Article Updated May 2012.
Events like this are held right across the UK. Check out sites such as Historic-UK
for more information on events closer to you.
During these festivals there's plenty to keep a photographer busy until they close the gates at the end of the day but there's one event that's always guaranteed to draw the largest crowd and provide you with brilliant action shots and that's the jousting.
- To get any where near the action you need a long, fast lens. Something around the 70-300mm mark will pull the action to you and also give you the option to snap a few people shots while you wait. If you have one take your teleconverter along to bring the action even closer to you. They are also handy to have if it's a particularly sunny day.
- A tripod's useful but not a necessity and with the crowds these events draw you may want to consider packing a monopod instead. If you do take a tripod, something light and smaller in size, such as those found in Manfrotto's Compact Series, are easier to transport.
Jousting events can be difficult for a photographer as big crowds and action happening in a split second makes capturing a decent shot hard work. To get a good spot you need to arrive early so make sure you've grabbed yourself a copy of the daily schedule of events so you know what's happening where and when.
As all the action happens in the centre of the jousting arena you may be tempted to head straight for a spot right in the centre of the spectator area – don't! You'll get much better shots if you find a spot right against the barrier, at either end of the arena that gives you a direct line of sight to the centre spot where the riders clash.
Action And Crowds
When the event begins the Knights are usually introduced to the crowd which gives you chance to capture some shots of the crowd cheering and booing as well as single shots of the knights parading into the arena. The riders then take their positions in their own lanes and when they're giving the go they head towards the centre where the lances meet in hope they'll hit their opponent or knock them off their horse. The action is literally over in a split second so you have to be framed up and ready to take your shot. Setting your camera to ISO200 or 400 will give you the fast shutter speeds you need to avoid camera shake and freeze the action. While a small f number such as f/2.8 or f/4 will blur the background nicely while leaving your knights pin-sharp.
Timing, and a little bit of luck, is everything with these events and it may take you a few turns before you capture your perfect shot. Usually there's more than one jousting tournament held on one day so if you do miss your shots they first time you can always return in the afternoon and try again.
While you're waiting for the knights to head back to the ends of the arena to line up for a second run take a look around you for the flags, carts, weapons and other period items that usually decorate the arena and its surroundings so you can spend some time photographing them once the main event ends.