Think of polo and your first thought might be of hoorah Henrys (and Henriettas!) larking around on ponies and because it is not a cheap sport to participate in, this image is almost inevitable. The sport's southern bias doesn't help either although there are clubs as far afield as Aberdeen and Perth too. There are plenty (but not thousands) of polo clubs around the UK, so visit the Polo Centre
to find your nearest.
The sport's elitist image aside, there is no denying that it is a photogenic sport and has lots of potential for the keen-eyed photographer.
A polo ground is roughly the equivalent of six football pitches and for obvious reasons you cannot get too close. For action shots you will need a long lens, a 300mm or 400mm minimum, maybe more, depending on how tightly you like to frame up pictures. A 70-300mm with a teleconverter is an option though a bright day would be needed to maintain action-stopping shutter speeds without resorting to high ISO settings. That focal length range is also very flexible meaning you can go from being very close to the action to taking action shots of a couple of players battling for the ball.
For detail shots of the polo kit, the ponies being prepared and candids of players getting ready and so on, a standard zoom would be perfect. That sort of lens is perfect too for the Pretty Woman Julia Roberts-type candids when the spectators are invited to tread in the divots at half-time. Wear flat shoes if you want to join in yourself.
Take a monopod
or a tripod
with a head
that lets you track the action and will save undue strain on your arms and back. When the action is down the other end of the field, it means that at least you can relax without having to put your camera down.
Take A Seat
For even greater comfort, take one of those fold-up stools. Sitting down might give a better camera viewpoint too, providing the background is not too distracting.
First thing is personal safety: only stand where you should and keep your wits about you, just in case. The playing field is huge and if you have never photographed polo before you will not know where to stand for the best pictures. Just watch the play for the first chukka (they usually last seven minutes) and then move into position.
Where To Stand
A good bet is behind one of the goals as a start. The play might be in the middle of the field or down at the other end, but the action can quickly come your way so keep your eye on what's going on.
If you want classic action shots of horses at full gallop, being positioned to one of the sides can work well.
Exposure And Focusing
Manual exposure with a reading taken off the grass might avoid any problems with dark horses or white shirts upsetting the camera meter.
For focusing, try AF but you might find manual focusing more dependable. Try both and see what you think.
Away From The Game
There are plenty of pictures to be had away from the action too. Candids of spectators and players, the horses, the grooms and much more, so don't be blinkered in your approach to polo photography.