Equestrian Adventuress Aga Karmol shares 5 essential horse riding photography tips, so you can take the most amazing pictures on your next equine adventure.
Author: Aga Karmol
From Nat Geo to Forbes
Aga and her husband, Andrzej come from Poland but live happily in England where they share a passion for horses, travel and photography. In fact, their photos and articles have been published in Polish Press regularly. They’ve been featured in National Geographic Traveler (Polish Edition), Forbes (Polish Edition) and a Polish national horse riding magazine, Kon Polski.
Crossing a river bareback in Okavango Delta. And yes, there were crocodiles there. When I saw how beautiful the light was, I gave my camera to one of the grooms and asked to take this pic.
Botswana, Okavango Delta. Photo Credits: Aga Karmol
A classic safari portrait. Only sunglasses and a camera (notice the leash!) give away when this picture was taken. Without them it might be a scene from “Out of Africa”.
Botswana, Okavango Delta. Photo Credits: Aga Karmol
Aga shares with us her top photography tips and how to take spectacular photos from the saddle:
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Most of us would like to bring home not only awesome memories from our horse-riding adventures, but also a set of beautiful photographs.
I usually travel with my husband and both of us take a lot of pictures. I am a pro, but my husband is an absolute genius with taking photos during fast, crazy gallops. Though I take many pics from the saddle as well, I prefer to focus on showing the atmosphere of a ride, landscapes, chores in camps. He shows the speed.
Taking good photos from the saddle is not an easy task: your hands are busy, your horse not always cooperating. But there are a few tips to get better photos from horseback.
1. Choose the right equipment
Forget a big camera. Yes, you can pack it for your trip, but you won’t be using it from the saddle. DSLR cameras take the best quality pictures, but I am using mine only when I am on foot. To operate it properly you need two hands, precise adjustments, steady hold and looking through the lens. Not good for a rider.
A camera to use in the saddle must be small – so you can keep it in your pocket or bum bag. Should be easy to fully operate with one hand, and must be tough. Through the years of our trail riding, our cameras would usually last one year. Sometimes one ride… A few years ago in Morocco, we encountered a sand storm. For 2.5 hours we were forcing our way through it, keeping our cameras deep in pockets or pouches. Sand got its way everywhere and none of the cameras survived. 10 cameras (each rider had one) – and we were left with none after the sandstorm. The only one that kept working was my huge DSLR, packed deep in my luggage and sealed in a dust-proof bag.
So, recently, we have bought an Olympus Tough, which is supposed to be dust-proof, waterproof and shockproof. So far so good, it’s our second year with it, and it’s still working! Not the cheapest option, but if you want to have a tough one, go for it. Or similar.
It takes good photos, and it’s a perfect choice for shooting in full gallop with dust and grit flying around.
Our second camera is a Sony Alfa 5100. Much better picture quality, but not good for shooting when you ride fast. It can be operated with one hand (including zooming), small enough to keep in a bum bag, but too big for a pocket. Since it captures nice details, I take a lot of pictures with it when we ride slowly or stop.
We never use a GoPro or similar devices. They take pictures at wide angle, so everything seems distant, and you don’t have any control on what you are shooting. Also, the picture quality is low, compared to those from regular cameras.
2. Be ready, but protect your camera
A camera should be easy to reach – if you keep it in a saddle bag, you’ll miss the best moments. When in a pocket or a bum bag, it’s always easy to access, but if you shoot in canter, it’s also easy to drop it accidentally. We tie our cameras to us or to our saddles with a strong cord. If dropped, the camera stays with you. You may use a long shoe lace or a key leash.
3. Shoot a lot
Just buy a huge memory card and shoot a lot. Instead of taking one picture, take ten. Most of them will be out of focus, some will be badly composed. If you have 10, it’s a better chance to find a good one.
A secret of a good photo-album lies not in the pictures you take, but in those you decide to delete. Every photo tells a story, so don’t leave 5 identical stories. Choose the best one. Do not bore everyone with a thousand pictures. Show them a hundred, but carefully selected. I usually keep 10-20% of the pictures I take.
5. Edit – but don’t overdo it
Crop your pictures, make a composition better. On a trail, your horse contributes to composing your photos – usually moving unexpectedly just when you are pushing the shutter button. Fix your horse’s unwanted contribution.
In difficult light situations most cameras fail, even the best ones. Human eyes have a different way of seeing than any artificial device. No matter what camera you have, you’ll get some pictures showing reality differently from what you remember from the trail – low contrast, black shadows, changed colors. Edit them, but don’t overdo it: you want to show your impressions from the ride, not a non-existent reality. Editing photos is a vast subject, so do your research and keep it simple!