I've often been asked if covering an event for a magazine is like event photography, and I always answer, "yes, and no!"
The difference between event photography and editorial photography is usually clear. Event photography is about the horse, editorial photography is about the rider. When National newspapers cover an equestrian event the emphasis is generally on tight crops of riders with little or no thought for the horse, size of the fence, setting, etc. An event photographer would be concentrating on the size of the obstacle; the beautiful house in the background, and above all, making the horse look as good as possible.
This distinction becomes blurred when the editorial publication is an equestrian magazine.
I was lying on a beach in the Mediterranean when I received a message from the picture desk at Horse & Hound asking me to cover the Advanced and Intermediate day at Aston Le Walls for them. The weather was going to be a little different to what I had become used to!
As an event photographer (in this case the delightful Matt Nuttall) I would walk both courses and identify the fences which I thought were going to make the best images to sell to riders. Open ditches, big hedges, water complexes, are all favourites. Anything which makes the rider proud of their horse. As an equestrian editorial photographer my job is to do a similar thing, choosing my angles at each fence to show the obstacle, and flatter both horse and rider. The main difference is that I have to have one significant factor in mind: the pictures published are likely to be the winners and runners-up in the different sections, and, is possible, need to be over different fences, or at least different angles.
On that Saturday at Aston Le Walls there were seven sections in total, four Advanced and three Intermediate, giving a total of 21 people that could be featured in the article which goes to print. Ideally, each of the people featured should be photographed over a different fence!
Realistically, a three page article is likely to use a maximum of nine images, which obviously helps, but I was going to be using the 24 fences on the Aston course as much as possible.
I had a bit of an advantage with the Advanced sections because they had completed their show jumping rounds on the evening before, giving me an insight into the leading combinations of the various sections and therefore allowing me to plan my fence locations so that they were photographed over different obstacles.
This doesn't always go to plan.
Sometimes a fence isn't photographing well and you need to change your plan accordingly. Riders often run out of order and can catch you unawares. The Intermediate sections were completing their show jumping phase while the Advanced sections were going XC so I had no idea who was leading these sections until the commentator revealed their score and position as they started their cross country round. This is where "course management" becomes extremely hard.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, this is what went to press...