How I Photograph Chaotic Events

Draft horse lining up for the count

Draft horse lining up for the count

I have a deep respect for event photographers, particularly equine event photographers. They show up to do their job knowing there is going to be a lot going on and they have to find their images amongst all the confusion. When ever you have horses, riders, kids, dogs, and a lot of noise things are going to look sound and feel very chaotic.

That is exact situation I was in this last weekend. There was an event planned in a small village called Pulderbos here in Belgium. Their plan was to celebrate the existence of a club for the youth of farmers that had been going on now for 125 years. The idea was to have a parade of draft horses and tractors and then a blessing at the church from the priest as they all pass by. These blessing take place in many villages through out Belgium usually in January, but the village of Pulderbos decided to have it during the parade for the event.

I have never been a big fan of parades but my interest piqued when I knew there was going to be 125 draft horses all in one spot. So of course I knew I had to go. But photographing such an event and being able to tell a story with images is quite the job.

I took a wide angel 24-70mm lens and my 70-200mm along with my trusty iPhone to grab a video of two. I had know idea of the schedule only that the blessing would be after the noon mass.  I knew I would probably do a lot of walking so I took a backpack and put one camera inside. 

When I first arrived I went to where the draft horses (trekpaard in Nederlands) were gathering and getting ready for the parade through town. There were horses, wagons, farm implements, dogs, kids, cars, trailers and trucks and I had to look through all that to find someway to tell this story. When in this type of photography situations I usually try and isolate some of the things that are going on. For instance in this photograph of some women putting on the traditional clothing.

Or like these next two photos of what the horses were doing.

Two Brabants tied with just neck straps to the trailer.

Two Brabants tied with just neck straps to the trailer.

Fjord pony just waiting by himself for what comes next.

Fjord pony just waiting by himself for what comes next.

It is good to sometimes include some background to show the environment. When I do this I like the background to be a bit blurred so the subject that is sharp stands out. You can do this by choosing the right f-stop on your camera. I also look for subjects that are away from other distractions like in the these two photographs below. I turned the camera vertical sometime so I can isolate them a bit more to avoid distractions in the image.

Beautiful blue roan Brabant standing quietly as his owner approaches.

Beautiful blue roan Brabant standing quietly as his owner approaches.

All dressed up on a Friesian.

All dressed up on a Friesian.

I usually feel like I am not getting any images worth taking because I am also experiencing the chaos and feel just as confused as everyone else. Plus, although it was beautiful day and the sun was shining it was starting at high noon not really the best time to take photographs. There were some clouds in the sky so I try and use them when I could to defuse the light. But it is not always possible when things quickly start happening in front of you.

I would say if you want to give yourself a learning experience in your photography go and photograph an event  and see what you can create. I guarantee this skill will come in handy all the time in your photography work. 

I have included the rest of the images I took so you can see all the country people and their beautiful horses, traditional Belgian clothing and old time tractors. I just love to be around country people, they are always so proud and happy to show off their passion for living a country lifestyle.

Enjoy.

All and all it was a fun event. The town had an official count of the draft horses in the ring and there was a total of 134. It is now a record for the town.  I was hoping they would have had them lined up and I could take several images and stitch them together but unfortunately the ring started out ok but in time things fell apart there were horses everywhere. I did the best I could and over all pretty satisfied considering the conditions and amount of action that was going on that day.

My next blog is going to be about how I am going to limit myself to one location, one lens and camera, for one month to help me become more creative. You may want to join me. 

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