Jack Schatzberg...photographs and talks about horses

Questions and Answers


Hi. I show saddlebreds and have a picture taken by you. I was wondering how you know exactly what moment to take a moving photograph at. Is it just practice? Is it when the back foot is right?

I really want to learn to photograph my horse, please reply.


Still enjoy your site.

Jan O'Bannon


Dear Jan,

To photograph the Saddlebred Horse, we must fully understand the footfalls of the TROT, since that is the gait we photograph.

The TROT is a two beat gait with the fore and hind diagonally opposing feet striking the ground in unison.

We want to show the balance and range of motion of his forelegs and the drive of his hocks.

We must be able to CUE our camera at a SINGLE, NON-VARYING point during a single round of footfalls.

To demonstrate that correct SINGLE, NON-VARYING point, we will discuss the placement of each leg for purposes of cueing.

1- OUTSIDE FORE- We want to show this leg at its highest point, but we can't cue on it since we don't know the exact instant it reaches its peak.

2- OUTSIDE HIND- The position of this leg is generally hidden from view, so we can't cue on it.

3- INSIDE HIND- We want to show this leg at its highest forward position to show the horse's driving power, but again we cannot know the exact instant that peak is reached.

4- INSIDE FORE- At the instant this leg strikes the ground, (if the horse is in gait) the horse is in the ideal position to show maximum height and reach of his motion. This leg position is your cueing point.

You must actuate the camera shutter at this exact instant. To practice this, use an empty camera and concentrate on the fetlock of the inside foreleg. Each time the hoof strikes the ground, say "NOW" and release the shutter. You can do this even without a camera. Watch any horse at the trot, saying "NOW' each time the horse's forefoot strikes the ground. The last image you see through the lens as the camera mirror rises is what will appear on the film. From here on it is practice, practice, practice.

However, you cannot use the "Autofocus" option on your camera. You must be in the "Manual" mode. There is too much of a time delay in the autofocus action on virtually all of the 35 mm cameras.

The above discussion subject has been "timing", but as you know, there are other considerations in horse photography. Since you are in manual mode, focus is a consideration, as is the camera position and angle distance of photographer to horse. I have discussed these and other questions in my column, and suggest you read those.

Let me know how this helps.

Subject heading: Timing
Posted: Jan 2000
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