November 17, 2019 - Charleston Steeplechase 2019

Tips for photographing steeplechase and/or horse racing


* Know the schedule and the track:  I like to screen shot on my phone to have an agenda and map handy. Be aware of where the excitement will happen (usually at the start/finish line obvi).

* Get there extra early:  There will be a boat load of traffic getting into the lot (in this case, also tons of mud!)

* Pack drinks and snack:  Once the races start it’s hard to fit a break in. Alcohol permitted, though I take it easy on this because I like sharp images ;) * Use an app to see where the sun is going to be at certain times of day. Plan your posts accordingly for each race time

* Dress for the weather:  Though it may be obvious, do it! Races are often times very muddy and the last thing you want is wet feet all day. Remember you can always take layers off but you can’t add on.

* Gear recommendations:  In addition to your usual “action photography” kit, I recommend bringing Neutral Density (ND) filters for when the sky is bright. This will help you balance the brightness of the sky with the the darkness of the landscape and subject matter.  It can also be fun to bring a tripod of sorts to trigger a secondary camera while you handhold another body.

* Bring a collapsable chair:  I wish I’d had one with a ll the muck that was there.

* Bring rain gear for your cameras, too!

* Bring a charge pack for your cellular device

Event Time:

* Lighting: where is the sun during the race time? Consider whether you want magical back light or harsh direct light. Maybe it’s cloudy and you can be anywhere you want!

* Framing: Envision what kind of image you want to make. Consider where the horse + rider teams will be on the track and what all you want to include in your frame. Is there any branding that is important for the image? Is the image about the horse and rider or is about the space? Do you want a tight shot of a just one horse + rider or do you want to include a group of competitors?

* Don’t be lazy!: I don’t know about you but I do not want to take the same picture all day! Stand up high on a chair or something. Lay down in the grass/mud. Move down the track. Go crazy and move to the other side of the track! Remaining stagnant is a recipe for a boring photo story.

* Listen to the loud speaker and the crowd: They will always announce, “Riders, mount your horses!” Which means they are about to get warmed up and there’s probably less than ten minutes until the race begins. You want to make sure you pick your side of the track about 20 minutes before the official race time so you are on the side that you want to be on. They will also announce the length of the race. This will allow you to figure out how many times the horses will be going around the track. Most races are 2-2.5 laps long. By listening to the crowd at the start of the race you will be able to tell when the horses are coming. You want to be ready for your shot as soon as possible because those horses go as quickly as they come!

* Misc: What other images can you make outside of racing to tell the story of race day? By getting there early you can roam around and explore the happenings of the race festivities. You may even want to talk to some of the regular race-goers like I did to learn about what you may look forward to on race day! They may even share their food and drink with you if you’re lucky ;) Also, talk to some of the other photographers / videographers who are there –– you can never learn too much or have to many friends at the track!

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