Ever fancied a career as an equestrian photographer? Nicola Strong speaks to Michael David Rogers to find how he has forged a career as an equine photographer.
Michael David Rogers has been riding horses for around 20 years, growing up in a Pony Club environment, and competing up to Novice level British Eventing. When his horse was retired, he went down another avenue to get his eventing fix, combining another of his passions...
Michael now works part time as a self-employed equestrian photographer for his company ‘MDR Photo.’ In addition to yard shoots, he provides a service for event riders, acting as a personal event photographer for the duration of an ODE.
This involves capturing images of each phase of the competition, including the 'informal moments' such as warm-ups, at the lorry park, friends and family, and getting ready for the off.
Michael uses his in depth knowledge of the sport to guide his work, explaining; "What I really love with the challenge of action/sports photography is 'freezing' the moment at exactly the right time. For equine photography there are a lot of these moments that you have to get right, whether it be the different movements in a dressage test or the variety of jumps SJ and XC can throw up. There is nothing better than hearing from riders who like the photos you have taken of them and their horses.
After taking photos of friends at Pony Club events from the age of 15, and while spectating at some of the larger sporting events, Michael got the bug, and a few years later, splashed out on his first digital SLR camera and some lenses. This really kick started his career as an equestrian photographer, and it wasn't long before his self taught skills were noticed, leading to paid event photography work. This is where Michael says he truly learnt how to take pictures of horses properly.
Five years on, Michael is a lot more experienced, and has some great tips for budding equestrian photographers:
- Learn at what points in a horse’s movement to capture the picture. This can change depending on the breed of horse and what pace and movement you are trying to show off. With jumping again you need to try and capture the perfect point which shows the horse at its best.
- Also, to capture a horse moving (or anything else for that matter) the shutter speed needs to be relatively fast. There is nothing more frustrating than finding that you have the timing spot on with a nice shape over a fence only to find the photo is blurry because your shutter speed wasn’t fast enough. The minimum I try to set my shutter speed to is 1/800sec, although I always try to go above 1/1000sec to really freeze the action.
- Finally, always try to think about the background; I see lots of nice photos spoilt because they have a car or portaloo in the background. When framing up a picture check what is going on behind the horse or jump to see if anything is going to spoil it or distract the eye. Sometimes all you need to do is move left or right a few steps and the background will be greatly improved.
Choosing a favourite photo must be a tough ask with so many to choose from over the years, but equestrian photographer Michael has picked out a few favourites.
"Taken at Hambleden International Horse Trials in 2011, whilst working with Ultimate Images, pictured is William Fox-Pitt. One of the reasons I like it so much is that both horse & rider are in a good position (as you’d expect from WFP), but a sneaky little leaf has managed to get attached to William’s helmet. I could have easily cloned this out but I kind of like the little imperfection."
"The next one was taken during a yard visit in 2012. Pictured are Harriet Upton and one of her horses, Glimpse. This picture was taken in Glimpse’s stable as it was really raining & windy, with no fancy setting up or anything. To me it displays the great connection between a horse and rider."
Throughout 2012, Michael will be continuing to photograph clients and his three supported riders at events, and is also hoping to become more involved with the Kimblewick Hunt. A return to competing may not be out of the question either, as he suggests: "I have really got the passion for eventing back in my blood and who knows what might happen in the future!"
Anyone who would like to know more can find out more information at: http://www.mdr-photo.co.uk.
Photo (top) of William Fox-Pitt at Hambleden: Copyright Ultimate Images/MDR Photo
Photo (above) of Harriet & Glimpse: Copyright MDR Photo
Horsemart reader and blogger Nicola Strong has been riding for 23 years and is taking her first steps into the world of British Eventing and British Showjumping with her main horse Willo (Caherpuca Star) and is supported all the way by trainer and sponsor Sharon Kilminster. She has her own blog at www.headstrongequestrian.com.
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