The Siberian Husky Club of Great Britain rolled in to Sherwood Pines (Sherwood Forest), Nottingham this weekend.
As every year it was a pleasure to be among these wonderfully friendly people and such beautiful dogs over the two days the competition was run.
Saturday was overcast and dull and on the Sunday we got a sprinkling of snow. I basically spent 6 hrs on each day lying on the forest floor (thermal underwear and a one piece ski suit is your friend here) at one of the first acute turns on the course. I was down at eye ball height as the dogs turned the corner.
The trick to getting a shot the competitors like (read; will buy or have a canvass made) is to get as many of the faces of the dogs in shot as possible. With the bigger teams being up to six dogs strong this is not always possible, even shooting at 8fps.
I managed to get every single competitor on the list on both days with only 3 'flakes'. The 30 minute midday break in the action saw me hiking back to the Start position for a 10 minute break for hot soup and then a hike back to my spot on the course again before the next team started off the next session.
For those of you interested; the shots were almost exclusively taken at 1/1000 at f2.8 with iso set to automatic (usually giving 1000 iso) on a Canon 70-200mm f2.8 IS L lens. Sunday's reflected light enabled f5 on occasion.
Damn I love sled dogs. Grew up on a farm, we had a malamute (think a bigger version of a husky) that we used to help pull out tree stumps. A working dog. Always happy, big smile on his face, LOVED working and labor. One of my favorite dogs of all time.
And you can just see it on the faces of a sled team, the drive and love for what they're doing--and you got some lovely work.
Part of the way to think of this is that you're doing just what a sports photographer does--trying to capture athletes that are moving fast and dynamically in an environment that may not be perfect for photography and the perfect shot is there for a nano-second and then gone.
If you're looking to capture the entire team, then look for curves in the trail and shoot at the curve OR at the start of the turn as the lead dogs have been to gee or haw b/c the lead dogs will turn their heads and you'll get the heads of 4-6 dogs (as those in front turn to the left or right).
Also, prefocus on spots. Also, use a body that is going to give you lots of fps and do some bracketing at times. Also, if you have time to experiment, though this violates the basic photojournalism rule of action shots of using a deep aperture (f8 and be there), I'd play with DoF shots. Less room for error and you'd probably do these with a team post-run or preparing to run. But shots of the lead dog with the focus on the eyes or head (and especially with some snow around), with some huskies having startling blue eyes (or even each eye a different color) and be a powerful artistic shot that may not sell to the driver/handler but will be a great advertisement to your work.
Love these images and very well done. I hope you're submitting these if they weren't shot for a client.
It brings up one of my many photography regrets though. I went to Univ of Alaska/Fairbanks for 2 years and was visiting Anchorage and staying in a hotel with my g/f. I woke up to commotion outside and sled dogs were barreling down 4th avenue. It was the ceremonial start of the Iditarod...and I didn't have my camera.
We went out and watched and as Murphy's Law would have I didn't have my camera with me on that trip.
afplcc wrote: Also, prefocus on spots. Also, use a body that is going to give you lots of fps and do some bracketing at times. Also, if you have time to experiment, though this violates the basic photojournalism rule of action shots of using a deep aperture (f8 and be there), I'd play with DoF shots. Less room for error and you'd probably do these with a team post-run or preparing to run. But shots of the lead dog with the focus on the eyes or head (and especially with some snow around), with some huskies having startling blue eyes (or even each eye a different color) and be a powerful artistic shot that may not sell to the driver/handler but will be a great advertisement to your work.
Nicely done and thanks for sharing this.
Thanks for the advice Ed - but, did you read my OP?
1. Pre focus? Under these conditions I'd trust to my AI Servo any time. The dogs and racers are of different abilities and take different lines at different speeds. Plus I'm lying in a ditch - pre focus would be ... interesting.
2. Use a body with lots of frps. yup, I was running at 8fps. To me that's lots. In fact as I stated in my OP the only way to increase the chances of getting all the dogs faces is to get several shots as they turn the corner.
3. Bracketing. I can't imagine why I'd bracket these shots. They were shot in raw by the way.
4. DoF/f8. I'm in the middle of a forest, in winter with no sunlight, it's foggy, I'm shooting in to a darker section of the Forest - f8 isn't really an option Ed . I'm trading off f2.8 with a shutter speed that stops any blur and an iso that won't add too much 'noise'. As I mention in my OP on sunday I was able to creep the f stop to f5 on occasion, but no further.
5. Shots of the lead dog. Nope, if you shoot for focus on the lead dog you get out of focus 'closest dog'. When teams race and turn corners the lead dog is not necessarily the closest dog.
Neil Snape wrote: oh I like these. Is this the type of situation where to use all the fancy AF on the 5DMKIII? I have no idea if I would be able to have a focus on those fast moving puppies. Gorgeous shots.
Nope - it's all that fancy AF stuff on the 7D - AI Servo on 8fps.
Although the trick isn't necessarily the gear it's the ability to lie in the snow for hours at a time. In those situations a set of thermal underwear and an old one-piece ski suit is the preferred 'gear'.