Tag Archives: equestrianism

William Fox-Pitt Panned

 I am little obsessed with panning. Mainly because I find so hard to do. You know what I mean by panning, right? Where you follow a moving subject as you photograph it, in the hope that it will come out reasonably sharp while the background gets blurred thus creating a sense of movement and speed.

Mostly I’ve tried this technique out on racing cars but last Sunday decided, on a whim, to try it with horses. I was at the Chatsworth International Horse Trials with my wife and daughter. The ladies go for the love of equestrianism. I go to take pictures and try to improve my skills.

Anyhow, this is William Fox-Pitt on Cool Mountain.


I’m reasonably pleased with the result. I used a shutter speed of 1/60th which produced enough blurring of the background, and while William is not exactly tack sharp he is very noticeably sharper than the background so the panning effect works. Trying this at the water jump was probably a good idea because the arcs made by the moving water droplets add a certain something to the overall effect.



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Stand up to your horse

I noticed this picture starting to get more frequent hits on Flickr. It’s of French horse trainer and showman Jean-François Pignon, taken at the British Open showjumping at the NEC last April. The increased traffic is probably because this picture is in the top four or five images returned by Google Image Search using Jean-François Pignon as the search string.

It came out quite well given I had to resort to ISO 800 (on a Sony Alpha A100) with a shutter speed of 1/50th at a focal length of 120mm. The camera’s built-in image stabilisation just about kept it sharp, but the pony’s head was moving so it blurred slightly.

I still think the picture works quite well, helped by having a dark non-distracting background.

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Another dark horse

Back in December I had to learn how to cope with low light when taking pictures of my daughter riding her horse and jumping fences. I had an opportunity to reuse some of those techniques yersterday at the British Open show jumping at the NEC LG Arena.

The light was even worse (at EV8) and I was a long way from the action, being a regular spectator in the stands albeit with a good seat. No chance of using flash – strictly prohibited for fear of spooking the horses – and the distances involved were too great anyway.

I had to resort to ISO 800 (something I really try to avoid with my camera) and pick an angle which allowed me to get away with the lowest possible shutter speed. There was a fence where the horses would be heading straight towards me as they jumped. The foreshortening effect reduced the effect of motion blur.

This is William Whitaker on Fairview Mirabelle D’Or in the opening round of the main event of the day.

1/60th @ f5.6 ISO 800. Sony DT 18-250 @ 110mm.

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Horsing about in the dark

At XMAS, I took some pictures of my daughter riding and jumping her horse, Bazil. It was a quiet day at the stables, no-one else around, so we had the arena to ourselves.

What we didn’t have was a great deal of light. We were there late morning but it was gloomy and overcast, hardly any shadow. My challenge was how to get some usable shots.

I wanted some pictures of Bazil jumping but it was very hard to get a fast enough shutter speed on my Sony A100. It was also very hard to get the lens to focus. In the low light the focus mechanism was either too slow or simply unable to work properly. Time after time it would miss with the focus. I had to resort to manually pre-focusing the Sony 18-250.

This is how I went about it. I picked a place to stand by the arena fence, near the jump, and focused on the bar of the jump with the lens at 250mm (so I could see when it was properly in focus). I then turned off the auto-focus and set the lens to 18mm, mainly to get away with the slowest possible shutter speed, and set the aperture to maximum (F3.5). ISO was set at 400, the fastest I dared risk without inviting unacceptable noise.

The camera was on Aperture Priority and the shutter speed was coming out at 1/400th which was just fast enough to freeze the action. The camera has built-in image stabilisation but that doesn’t help to get a moving horse sharp.

It was then all about waiting for Esther and Bazil to come around the arena, reach the jump and go over it. As they approached I would start a series of frames on continuous shooting.

The hope was that one of them would catch the peak of the action. I hadn’t brought a tripod so I stood against the fence for support.

Esther kept changing rein so the horse would then be moving away from me as it approached the fence. I had to wait until Bazil was going the right way again. The results aren’t too bad. A bit affected by noise, and I couldn’t get in tight with any of the shots, but I did get some worthwhile action pictures.

I also managed to catch Bazil with all four hooves off the ground.

This was a bit of a fluke. Esther thinks I took the picture at the instant of a flying change of rein.

The ten best pictures from the day are here.

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