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  1. #1
    Design Slacker mattbikeboy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Las Vegas, NV

    Hangin' wit da Ponies -- Long...

    Hangin’ wit da ponies!
    I had the opportunity to shoot my biggest event yet. The 2009 Rolex FEI World Cup Finals at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas. I’ll start by saying that I was a bit nervous going in. I’ve never shot Dressage (or even heard the term before) or Show Jumping and I get an assignment to shoot the World Cup Finals – it’s big baby, big!
    I did my research by downloading and printing the FEI Dressage rule book, looked all over the web for good photos of proper horse positioning and then prayed –a lot. I went a day early to check out the arena’s lighting situation – not good. It looked like I’d be in the ISO 3200 and above range for the entire event and the photographer pits were in the dark corner of the arena opposite the main judges area – also not good since riders would be facing the judges for the start and finish of each ride.

    Since I’m a local I opted to carry a light gear load and loaded my small bag and ditched the back-up body and extras I might carry if I was far from support. Everything listed below fits into my baby LowePro bag except the 200-400 f-4 (which doesn’t really fit into my big backpack).
    (1) Nikon D700 with grip and fast battery
    (2) Nikon AFS 24-70 f-2.8
    (3) Nikon 80-200 f-2.8
    (4) Nikon 200-400 VR F-4 (okay, not light but I did use it – a couple of times)
    (5) Nikon SB 900 and back-up SB 600 for press conferences and such
    (6) Extra rechargeable batteries for flashes and body

    What I learned:
    (1) Some of those horses are valued over a million dollars – freakin’ yikes!
    (2) Dressage is nerve racking to shoot. You’re never sure if you got the shot until you’re sitting in front of your laptop. A 3” screen on the back of the camera doesn’t cut it.
    (3) Show jump course designers don’t think about photographers when they set up a course. I think they actually work against us. One round we’d have a decent shot at two jumps and the next round there wouldn’t be a shot anywhere near us. We had to study the course and be quick on our feet and ready to jump to another media pit or grab an empty seat in the stands.
    (4) Nearly all of the other photographers and journalists were nice and fun to hang out with. There were a couple that seemed rather self -important and a couple that seemed to be big talkers but not much of shooters.
    (5) Shooting RAW is brutal when filling 24 Gigs of memory cards per night.
    (6) Shooting RAW is not as brutal as JPGs when processing shots from a poorly lit venue. Most of the photographers I talked to were shooting jpgs since the processing speed is light-years faster than dealing with over a thousand files a night. I just hated being left without the extra bits when punching up (or down) the image. I did often say that is good enough.
    (7) I was far more selective with my photo submission selection by the end of the event than I was early on.

    Some of the shots:

    The last thing I learned was -- it was hard work. A ton of fun though. :thumbsup:
    The entire sets can be viewed at:


  2. #2
    Panarus biarmicus Moderator (Sports) SmartWombat's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2004

    Re: Hangin' wit da Ponies -- Long...

    I particularly like that 3rd one.
    And the second could go in sports 'racing wrecks' thread

    Scroll down to the Sports Forum and post your sports pictures !

  3. #3
    Drive by shooter susaan's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2008

    Re: Hangin' wit da Ponies -- Long...

    Cool photos !
    - and both useful and interesting to me,the details of how you prepared for it.

    " Got Soul, but I'm Not a Soldier "
    The Killers

    “ Make no judgments where you have no compassion ”
    Anne McCaffrey

    " If you wish to know what a man is, place him in authority.'
    Yugoslav Proverb

  4. #4
    Senior Member freygr's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Portland, OR, USA

    Re: Hangin' wit da Ponies -- Long...

    Unless I'm out side I have not had good luck with equestrian shoots. Like you said the little screen just doesn't cut it. Arena shots the lighting is just poor and you can't use flash, and fast glass is the only way.

    Panorama Madness:

    Nikon D800, 50mm F1.4D AF, 16-35mm, 28-200mm & 70-300mm

  5. #5
    Ex-Modster Old Timer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    KY, USA

    Re: Hangin' wit da Ponies -- Long...

    Outstanding job Matt!! In this setting the D700 most have been invaluable. Can't imagine trying to shoot this action under those lights with a lesser camera. Numbers 2 and 3 are top flight images. The Rolex Three Day Event is at the Horse Park in Lexington this weekend but it doesn't look like I'll make it. Maybe next year. I'm off to take a look at the rest of your shoot. Nice going.
    Don't forget about the Gallery. Are your photos there??

    Nikon Samurai #13

    "A photographer is known by what he shows not by what he throws. The best photographers have the biggest trash cans." Quote from Nikon School sometime in the early 1970's.

  6. #6
    has-been... another view's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Rockford, IL

    Re: Hangin' wit da Ponies -- Long...

    Quote Originally Posted by mattbikeboy
    (3) Show jump course designers don’t think about photographers when they set up a course.
    So true of many things...

    Shot #3 is killer!

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