Images in black and white and in colour of the white horses and black bulls of the Camargue. I’ve been running photography workshops in the Camargue since 2011 and return again this May.
Each session includes up to 10 runs through the shallow lakes and there are 4 sessions. There are plenty of opportunities to capture the action and practise different techniques. Backlit, side lit and front lit, each type of lighting provides different challenges. We shoot in continuous mode with the focus constantly following the subject or subjects. For a Canon camera this is called AI servo. Sony mirrorless cameras are the forerunners in this type of technology and the new Alpha 9 can shoot up to 20 fps and nearly every image is sharp.
Shallow depth of field is necessary to maintain high speed. 1000/sec is ideal to freeze the movement of water. Only when attempting slow shutter speeds to create blurry shots is a low ISO of 100 or 200 possible. During the shoots you will learn how the different settings can effect the images.
The horses are very friendly and curious and don’t run that quickly through the muddy water so you have time to frame and compose your images.The bulls are quite slow in the water but very quick on the land. The unpredictable nature of animals means that each run is different. I explain the different settings and which direction the horses or bulls will run so you can get ready for each session.
Tips for taking great white horse photography and post-production
– 1000/sec to freeze water
– Motion blur 15-30/sec for panning shots. Try to focus on the head of one horse. Practice makes perfect!
– Depth of field: F5.6 is a good compromise to allow both a quick shutter speed and some depth of field
– High ISO at sunrise and sunset Up to ISO1600 depending on the camera
– Either set your camera to aperture priority or Speed priority depending on the circumstance.
– Shoot on continuous and use AI servo or the equivalent for constantly shifting focus
– 24-70mm or equivalent for silhouettes at sunrise or when the horses finish their run. Also ideal for when the horses are sparring to get the full shape.
-70-200/300mm or equivalent for running horses and headshots during the sparring
Some things to consider when shooting and post-processing:
– Background – avoid distractions.
– Watch out for heads, legs etc sticking out behind the main subject(s)
– With or without guardian ?- The guardian can add a lot if the shape and position is good and the relationship with the horses is full of energy. Ideally expressive and separate. Otherwise clone out or wait until the guardian is no longer in the frame.
– Clean water – clone out lumps of mud if distracting
– Look for reflections whenever possible. Low angle with calm and clean shallow water is the most effective.
– Composition – not too much overlapping. Better to have a few horses clearly separated or distinct than a mass of bodies. If the sky is moody, consider wide angle with the horses running almost in silhouette.
– Make sure the main subject is pin sharp and the focus isn’t elsewhere in the shot
– Low angle for dramatic effect. Either lay down on the ground or get as low as possible. The effect can be dramatic when the horses get close.
– Backlighting is effective when the sun is low.
– Black and white or colour?? I find most images lend themselves to black and white processing, especially when it’s overcast.
– Portraits – Things to look out for – ears up makes the horse look alert – Laughing (when they show their teeth) – rolling on the ground – interaction – clean backgrounds – details like the eye or mane or shape of the back or hooves
– Avoid the horizon cutting through the image unless the light is soft. It can’t always be helped but keeping the horses within the horizon is more appealing. Or shoot from a low angle with most of the horses above it.
– Check the eyes are open
– Hooves up and out of the water, ideally synchronised with other horses
– Remove horse which is not attached to the main group to avoid distraction
– Leave space for horses to run into when running from one side to another
– Silhouettes – there should be good separation. The position of the rising sun is important for a successful composition.
– Odd numbers are more appealing than even numbers
– Creative cropping – filmic proportions – Square, 5×4, 3×2
All of these techniques and information can be applied at our next White Horses & Black Bull photography workshop in Camargue. Find out more by clicking here.