By Roger (2 November 2014)
Last weekend, I was at the International Gold Cup Horse Races (link). It’s a big event for the horse folks, up here in Northern Virginia. The races (nine of them) are from 1.5 to 3.5 miles around a nice meadow course, and most of them have multiple jumps. I’ve photographed these events before, and they are always a fun time. The attendees dress fancy – with hats for the ladies – and there are little parties everywhere you turn, so it is full of opportunities for people photos.
This year, a friend helped me wrangle some press credentials, so I had unfettered access to the race course. This gave me a much greater variety of shots than I could get standing at the rails. It was a long day of toting cameras and lens.
The day started with terrier races. These are just for fun, although the owners cheered their dogs on like there was lots of money on the line. These little dogs are fast. I focused on the jump and caught them as they came over.
As we got into the horse races, I really enjoyed having the ability to move around the course, but it didn't make things any easier. When you're glued to a spot on the rails, you concentrate on what's available to you. The happy option to move meant I needed to move to and compose for different fences throughout the races. On the longer races, the horses would go around the field a couple of times, so I might shoot multiple fences in a single race. On a couple of the races, I had time to make a quick job to the finish line. (I wasn't as graceful as the horses.)
The day was beautiful for the racers and onlookers, which meant a boring sky and overhead lighting. That caused me a problem or two, as you can see here. The dynamic range at this location was too much for my camera position. The sky is fine, but the horse and rider are a little too dark for my liking.
If you see a problem like this on your viewfinder, try to change your angle on the subject. Here is the same jump from the opposite side. By changing the angle of my camera and cutting out the sky, I think I got a more acceptable photo.
As the day went on, we got better lighting, and I got more comfortable moving around the course. The race course requirements changed with each race, so we all had to pay attention. You, certainly, didn't want to be the photographer who got into the wrong position and caused a problem with the race. Thankfully, nobody did.
Near the end of the day, I was pretty confident I had a couple of good photos at the jumps, so I started looking around for other nice places to shoot. I wanted more than just horses jumping the fences. There were plenty of those photos available, too.
The day was long. I lugged my cameras around all day, with long, heavy lenses. No sympathy is required, though. I had a great day and lots of fun. Here I am explaining to a young photographer why wearing my normal photographer vest, under the course vest, makes for better photography. ;-)