David Watkins and I visited the Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials on Saturday September 18th for a day of “horsey photography”. David has done this many times but this was new to me.
It was an early start with David picking me up at 6.30 am. We arrived around 7.45 and parked fairly easily close to the entrance. The day was sunny and fresh. We presented our tickets and headed for the catering outlets for a coffee and a bacon buttie.
The show jumping arena
We consulted the map and headed for the show jumping arena where the competition started at 8.00 am. The sun was quite strong which made capturing images a little more challenging. We had a wander around the perimeter to “watch and see” to get an idea of where some of the better positions would be to capture shots. Access was pretty well unrestricted and there was no problem taking pictures.
There was plenty of action and lots of opportunities to try different places and angles. Before we knew it, it was time for coffee and cake so we headed for the catering outlets once more. After our break we returned to the show jumping for another photo session.
Triple jump combination
Unfortunately the dressage had been completed on the Friday so we couldn’t photograph the “dancing and prancing” horses but the cross country was on from 11.00am through to close of play at 5.00pm. This gave us plenty of time to consult our map and look for some interesting fences to visit.
We found a good triple combination set on a slope and set ourselves up there. We met lots of lovely people, many photographers, some capturing images of family who were riding in the competition. The event was halted just before noon when we all stood for two minutes silence in remembrance of Queen Elizabeth II. After the national anthem the event resumed and so did our picture taking.
The water jumps
The day had warmed up and it was soon time to find an ice cream van in and amongst the catering outlets. After a 99, with a flake of course, we headed towards the water jumps. This was a busy part of the course with many spectators hoping to see a horse and rider part company and the rider come a cropper and take a dip in the water. Fortunately for the riders, and unfortunately for us photographers, they managed to stay aboard and whilst there were a couple of close calls we didn’t see any swimmers.
Time for another break
The sun was still shining so David and I headed to the catering outlets down by the lake for a nice cold beer. We sat and watched the competition for a while, not worrying about our photography, just enjoying our drinks.
Suitably refreshed we headed towards the top of the course to capture some images with the palace as a backdrop and to capture the competitors galloping on the flat. It was then on to the end of the course to see the finishers unsaddle and cool down their horses.
We called it a day just after 4.00pm and headed home. It was a full and enjoyable day, a great learning experience of action photography for me, made easier by having the right camera settings of course. Now I just have to sort through far too many images to find the ones I’m proud of.