SkyLimit Photography | If You Go Down to the Woods Today

If You Go Down to the Woods Today

June 06, 2017  •  2 Comments

Two weeks ago I was blessed with the opportunity to cover a TREC competition at Bissell Wood Equestrian in Worcestershire, a discipline which I always thoroughly enjoy covering as it is so unique.  Once I arrived at the venue on the Friday and set up my tent, familiarised myself with my neighbors for the weekend, and went to seek out the event organiser to get an idea of potential locations that I could situate myself for the POR on the Saturday. 
This section of the event is orienteering on horseback, with riders copying their route from a master map in an allocated time, making sure to note down anywhere where there might be some questions on route, riders ride to set speeds for each section, coming across checkpoints on route; the POR is all about accuracy if you want to do well. 
It was a wet evening, a constant drizzle trickling down from a heavily clouded sky, but that couldn't take away from the lovely scenery that we were enjoying. The organisers had chosen several spots which they thought would be picturesque for me to shoot from, one of the big things about shooting the POR is finding a beautiful location in which to capture the competitors. I had initially decided on a lovely spot under a railway bridge next to a lake, but as we drove back to the venue, we needed to make a stop off to leave a ticket on the route. While we were walking through the large wood of the Bissell Wood estate, I fell in love with the forest lighting, the way pools of light broke through the canopy, creating a spotlight which the riders could ride through. There and then, I made my decision. 
The next morning was cool and damp as I headed out onto course after my staple breakfast of porridge, I positioned myself under the trees at a T-junction in the forest tracks where I could capture competitors among the trees coming towards me, and riding away into a pool of light. The other advantage of my location meant I didn't get very wet, thanks to the tree cover above me. As riders came, I began shooting, the light rewarded me well, creating gorgeous soft lighting, showing off the shine on horse's coats. 

Riders test their map reading skills in the POR along scenic woodland routes Riders test their map reading skills in the POR along scenic woodland routes
The next morning was grey, but considerabley warmer, after walking the PTV (The obstacles section of the competition) the night before, I had decided to place myself by the water crossing, as from this point I could also shoot the S-Bend, which was framed beautifully by a corridor of tall laylandiis. Once in position, I fiddled with my settings, deciding the best exposures to set for each obstacle, and walking out a short path between the two obstacles which I would be walking throughout the day. 
As competitors began the course, I figured out the best spots to move around in, there is only so much preparation you can do before riders begin to appear on course, with photography you tend to find what works best with a little experimentation on the job, a tweak of the angles, stepping a little left or a little right, changing exposures, it takes some on the ball thinking. 
As the day wore on, the sun came out, warming us through, a welcome change to the cold and wet of the previous day, this also provided some lovely reflections on the water's surface, something which I find helps to add another edge to a photo. 

Reflections and alleyways of Laylandiis Reflections and alleyways of Laylandiis
While covering TREC competitions, I normally stay overnight, which often gives me the chance to take some behind the scenes images as well, capturing the horses in their corrals. I really enjoy these candid, relaxed images, they give an insight into the atmosphere at an event, taking them into the image for a few moments. It's can also be a pleasant surprise to competitors to find unexpected photos of their horse in a candid setting, providing a professional photo to capture their horse in those quiet moments away from home. 

Relaxing and playing in the corralling field Relaxing and playing in the corralling field
These TREC competitions, for me, give a very different look at the world of equestrianism, and insightful sport where your bond builds even stronger through those long hours spent in the saddle, it may not be the trust like our top event riders have while hurling themselves at speed over solid fences, but a quiet trust in which the horse faces his every day fears whilst out in unfamiliar country, where his rider is his only herd member in this big world.

Stay creative,

Emma :)


Mary Bray(non-registered)
Lovely photos, Emma. Very much enjoyed your company as I was a camping newbie! Look forward to meeting you again at a future event.
Annabel Jones
These are absolutely beautiful shots - you are so talented.
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