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Old 24-08-2008, 10:33   #1 (permalink)
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A day in the life of an event photographer

I haven't been around much recently because I've been covering a national series of shows for the British Equestrian Federation and their 'Futurity' programme which is designed to identify and nurture young sporthorses and help to groom them for the Olympic and World stages.

One of the reasons I took the job is that traditionally my day work is usually quiet in August but you've guessed it, it's been flat out with long hours and to have this series of shows on top has been exhausting. I've got two more to do this month (and a wedding) before heading off to Italy for week, although I have a wedding over there as well followed by Blenheim Horse trials a couple of days after I get back! The D3 must be in need of a rest as well as I totted up my shutter count for the last three weeks - just over eleven thousand shots with all the above still to go.

Anyway, I thought I'd write a quick summary of what has been a typical day for me this month to give some of you an insight to what is involved in event photography. I know there are other event 'togs on here and my method will probably be completely different to how they do it, particularly if they print on site which I don't. This is not meant as a 'how to' guide, just an overview of my day.


3.45am
The buzzing alarm attempts to wake me from my slumber and as I stumble towards the shower I'm wondering why I agreed to this. A quick coffee follows as I conduct a final checklist of my kit including batteries, memory cards etc and then it's time to load the car for the journey to Solihull Riding Club where todays event is taking place. Much of this series has begun at 8am but due to the amount of competitiors the BEF have pulled the start time forward to 7am, hence the early start. The moon is visible in the pre-dawn light so I'm hoping for good weather as this will have a profound effect on the light even though the event is indoors, the preceding events have been hard work because of this so it's fingers crossed.

6.40am
An uneventful journey sees me arriving at the venue with a leaden heart, over the last two hours and hundred odd miles the weather has changed from clear and bright to dark, overcast and gloomy with heavy rain and I'm hoping that the arena will at least be well lit. No chance! The old building has few skylights and they are dirty and green with alagae, the lighting is the usual mixture of sodium lamps which will play havoc with White Balance. I say hello to the judges and other officials who I'm now getting to know quite well and we are busy preparing ourselves for the day ahead. I'll be using the D3 with the 70-200mm VR on a monopod and my earlier fears about the light have been confirmed as the settings will be ISO6400, 1/320th at anywhere between f/2.8 and f/4 - oh to shoot in some proper light!

7am
Following the vetting which every horse and foal goes through prior to entering the arena the first competitior arrives for their grading. The grading consists of the judges looking at the horses to analyse their conformation or 'build', they look at things like bone structure, proportions etc and then they are walked and trotted around the arena in hand before being let go to hooley around a bit, this where you need to keep your wits about you as some of the yougsters aren't that sensible and could run you over or kick you as they go past, as almost happened to me a couple of weeks ago!

The fact that most of the horses are dark makes my job even more difficult and at times I'm down to 1/80th - not ideal when shooting them in trot, canter and gallop. I'm hoping to try and provide each competitor with roughly twenty shots to choose from and the lack of light means I will have to take much more to guarantee that, I've also decided to shoot in RAW and the two 8gb cards in the D3 are starting to fill up.

9.30am
I notice some activity in the corner and see a couple of TV cameras. Apparently there will be a production crew here all day filming the event for transmission in a couple of weeks and I am chuffed that I wore my branded polo shirt, I've just got to make sure that I keep facing the right way so the cameras can see the large yellow greenlees-equine.com letters splashed across my back!

1.40pm
For various reasons we are running late and we finally get a chance to take a twenty minute break for lunch, six and half hours of constant shooting can be tiring and we've probably got another four hours to go. I grab a quick bite to eat and decide to change the battery on the camera as the chimping and deleting have drained the power, I also swap out the memory cards, I've used almost 16gb and am starting to worry that I'll have enough for the day. I start chatting to the production team during the break and they were laughing at the fact that I was constantly having to take evasive action to avoid wayward horses, I think they had a book running.

1.55pm
Back to work! We're now onto the two year old class and these are a bit bigger and much more lively, particularly the young stallions. I have one horse who is fascinated by me and as he is galloping and charging about he appears to be trying to get closer and closer to me. On his final 'fly-past' he gets just a bit too close as can be seen here...

Close



Closer



****!



No harm done and everyone has a bit of a giggle and we carry on.

5.50pm
The last competitor has been through and we're finally done! I've filled up about 26gb of cards and whilst everyone is talking about going for a drink I know that the work starts when I get home so I bow out, load the car and start to head home. The M42 is jammed which is something I don't need right now but we soon get going.

8.20pm
Home at last and I can start to download the pictres from the day. I use Lightroom for this as I like the fact that you can build Collections and I use this function to separate out the competitiors by number. During the day I took a shot of each competitiors number as they entered the arena which allows for easy sorting, yesterday I had set up the folders in Lightroom and on my website in readiness for this, it's just another job that takes time and if it can be done in advance it cuts down on the delays in getting the images to the website - very useful when there are 63 competitors and therefore 63 extra folders in LR and on my site.

9.35pm
Downloads complete and I have a total of 1976 images which is the most I've ever shot in a day and the thought of the editing is filling me with dread. My workflow for those that might interested is:

Import to Lightroom
Sort into folders by competitor
Grade them using the star rating by competitor (63 times)
Minor adjustments if required to WB and exposure
Export as full size JPEG, again into a separate folder for each competitor with the individual images now bearing the name of the entrant (63 times)
Batch process using CS2 to resize and sharpen for web (63 times)
Upload to web folders (63 times!!)

1.05am
That's it, I'm completely knackered and can't do any more, it's been a long 21 hour day, I've only processed about a third of the images and I've got work in the morning which I don't even want to think about. I've enjoyed the day although I would have liked more light which would have made it easier and tomorrow will see me finish the editing and uploading.

I hope you've enjoyed reading this and that it has given a glimpse into the world of event photography.
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Old 24-08-2008, 11:13   #2 (permalink)
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Re: A day in the life of an event photographer

Excellent write up Colin I noticed there is an article on event photograph in this months Professional Photographer magazine, although there's was slightly shorter day
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Old 24-08-2008, 11:21   #3 (permalink)
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Re: A day in the life of an event photographer

Re workflow, can the following not be done in Lightroom ?

Quote:
Batch process using CS2 to resize and sharpen for web (63 times)
Must admit I have never played with sharpening that much in Lightroom/

As for batch process in CS2, can I assume you put all 63 folders, in subfolders, so that the Batch could run just once (eg. incl all subfolders) ? Would hate to think you sat there running it 63 times
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Old 24-08-2008, 11:27   #4 (permalink)
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Re: A day in the life of an event photographer

The reason I resize in CS2 is that I need the original JPEGs for printing when an order is made, by then they are all renamed and it makes it easier when hunting for them!

As to the 'all in one' batch process I considered that but I have three workstreams running at one time - the original one from LR, the CS2 resizing and the uploading to the web. I switch between all three and keep the processes running, it is time consuming but I think whatever way you do it would be.
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Old 24-08-2008, 12:50   #5 (permalink)
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Re: A day in the life of an event photographer

That's one heck of a day Colin. But I know what you are saying. After a national cycling event, the usual finish time on the PC is around midnight!
Interesting article and certainly one for anyone wanting to get into event photography to read. Have you thought about sending it up to one of the monthlies for publication, along with a series of shots? I think it would go down very well.
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Old 25-08-2008, 08:28   #6 (permalink)
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Re: A day in the life of an event photographer

Fascinating to read, thanks for that, I'm shattered already!
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