During the Summer months I do a lot of freelance event photography for some of the best known names in the business. As Summer Season follows Summer Season it can become quite predictable that you will be doing this event, then that event, at a particular time of year. It's nice, therefore, to take on an event which is new to me. Upton House is a great example.
As many people have now realised, ES Photography (Royal Windsor Horse Show, all the Bede events, Dublin Horse Show, HOYS etc.) merged with 1st Class Images at the end of last season. The two companies had been working together for a season so the only real change was that ES Photography stopped providing new event photography under that name, and everything was now provided under the 1st Class Images banner. The ESP back archive is very much still available by the way.
2018, though, brought a few changes. In addition to the jobs previously covered by 1st Class Images, the company was now covering the ES Photography events too, some of which take place on the same dates. The nice side effect of this is that those of us had the option to do some different jobs.
I love Great Yorkshire Show, don't get me wrong. I have worked in the Ridings Ring at GYS for about eight years, camped in some dodgy places, queued for showers at 5.30am, and looked forward to dinner in the Cattlemens' - one of the highlights every year.
This year, however, I was offered the choice of covering Upton House instead and I decided a change would be a good thing. Upton is a fabulous event which provides sections from BE100 to Intermediate and attracts some of the top horse/rider combinations in the country to the beautiful Oxfordshire Cotswolds.
On a whim I used Google Maps to search the area around the event for a caravan site to base myself from, and found one which actually sponsors the event: an added bonus. I would thoroughly recommend Fir Tree Campsite to anyone in the area. Great facilities, a beautiful setting, and several good pubs within a very short distance for food and drink. The Rose & Crown in Ratley, for example, provided me with two excellent meals, one of which was an England World Cup BBQ special to accompany our ill-fated semi-final exit.
I don't need to tell anyone in the UK that we have had something of a dry spell this Summer. As I write I can't remember the last time we have had rain. Obviously this presents a massive challenge to an event organiser, for whom the ground condition is the difference between a successful event and social media nightmare. A huge amount of work went into the ground in the run up to the Upton House event and, crucially, the riders who were considering entering, or had already entered, were kept informed. The results were nothing short of miraculous. I lost count of the number of riders I overheard walking the course and expressing how amazed they were with the going, a real testament to the work put in by the ground staff with the bowser, vertidrain and other tools.
As a result Competitor numbers were excellent, with few withdrawals, and the four-star horses running in the open intermediate sections all completed the event in style - a great sign that the groundwork had paid off. It was great to see the regular trade stands in attendance. The likes of Empire Coachbuilders, Tigga's Saddlery and many more that were new to me this time around.
One of the challenges I always face is fence choice. This year we decided to photograph fences which looked as big and solid as possible, but ones which would also present few problems and produce a nice picture.
I will be making sure I sign up for this one again next year.