News and Views from Dave Wilson

Archive for August 22nd, 2010

Shooting a New Sport

by on Aug.22, 2010, under Photography


Determination, originally uploaded by DaveWilsonPhotography.

I had a fascinating morning yesterday at the Texas Hill Country Barrel Racing Association competition in Dripping Springs. Neighbour, friend and fellow HDR enthusiast Don Schulte joined me and we spent 3 or 4 hours standing in the sun shooting lots of high-speed sequences of riders and horses tearing around a 3 barrel course, trying not to knock any of the barrels over.

I had never seen a Barrel Race live before but reckoned it would make for some great action shots and I wasn’t disappointed. These folks ride really fast and the horses can whip round the barrels very quickly giving some really dramatic image opportunities.

We set up close to the start line and this offered us three main shooting targets – rounding the barrel opposite us, rounding the second barrel close to us and finally the gallop back to the finish line. The third barrel was further away and offered a background containing the timing and judging stand so didn’t provide an appealing target.

The shots I am most happy with so far were those of the competitors rounding the barrel closest to us. I was shooting with the D700 and 70-200mm close to wide open (typically f/4 or f/3.3) to blur the background. Couple this with a nice, fresh set of NiMH batteries in the battery grip and this let me catch about 4 frames of each rider making the turn (at 8fps). I kept the crop close to the barrel since the best riders stay as close as possible so this meant that I frequently lost at least one hoof (as in this case). I would rather have the whole horse in the image but I loved the overall feel of this shot so decided to post it regardless of the minor amputation.

By the end of our stay, both of us had more than 500 images in the can (about 13 images per rider, in case you are wondering with each rider completing the course in between 17 and 19 seconds). I still have lots of editing to do but I’ll post several more later once I’ve narrowed the field down a bit.

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