker), rims Rachel softly enough to set her apart from the background. We used 1/4 cut CTO (orange) gels on both lights to warm her up. Did I mention it was a cold and blustery day in the hundred acre wood?

Production shots by Wendy Wooley. 1/4 cut CTO gels on lights.
 We love our new lights! Our last wedding justified an upgrade to the new Elinchrom Quadras. We love'em. Recycle time and battery life... amazing! They did notice the cold, but kept marching on.
And we can BOTH fire our cameras using the same lights at the reception!
So Rachel got the royal treatment, a nicely lit portrait shot using our wedding gear. I'm firing the lights with Pocket Wizards, just like in some of our previous blog posts.

Light from a flash wants to fly around everywhere. It's indiscriminate. So I put a SNOOT on the back light to give it some direction, and gave it a little less power than the key light. I just want to put a subtle highlight to Rachel's ears and neck from behind, I don't want to nuke the place.
A snoot is nothing more than a tube that directs light in a narrow beam. You can make a snoot for your flash with most anything... like bubble wrap and gaffer tape! Just roll it up, wrap it up with tape, stick it on your light and fire. Now you have control of where the light goes.

Out in the paddock, things started to get really cool! Did I mention that good gloves are essential to your kit?
I go to Aperture Priority here. Really the only thing I need to control is the depth of filed. F/4 is perfect with a long lens. I don't care what the shutter speed is, as long as it's "fast enough".

Rachel leads Hot Dixie Chick. Photo: Aperture Priority, f/4 @ ISO 400 gave 1/800th, 0EV, 300mm. 

Wendy and I both shoot this scene in CLOUDY WHITE BALANCE to keep the warmth going. Cloudy is about 6000 on the temp scale, where Auto WB would have given up about 5000 or so. We're shooting in RAW, so we have lots of latitude when we crunch it through Lightroom, but Cloudy WB puts us in the ballpark.

Rachel. Photo: Aperture Priority, f/4 @ ISO 640 gave 1/1000th, +1/3 EV, 300mm.

The farm asked for some paddock shots showing Rachel in all of her regalness. She is in foal to Curlin, and expecting a colt around February 1st. She looks REALLY good!

Rachel. Photo: Aperture Priority, f/4 @ ISO 640 gave 1/1000th, +1/3 EV, 300mm.

Wendy said she thought Rachel might have potential in the dressage ring. We'll keep you posted if she makes a career move.

Rachel Alexandra, dressage pony! Photo: Wendy Wooley/Aperture Priority, f/4 @ ISO 400 gave 1/1000th, +2/3 EV, 50mm.
One thing the snow (or rain) will do is "take your focus". The camera's Auto-Focus wants to grab onto anything that's moving when shooting in AI Servo. It makes for some nice artsy-fartsy type shots... but you don't want them ALL that way. Pick a point of big contrast, like Rachel's blaze or halter buckle, to keep the AF on track.

"Abstract Rachel". Photo: Aperture Priority, f/4 @ ISO 640 gave 1/800th, +1/3 EV, 300mm.
A little PLUS EXPOSURE COMPENSATION keeps things bright. Just like Clorox.
Remember to add a little exposure value if you need to keep the whites white. We talked about the use of "plus" and "minus" EV in a previous post.

Rachel and HDC's neck. Photo: Aperture Priority, f/4.5 @ ISO 640 gave 1/800th, +1/3 EV, 300mm.

A couple of quick notes about using lights: In order of importance...

1) Get the light off of the camera. That nice new hot shoe mounted speedlight is NOT going to flatter your subject if you mount it on your camera (unless you happen to like the look of driver's license pictures). Use a trigger to get it off to the side, and give your light some direction.

2) Shoot off camera flash with your camera set to MANUAL mode. Just do it. Always.
You need to control both the SHUTTER speed and the APERTURE. Check out my camera settings in the first picture above. When I looked at the EXPOSURE METER through the camera's viewfinder, I was reading between 2 and 3 stops UNDEREXPOSED! I want to keep the background dark, and I know the flash will light the subject for me.

3) Keep your Shutter Speed at 1/250th or less. The camera and lights don't talk to each other too fast in this type of setup.  You can't go to 1/500 because the camera's sensor can't pick up the flash burst that fast.
A fast shutter speed, like 1/250th, will help keep the background dark. 
A slower shutter speed, like 1/60th (2 full stops slower than 1/250th), will let more background light reach the sensor, and help the background look richer and deeper.

4) The flash actually fires faster than 1/1000 of a second. So if it's dark enough, you can hand hold your camera at 1/60th easy, cause the flash will freeze the action. 
Think about that... no matter what your shutter is set on, the flash fires at 1/1000. I've taken razor sharp wedding photos in relatively dark conditions, hand held, at 1/30! 

5) Lastly, it's always a good idea to check your exposure on the lcd screen of your camera.     And be sure to show your client how good she's looking while you're at it...

Be sure to leave a comment if you have any questions or great ideas!
That's about it for now..

EquiSport Photos is once again pleased to present the:


We are looking for a few more Camera Happy Participants for our Spring Equine Photography Workshop, May 1-3!

We will be sharing our "Tricks of the Trade" with those who wish to take their equine photography to the next level, for either personal enjoyment or professional advancement. And... we will be visiting some great locations in the Heart of Horse Country!

We already have several people signed up. Space in the workshop is limited to 9 or so!
Check out the Capture The Light website for all of the topics and details. 


Monday, November 28, 2011

"Hunting" for the Big Picture

Covering an event with a LARGE playing field can be challenging. Shakertown, covering over 3000 rolling acres of Central Kentucky Bluegrass farmland, plays host to the Woodford Hounds annual Fox Hunt. It's large. 
You need to have a game plan and a vision on how you want to cover such an event, and bring along a selection of lenses that will tell the story. How do you want to shoot it, and what do you want to cover? Do you want to focus on the dogs and details, the range of colorful people stories, or the broad scope of the event over hill and dale?
Blessing of the Hounds. Photo: Matt Wooley, Aperture, f/5.6 @ ISO 320, 1/1000th, 0EV, 15mm fisheye.
I chose the BIG PICTURE point of view. I wanted to capture the overall scope of the event, and also feature some of the little scenes that weave the fabric of the story. I carried a 15mm fisheye, a 50mm and a 300mm, and one camera body, to get what I wanted. This was Wendy and my third year in attendance, so I had an idea of what was in store. Of course, thinking you know what's going to happen, is the recipe for missing the shot.

They left the "Blessing of the Hounds" and went in the opposite direction to what I was expecting. Thankfully, after talking to some of the riders, I knew the game plan and planted myself in the right spot. Off they went right into the morning sun. Perfect. I popped on the 50, and they trotted right by me. 

Release the hounds! Photo, MW, Aperture, f/4 @ ISO 400, 1/2000th, 0EV, 50mm.
I was sitting on the ground as they came my way to get a perspective from a dog's eye view. Shooting at f/4, the focus is on the dogs in the foreground, right where I want it. Remember to "PUSH IN TIGHT" to get this type of shot with a wide angle lens.

Photo: MW, Aperture, f/4 @ ISO 400, 1/2000th, 0EV, 50mm.
The fox hunt is a big social event, for both horse and human. A chance to get all dressed up and reconnect old friendships. Probably a lot more fun for the horses, dogs and riders than the fox.
I gave this shot a "sense of place" as they left the restored Shaker Village.  

"Off to the Hunt". Photo: MW, Aperture, f/4 @ ISO 400, 1/1600th, 0EV, 50mm. 
As the hunt master takes to the hills with the hounds in pursuit of the wily fox, I switch lenses to tell the story. Notice how the COMPRESSION of long glass works in the next 3 shots to create nice depth in each scene. 

"Picking up a Scent". Photo: MW, Aperture, f/5.6 @ ISO 400, 1/1250th, 0EV, 300mm.
"On the Trail". Photo: Wendy Wooley, Aperture, f/7.1 @ ISO 640, 1/1600th, -1/3 EV, 200mm.
"Road Crossing". Photo: MW, Aperture, f/5.6 @ ISO 400, 1/1600th, 0EV, 300mm.
Okay, we got the BIG picture, now some of the little stories. The 300 also gets me in tight.

Photo: MW, Aperture, f/5.6 @ ISO 400, 1/2000th, 0EV, 300mm.

Photo: MW, Aperture, f/4 @ ISO 400, 1/4000th, -1/3 EV, 300mm.
Shooting at f/4 helps your subject pop out from a distracting background.

"Clopping Back". Photo: MW, Aperture, f/4 @ ISO 400, 1/2000th, -1/3 EV, 300mm.
Here's a great example of the Rule of Thirds, times two. Not only is your eye drawn to the left one-third of the frame, the image also has depth.. front, middle and back thirds. Lots of LAYERS.

"Back to the Kennels". Photo: MW, Aperture, f/4 @ ISO 400, 1/5000th, -1/3 EV, 300mm.
So that's how our morning went, from start to finish. A lot of our time was spent spotting, and then following, the hunt. By SUV. Mostly on the designated roads.
By the way, no fox was harmed in the making of this photo shoot.

That's it for now..

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Grace & Glory.. Havre de Grace and Gio Ponti

Most days you just have to work with what comes your way.
"Havre de Grace" was trotted out at Vinery on a beautiful Fall afternoon.

Havre de Grace at Vinery. Photo: Matt Wooley, Aperture, f/5 @ ISO 320, 1/2000th, -1/3 EV, 300mm.

And "Gio Ponti" was featured at Castleton Lyons the next day, a very blustery day in the 100 acre woods.  Wendy and I ended up getting a few good shots each day. Here's how we did it.

Gio Ponti at Castleton Lyons. Photo: Matt Wooley, Aperture, f/4 @ ISO 500, 1/1000th, +1/3 EV, 300mm.
Look carefully at the exif data in the above two photos. The only big difference is the EXPOSURE COMPENSATION.

Havre de Grace at Vinery. Photo: Matt Wooley
Aperture, f/5 @ ISO 320, 1/1000th, -1/3 EV, 300mm.
Havre de Grace, owned by Rick Porter's Fox Hill Farm, was shown in appreciation of her fans at the owners' request. She is a candidate for Horse of the Year, ran 4th in the Breeder's Cup Classic against the boys, and will resume training for Larry Jones after the New Year.

"Havre de Grace Day" was a nice sunny afternoon. I wanted the colors to pop, and I wanted to protect the highlights. -1/3 EV did the trick! 

As is often the case, I shot tight (with a 300) and Wendy shot wide (with a 70-200). This way we get a good range of photos in a short amount of time, and we're not shooting the same thing as each other.
Havre de Grace at Vinery. Photo: Matt Wooley, Aperture, f/4 @ ISO 320, 1/1000th, -1/3 EV, 300mm.
Havre de Grace at Vinery. Photo: Matt Wooley, Aperture, f/4 @ ISO 320, 1/1000th, -1/3 EV, 300mm.
Always be VERY conscious of the background, keep it clean. The f/4 helped me get some separation from the trees, and your eye goes straight to the intended subject.
It turned out to be such a lovely day and nice turnout, and Havre de Grace of course being a beautiful race filly, that the Paulick Report thought it interesting enough to feature.

Havre de Grace at Vinery. Photo: Wendy Wooley, Aperture, f/3.2 @ ISO 200, 1/2000th, -1/3 EV, 70mm.

Gio Ponti at Castleton Lyons. Photo: Matt Wooley,
Aperture, f/4 @ ISO 800, 1/1600th, 0EV, 300mm.


Gio Ponti, a homebred for Castleton Lyons,  retired from racing after this past season. He collected 3 Eclipse awards in his brilliant career as a Turf Specialist. A repeat win in the G1 Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland this Fall highlighted his season.
He will stand at stud at the farm.

 Gio Ponti, the next day, was shot under mostly cloudy skies, with the sun popping in and out. I ranged from 0EV to +1/3 EV to bring out detail in the shadows. I pushed it just enough to get a few "blinkies" on the LCD with the Highlight Alerts turned on.

Aside from Exposure Compensation, one of the key differences in camera settings is the choice of CLOUDY WHITE BALANCE for Gio Ponti. This gave me nice warm tones on an overcast day.
I'm shooting in RAW, as always, but shooting in "Cloudy" means one less thing I need to do in Lightroom.

Gio Ponti at Castleton Lyons. Photo: Matt Wooley, Aperture, f/4 @ ISO 800, 1/1600th, +1/3EV, 300mm.
Gio Ponti at Castleton Lyons. Photo: Matt Wooley, Aperture, f/4 @ ISO 500, 1/2500th, 0EV, 300mm.
Clean backgrounds and shallow depth of field help make these photos work. Gio Ponti is actually looking out at a field of mares in the above shot... guess he's done racing.

Wendy got this great shot as he was led from the barn.

Gio Ponti at Castleton Lyons. Photo: Wendy Wooley, Aperture, f/4 @ ISO 200, 1/500th, -1 1/3EV, 180mm.
The key to this shot is the MINUS EXPOSURE COMPENSATION. Without doing much of anything else, all she did was dial the EV down to -1 & 1/3. Perfect. As the horse is led into the daylight, the inside of the barn goes away and makes for another clean background.

That's about it for now. We would love to hear from you!
Please send us comments, questions. Or suggest a topic you would like for us to discuss. Thanks.

More later... mw.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Equine Conformation.. Comparing Apples to Apples

The idea behind Equine Conformation photos is to be able to compare apples to apples.
Start with a very standardized set up, shoot every horse the EXACT same way, and you should be able to identify the attributes. Either good or bad.

Medaglia d'Oro - Audacious Chloe '10. Photo: Matt Wooley, Aperture Priority, f/5 @ ISO 320, 1/800th, 0EV, 130mm.
Should be easy enough.

All you need to do is get someone to set the feet with the right front a little behind the left front, and the right hind in front of the left hind, and then get the horse to put his head up a little, but not too much, look toward the camera at a 30 degree angle, and prick his ears up. And make sure his mane doesn't blow over, and he doesn't swish his tail or blink. And make sure you don't have too dark of a background and the clouds don't roll in and cover up the sun.
And then fire off a few shots. 

Then do it again, so you can compare set-ups on the computer when you get home.
That's it.
Back off! I try to shoot at 100 to 135mm while filling the frame.
It really takes a good team to do it right.
At most of the farms Wendy and I visit, getting a good conformation actually starts by turning the horse out the night before. If the horse has been out overnight, he will have less pent up energy and will usually stand much quieter.
The grooms bring him in for a bath, dry him off, rub him down, put on some hoof dressing, and then wet down the mane. It's also much easier if the horse has been handled and learns to trust humans regularly.
Then he's ready to stand.
 Dynaformer - Bohemian Lady '10. Photo: Matt Wooley, Aperture, f/5 @ ISO 400, 1/1000th, 0EV, 110mm.
 I almost always shoot conformations in Aperture Priority. For one thing, it's always sunny, so I know that f/5 will give me both a good depth of field and a good shutter speed. What else could you ask for? I mainly only adjust the ISO to give me a "fast enough" shutter speed. F/5 blurs the background a little, and 1/800 to 1/1000th is perfect.
First take a test shot, and adjust the Exposure Compensation depending on the color of the horse and the background. I want to push the exposure to the point that the camera is showing just a few blinkies (highlight alerts).
Shoot in Burst Mode and AI Servo, with center spot focusing.
Shoot from about 50 feet away at something over 100mm for good compression.

Traditionally, confos have been shot straight out from the hip, but I tend to shoot straight out from the girth or the flank. Just my style. I like to give the horse more prominence in the chest, with the hip still looking muscular. The "horizon line" should run through the chest and tail.

The video below was shot by my buddy JD Mitchell on our Canon G-12, and edited by Wendy. Just a quick glimpse at the "action" of the team. Not always this entertaining, but you'll get the idea. It's a "team thing".

Couple more ideas.

Bring duct tape. If it's breezy, the mane will blow up at the most inopportune time. Tape it down on the "off side" of the horse. This will save a ton of time in Photoshop.

Hair styling gel, in the large bottle. Will do about the same thing as duct tape.

Record horse noises on a mini-cassette tape player. You will need the horse to prick it's ears. I found "horse noises" on a Google search, paid one dollar for the download, and looped it on a tape. One of the crew can hit the tape at just the right instant to get the horse's attention.

Shake a plastic bottle with a few rocks in it. This will also get the ears up sometimes.

You will want the horse to stand at right angles to the direction of the sun. Put a couple of little pieces of gaffers tape down on the ground to help the handler know what you want.

 Be patient. Everyone on the crew has gone to lengths to get the horse ready. Allow plenty of time. You will not make friends with the crew if you have to go back for a re-shoot because you rushed. On the flip side, don't over shoot... when you've got it, you've got it.

Good communication with the handler is key when setting feet.  "Right hind forward and right front back" is short and succinct information.

Tip the crew. A $20 tip for cold beverages goes a long way. Take the time to thank the people that help you look good. Trust me... shooting conformations is NOT a favorite activity for the farm crew. You want them to be helpful when you come back the next time. Wendy and I usually take lunch to the crew a few days after a big group of conformations.


How cool! A group of our Spring 2011 participants reunited in Lexington for a weekend in the Bluegrass!

Wendy and I were very pleased to have been invited to brunch Sunday at Dudley's, to catch up with Dana, Holly, Kate and a friend, Colleen. Sounds like they have been enjoying Keeneland, Shakertown, Old Friends and other local haunts, while keeping their cameras busy.

Dana, a race horse owner herself, has been documenting her own horses and others with confidence, between Kentucky and England over the past 6 months.
Kate and Dana were both runners up in the recent Keeneland 75 Year Commemoration Photography Contest. And... they had entered photos (here and here) from the Spring '11 Workshop! Very nice.
"Thanks"to Dana and company for the very inspirational Edward Whitaker photography book, and a lovely brunch.
Meanwhile, another participant, Heather, has changed her business focus to an emphasis on equestrian, and is moving to San Diego with her husband. Del Mar will be in her back yard!

Wendy and I draw a lot of inspiration from you guys! Seeing your enthusiasm for photography grow lets us know that we are working in the right direction with the blog and workshops. Keep it up guys.... and thank you.
And Kate, sorry about the 70-200 lens suggestion, (but now that you own it, I'm sure it will never be off of your 

That's it for now.
More later.. mw.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Slightly Off Topic...Famous Amos: Water Dog and Obsessed Retriever!

And now for something completely different. Well... it's still "Lights, Camera, Action!", only different.
Wendy and I were in Northern Michigan last week, and we took along our travelin' dog, Amos. He is a retriever in the truest sense. Maybe not a good hunting dog, but a retriever for sure.
And we discovered that Amos LOVES the water.

Amos. Photo: Wendy Wooley, Manual mode, 1/250 @ f/5.6, ISO 400, 35mm.
To get this shot you really need to be committed, and maybe we should be committed.
There are a several keys to getting this shot.

First, you may heard me quote my hero, Joe McNally, by saying "push in tight and shoot wide". You really have to get in their face when using a wide angle lens for a single subject. Our inspiration for this shot comes from Joe.

Secondly, for the photo to work, we needed to get Amos above the horizon line. Wendy is shooting from about one foot above sea level. This gives the subject some prominence.

Wendy had to be committed to this shot. Photo: Matt Wooley, Manual, 1/100 @ f/10, ISO 400, 70mm.

The third key is the off camera flash. In this case we are using pocket wizards to fire a Canon speedlight on a mini lightstand. Check out this previous post for more ideas on off camera flash.
We also wanted to give the light some warmth to match the sunset. An orange plastic poop bag wrapped around the flash did the trick. And... it kept the rig dry!

Amos, set to retrieve! Photo: wendy Wooley, Manual mode, 1/250 @ f/8, ISO 400, 35mm.
Our best pictures came after the sun had set. Water has a wonderful reflective quality that increases the available light. The shot just would not look the same on a grassy lawn.

The forth key is to shoot in Manual Mode. When using a flash, shoot in Manual. Just do it. Always.

We set the exposure for the sky, f/8 at 1/250th. Checking the Exposure Meter through the viewfinder, the reading is -2 or lower. Perfect for color in the sky.
The flash fills the subject with a pop, and we have a picture. Without the flash, all you would have is a silhouette of leaping Amos.
In this case, our flash is also set on Manual at about 1/2 power.

My job was to keep Famous Amos focused. Not too hard with an obsessed retriever. Amos said it was his best summer vacation EVER!

The last key is warm water. Northern Michigan is beautiful, and has been home for Wendy for the last 7 years. I guess she must see something in me and the Bluegrass to pack it all up and move to Kentucky.... I'll do my best to be worth the trouble.
We plan to return to the North regularly. 

Capture the Light Equine is pleased to announce our Fall Bluegrass Equine Photography Workshop!
We had such positive response from our Spring Workshop, we are doing it again November 1-3. Conveniently planned for the week before the Breeder's Cup, this class will be limited to 9 participants with 3 EquiSport instructors. We will visit some pretty cool spots in the Bluegrass for equine photography, like Old Friends, Keeneland, Kenny McPeek's training center, and Spendthrift Farm. Check out the details and drop us a line!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

New Photo Tricks with Old Friends

The way it works most of the time is..  you get some nice light, but you just need to find something interesting to put in there with it.
It promised to be a nice sunset last night, so Wendy and I headed out to Old Friends Retirement to find some unsuspecting subjects. We found the perfect volunteer in Marquetry.

A little more about Marquetry from the Bloodhorse, "Bred by Prince Khalid Abdullah’s Juddmonte Farms, Marquetry raced for Juddmonte alone and in various partnerships. He captured three grade I stakes, including the 1991 Hollywood Gold Cup, and retired with earnings of $2,857,886."
Read more here.

Marquetry at Old Friends. Photo: Matt Wooley, Aperture, F/5 @ ISO 800, 1/1000th, -1/3 EV, 300mm.

 Marquetry was a more than willing to have his picture taken. I can't really recommend getting out in the paddock with a stallion you don't know, but the 24 year old retiree followed me around like a puppy dog. Well.. I had mints.

I started off with a long lens, the 300mm in the above picture, to compress and control the background. I was 60 feet away for this shot.

The obvious key to good backlighting is to have the subject somewhere between the camera and the light source. But what really makes the backlighting effect work is to ALSO find a dark background.
In this case, the sun is coming in over the dark trees, hitting the horse from behind. Be careful you don't let the direct sun hit your lens, use a lens hood to control flare.

I then went to the other extreme with the 16-35mm. My thought with the wide angle was to "push in tight and shoot wide" as Joe McNally  would say.

Marquetry at Old Friends. Photo: Matt Wooley, Aperture, F/8 @ ISO 800, 1/1600th, -1/3 EV, 16mm.
By pushing in tight with the wide angle lens, you give your subject prominence. I've added to that effect by shooting from a low perspective, placing the subject partly above the horizon line. The deep Aperture, and negative Exposure Value, give me nice color.

Remember to "look both ways". As the sun drops a little lower, I use the wide angle to get a little color from the sun. I'm still at f/8 and -2/3 for this shot. 

Marquetry at Old Friends. Photo: Matt Wooley, Aperture, F/8 @ ISO 800, 1/800th, -2/3 EV, 24mm.
Again, I push in tight and pop the horse above the horizon line. I was about 6 feet from Marquetry for this shot. The sun is not so hot now and partly obscured, so with the sun hitting the lens I get some "creative" lens flare.

Don't be afraid to try things to see what works. I shot over 250 frames in about 20 minutes, and ended up with 9 that I liked well enough to put up on the EquiSport Photos website.

Marquetry at Old Friends. Photo: Matt Wooley, Aperture, F/8 @ ISO 800, 1/1000th, -2/3 EV, 24mm.

Meanwhile, Wendy was focusing on Afternoon Deelites.

From the Bloodhorse, "During his racing career, Afternoon Deelites was trained by Richard Mandella for owner Burt Bacharach. He was an instant success, winning his first three starts as a 2-year-old, including the Hollywood Futurity (gr. I) and Hollywood Preview Breeders’ Cup Stakes (gr. III)."
Read more here.

Afternoon Deelites at Old Friends. Photo: Wendy Wooley, Aperture, f/5.6 @ ISO 500, 1/500th, -1/3 EV, 100mm
Don't think you have to quit shooting just because the sun has set. The twilight sky makes a golden opportunity for a story telling silhouette shot. Here Wendy has "exposed for the sky" by locking in a "fast enough" shutter speed. The negative Exposure Value helps add color.

Learn to use the "Exposure Lock" button on your camera to expose for the sky. While in Aperture Mode, aim the camera at the sky, press the Exposure Lock button, then recompose your frame and take the shot. The result will be an image that is correctly exposed for the bright part of the frame, (the sky), and everything else rendered as silhouette.

Capture the Light Equine is pleased to announce our Fall Bluegrass Equine Photography Workshop!
We had such positive response from our Spring Workshop, we are doing it again November 1-3. Conveniently planned for the week before the Breeder's Cup, this class will be limited to 9 participants with 3 EquiSport instructors. We will visit some pretty cool spots in the Bluegrass for equine photography, like Old Friends, Keeneland, Kenny McPeek's training center, and Spendthrift Farm. Check out the details and drop us a line!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Hip Ideas for Horse Sales

Start to finish, the Fasig Tipton Sale in Lexington proved to be a marathon session for horse and human. Wendy and I spent a couple of long days on behalf of a client, documenting the color and commerce of the sales.
Our photos had to tell a story from show ring to sales ring. Here's what we ended up with.
Always focusing on key horses for the client, we started in the barn area. The horses, or "hip numbers" are led in front of prospective buyers, which also provides us the opportunity for a shot of the scene.

Hip #124 Orientate - Storm Strip '10, Photo: Wendy Wooley, Aperture Priority, f/3.5 @ ISO 400, 1/2500, 0EV, 100mm
 During slower periods, we shot conformations and head shots. These guys are yearlings, and we are in a VERY distracting environment. So don't have the ability to set the feet, they need to be "walked into" conformation. An experienced groom is essential for getting good results. Wendy is just off camera left, getting the horse's attention.

Hip #221, Giacomo-Classy Assets '10, Photo: Matt Wooley, Aperture Priority, f/4 @ISO 250, 1/800, EV -1/3, 135mm
My main thought here is to blur out the background, so I'm shooting in Aperture Priority at f/4. I adjust the ISO to get a shutter speed that is "fast enough". Notice also that I chose a fairly long focal length with my trusty 70-200 f/2.8 for compression, and keep my perspective from a low angle to give the horse added prominence.

While we are at it, we grab a head shot, also at f/4.

Hip #221, Giacomo-Classy Assets '10, Photo: Matt Wooley, Aperture Priority, f/4 @ISO 250, 1/1000, EV -1/3, 185mm

Tuesday is Sales day, and we know it's going to be a long one.
Wendy sets up in the back of the sales ring on a tripod and an 85mm. She avoids "Camera Shake" by using a Cable Shutter Release so she never has to touch the camera while taking a picture.

Hip #166 Notional - Your's Truly '10, Photo: Wendy Wooley, Manual Mode, 1/200 @ f/2, ISO 1600, 85mm
I tend to roam around getting different perspectives. I'm still using the 70-200mm, but I crank the ISO way up, knowing the Canon Mark IV will reduce the noise.
I set the camera to AI Servo focusing and Burst mode. I also switch on the Image Stabilization (IS) on the lens. The IS helps stop Camera Shake for me since I'm handholding the camera, but it will not stop a moving subject. So I take a burst of shots as the horse pauses.

Hip #231 Malibu Moon - Dance darling '10, Photo: Matt Wooley, Manual Mode, 1/200 @ f/3.2, ISO 2000, 200mm
We always shoot in low light (or flash) conditions in Manual Mode. We want to control both the Aperture and Shutter Speed. Adjusting the ISO gives the correct Exposure. The exposure meter might be reading -2/3 through the viewfinder... but that is the correct exposure, that's what it looks like in the room.

Those are a couple of ideas for capturing the feel of the Horse Sales. Send in a comment or question if you have one, and I will get an answer to you.

Capture the Light Equine is pleased to announce our Fall Bluegrass Equine Photography Workshop!
We had such positive response from our Spring Workshop, we are doing it again November 1-3. Conveniently planned for the week before the Breeder's Cup, this class will be limited to 9 participants with 3 EquiSport instructors. We will visit some pretty cool spots in the Bluegrass for equine photography, like Old Friends, Keeneland, Kenny McPeek's training center, and Spendthrift Farm. Check out the details and drop us a line!