Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Photographing Equestrian Jumping - One of my favorite sports to shoot!

Did I mention that it is hot here in Tokyo? Well...the days have been really nasty hot, but last night at the equestrian venue it was absolutely gorgeous. The sun had set, there was a nice breeze blowing, the venue was easy to navigate and it was decorated with colorful jumps. Add some amazing horses and the riders and what is there not to like?

Let me start by saying that I had two goals for the evening. The first was to get some photos of Jessica Springsteen (daughter of Bruce Springsteen) riding, since this is a big story in the US. The second, and my real goal, was to get at least one killer motion pan of this sport.

I arrived at the venue around 6:30pm, and since I am now past my 14 day quarantine and the venue was located near the Tokyo University, I made a visit to Starbucks and had a coffee and a sandwich. I walked back to the venue just in time for the 7pm start time. 

I decided that I would lighten my load on this evening and just take one Canon camera (guess which one) and the Canon 100-500mm lens. I looked for some jumps that highlighted Japan and started shooting there. This was one of my first photos. I liked it, but was not loving the empty seats in the background.

I moved to focus on a different jump, this time with the Tokyo Olympic logo, but I was not loving the poles in the background.

I liked the colors by the jump, and also liked that I was close enough to have the horse and rider fill the frame. Once I captured some of the riders with the "safe settings" at 1/1000 sec, I was on my quest for that much tougher motion pan shot.

Instead of shooting at a really fast shutter speed,  I set the camera to 1/20 sec, widened my stance, and started to move my lens at the same speed as the horse and riders. This was my first successful photo, and it happened to be one of the Japanese riders.

This was the first photo where I got the rider's face perfectly sharp. (Getting the face sharp involves two things: Firstly, I have to be moving my camera and lens at the EXACT same speed as they are moving AND the rider needs to keep their head still for that split second.) This shot was OK, but I wanted the horse to be going up in the shot and I wanted more interesting colors in the foreground. The quest continued.

This is what I was aiming for, with the horse and rider jumping up and more interesting colors in and around them. I was really happy with this one, but still pushing for better.

Knowing that I had the one photo that met my criteria, I decided to slow the shutter speed down even more. going as low as 1/10th sec. This showed more motion, but made it really hard to get the face of the horse or rider sharp.

I got the horse sharp on this one, but the rider's face is a blur.

Bam! This was the one I really wanted. Great position of the horse and rider and good foreground and background.

Then I got a couple more from different locations.

Not a jump, but I like the motion in this shot, in front of the Tokyo Olympic colors.

Another good motion pan shot.

When Jessica Springsteen came out, I was trying to decide if I should play it safe and shoot at 1/1000 sec or take risk and try to motion pan her. I decided that the safe shot was a better idea.

I got a couple nice shots of her on her horse. I think it was the right decision.

I was going to pack up and leave, but decided to shoot a couple more motion pans.

I liked the colors by this particular jump, so I positioned myself there for something different.

This particular shot of the American rider is really tack sharp on his face. It is a keeper. I just wish that he had been facing forward and with some intensity in his face.

Overall I took more than 2000 images, and most of those were taken at 1/20th sec. Of those 2000 images I ended up keeping 379, and ultimately retouched only 27. Of those 27, I really like 10 of them a lot. So, for those of you who think that every shot I take is a winner, think again. I invested three hours of shooting, taking all those photos, ultimately to get a handful of keepers. But I set out with a challenge for myself and I have no regrets in doing so.


Subscribe to the Jeff Cable Photography Blog by clicking HERE!
If you are interested in purchasing ANY equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. It does not change the cost to you in any way, but it helps me keep this blog up and running.
Check out my upcoming photo tours to amazing places around the world. I have photo tours to Africa, Costa Rica, Cuba, Europe, Asia, India and more. And Canon will loan you any gear you want for FREE for any of my tours. 



american photography said...

Awesome !!!!!!!!!! Love this and the fencing, thanks for all the hard work to get this out to everyone !!!!!!!!!

Karen said...

In your last shot it looks like the rider is turning the horse to the left and is looking ahead to the next fence.

Anonymous said...

Your panning is getting better!!.And post production is always a challenge on time and final keepers. Keep up the SUPERB work!!!

Frosty's Family Adventures said...

Awesome shots mate. I love how you to, take lots of shots only for a few keeper.

Bernie King said...

Curious if the R3 is able to track the horse. I know you probably can't comment on that right now, but it would be an interesting observation after your NDA is clear. The R5/R6 seem to have trouble with Horses. Very cool panning shots!

EricB said...

Great idea with the panning images. I photograph foxhunting and will have to give that a try in a couple of months when the season opens. Most work is spec so I'm always looking for something different.

Thanks for the workflow comments as well.

Earl said...

Where do you leave bodies/lenses that you do not take with you to an event (i.e. hotel room or a locker at the media center)? Do you take any precautions to protect it when it's not with you?

Thanks for taking the time to share all this info with us.

Ralph Hightower said...

Got any tips, etiquette for photographing Equestrian events? One of these days, I want to photograph a match at USC Gamecocks Equestrian Center. Besides Canon film SLRs,I also have a 5D III. Thanks.

Amy M said...

The good thing about that final picture, though, is the rider's eyes are locking onto the next jump. It's quite good and showcases how he's already preparing before he's landed.