Each year, usually the first week in June, thousands of gypsy folk gather in the small market of Appleby in Westmorland for the Appleby Horse Fair
, an event that has been running for hundreds of years. This year it kicks off on 7 June and runs until 13 June 2012.
Photographically, the fair is rich in potential but you go at your own risk and you must take care – as you would at any major event where thousands of people gather. There is a significant police and RSPCA presence in the area during the time of the Fair, but there has been trouble in the past, especially in the evenings, so do take care. Also, horses are easily spooked and people have been injured. Just keep your wits about you.
For details on getting there, health and safety, the latest news and so on, click on Appleby Fair
It is a good idea not to lumber yourself with too much kit because you could be on your feet all day long. A DSLR with a couple of zooms will be fine. A standard zoom for candids and close quarter shooting and a telephoto zoom for shooting the horse washing in the river Eden.
It could be warm, so don't forget sunscreen, water and food. There is plenty available in the town but it gets really busy especially over the weekend so it pays to be self-sufficient for the day.
If you want a camera support, a monopod, such as the Espod AM
or Elite model
, is the sensible option – it gives support but is mobile and more portable too.
Shoot quickly and don't spare the memory. Horses being washed, the riders and the animals themselves make for great pictures. The action in the river can unfurl really quickly so just keep your eyes open for pictures. Watch for distractions in the backgrounds though– zoom in or move camera position to minimise the problem. During busy times when there is a lot going on, you really need to be aware of what is happening around you. Just be prepared to move very quickly if needs be.
One of the biggest problems is when the sun shines because contrast levels get high. If you don't already, it definitely pays to shoot Raw format because it is easier to adjust contrast levels or do two Raw conversions and merge the two in Photoshop.
Away from the river, shoot candids as people relax (hopefully, the sun will shine this year), either shooting from the hip or by using Live View if your DSLR camera has that feature. Shoot from the hip by using AF, autoexposure and just aiming the camera roughly in the right direction and shooting without bringing the camera up to the eye. It is a hit-and-miss technique but with practice you can capture candid moments.