During the summer there are all sorts of agricultural events held all round the country and they are great occasions to capture some good images. There are the events themselves, the animals and the people to photograph. It is a great day out too. Usually there are also plenty of stalls to browse around so there are chances to spend a few quid too.
A DSLR with a couple of lenses is a perfect outfit, ie pairing of a standard zoom and a telephoto zoom would be a very versatile combination. If you want to travel light, a DSLR and a superzoom is worth a thought. If you want to travel lighter still, take a zoom compact or one of the system, interchangeable lens SLRs.
With luck the sun will be shining but that can mean exposure and contrast problems. You might find that your camera slightly under and over exposes in contrasty light, so a few test shots to start with is a good idea. If , for example, you find that your DSLR consistently leans towards overexposure, set -0.3 EV, -0.7EV or even -1EV on your camera so get a more balanced exposure.
Shooting in Raw format is a good idea too, so if you do have exposure or contrast problems they can be controlled during the Raw workflow process. Raw conversion software allows you to adjust exposure, brightness and contrast very easily – and you can do it non-destructively.
For the events, you might have to find a spot early if you do not want to be shooting over people's heads. Often, there is plenty of room to find a decent viewpoint where you can get an unhindered view. Depending on the show, you might find displays of shire horses, carriage driving, dog agility and much more. The dog agility events are great fun to photograph, firstly because there is plenty of action but also there are brilliant candid moments of the owners to be photographed too. Just find yourself a good spot - close to the see-saw, weave poles or a fence - and just get ready for some frenetic action.
Some events and participants are more photogenic than others, but one common problem you may experience is messy backgrounds and you may find avoiding them quite challenging. Stripey or white marquees, enclosures and fellow visitors can all spoil your shots so keep an eye on the background and use your feet and zoom lens to exclude as much clutter as possible. Using your telephoto lens at wide apertures for shallow depth-of-field is a technique to try to minimize bold subjects coming out too sharp.
Concentrating on details within the scene is another photographic approach to consider. Close-ups of shire horses decked out on their finery can look excellent, just take care with exposure. Very dark horses can cause overexposure so appear lighter than they are, while light/white horses can cause underexposure and appear grey. Just use exposure compensation to ensure a good result.