Equine Photography Tips IV – Timing Over Fences

Equine Photography Tips IV – Timing Over Fences

It’s been a while since we’ve revisited the equine photography tips series, but a Facebook fan and friend mentioned that I kind of dropped it off… whoops!  She asked specifically about timing over jumps (amongst others I will cover soon!), so we’ll cover that today.  If you want to play catch up, you can read the timing under saddle post or browse my entire equine photography archive.

Timing over fences photos is both the easiest and the stupidest hardest thing ever. Just like with under saddle photos, DSLR camera folks are going to have an advantage. If you’re shooting with a point and shoot camera, my advice is practice practice practice until you know how much lag time you’re dealing with. Then you can take the advice below and adjust your timing accordingly.

Small Fences
In our amateur competition world, there’s a good chance a lot of us aren’t jumping huge. In my opinion, this is actually the easiest type of jump to photograph. Most horses are doing an exaggerated canter stride over these lower heights, so all I do is click for my picture when both front knees are at the high point in the jump.

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With around 2’0″ fences, oftentimes the horse’s hind feet are still on the ground at this point. You get the “cute knees” factor an idea of what kind of bascule the horse may have over bigger fences.

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Medium Fences
Closer to 2’6″ the idea is still the same but depending on the pace the horse is carrying and their scope, they may actually start to be really jumping at this point.  If so, you still want the knees at their highest point but the hind feet will have just taken off the ground.  2’6″ – 3’0″ ish is the hardest height for me to nail as I will demonstrate by two bad photos and one good one.

Too early
Too early
Too late
Too late
Just right
Just right

Large Hunter Fences
With hunters, it’s all about style. You want to capture them doing the roundest jump possible with the tightest knees possible. The classic hunter photograph is approaching the peak of their jump but not at it quite yet. The horse should still be moving up, but their front legs should start to expand. You want to take the photo when the cannon bones are perpendicular to the ground. I have a habit of getting this shot slightly too early, so I can show you the difference.

Too late, legs are extending out to land
Too late, legs are extending out to land
Also too late
Also too late
Too early, legs aren't perpendicular
Too early, legs aren’t perpendicular
Also a hair too early
Also a hair too early
Just right!
Just right!

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Large Jumper Fences
With jumpers, it’s about tenacity and athleticism. For me, the ideal shot varies per horse. Is the jumper a classic style like McClain Ward’s Antares or do they need a belly guard because their knees are so damn tight over every fence? Like hunters, I try to take the photo still on the upward momentum but usually very close to the top of it. Jumpers are faster paced and very so much in style, there isn’t as much of a right or wrong way to shoot them like there is in hunters (at least in my opinion). When I shoot jumpers, I try to get shots that are WOW instead of “Oh good, they got over it.”

Okay, but not super compelling
Okay, but not super compelling
Taken too late
Taken too late
Too early - feet still on the ground
Too early – feet still on the ground
Much better timing on same fence!
Much better timing on same fence!

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Chasing Shots
Chasing shots are when the horse is landing on the off side of a fence. For hunter/jumpers, it’s not an ideal shot but with Cross Country it seems to be more popular. My only examples are h/j shots. This one is easy to get… shoot while the horse is landing but before their feet have hit the ground 100%.  Chasing shots tend to look better when they are 3/4th view instead of my few “good” examples which are almost straight on.

Too late.  Horse is looking very "grounded"
Too late. Horse is looking very “grounded”
Way too late.  Awkward sauce
Way too late. Awkward sauce
Better!
Better!

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I hope this was helpful! If you have any questions about equine photography please feel free to share. I’m not an expert or a pro, but I’m always happy to share what I know!

23 thoughts on “Equine Photography Tips IV – Timing Over Fences

  1. Mike takes my photos for me and found this post very helpful 🙂 Love all your examples. Even the ‘badly’ timed ones are stunning 🙂

  2. These pictures are great and the tips are awesome. I’ve been having my husband read all your photog tips since he is my sometimes camera man. Thank you!

    And I know it is annoying to a lot of people to comment on this but gosh it seriously bothers me to see pictures of jumpers with their legs nearly parallel to the ground, toes pointed straight down and feet near their horses arse such as the 8th picture from the bottom. I know I don’t have “room to talk” as I don’t ride at that level and am far from perfect but it is so distracting. That gray is lovely but all I can think/look at is the train wreck waiting for a sudden stop to happen! (sorry!)

    1. I need to do a post on that sometime using some of my grand prix pictures. I used to agree with you, but seeing some of the “unconventional” styles mixed with their INCREDIBLE “stickability” has made me re-think that.

  3. Chasing shots are only so popular with cross country because most of the times the actual jump isn’t that pretty ;P (Lol, it is kind of true that the crappier jump stylists turn into low-level event horses… not to mention when you’re jumping crazy obstacles at speed, sh*t happens!)

  4. Some of those are some really great shots! Thank for the pointers! Even though I don’t really jump I found these so very helpful! Action shots in general are really hard to get!

  5. Good info. It’s hard to get that just right shot. I don’t take them anymore since we stopped showing. I love the one with the horse coming straight at the camera. Must have been an interesting shot to get.

  6. love love love this blog post. Its the photag in me. Great advice! My experience is in shooting people..posing… not fast moving leaping 12oolb animals. so this… very helpful!

  7. Do you photograph in RAW? I try to but when photographing the horses jumping etc the lag between each photo makes it a bit harder to get it right at the peak of the jump. Do you have any tips?? I looovvveeee this serires btw keep it up!!

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