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.

Trying out the Canon EF 70-200mm f2.8L USM lens

I treated myself to a new lens this week, and have been itching to try it out. At lunchtime today I finally got the opportunity to grab a few shots with it, and I’m seriously impressed with the performance.

First of all, I should say that this isn’t a lens for the faint-hearted. It’s heavy (about 1.4kg), long (about 20cm), and quite tricky to hold steady at full magnification. However, some of the wonderful background bokeh effects that are possible at wide apertures at 200mm make it all worthwhile.

All these images were shot at 200mm, with the aperture wide open at f2.8, except for the cat picture which was shot at 190mm. The cat and the soya milk carton were taken indoors with the light supplemented by on-camera flash (bounced).

The picture of the hen and the picture of the leaf demonstrate the level of bokeh that can be achieved when shooting at this focal length, at f2.8, close to the subject. The dark background on the leaf picture is actually the bottom of the garden, but the shallow lens has totally smoothed it out.

I can’t wait to try out some portraits with this lens.

Casting Call – SS18

This Spring/Summer (2018) I’m looking to create some romantic and emotive portraits of people with horses. See my ‘Portraits with Horses’ Pinterest board above for some wonderful examples of the sort of image I want to make.

In order to make it happen, I need volunteers who would like to have a go at being a model for the day and have access to a horse (either their own or a friend’s). No prior experience of modelling is necessary, and this casting call is open to adults of any gender.

If you’re interested, please get in touch.

I’m a keen rider myself, and ride twice a week, so I’m used to being around horses.

#Antithesis

My last couple of posts have featured carefully arranged and nicely presented food and drink, I wanted to see if I could carefully arrange the opposite. I’m quite pleased with the result, but I think they are still a bit ‘reserved’.

As an experiment, I posted these to the same hashtags that I posted the original pretty images, and predictably I didn’t get the same number of likes. However, I did get a favourable reaction from a few people – and one that I felt was more genuine.

I used the same approach to composition as the original pictures: a shallow depth of field or a flat lay.

I could have gone a lot more edgy with these, and made them quite gritty using some on-camera flash and a different setting, but I quite like them as a set.

Why we all love #flatlays and #coffee

Whenever I have a random browse through Instagram, one of the things I notice is the prevalence of flat lays and coffee – usually flat lays of coffee, tea, or matcha. Why are these so popular? What is it about the subject and format that appeals?

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I’ve done it myself a few times. Above is a picture of a recent matcha latte I was about to consume in Chairs & Coffee, Fulham. I knew I was on to a winner as I set up the shot – the rustic background, the unusual magazine, and the beautifully decorated top on that latte.

We can all relate to them

I think the inherent appeal of the subject is that it’s something we can all relate to. The UK is very much a coffee society nowadays, and we are all used to sitting down to enjoy our Espresso, Americano, Cortado, or Latte on a daily basis.

The fact that many of us frequent coffee shops regularly also means shots like this are quick wins for the Instagram feed. Low-hanging fruit, you might say!

The visual appeal of the flat lay

There’s something about the flat lay that makes it visually striking. As we reach for our hot beverage in the latest hipster coffee shop we don’t usually see it in that two-dimensional way, with the high viewpoint perpendicular to the table top.

It’s fun doing them, but it can become receptive. The flat lay isn’t the only way! We’re used to a more familiar three-dimensional view similar to the one below, but if you have the right camera you can add another visual twist to your favourite subject.

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A cappuccino I recently enjoyed with breakfast at Hally’s, Parson’s Green. Even though it’s not a flat lay I still think this is an interesting image, probably due to the shallow depth of field which makes the coffee and the design on top leap out of the picture. Again, it’s a striking visual effect that we aren’t naturally aware of as we go about our every day life.

So that’s my theory: a familiar and accessible subject presented in a slightly different way that makes it pop. Maybe I should start doing more of them?