Action Photography in low light is a challenge, no matter what your Photographic experience might be. This takes practice both shooting your images, and editing them. Well next week in Las Vegas there will be lots of opportunity for you to practice.
The first practice that comes to mind of course is the Formula One Race being conducted on the Las Vegas Strip. Personally this one is not for me. The crowds, the expense, and the lack of opportunity to get good shots will be limited at best, unless you might personally know God, who can give you the juice necessary for great position.
Well I'm a broke, busted up 'ol country boy, and I really do not wish to brave those crowds along with the expense. So? I have a suggestion for you. My suggestion is FREE if that is ok with you, and you do not mind the smell of horses!
The Las Vegas National Horse Show!
The Las Vegas National Horse Show will be in Las Vegas next week. If you are on my newsletter list, you are reading this Tuesday morning and they are here. This is excellent practice for shooting action in low light! Then there is the added benefit of free admission except for Saturday nights performance, and even still that's only 30 bucks!
In my case there is another added benefit of being around horses! If I could bottle the smell of a barn at five in the morning, that includes the ambiance of horses eating hay and oats? I'd be a bazillionaire overnight!
The kit you will need does not have to be expensive... but a good sensor and fast aperture glass make things easier. Even if you have an entry level camera with a kit lens you'll be able to get shots. But Photography is not everything here. Just to witness these magnificent animals and their riders scale five foot fences is a treat. And then there's the double fences that are three feet apart and five feet tall! Holy Crap!
Tips For Low Light Action Shots Of Horse Jumping
The image above was shot from the stands with a NIkon D-850 and the Sigma 135mm f/1.8 lens set at f/2 ISO 3200 at 1/320th of a second. I do not remember exactly how far away I was in the stands, but I've told ya'll of the app PhotoPills. If I was at 100 feet away from this jump at 135mm on a full frame sensor my depth of field was about 91feet to 111 feet. That difference equals 20 feet. In the case of the depth of field in the shot above I think I might have been further away...
But you get the idea. Most people will not study depth of field, that's why I told you of the app. Easy peasey! Most people without knowing the above numbers would think shooting at f/2.0 would give them too blurry of an image, so they stop down to f/13 or something and lose too much light. Now if you have a kit lens that is say f/6.3 at 135mm?
Then you have lost 3 1/3 stops of light. This means you would need to up your ISO from 3200 to 12,800 and change... or? At the very least double it to 6400 and drop your shutter speed down to 1/80th of a second in order to gain enough light. That slow of a shutter speed can be used... but now you'll get a panning image where the horse can be in focus but nothing else will be. The last two lines still changes the exposure about three stops.
The Above image is the raw shot of the first image. As you can see not much editing was needed. The color of the horse also makes a difference. In this case the Dappled Grey does not offer much contrast and is also pretty tough to shoot in this light. Prior to each jumping session the course is changed. The riders walk the course to plan their jumps. I use this time to figure out where I'll sit in relation to the jumps and the light. So? Once again packing light and being ready to move is essential. No Tripods!!
Timing Is Also Important!
Prior to each horse making each jump I focus on the horse first, keep my focus locked while moving with the horse, and then just before they jump I hit my shutter on high speed continuous. In the case of my D-850 that's not very fast. Only 7 frames per second. But?! Do I need 60 frames per second? In this case no! If you time it right, a jump will be captured in about 4 or 5 frames.
Position is also important. In my case I like the horse stretched out with their rear hooves on the ground and their front legs reaching for the jump. Or? I like the Position above. I also like to capture all four legs off the ground and flying through mid air. Capture the rider looking towards the next jump in anticipation while mid flight? Would be a bonus.
The above shot of the bay horse is a better image in my opinion because of position and contrast. I do not like the brightly lit sign over the riders back, but what are ya gonna do? Ya get what ya get and ya don't throw a fit! Have fun! Revel in the atmosphere! Remember! For me it's awesome just to be there with the sights, the sounds, and that beautiful aroma! ^_^
Above is a white horse against a white background. Pretty tough shot. But look at that damn beautiful horse! And the rider! Way up in the stirrups getting ready to clear this 160cm jump!
By the way!... another consideration is jump height. They go from 130cm to 145cm to 160cm. 130 is a bit over 51"... 145 is 57" and 160 is 63"! 5'3" folks! With a couple of double jumps thrown in just for shits and giggles! For Saturday nights performance all jumps will be at 160cm. The competitions during the week are available at all heights.
This image above is probably my favorite I'm showing you. Coming right at me with a slight angle, the concentration of the rider and the horse, along with a double 160cm jump. That's over five feet with the additional jump three feet away! That's flying through the air in a single bound isn't it? Trust me this is dangerous as well. If that horse spooks, or refuses the jump, (yes this happens) that rider can easily break his neck!
A tidbit of inside information for you... The ear bonnets you see the horses wearing... what are they? Horses are sensitive to sounds and distractions. So those ear bonnets muffle the sound to help horses stay focused and calm. I'll bet you were wondering that? Also? In your shots you might see a "patch" on the sides of the horse. Those are for protection from spurs. There's a lot more going on when riding a horse you might not be aware of. ^_*
The horse show has a registered Photographer that has rights to the event. He's there to make a living and has quite a staff of shooters, but they are on the floor. I was in the stands last year with a big 120 to 300 f/2.8 lens. I got a tap on the shoulder... "hey man you can't shoot here for professional reasons." I explained that I was not, I was shooting for my own recreation. He looks and says "yeah right, recreational photographers do not carry around $15,000.00 lenses to shoot with."
I explained that just because I owned good glass and a pro camera doesn't make me any different than that family member over there shooting with a Canon 5D Mk IV and a 70-200 f/2.8! So basically I kept my head screwed on straight and didn't argue with the dude.
Ultimately there wasn't a damn thing he could do about it. However this year? I'm now aware that I don't need a big hunking piece of glass to shoot this, and I'll leave it at home. I'm pretty sure I was reported to the Photographer by some of his staff. Me and that setup were hard to miss, and they were prolly jealous. ^_^
My Setup This Year Will Be...
My Nikon Z-6II and a 70-200 f/2.8 along with the Sigma 135mm f/1.8. I might also have in the bag my 40mm f/2.0 for crowd or special interest shots. My Z-6II is a little better in the noise department. Will I be trying to sell any of these images? Nope! I'm there for my enjoyment alone. If you happen to be in the stands somewhere and see me, I also won't be doing any teaching. A real good way to stand out in a crowd is to have twenty other Photographers surrounding you with bags full of gear.
If you do go down and try this, I would LOVE to see your images! So simply post them on my wall on FaceBook with a kind comment about how much fun you had, the challenges you faced, and if this newsletter was a help. Even if that help was simply to get off the couch!
Just an FYI... It's very rare to see me use a 70-200 now a days. I know... it's a favorite lens for pro and amateur alike, but it has never been one of my favorites. I'm testing the Z option though, but if I know me? If I can use that 135mm prime I will.
I've stated this before on PhotoSafaris or Casino Shoots on the strip. Many "amateurs" do not understand this! There are times to be covert! This is one of them! But do not be afraid to go down and enjoy yourself and get in some free practice! In between performances we can have coffee or 'sumthin. Simply pack light and look like a family member of one of the contestants.
Also be advised that I will move around in between setups and competitions in order to be in position to capture images I'd like to get. All of the information in this newsletter is intended to help you become a success Photographing moving objects in low light. Go on down there and have some fun while challenging yourself at the same time! AND FOR FREE!
Don't Forget The Priefert Pavilion!
The Priefert Pavilion is located on the same level as the floor of the main arena, so you need to go downstairs to find it. There are two additional arenas on that main floor out of sight from the main arena. Down here there is a warm up area in addition to other competitions being held at the youth level. Lower fences and worse light! But? Great practice! Aromas are also a bit more intense down there. (and I LOVE it!)
Your dress for this occasion should be comfortable jeans and shoes you don't mind getting dirty, especially if you go downstairs. Please remember the arena can get chilly if the doors are open. I would park in the covered garage attached at the North end of the SouthPoint.
If you would like a link to the schedule and the event, they are below. Click the link you want. Thanks again for being here and checking out what my pea brain might have to offer...
On the website is a printable detailed explanation of everything going on. On Page 14 starts the schedule of the events and the obstacle height. Just for shits and giggles read the entry fees and what it costs to board your horse. ^-* The link below is a quick PDF of the schedule.
Other Things I'll Be Doing Soon...
Thursday night November 16th at 5:00pm I'll Teaching Session Two of my three part series on LIghtRoom Classic at the B&C Hub. Don't worry if you missed session number one. You'll be ok.
Class #3 registration is below