As you read this I will be on route to Badminton, arguably the most famous event in the world, for an ultra busy week of media coverage for e-Venting.co.uk. Starting this afternoon with the Mitsubishi Motors Cup continuing throughout the week until the final 4* press conference on Sunday.
The press photography aspect of my work is very interesting and varied but up there with the most pressurised. I only tend to cover a few international events a year including the likes of Burghley, Barbury and Blenheim (the Big Bs!), and also the odd championship where time and other commitments/work allow, the last being the 2015 European Championships that were held at Blair.
Badminton is the busiest of the lot as the addition of the Mitsubishi Motors Cup extends the event to 6 days for me. Each day at Badminton or any other event is different and will entirely depend on the previous day on the whole. For Badminton I will start today with covering the Mitsubishi Motors Cup dressage including the e-Venting blogger’s test. Next on the list is hopefully a small photoshoot with a rider and if I can fit it in a MMC coursewalk. I will though also need to upload content to various social media channels for e-Venting. In case my day won’t be busy enough I will also be setting up camp at the campsite which will be home for the week with several friends.
Wednesday will be full on from start to finish, and I will be walking countless miles. I will be starting with BE100 showjumping before heading out to the cross country course. I will then be dashing back to the showjumping at least once before again being back out on course. There is normally a lunch break between the BE100 and BE90 where I will dash into the media centre to upload a photo of the winning combination, being very hopeful I haven’t missed them when dashing between phases, to social media. I will then be back out predominately to cover the XC until it is time for the 4* trot up. After the trot up is the MMC prize givings which I need to cover before legging it back to the media centre to upload a photo of the BE90 winner (again hoping I haven’t missed them!). There will then be the MMC press conference which will allow me to write the round up articles, which will include photos of the top 3-5 riders in each section. I don’t normally write the articles as well but for the MMC I will be until our Journalist arrives for the 4*. I will also produce at the very least a trot up album and if possible an article as well, but this will depend on the speed of the media centre wifi! Lastly on Wednesday if time allows (how many hours are there in the day again?) I will do a quick 4* coursewalk. Wednesday is, as you can tell my busiest day!
Thursday welcomes the 4* dressage. I like to watch (and photograph) as many tests as possible either from in the arena or alternatively from the stands or the media area in the warm up. But even with several tea breaks and a decent lunch break I will probably miss about 10 tests. I will work out in advance in collaboration with my journalist colleague which tests must be watched and which I could potentially miss without missing a potential leader or a crowd favourite. I don’t actually photograph that many tests from within the photographer’s pen in the arena. I’m more likely to be found in the mixed media zone or shooting from the stands as I find I get more unusual images from those locations in comparison to the other photographers. During the breaks I will upload the new dressage leader if applicable and during lunch go through the morning’s images picking out any important images, sharing some via social media, and preparing those that will be potentially used for the website coverage later at the end of the day. By utilising the tea and lunch breaks to keep on top of my images it allows me to have all images edited and ready for the journalist ideally before they have finished writing their article! I will also be in attendance for the press conference. If I didn’t manage a coursewalk on Wednesday I will fit one in today to ensure I know what fences are where and in what directions for Saturday.
Friday is very similar to Thursday, again I will have a list of riders I can and can’t miss. I will probably miss 6-10 tests, normally in the morning sessions, but it could well end up less this year. If I can I will try and get round some of the tradestands to see some of e-Venting’s supporters, both to catch up with our contacts and also to see what new products are about. Once I have finished sorting photos for social media and the dressage article I will start preparing for the crosscountry the next day. I will already have my starting point planned and my feature fences, but now I have the dressage rankings I can work out when I can move, and when I can’t, and therefore if I am going to be ‘stuck’ at a fence for several riders, what fence I want that to be to get the best variation of photos.
As mentioned above for Saturday I always try and have a plan. The main aim is to get a photo of every combination. For some this may be a galloping shot between fences if I can’t quite get to the next fence within the 5 minute gap. If a rider is in the top 25 after dressage I will always aim to get them at a fence and will purposefully aim to be at the target fence the rider before. The reason I aim for the top 25 is that the top three after cross country are almost always in this group. I say almost as Badminton 2014 proved the importance of photographing EVERY horse in some shape of form. That year the deep going resulted in the field being decimated and saw Tim Price rise from 41st after dressage to 2nd after cross country. The eventual winner, Sam Griffiths was 25th after dressage, 2nd placed Oliver Townend 34th, and Harry Meade 46th! That year the rule book went out the window, and I was thankful for not having missed any of the completing horses.
Cross country day itself starts rather leisurely, there is a photographer’s briefing in the media centre mid morning before we head out on course for the 11:30 start, I then don’t stop till well into the evening! I purposefully try to finish the XC as close to the media centre as I can, so I can get back as quickly as possible to start downloading photos. I will get photos of all the top 10 and any other notable riders ready as quickly as possible for the report, but because we can’t start until the day has finished the turnaround is not as fast as dressage days. In addition if it has been a particularly action filled day (like 2014!) there are often appeals (which may need photo evidence!) and similar which can delay results and therefore reports from being finalised. I remember the evening of 2014 we didn’t get our report up until 9pm and we were one of the first, taking note the cross country finished about 4 hours prior!
Sunday arrives and the end is in sight. The day starts bright and early with the final trot up, but already by then I will have packed up as much as possible on the camp site in preparation for later in the day. After trot up it’s straight to the media centre to hopefully sort a trot up article, as well we need to know who was best dressed! Before we know it, it’s time for the lower ranked riders to showjump. Generally unless there is a particular rider I need to get, I won’t photograph many of this group as I will try and actually get chance to have a bit of ‘me’ time at the event! The interval then gives time for a course walk, and therefore another article! I find this course walk fascinating from a personal point of view, I’ve done a fair amount of showjumping previously to a decent level in addition to eventing so can appreciate the course builder’s decisions, but you also always pick up a few gems from the course builder who takes us round.
We then have the final show down, the top 20 combinations showjumping. I will have been assigned a set position in the arena where I will be sat along with a group of other photographers, this will be my position for the entirety of the final session. Sometimes I am lucky and I will have 2 or 3 good fences, others unlucky with just one mediocre fence. It’s somewhat luck of the draw so I keep my fingers firmly crossed each year. After the showjumping the presentations take place including a photocall after the lap of honour in the mixed media zone in the warm up. I can then be seen legging it back (with multiple other photographers) to the media centre. A winner photo is posted as soon as physically possible and I then quickly prepare photos of the top 3 for the report and watch the press conference. After that I am out of the event and back to the camp site to finish packing up and to get home as it’s often quicker to get the last bits finished at home!
All through the week as well as my work for e-Venting I will also be providing images to a number of brands of their supported riders. These images need to be provided same day (and if possible same hour!) as many are used for social media and therefore need to be as relevant as possible. I will also potentially make images available to other publications and have previously had photographs published in Horse & Hound and similar.
Make sure to keep a watch on both e-Venting’s and my own Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts for coverage throughout the week!