Tag Archives: horse

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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Dark Horse – but how dark?

In my previous post I commented on the difficulties of taking action shots (horse jumping over a fence) in limited light.  It seemed gloomy (it was noon in midwinter on a heavily overcast day) but how much darker than on a typical sunny day?

You can get an objective measure of the ambient light level by calculating the Exposure Value (EV) from the aperture, shutter speed and ISO setting required for correct exposure.  EV0 corresponds to an exposure of 1 second at f1 with ISO set at 100.  From there, each f-stop narrowing of the aperture corresponds to an increase in light level of 1EV.  Similarly a halving of the exposure time or halving of the ISO setting, also correspond to +1EV.

A typical cloudless sunny day would require 125th at f16 and ISO 100 – a rule of thumb known as “sunny 16”.  This corresponds to EV15.  Relative to the definition of EV0, we have kept the ISO unchanged but narrowed the aperture by 8 f-stops and halved the exposure time 7 times.

Looking at the EV for the day at the stables, the shot of Bazil jumping was taken at f3.5 and 1/400th with ISO at 400. That works out at EV10.3, in other words nearly 5 f-stops shy of the light levels on a “sunny 16” day.  That’s 2 stops less light than suggested under a simplistic application of the Sunny 16 Rule.

The general formula for EV is:

EV = log2 (aperture x aperture) +log2 shutter – log2 (ISO/100) – expadj

where log2 means the logarithm to base 2, the aperture is the f-number, the value for “shutter” would be say 500 if shooting at 1/500th and expadj means any exposure adjustment applied in post, in say Aperture or Lightroom, expressed in stops.

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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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