On the Road with Sharon Lee Chapman Edition One – Photographing Foals and Weanlings
People often ask me the tricks to photographing foals and my No.1 tip is PATIENCE, PATIENCE and more PATIENCE!
Having plenty of time is the key to any foal shoot, as they simply can’t be rushed. I’ve had times where I’ve sat in paddocks for 30 minutes and not taken a single frame. The most important aspect to foal photography is making sure the mares and foals are comfortable with your presence. Once the initial curiosity is over, they will relax and the natural and magical moments will come. Never expect to walk up to a fence, take a few frames and walk away. The images in this series, all took TIME. The sunset images were captured at Waikato Stud in New Zealand; I sat in that paddock for three hours by myself, sitting in the grass, watching the light change and changing direction from the beautiful afternoon light with my back to the sun, to shooting directly into the sun to create silhouettes. The mare and foal by the tree decided just as the light hit, that they would move on back to the other herd. I pleaded with them ‘This is a billboard moment, you don’t understand the LIGHT’. I literally had to herd them back by myself to the spot where the tree was. It took about another 20 minutes of patiently waiting for the mare and foal to separate to capture these images, using two different cameras. One camera with a wide-angle lens, the other my trusty 200-400mm. It was in this same paddock that I photographed the cheeky Savabeel colt, who continually harassed his mother and was full of energy. I
St Pat’s Fashionable Foals photographed him for around 30 minutes as every time I put the camera down, he demanded my attention again, by charging around the paddock. The light was just starting to diffuse and become that beautiful soft light, so I couldn’t take my eyes off him. Whilst at Waikato, I was on Foal Alert. I didn’t mind being woken in the middle of the night, so being able to capture newborn foals in the dead of night is something very special. Using spotlights to just cast the light exactly where I needed was all that was required to light up the foal, yet keep the darkness of the night to create the scene. The images from Trelawney, I ensured I sat in the grass nice and low with a wide-angle lens to create these images, again, which took plenty of time, sitting and waiting for just the right moments. The image of the foal from The Oaks, again, sitting, waiting for the moment that this foal put his head down to eat just where the flowers were, the contrast of the lush green grass and the flowers made for a simple but effective image.
I spent well over an hour in the one paddock at beautiful Widden Stud in the Hunter Valley with the weanlings earlier this year. They were very playful and once again I sat and waited low in the grass with a long lens. After a while they lost interest in the strange lady lying in the grass with the big cannon thing and started to wander away from the camera. I knew they were all heading in a mob, so I slightly changed my position, balanced myself and waited for them to all be together in perfect unison to capture this image. Once again, had I not been patient and waited, I would never have captured this image. Sometimes the images you are waiting for don’t eventuate, but instead you are presented with something even better than you anticipated. Expect the unexpected and be ready to shoot.
Whilst at Windsor Park Stud, I sat outside a paddock with the camera through the fence and waited for well over 30 minutes for these yearlings to notice me and have enough interest to venture over. They had done everything together, so I just knew if I waited, eventually they would come over and chances are they would come over together. As they came over towards me, I changed to my trusty 24-70mm wide-angle lens, while laying flat on the ground on my stomach and shot up through the fence as they inquisitively came towards me. It would have been easy after 15 or 20 minutes of nothing happening and not a single frame to lose interest and walk away, but sometimes you are far better off creating one beautiful image, than countless unusable and dull images. You also have to be prepared to walk away with nothing and try something else, but not be discouraged and keep trying for that unique image. All these images were captured during my shoot for New Zealand Thoroughbred Marketing, when I spent four days shooting at various locations around the North Island. Join me each quarter in “On the Road” where I’ll be sharing a few of my favourite shoots and photo tips!
Windsor Park, Yearlings
Trelawney, Mares and Foals