Photo Tips: Capturing Jumping Action


Hunter over fences
On a beautiful summer day there is nothing finer than being out on the cross country course at dawn waiting for the first rider to leave the start box. It is easy to create beautiful action images of horse and rider flying over cross country jumps because this sport typically starts early and ends late giving you the chance to shoot it when the sun is low and at it’s most artful angle. Another photo advantage is the backgrounds of cross country courses are uncluttered and expansive.

Preplanning for your jumping shots is a must, I walk the course the day before, at the same time of day that I will be shooting so I know where the light will be striking my subject and what will be in the background. If you are using a point and shoot or a cell phone camera aligning your angle so that you are mostly to the side but a little frontal will allow you to follow the subject as you shoot. Remember to zoom in to fill the frame with your subject.

For those using cell cameras many of the Android action apps use video mode to capture the sequence and then you select the best frame for your final picture. The preferred moment is just as the horse crests the top of the jump while still at an upward angle with their front legs tucked nicely together. Keep in mind not every horse will jump with perfect form, so if you click at the perfect moment but the horse is not striking a pretty pose just try again.

Photography is a creative process. Try shooting front view as they touch down or a back view as they launch into the air. Some of the pitfalls to watch out for: Check that the wings of the jump or flags on the cross country course are not obscuring the horse or rider’s head as they clear it, and leave extra space at the top of the frame so that you don’t cut off part of your subject, as some horses jump higher than expected. Check your pictures on the camera replay after you shoot and zoom in to make sure there are no obstructions. If you do, change your angle and try again. Always check for sharpness, too. Put your camera on sports mode or select fast shutter speeds like 1/1000 or higher to help freeze the action.

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