Photographing in low-light conditions can be a challenge for any photographer even with today’s high-tech DSLR cameras. The more expensive the equipment the better quality image a photographer can capture with almost no ambient light.
Film cameras required photographers to choose an ISO rating for light sensitivity of the film before they loaded it in their camera. In a low light situation the highest rating they could achieve was about ISO 800. In contrast, high-end DSLR cameras can push the ISO setting up to 25,000. That allows a photographer to capture a lot more detail and have more control over depth of field and shutter speed in poor light.
But being able to capture an image in low light doesn’t guarantee drama. The light source hitting the subject in specific ways does that. The spotlight on stage is the most dramatic lighting there is because of the strong contrast between black and white.
The B.W. Pickett arena on Colorado State University’s foothills campus can host a variety of equine sporting events. However the light within the arena can be flat and challenge photographers to capture action without using a flash that would distract the horses.
The best lighting occurs when there is bright morning sunlight pouring through the garage door that riders use to enter and exit the arena. It also spills down in beams to the arena floor through transom windows on the east side of the building below the roofline.
Still, great equipment and lighting won’t guarantee the right shot with horses. It can take a photographer hundreds of shots at an event like the Silver Jubilee to produce a handful of good shots and a couple of “wow” shots. It also requires the riders to ride their horses through the light beams.
During the reining class the required pattern required riders to cover a larger area of the arena including passing through the light. Knowing the pattern helped me capture the pictures that I wanted. In the cow work class, the light was changing and most riders worked their cow at the far end of the arena and down the west wall. Overall, the competition was an exciting challenge to photograph.