That’s Glenda the Good Witch (Cathy Cosgrove) enjoying the events at the annual Halloween Horse Show at Harmony Horse Stables in Littleton, MA. The show is a mix of skill and downright silliness/fun including a equitation challenge that requires you to hold an apple under your chin while the riding tasks get more and more complex, and, of course, there are the costume competitions (everybody is a winner…)
Highlights from the show are on the events page and images are available for sale (download or prints). Visit events.dmg-photography.com
Technical stuff after some of my favorites from the day:
Technical stuff: Shooting without flash in this environment is extremely challenging (I wrote about this last year.) The backlighting, dust, variable light temperatures, and fast motion make for some interesting technical tradeoffs. I shot mostly with the 1D Mark 2 coupled with the 70-200mm f/2.8L lens at ISO 1600. I also had the 5D Mark 2 with the 24-70 f/2.8L for wider candids and a bit of jumping.
Exposure management in these conditions is just plain tough. Next year I think I may try using spot exposure for a bit to see what happens – evaluative doesn’t know what the heck is going on. The widely ranging lighting coupled with the need to freeze action causes me to pick a manual setting (around 1/300) and vary only occasionally. Later in the afternoon the sun moves around to the end of the barn and I can shoot from there at 1/500 without too much problem, but even that has limitations.
Many of the images require shooting into the light coming from windows along the side of the barn. This washes all contrast out of the image and makes teasing out a photo rather difficult. I pushed the Lightroom processing even harder than last year (see aforementioned article) and the result was an interesting stylized look to many of the images (see the girl with the butterfly wings as an example). After a few tries I found a generally good starting point and created a development preset for it. I would fine-tune the exposure and black point as needed for the individual image if the preset was off the mark. Below are two sample “out of the camera” images to compare with the processed/stylized versions above:
As you can see it is possible to create two very different looks from some low-contrast initial images by attacking the exposure and clarity rather aggressively.
In the jumper image the starting point was very washed out and the result was fairly “natural”. LR changes were: exposure 0, recovery 23, black point 73(!), clarity +83, and vibrance was +20 (pretty standard there).
For the butterfly rider I went with a more stylized look. LR changes were: exposure +2/3 stop, black point 27, clarity +65, and vibrance +40.
My thanks to Harmony Horse Stables letting me get in the center of the ring for a little while and try out that vantage point. It’s a great place to be, but you have to pay attention for the safety of the riders and yourself. I look forward to returning next year with a few more technique twists to try to capture even more of this holiday event.