During my winter wildlife workshop we generally have the chance to photograph some cowboys and cowgirls rounding up a herd of horses for our cameras. I must admit I was skeptical about doing this kind of shoot, but after 6 yrs of doing them I can safely say that I love photographing these western roundups.
Here are the basic instructions that I give my clients.
- Shoot aperture priority and wide open. – We need shutter speed and it is too difficult to be trying to shoot this manually, especially in changing light
- Shoot em like you’ve got’em – In other words shoot in bursts. I always shoot 3 to 5 shot bursts to give myself the best chance of having eyes, ears, tails, and “right” in the shot.
- Backoff of the zoom – The tendency is to try to fill the frame in camera. On shoots like this when there are multiple animals, you are going to get one cutoff and since that is usually a catastrophe, zoom out and the get your cropping correct on the computer.
- Watch the Ears – As with most animals, the ears need to be forward and alert. You don’t want your horse to look like a mule! If you are showing your images to a horse person and the ears are not 100% forward (not 95%!) they will disregard the image.
- Have fun and don’t forget to breath – When you are in the middle of a galloping herd of horses breathing is often forgotten.
- Get out of the box – Since we are in a situation that the action will be repeated, you can try new techniques like pan blurs. A pan blur is accomplished by using a slow shutter speed, focusing on the head and then shoot while moving the camera with horse. The “trick” is to pan at the same speed that animal is running. Good luck! One good shot out of a hundred means you did well grasshopper!
- Include the Cowboy/Cowgirl – On my workshop we have cowboys and cowgirls working the horses and including them in the image really adds a terrific dimension to the shot.
- Watch out for a merge – When you are edting your images and trying to decide which ones to delete, shots that have bits and pieces of a horse in the frame should be the first to go. It’s hard to see these when you are shooting, so please review number 2 above!
- Proper Support – I always try to shoot with a tripod, but in this case it can be a problem. You cannot do this type of action with a ballhead, so if you don’t have gimbal mount like a Wimberley, you’ll have to hand hold it. VR and shutter speed will be your best friends!
- Backgrounds Backgrounds Backgrounds – Watch your background. You’ll likely be shooting where there are man made things like fences or out buildings. Be sure to look for these before the horses get there. You don’t want to deal with that in post production and just being aware can eliminate this problem before it begins.