BHS NW Dressage Championship

I spent the day photographing the British Horse Society NW Dressage Championship at Bold Heath Equestrian Centre. Here are some of my favourite images from the day.

This is the third event I have photographed for the British Horse Society and was a little bit different to the Aintree Summer Camps I’ve photographed. Shooting with the backdrop of Fiddlers Ferry Power Station made for some interesting and moody shots.

I used my Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM and EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM lenses for the shoot, and it was great being able to switch between the two based on a creative decision. It should be fairly easy to work out which was used for some shots.

I’m looking forward to helping out with many more events next year.

Ribble Valley Mod Weekender, 2018

The annual Ribble Valley Mod Weekender has came around again. Once more the streets of historic Clitheroe, Lancashire, were taken over by scooters, Fred Perry polo shirts and Dr Martens boots.

I love the smell of the two-stroke exhaust from the scooters as they ride into the town. Everyone is so proud of their wheels, and there is real effort to dress and act the part. At times the event can be busy and it’s tough to get good pictures, but I came away with a few I’m very pleased with.

For anyone interested in participating in the event or viewing more pictures, there is a Facebook page and an Instagram hashtag. It takes place every September.

Happy Childhood Memories

Today I went back to my old home town of Great Harwood, and walked around for half an hour with my camera. It’s something I’ve been meaning to do for years.

It’s grim up north, but it’s where I grew up, where I spent many a happy summer day playing in those backstreets as a child, befriending stray cats and scraping my knees climbing walls. Great Harwood the town has changed, but turn a corner and you instantly go back in time. The red bridge is still there, as you can see in the photos above. I remember climbing through that same gap in the railings, and going down onto the little pebble shore. There was – and still is – a dreadful chemical smell rising from Hyndburn Brook, but when I played on that beach, skimming stones across the water, in my mind I was on a beautiful desert island in the middle of the pacific.

Happy memories.

The British Thoroughbred Retraining Centre Open Day

Today, I spent a few hours photographing the Open Day at The British Thoroughbred Retraining Centre. The BTRC is a British Horse Society Approved Retraining and Facility Centre, and is one of the most immaculate yards I have visited.

The BTRC hold an Open Day every year, and I can heartily recommend a visit if you are a horse lover like me. It is truly heart-warming to see what they are doing to retrain beautiful racehorses like these, who have reached the end of their racing careers.

I took the photo opportunity as a great chance to try out a new toy, the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens. I’m used to shooting at focal lengths of 50mm and above, so opening out to 24mm felt very challenging and unfamiliar to me first time around. However, I do like the results – as in the shot of ‘Fizz’ above.

If you want to find out more about The BTRC and their work, please visit The BTRC website.

British Horse Society Northwest Camp 2018

Last week I volunteered a day of my time to The British Horse Society to photograph their Northwest Camp at Aintree Racecourse. This is the second time I’ve been one of their official photographers – the last time was in 2016. I got some great pictures second time around, and am already looking forward to next year.

The above images are some of my favourite pictures from this year’s camp. I will update my British Horse Society project gallery with some of these.

For the technically curious, I shot all these with my Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM lens at various focal lengths. I think it performed superbly despite the dim lighting conditions in the indoor arenas.

If you like the idea of staying in the jockeys’ accommodation at historic Aintree with your equine friend (they will have to sleep in the stables of course!), then keep your eye on the events section of the society’s website for next year: The British Horse Society.

Aintree Colour Run 2018

Yesterday I volunteered a day of my time to The British Horse Society to photograph their Northwest Camp at Aintree Racecourse. When I arrived the course was surprisingly busy, and I soon discovered there was another event going on at the same time!

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It was the 2018 Aintree Colour Run. I’ve never been to one of these events before and to be honest, would probably be a bit nervous about attending one with my camera gear. The thought of all that dust flying around is a bit scary to say the least, so I photographed these friendly folks in the car park, at a safe distance from the main event.

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Speaking of scary, some of the horses at the BHS Northwest Camp weren’t too impressed with the noise and bouncy castles … but everyone got from the stables to the Equestrian Centre (and back again) without incident, thank goodness!

(Some of my official BHS Northwest Camp pictures will follow in my next post.)

Hebden Bridge Handmade Parade

Last weekend I attended the Handmade Parade in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire. This festival happens every year around the same sort of time, and lasts all afternoon, passing through the streets and ending up in Calderholmes Park where there is more drumming/dancing, and lots of food trucks.

The light was challenging – bright sunlight with accompanying high temperatures – but my camera coped well. I used the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM lens to get up close, and am pleased with the results.

As the parade website above says, the theme for this year’s parade was turning the town into a travelling carnival, with “ridiculous rides, surreal sideshows, weird circus, and all the fun of the fair”.

If you have never been to the town I heartily recommend it. The people there are friendly and there is a huge selection of vegetarian/vegan cafes and individual shops selling ethically sourced products. Visit the Hebden Bridge website to find out more.

Training for The Races

I recently had the absolute pleasure of staying in one of the lodges at Sun Hill Farm, the home of Ann Duffield Racing, a well-known Yorkshire-based racehorse trainer. The gallops run right past the lodge so visitors have the pleasure of watching the horses train while relaxing in a wonderful outdoor hot tub.

These pictures were taken using the Canon EF 70-200mm f2.8L USM lens at 200mm, with a shutter speed of 1/100th of a second to blur the movement and create a sense of speed. The rider in the red skull cap cover is ‘Gentleman George’ Duffield, the retired flat racing jockey.

For a horse lover like me, this was a pretty near perfect stay. The only thing that would have made it better was having ridden one of the horses myself – but realistically, handling a two year old racehorse is probably a bit beyond my capabilities!

My pictures got a mention on their blog, and Hayley gave us a wonderful tour of the stables on the last day where I met some of the above horses.

Portraits with the Canon EF 70-200mm f2.8L USM lens

I recently took my new Canon EF 70-200mm f2.8L USM lens out to the lovely setting of Sizergh Castle, a National Trust property in Cumbria. The intention was to do some test portraits, but I ended up creating a little story which I’m calling ‘In Search of Snowdrops’.

The lens performed brilliantly, and I absolutely love the background bokeh when shooting wide open (f2.8) at full zoom (200mm) while close to the subject.

This lens is quickly becoming a permanent fixture on my camera.