Sunday, April 3, 2011

Keeneland Color... and Speed!

Keeneland is starting to get into full swing here. So Saturday morning Wendy and I scraped the frost off of the windshield  and headed out for sunrise workouts. The crisp morning air was punctuated by the sounds of hoof beats and hopes of a successful Spring run.
We had some dramatically changing light during our 2 hours. How did we make some good pictures? Follow along.

Keeneland Sunrise. Photo: Wendy Wooley 1/2000 @ f/9, iso 800, -1 2/3 EV, 35mm

We are starting off in APERTURE PRIORITY at sunrise, and we will switch to SHUTTER PRIORITY later on... you'll see why.

In our blog post on arena shots, we needed to control the depth of field, so we shot with a fairly shallow Aperture like f/4. This time we want to capture the rich color of the sunrise, so we want a deep Aperture.

The first thing we do is dial in a deep Aperture Value, like  f/9. This works great for bringing out the nice rich colors in the sky.  The same idea works for blue sky too. Set your aperture to f/11 or f/16 and  watch the colors pop!
The second thing to notice is that this  sunrise scene is dark. Remember, first look at the scene WITHOUT THE CAMERA,  and see what the light looks like. We want to intentionally  underexpose, so the camera doesn't try to give us 18% neutral gray by  adding light (as also discussed in the arena shots  post). Wendy went to -1 2/3 EXPOSURE VALUE here. (By the way, even in daylight, a little  bit of minus  EV will help make your colors rich).
Lastly, we want a fast enough Shutter Speed to freeze the  action. She chose an ISO VALUE of 800 in the first shot, resulting in a Shutter Speed  of 1/2000. Easily fast enough.

The sun is on the move, we have to constantly evaluate the scene with our eyes, and figure out how to make a good picture. Think about that for a second. How many times do you people firing away with no regard for the scene? Stop and look at what is in front of you. Ask.. How can I capture this? How can I make a picture here? 

Photo: Wendy Wooley 1/4000 @ f/11, iso 500, -2 EV, 175 mm

In the second shot, the sun is MUCH brighter. Wendy went for more of a  silhouette type shot. She switched to a longer lens, stayed with a deep  Aperture and REDUCED the EV. That resulted in a FASTER Shutter Speed,  and this beautiful silhouette with rich color.
Can you tell that the horse is feeling his oats on this cool morning? 

Photo: Matt Wooley 1/3200 @ f/3.5, iso 640. -1/3 EV 30
The sun continued to climb, so we went around to the front side to get the horses coming into the light.
I'm still in Aperture Priority here. We still have dark shadows so I want to shoot pretty wide open, at f/3.5. This also helps control the depth of field by blurring out the background.
My -1/3 EV helps keep the feel of the shadows and early morning light.

As the sun starts to get hotter we can grab some serious workout shots. Now we have the need for speed, and switch to SHUTTER PRIORITY.

Photo: Matt Wooley 1/2000 @ f/4, iso 400, -1/3 EV, 300mm

In Shutter Priority, I set the speed at 1/2000.  The Shutter speed is my main concern here. I want to freeze the action. I'm not so concerned with the Aperture, as long as it's deep enough to keep the entire horse in focus. A Shutter speed of 1/1000 or faster should be good.

Photo: MW, 1/1000 @f/4, iso 400, -2/3 EV, 85mm

We end our morning by following a horse from the barn to the training track. Crimson China, trained by Graham Motion, will run here at Keeneland in the Bluegrass Stakes. Wendy and I want to grab a few shots.

The horses are not wearing very little to identify them, so the best way to make sure you have the right horse is to follow it from the barn. Another photo op!

Here I'm at -2/3 EV as he comes out of the barn. I would like to leave the distracting background dark, and I don't want to blow out the highlights.

Photo: Matt Wooley 1/2500 @ f/5. iso 400, -1/3 EV, 105mm

I still want to be in Shutter Priority here. I want to control the shutter, and I don't really care exactly where the Aperture Value ends up. And I'll stick with -1/3 EV here to protect the highlights.

So that's it. Wendy and I are done at the track in time to stop at Starbucks on the way back to the Studio. Mmm... warmth!

Photo MW,  1/60 @ f/18, iso 1600, 0EV, 300mm

One final thought, a sloooow Shutter speed, like this shot at 1/60 on the left, will show motion by blurring the background.

I hope this helps you know when to use Aperture Priority and when Shutter Priority is the way to go. Aperture for color or depth of field, Shutter Priority to freeze action or show motion.  

Photo MW, 1/1000 @ f/5, iso 500, -1/3 EV, 300mm

Keeneland is just one of the many exciting stops at which we will be shooting during our "Capture the Light - Bluegrass Equine Photography Workshop". Check out the details on our website.
We are looking forward to our 3 fun filled days of photography in scenic Bluegrass Horse Country. Space is limited to 12-15 participants for the workshop, but we still have a half dozen spots left.

That's it for now... mw.

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