Isaac in the snow

When I was in the stable on Christmas Eve, the light was beautiful. Owning a pony means going to the stables (almost) every day, so when we went back on Boxing Day, the weather was totally different. First, we tried to get our own pony Rocket to run in the snow, but he didn’t want to. So when one of the other girls was going to ride her pony Isaac on the outside riding ground, I grabbed my camera.

Due to the heavy snow, the camera had real problems finding ¬†focus on the rider, so I got a lot of blurry photos of snowflakes…

Blurry photo of snowflakes
Blurry photo of snowflakes

I think the photos have a quality of their own, though. That slightly abstract, surreal feeling where the rider is not in focus, enables the viewer to focus on the feel of the photo….

I tried different camera settings, and found that I had to use mostly manual focus…

Using manual focus
Using manual focus, I managed to capture the rider
It was really snowing...
It was really snowing…
A happy horse in the snow...
A happy horse in the snow…

Tomorrow is another day, with new photo opportunities. Camera is packed, batteries are charged…

That sweet, soft, beautiful winter light

One of the benefits of living where I live (in Trondheim, Norway) is that in the midst of winter, the sunset/sunrise is a 2 hour continuous orgy of sweet, soft, beautiful winter light.

On Christmas Eve I was in the stable where our pony lives, and met another horse owner on her way to release her Dutch Gelding Amorka to run free for a while. I grabbed my camera and tagged along…

Amorka runs free
Amorka runs free

It was so much fun watching him run, he really enjoyed it ūüôā

Full spead ahead
Full speed ahead

He also spent some time looking out over the valley for his friends.

Where are my friends at??
Where are my friends at??

Today looks like another beautiful day. I’m headed over to the stables again, and bringing my camera…

Scouting
Scouting

Fun in the dark

As an (amateur) photographer I have to say that summer is one of my favorite times of the year for photography where I live. The long, white nights with soft light makes for beautiful photos, and since we are so far north the golden hour lasts forever as the sun just dips below the horizon…

In the winter however, there is no outdoor lights… The sun just sneaks over the horizon in the middle of the day, and it is mostly dark all the time.¬†But even if there is no light, it is still possible to have a lot of fun…

Over the past year or so, I have built some skills in taking horse portraits with a black background. They are almost straight out of camera with some slight adjustments in LR to make them sparkle. I felt the time was ripe for taking it to another level, and enlisted the help of my kids horse instructor. The setup was fairly simple:

Behind the scenes
Behind the scenes

I used two radio triggered flashes (Canon 580 EX) for lighting, along with a couple of video lights for helping the autofocus.

The horse (Cordo) was of course quite sceptical in the beginning, so we started off with him walking through the lights a couple of times. Although unplanned, this gave us some really cool shots.

From the inital setting up of lights and such
From the initial setting up of lights and such

Then we could start working with the fence. It took quite a few jumps to get the timing right.

A bit too early
A bit too early

But in the end, we managed to make some pretty good predictions

Timing is everything
Timing is everything

All in all, it was a great session where I learned a lot. So now I am ready to take it to the next level…

Panning – bringing dynamics into the photo

Yesterday I was at the Hestehoven (coltsfoot) show jumping event nearby. Having taken thousands of show jumping photos over the year, I felt it was time to learn something new.

A young rider turning into the next fence
A young rider turning into the next fence
Jumping over the fence
Jumping over the fence

Although I have always been satisfied with these kind of photos, and especially their clarity, I wanted to start taking other photos that conveyed the speed and intensity og show jumping. I had wanted to try panning for a while, and finally got the opportunity.

Panning, if done wrong, just gives a blurry picture. And I had a lot of those…

Blurry photo - just looks like a phot with too long shutter time.
Blurry photo – just looks like a photo with too long shutter time.

But if done right, some parts of the photo is clear (typically the main¬†subject) and the rest is blurry. With cars or boats, getting the movement right is not that challenging… The challenge comes with getting the head of the rider or horse sharp while they are moving erratically across the field…

After a lot of practice, I started to get the hang of it:

Panning properly. The rider is sharp, but the rest of the photo is blurry to convey movement
Panning done properly. The rider is sharp, but the rest of the photo is blurry to convey movement

Of course, I had to train on panning over an obstacle as well. That proved even more difficult:

Another photo of a rider that is just blurry....
Another photo of a rider that is just blurry….

After some practice, I started to get the hang of it.

Panning done properly. The head of the rider is sharp, but the rest is blurry
Panning done properly. The head of the rider is sharp, but the rest is blurry

It was a fun day at the event, but I notice that my “hit ratio” (the rate of acceptable photos against total photos) dropped from 1 in 5 to 1 in 100. So I guess I need to train more…

The rest of the photos from Hestehoven are found on my Flickr page

Horse portraits

Recently, I started to learn more about flash photography. Especially the use of off-camera flash. I decided I wanted to try this with the horses at the local stable, where the girls readily volunteered their horses as models.

Technically, this is not the most challenging shots. I created a 4×4 meter grid and positioned a flash in each corner. After a few experiments, the settings were OK and we were ready to start shooting.

Wembley
Wembley

But if the technical stuff was easy, it was another thing completely to get the horses to cooperate. They did not want to stand still in their little square, and tried to run off all the time. We got some real exercise chasing them in the riding hall…

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But after some adjustments we became quite efficient (or is it effective…), where we would have multiple horses waiting and one horse “in the box”

Zorro
Zorro

All in all, it was a great few hours where we had a lot of fun…

Odina
Odina

The rest of the portraits can be found on my Flickr page

 

The outdoor season is starting up again

I love to photograph of show jumping, and must have taken thousands of photos over the past few years. Apparently, the riders appreciate my efforts as well, as I am approaching 300.000 photo views on my Flickr page. There is a lot of preparation and especially post processing involved, so for each hour on the course I spend one hour in post processing.

The main reason for taking all these photos is to practice my photography hobby. I also have two daughters that ride, and as they are starting to compete, I want to take great photos of them and their horses.

This winter has been a strange one in Trondheim where I live. We have had almost no snow (and we usually get a lot) and spring came early. So last weekend the outdoor competition season kicked off with the show jumping competition at √ėysand. I packed my trusty old 7D and my almost brand new Sigma 300 f/2.8, hitched the horse trailer to my car and headed off.

The weather was perfect for action photography, sunny but with a slight veil resulting in sharp without excessive contrast.

In a later post (to be written soon) I will try to describe how I work when I photograph show jumping (outdoors). In the meantime, you can enjoy a few photos below. The rest of the photos are found on my Flickr set from the event.

 

Planning the next obstacle
Planning the next obstacle
Going over
Going over
Perfect weather
Perfect weather

 

Let's go

Let’s go

 

 

Mountain riding

This summer my wife and I participated in the mountain horseback riding expedition arranged by Kvistli Icelandic Horses. We rode in the mountains around Folldal and had a clear view towards Rondane National Park. In total we rode around 140 km (88 miles) and spent hours each day in the saddle.

Riding in Grimsdalen
Riding in Grimsdalen

One of the great things about such treks are that the pace gives me lots of time to take in the scenery.

View towards Rondane

And of course, to spend time with all the magnificent horses was great.

Posing against the mountains
Posing against the mountains
Resting
Resting
A formerly white horse
A formerly white horse

Such a trip offered plenty of photographic opportunities

Meeting in the Kvistli Chapter of the Icelandic Horse Union
Meeting in the Kvistli Chapter of the Icelandic Horse Union

Evening over Kvitfjelldalen (White Mountain Valley)Evening camp

I can really recommend a slow trip in the mountains, and thank my new friend for carrying me and my camera gear safely throughout the trek.

My favorite horse
My favorite horse

Forest birds

While I was photographing squirrels in Flatanger, we also got visited by a group of small forest birds. One of them was the Eurasian Jay. Just as with the squirrels, it was hard to capture them in the darkness, so it was only when they were sitting still I had any chance of getting of a shot…

Eurasian Jay
Eurasian Jay
Eurasjon Jay eating
Eurasian Jay eating
Sparrows (?)
Sparrows (?)

I also saw a lot of sparrows (I think) perching on a nearby branch. It was difficult to get them all pin sharp, as they were moving around a lot. Additionally, the forest darkness meant that I had to use a large aperture, leading to a small depth of field…

Also, check out my friend Jon’s photos from the same trip

Squirrels in the forest

Last fall I was on a trip to Flatanger to photograph sea gulls and white tail eagles. We also spent some time in the forest to photograph small animals such as squirrels.

A squirrel in the forest
A squirrel in the forest

It was very dark, and difficult to get focus and exposure right. It was especially difficult to capture them when they where jumping, but I managed to get one or two decent shots.

Jumping
Jumping

It was a continuous test of reflexes and trigger skills…

 

Ready to jump
Ready to jump
Jumping
Jumping

As you can see, it was difficult to get the moving squirrels pin sharp, since they were moving so fast and the forest was very dark… Sometimes I managed to follow the squirrel and get a blurry background, but mostly it was a miss. The photos are mostly taken at ISO 3200 (it does say something of ISO improvements over the past years. Remember the ISO 3200 films of the old days?)

It was easier to follow them on the ground as they were digging to hide their catch.

Saving for the winter
Saving for the winter

I also shot some forest bird life, but that is a topic for another post…

 

Nordic Nature Photo Contest 2013

Earlier this month, I entered my first photos into a competition. The competition, Nordic Nature Photo Contest, is for nature photos taken in the Nordics. After thoroughly reviewing this years photos, I found that most of the photos I wanted to submit was from my trip to Flatanger earlier this year (Eagles, seagulls and seagulls)

The “main entry”, so to speak, is a series of photos of a white tail eagle that is on approach ¬†to pick up a fish in the water. At the last moment, a competitor comes in and snatches the fish right before his claws…

Competing for food
Competing for food

The nice thing about the series is that all the photos are pin sharp, so they can be used in multiple settings…

I also decided to enter other photos from the same trip:

Scouting
Scouting
Time for coffee!!
Time for coffee!!
Reflections and bow wave 2
Reflections and bow wave 2
Reflections
Reflections

I also entered this one:

nnpc2013-hw-08092012-5

I discovered (to my surprise) that this photo had been selected to be “Squirrel photo of the week” on the web site OMGSQUIRREL.COM

So now, I have to wait for the results to be in…