Photography Tips #16: 7 Easy Rules of Composition

It’s been a while since I’ve written about photography and it is still one of the biggest parts of my life… so here are some of the things I have learnt over the past 8 years.
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Photography composition takes a beautiful photo and makes it great. It also makes you slow down the snapping and get you to think about the subject and also what you are trying to convey. After all, photography is a form of art, and a great work of art does indeed take time. That is part of the beauty of it.

1) Don’t Restrict Yourself to Landscape.

The only things that should ever be kept landscape is phone pictures and video. Then again these are just unspoken rules, but vines would have looked so much better if people just turned their phone 90 degrees to fill the screen.
Using a Vertical format for a landscape image does something magical to a subject.

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Aberystwyth Jetty, Ceredigion, UK – July 2016, Canon 6D 70-200mm f/2.8
In Landscape photography it is expected that you deliver landscape shots. However, to make your photography have an impact, there needs to be an element of the unexpected.
Additionally, a vertical frame gives you a taller area to deal with the foreground and the background. This really got me with seascapes, especially as sunset as it meant that I could pull down the colours of the sky and pull up the colours of the sea to create this balanced equinox of blue sky, blue sea melded with the sun’s evening display.

2) Lines!

 Lines are hands down my favourite thing to photograph. If you look at works by Rodchenko and the way he use lines in his black and white photographs, you may too be converted to the line life.
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Aleksander Rodchenko 1930
Straight lines can be beautiful, but don’t limit yourself there! Try to find a converging point, get lower to the ground and take the risk of getting a bit dusty for a shot. Or just try out several framings for a certain line. Find a line that makes your eyes follow into the depth of your image.
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Adriana, Byward Locks, Ottawa – Canon 6D 50mm f/1.8
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HardKnott Fort, Cumbria, August 2017 – Lumix G7 (standard kit lens)
A good way to start with lines is to find a good building and play around with the lines against the sky or finding the lines within the building itself and take many many photos of different compositions to see for yourself what works best for you. Back in 2011 I did this in a Sainsbury’s Carpark in the UK and found some crazy shapes and lines I didn’t think I could find in a carpark!

3) Patterns & Symmetry

We are drawn to balance. This is what makes patterns and symmetry so powerful in any form of art, whether it is written word, traditional art, photography or even music. Patterns can be found in anything from manmade materials such as fences, buildings and pathways or naturally occurring such as plants, landscape and skylines.

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Llandudno

In this example of the pier in Llandudno the use of leading lines only emphasises the symmetry of the pier. What makes me really happy about this photo is the colour palette of muted blue and grey that balances the symmetrical properties. (Of course this is just an individual opinion and some may not like the balance and colours of this image, but of course art is individual and the artist does indeed know best 90% of the time.

4) Negative Space

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Le Mont Saint Micheal, France – Canon 6D, 18-40mm f/4.0

Negative space can be anything from a plain blue sky to a low aperture mush of colour. It is space that is not filled. We want to focus on a single subject the majority of time so use this to your advantage. Arguably you can use patterns as a negative space element, so long as it does not detract from the main visual, you’re good.

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Lake Windemere, UK – Canon 6D 24-105mm f/4.0
Don’t be afraid to use backgrounds as well like block colours, walls, floor for negative space with a subject. Also filling the frame with the subject/object can also have an effect much the same as negative space.

5) Natural Frames

Let things get in the way once in a while. Sometimes not having a “clear shot” is more interesting. While trawling the internet for examples of frame shots its always pictures of people in doorways and windows and I feel thats not a natural frame. Sure it looks cool and creates a frame in the photo, but it is not the kinda image that challenges the artist to get.

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Blue Planet Aquarium, Ellesmere Port, UK – Canon 6D 50mm f/1.8

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Lake Windemere, UK, Canon 6D 24-105mm f/4.0

6) Focus Focus Focus

Where is the focus at? Are you concentrating on something close up or far away, and if so what levels of depth does your potential subject have? In this instance, take off the auto focus on your lens and really get in tune with what you want to capture.

 

7) Make Mistakes

This may seem like a stupid point, but I can not implore how important it is to f*ck up once in a while. If you don’t then how do you know you have grown or improved? There needs to be the balance of amazing yourself at what you can do as well as having the ability to review your work and realise what you can do better or what needs to be improved on.

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Photography Tips #14: Moving to Mirrorless

**Sorry for the no show I’ve had so much happen (all will be revealed) ***

I haven’t really been posting photography related things recently, mainly due to the combination of working very long shifts and being in the awkward waiting transitional period of graduating and continuing my life as an adult…

Camera equipment can be bulky and heavy, and that is not just the price tag. The amount of times I’ve had serious shoulder and neck ache from carrying two Canon DSLRs should have told me by now that I should either go to the gym to work on my weak muscles, or invest in some lighter equipment. As in previous posts my gym ambition and fitness is not exactly consistent and somewhat non-existent, so maybe the way of lighter equipment is the forward.

Canon has been a big part of my life since I was 14, when my parents bought me a 450d. Since then I’ve used a 550D, 6D, 60D, 70D and a 7Dii. (disclaimer: I haven’t owned them all.) However, the more I’ve upgraded and improved, the more I’ve realised that maybe a lighter alternative may be best for me. Especially when I’m just taking pictures (dare I say it) for fun.

Enter the Lumix G7 in my life. 

Compared to my Canon 6D, this is a whole new world of camera. If anything it’s got better shortcuts and buttons so I don’t have to move the camera away from my face when I’m taking pictures. Mainly thanks to the electronic viewfinder, but also to the handy wheels that are just so easy to use. It also is a third of the weight.

Picture quality is obviously not the same as a full frame. My expectations were that the G7 would produce flatter images. This actually to some extent, gives me more artistic scope when it comes to the editing side of the photography process. The images may seem cooler and flatter, but you can do so much with them.

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As shot
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Quick Edit

 

The detail it captures even when the photos aren’t set up properly is great, but also means that I need to work a bit more on the taking bit….

Another pro to this purchase is the G7’s video capabilities. Canon is seeming to be very behind and almost backwards on the video compatibility of their professional series. This added to their want for a better low light performance over dynamic range makes me sceptical of why I bought into the franchise back in 2015…
(However video will be another post)

More to come on video capabilities and 1 to 1 comparison with my 6d so keep posted!

Have a great September!

 

Photography Tips #12: Weddings

I’ve freaked myself out over wedding photography. After honing my instagram feed to inspirational photographers (who obviously use many assistants and lighting apparatus) I am geared up to add Briony-Molly Photography to the inspiring list. Alas – I do not have a plethora of assistants or a comprehensive flash, let alone an ample lighting set. Good start.
However, what I do have is a Canon 6d with a f/1.8 50mm lens and a 7dii with a f/4.0 17-40mm or 25-105mm lens. The 7dii needs a flash regardless of the lighting indoors which is not great, but the 6d can work without flash to very low lighting. Bit of an odd pairing but it works!

As I’ve only ever been to 3 weddings one being family and the others being a plus one to the other half, so I had no idea about weddings from a photographers angle. I think I read wayyy too many posts on how to make the special day magical, how to work the lighting, how to organise the day and it just disorganised me more. If anything it’s furthered my ambition to work with horses more, as a wave of a cap gets their full attention.

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Here’s my ideal run of doing wedding photography

Consultation

It may be a Briony-thing but I prefer to meet people before I have a shoot with them. Albeit an hour before with a cuppa and a biscuit, getting to know the subjects and what they want to achieve out of my presence is somewhat imperative.
Say a couple want to have a documentary style or a more alternative style; you need to know this. Some couples may want more black and white. Some may just want the staged family shots. One thing is right out all the things you can do and get them to say what they prefer and want. People love choice. Its worked so far for me…

Be Prepared

Like any photography situation you need to be prepared. But in this case, have spare batteries in pockets and at least two cameras ready to take the candid f/1.8 shots and the more wide angle group shots. With the venue, do the research- visit it if possible to scope out the good natural light and the pretty spots. Maybe even google the venue and weddings to see what others have done – proof of my initial cluenessless.

Lighting changes constantly, so do people so be agile!

Be Bold
Confidence is key. Relatives and alcohol is not a great mix so stand your ground be firm but nice and get people in the shots. Tell people to move and take multiple shots until you are happy. They will thank you later.

Have Fun
Don’t do a Briony and worry yourself over nothing. Getting stressed shows in your work. The more relaxed and fun you are having will reflect in your work when you are in post-production.

Be Yourself
We all have a unique style so don’t try and be someone else. People hire you for you not someone else so if they want a certain twist then thats acceptable but if you physically can not do someone else’s style, don’t do it and be clear to them about that.

Don’t worry, smile, get a coffee on the go and have a chill day!

Links to my sites:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/brionymollyphoto/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/brionymollyphoto/

website: https://www.brionymolly.photography

Camera Review: Canon EOS 7dii

What an amazing outcome. After the untimely (but fixable) death of my Canon EOS 6d I managed to acquire, one of the arguably best sports camera Canon produce the Canon EOS 7dii. This update from the 7d, has all the features the 7d had, but augmented to a modern platform.

I admit I may be a bit bias with this camera as its amazing.

Features the 7dii boasts are:

  • 20MP Dual-Pixel AF CMOS Sensor
  • 10 fps continuous shooting with autofocus
  • 65 all cross-type autofocus sensor
  • 150,000 RGB + IR pixel metering sensor
  • Dual Digic 6 processors
  • Enhanced environmental sealing
  • Compact Flash (UDMA) and SD (UHS-I) slots
  • USB 3.0
  • Built-in GPS
  • Larger-capacity LP-E6N battery
  • Shutter speeds up to 1/8000th seconds
  • Shutter rated to 200,000 cycles (vs 150,000 on 7D)

The shutter is something out of this world. Being used to the shutter speed the 6d had and then the 550d, the 7d’s shutter is like a Maclaren whereas the 6d is alike to a sports Citroen hatchback. What makes this even better is the 1/8000 capacity. Being able to shoot with higher shutter settings and a larger ISO range has just made everything that extra bit tasty.

Another mouthwatering feature that I fell in love with instantly must be the autofocus settings. With its 65 point AF for stills, the 7d has a range of sports settings as well applied to suit best static and dynamic sports. In this AF, borrowed from the 1dx, ‘Intelligent Tracking and Recognition’ (iTR). The iTR allows the photographer to initiate a point of focus, depress it with the shutter button and track the movement in the forefront of focus, wherever the initial subject ends up on the focus points. Pretty neat really.

Examples of photos from the 550d(left) and the 7dii(right) in dressage. The 550d being a good beginner DSLR needs a lot of attention with the slightest change of light and colour. the 7dii with the right settings needing no post production and beautiful quality images from the get go.

Another comparison, this time line outs in rugby. The 6d (right) has an amazing depth of colour that can be exaggerated in post production but due to the slow shutter it’s harder to get “the” moments. The 7dii(left) adapts well to light changes, although has not got the same capacity of low light and colour than the 6d.

Although the 7dii is an amazing camera, and I do love the quality of images it can produce, the low lighting is definitely inferior to the 6d. The low light colour quality of the 6d without the need of a flash really means I can concentrate less on adjusting my settings constantly and more on the subject matter. With the 7dii, I definitely found the lowlight aspect a constant challenge. In conclusion I am happy I have the abilities of both!

Thanks for reading and have a great day!

Links to my sites:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/brionymollyphoto/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/brionymollyphoto/

website: https://www.brionymolly.photography

 

Snapshots #11: Going Up North (Again)

A weekend away with no internet and good friends is something everyone should do throughout the year. Last time I was in the foggy Lake District with good friends and a rabbit. This time the escape took up right to the top of Northumberland in the seaside town of Seahouses. Being only a stone’s throw away from the main road that would take one up even further north to Scotland, the location is quiet yet surprisingly accessible.

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February never seems to be consistent in the weather it keeps, with my memories being an entwined spectrum of  luke warm, clear skied february’s on one end, and frozen snowy february’s at the other. This year February has shown us a gentle ease into spring time with generic grey skies, frequented by blue patches and the occasional storm off the Atlantic. To me, there is no better weather than just before the turn of spring with the ominous black, blue and purple clouds hanging in suspense in a windless sky. Our weekend away emanated this perfection.

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The North is a lot like Wales, but without the proud Welsh mountains and rolling hills. This means that is has the natural beauty Wales possesses and a view on the flat to see for miles. For driving its nice to see where you are trying to get to, for example you can see the Holy Island, Lindisfarne off the A1 just past Belford. This is also true for viewing the coast line from the beach. There aren’t many cliffs hiding the coves, just the ebbing and waning of the sand against the sea.

Unlike the Lakes, we didn’t walk up a hill. Instead joining the general touristic love of visiting old houses and castles.

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Being Privately owned, Bamburgh castle is a little more pricey than English Heritage and National Trust places. Nonetheless it is still almost worth the extortionate price to get in for the elaborate well kempt state rooms, museums and array of interesting historical objects. The views from the battlements with the many cannons is also a sight not to miss giving it a clear vantage point from oncoming seabound marauders and from either coastal direction.

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It also boasts a fantastic view of the Farne Islands. A place that is on my adventure list on a day where the sea is my friend, not my anamae.
The Castle is pleasant to walk around and very informative on the former inhabitants. Definitely worth a trip up north just to look at.

Another beautiful place that needs to be talked about is Lindisfarne. An Island that does not necessarily need a vessel to visit it, Lindisfarne also named the Holy Island, is situated on a causeway. Being one of the pilgrimage places of St. Cuthbert, the Northern Saint, the Island has the structural ruins of his priory as well as a later dating castle on the higher point of the Island.

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Beautiful. Even with scaffolding.

All these photos were taken on my mum’s camera as my 6d went for repair. This proves that any DSLR is capable of greatness with commitment and work! (Trust me this 550d needed a lot of patient and minute changes on settings to get this far)

With a 550d the iso maxes out at 6400. Personally I would set the max to 3200 so not to tempt distortion and graining. With my 24-105mm lens the aperture balances out okay but with the lower capabilities of the 550d, it has made me very aware and conscious of settings I should be paying more attention to and not being reliant on auto brackets.

Thanks for reading and have a great day!

Links to my sites:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/brionymollyphoto/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/brionymollyphoto/

website: https://www.brionymolly.photography

Snapshots #9: Border Castle Adventure

As a farewell to 2016, and a premier adventure of the Welsh Borders, Tom and myself took the a470 and a479 along the borders down to Chepstow to check out the historic sights.
Being December, a lot of places aren’t open to the public but are still able to be viewed from a distance.

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First stop is the Castle Keep that remains of Bronllys Castle just outside of the village of Bronllys on the a479 towards Abergavenny. The keep is open to the public for free all year round with stairs taking you up to it as well as to the top of the ruin giving marvellous 360 degree views of the Brecons.

The Castle was initially a Norman build after 1066, as a motte and bailey and later rebuilt and rebuilt, first from wood to stone, and then reinforced accordingly. However by the 15th century it was only seen fit to be a prison. There are alot of steep stairs and narrow ledges but the view is totally worth it, even if it isn’t too clear of a day.

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Next stop on the tour saw us going past TreTower and Court. This Cadw owned property is only open in the spring/summer months but regardless is pretty nice to view. The Tower is viewable from the road as are the castle walls which integrate into the village itself. Even though we didn’t get to look around the tower, court and walls it was still nice to get a bit closer, get a few snaps and find an excuse to come back in 2017.

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Onwards and forward to make it down to Chepstow for 3pmish, we continued on the road towards Abergavenny. The Market town boasts ruins of a castle in the centre, another norman build, and like most welsh border castles laying in ruin after being ordered to be slighted in the english civil war. Cromwell just ruined everyones fun it seemed.

The next stop was going to be Raglan Castle being the midpoint of Abergavenny and Monmouth, but, I may have missed the turning for it off the dual carriageway and then realised how big Raglan castle still is. This castle is unlike most other castles in Wales, being of Tudor design, much alike to Caernarfon in North Wales. Originally being built in the 15th century with Tudor additions and fortifications, it was never primarily designed for defense purposes yet still manage to hold sieges during the civil war. Again Cromwell made sure the castle was slighted and left in ruin. Damn Cromwell.

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Our Next stop, Tintern Abbey. This has to be one of my favourite places. The only thing missing from this great building are windows and a roof, the grandeur of the walls and detail in windows and doors are still visible.  Another Cadw owned property, the Abbey hosts a wealth of history with the White Monks and the lavish church refurbishments.

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I’m not going to say much about Tintern Abbey as I strongly encourage everyone to go visit it’s tranquil beauty and absorb the atmosphere.

After a picnic ploughmans, a cheeky hot beverage it was time to finish the day at our most southerly point of Chepstow.
Due to the estuary and coastal factor of Chepstow’s location, frets of the sea made the weather a little bit more dense than that of our earlier viewings.

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Again I underestimated the size of this Castle. This was a another Castle that had many rebuilds and additions creating it’s long rectangular apparel on the edge of the Wye Estuary. This is a castle you’ll need to spend a good 2-3hours at to enjoy it fully and on a clear day as there is alot of castle and alot of view which unfortunately we didn’t get to see fully!

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The Fog was so bad you could hardly see the river below, let alone the full extent of the castle’s buildings and walls, another castle on the list of 2017 adventures.

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On a brighter note, the pigeons that scattered the walls and crevasses are extremly pretty and friendly and that’s always nice.

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By the time we finished at Chepstow the Sun was setting and it was time to get on down to Bristol before the long trek back to Aberystwyth.

Onto the camera stuff!
So days like this bring alot of challenges, the lighting factors, the colour of the sky and of course the trouble with fog.
Landscape shots, such as from the top of the castle I aim for a minimum of f/8.0 aperture.
For Castle shots minimum of f/4.0.
It’s all personal preference really but it’s nice to have a guideline to work from before you find what works best for you.
Today I was using just a 24-105mm L series canon lens with my canon 6d with a capped iso of 6400 and a shutter around 1/320 minimum.

I wish all my readers the best for 2017 and that you triumph in all you pursue!

Links to my sites:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/brionymollyphoto/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/brionymollyphoto/

website: https://www.brionymolly.photography

 

 

 

 

Photography Tips #10: Fish Tank

I can not explain how much I love aquariums. Any size aquarium from the large sea life centres to smaller coastal centres and all those in between. My better half took me the Blue Planet Aquarium near Chester for me ageing another year and it was the best day out.

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Of course I took my camera along with me like I do on any day out and again I was faced with new experiences and challenges other days don’t necessarily bring.

The main thing about aquariums is the fact that most of the exhibits are glass and water. Both of these are a pain to work with due to distortion and refraction, curved glass and water being the main culprits of this. Having never played around with refraction photography before even with just a wine glass with water, the aquarium did seem like a jump in the deep end (pardon the pun).

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Standard example of refraction and the distortion that occurs

To reduce the distortion and refraction it is imperative to get flush (perpendicular) to the glass and on level with the subject. In other articles, it has been suggested to get a rubber lens hood to stop having light distort the image from the sides so the image is as clean it can be without being in the water with the fishy subjects.

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Another difficulty with water is focusing. Due to the depth of water between glass and subject, focusing on automatic can take a longer time than usual and not generally focusing on what you intend to photograph. Meanwhile manual may not be quick enough due to the subject of fish being quite speedy. After experimenting with both autofocus on AIservo and on manual, sticking with auto and having patience paid off.

I don’t know whether its the sports photographer in me being impatient and wanting to get all the action possible, but this slower paced photography is a lot more relaxing and satisfying. Especially if you love aquariums as much as me.
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The light in the aquarium varies mainly with bluey tones, its another challenge for the colour balance. I didn’t quite manage to get this right so in editing I ran some of the images through a black and white filter and adjusted it to do with light rather than the colour.

Again its trial and error, just as long as you enjoy yourself.

Thanks for reading and have a great day!

Links to my sites:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/brionymollyphoto/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/brionymollyphoto/

website: https://www.brionymolly.photography

 

 

Photography Tips #8: Golden Landscapes

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Gold Beach stretches along the Normandy coast line, famously harbouring Port Winston in the Second World War and also of course being a British Landing Beach for D-Day. I love these beaches not just because of their incredible history, but also of their eerie stillness, flatness and their failure to not shine golden in the sun, all year round.

In these series of photos I was focusing on using a 16×9 ratio instead of the traditional as shot crop to emphasise the colour bands of sun, sand, sea, hills and town. Fortune seems to shine upon me like the sun when I visit this particular beach giving me the beautiful light for my landscapes. The beach’s remains of the mulberry temporary harbour gives a brutalistic shipwreck to the traditionally french coastline, scattering the sea and the beaches with the memory of the conflict 70 years ago.

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As all landscape photography I usually pump up my aperture to a minimum of f/8.0 and try and keep my ISO shut down to 100 and adjusting the shutter to around 1/250 or higher. The above shot is set at f/9.0, ISO 100 and shutter of 1/400.

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f/11.0 ISO 100 shutter 1/400

With using the 16×9 ratio, it gives a cinema effect of the film or that of a postcard you may receive from an aunt or uncle on their travels. As I personally read a photo from left to right it also gives the effect that the photo is bigger than it is and in essence, more intense.

I can’t wait to see what this area has to offer in the oncoming wintery months and if I’ll get the luck of seeing snow on the beach.

As always, thanks for reading and have another fantastic day and night!

Links to my sites:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/brionymollyphoto/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/brionymollyphoto/

website: https://www.brionymolly.photography

Snapshots #4: Horsing About Again

It is so good to be back in the arena with horses dancing round you. Equine photography has got to be a major passion of mine, and any event has reinforced this. As part of the university, Aberystwyth University Equestrian, AUE, have two riding teams A and B which compete in dressage and show jumping at home and away at various venues and on various horses. This year I’ll be travelling with them as a photographer which is a great experience for myself as well as fantastic news for them, as who doesn’t love a good action shot?

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I went along to the team tryouts, to get my eye back in and also for people to see themselves riding. As it was a relaxed day of riding, chatting and chilling with the horses, i took the opportunity to think outside my photo-minded box and take more candid photos of the horses and riders, as well as the standard straight leg and stretch in gaits.

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What also made a massive difference for me is this venue. Lluest is the University stables and recently they changed the arena floor from a dull mulch to a light wax based sand. As its a lot lighter being cream rather than brown, the lighting is absolutely phenomenal and highlights the beautiful movement in an almost under-lighting.

In my previous posts I’ve always said to focus on main elements of gaits and angles, ear forward and preferably with the rider smiling, but sometimes it’s nice to just take pictures. Saying this, it is always good to practise as well and get the shots spot on so the next time you can relax more and enjoy the shoot. Like this horse below.

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Look out for more equine photos throughout this academic year! And if you want to see the full tryout album you can find it here.

As always, thanks for reading and have another fantastic day!

Links to my sites:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/brionymollyphoto/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/brionymollyphoto/

website: https://www.brionymolly.photography