Jumping: the landing

One more post about the show jumping event I attended a while ago (previous ones: jumps and take-offs): landings. After the flight phase, the horse and rider have to prepare the landing. The difficulty for the rider lies in keeping balance, while allowing the horse to use its front legs in a way that the combined weight doesn’t damage its front limbs. In the fourth picture you can see the angle of the pastern, absorbing the impact – it is the less blurred part of the picture, so the stillest one. Furthermore, horses have no collar bones, so the impact of landing is received by muscles and tendons, instead of more breakable joints.

The rider changes position, from staying close to the horse’s neck during the flight phase to leaning slightly backwards, ideally on a vertical line. The rider in the fifth picture is leaning forward, maybe the horse made a big jump that was hard to follow? It sure takes a lot of practice to properly ride your horse on such jumps (thanks Scottish Rider for sharing your experiences during training!), so I prefer to celebrate the moments of good coordination 🙂

 

 

 

Jumping: pictures of take-offs

I wish to write several posts about aspects of horse jumping that I observed at last Friday’s competition. Today I write about the initial phase of the jump, the take-off. It is less often portrayed in photography, and in my case it was mainly the result of inaccurate timing than a conscious decision – still, I caught on film a bunch of interesting moments.

Horse jumping looks really crazy when you realise it involves galloping full speed towards the obstacle. Notice also how the rider changes the body position during the take-off (see Wikipedia for further info on jumping techniques)

DSCF3323DSCF3391DSCF3886DSCF3372DSCF3427

This pair is jumping willingly…

DSCF4036

… while this pair looks concerned…

DSCF3459

… and this horse refused to jump:

DSCF3356

and these two pictures caught the moment when the horse has both front feet below the body, right before the jump, and look unnaturally still:

DSCF3895DSCF3846

Stay tuned for further posts about this event!

Photography: my first steps

I have admiration for great photography, but I am a beginner. Unfortunately, I was so afraid of bad results that I haven’t properly tried out the nice camera I have at home since a couple years, a Fujifilm FinePix. However, yesterday I attended the first day of the Longines Global Champions Show in Berlin, and I brought the camera to snap a few pics.

I ended up taking pictures the whole day, and piled up one thousand of them! Thank you, digital cameras and large SD cards! I can’t imagine myself daring so much, if I had to spend money on film and development. And thanks to the camera for letting me snap great pictures, without requiring me neither a good eyesight nor photography background. In fact, all pictures in this post are done with fixed zoom and the default camera preset.

Time for the pictures! I want to share my thoughts about taking pictures to a horse show jumping competition. The first ones that come to mind are portraying the flying moment over the jump, and I managed to snap 4 pictures with an acceptable timing and focus, here are two of the best:

DSCF3930DSCF3395

A few pictures were correctly timed but out of focus – I decided to keep them, and I find them somewhat artistic:

DSCF3711

The important point is that for every of these good(ish) pictures, I took tens of pictures with no horse, or a nose, or a tail:

DSCF3431.JPG

I think the picture with the best focus AND with a horse in it is this one:

DSCF3451

… while this is the blurriest (that I like nevertheless):

DSCF3435.JPG

I took many pictures of the riders and horses negotiating turns, the rider with the eye and attention on the next obstacle (in the second picture, the horse is not turning yet):

DSCF3429DSCF3651

I managed to get a single picture of a horse hitting a pole (poles are held in place by small, almost flat supports that allow the pole to wiggle but stay in place if it is lightly touched, but fall down at moderate to hard impacts. There is no danger that the horse remains trapped in them), also because it happened quite rarely:

DSCF3937.JPG

There are many other pictures that I find interesting, in their unprofessionality; but I am afraid to make this post too long, so I want to end with this nicely timed picture of the suspension phase of the gallop:

DSCF3851.JPG

Time for final considerations and to-dos for myself:

  • I enjoyed taking pictures, especially after I decided to focus on something else than getting the standard jump pic;
  • … therefore I saw many more aspects of the riding competition, and collected a lot of impressions along the day;
  • I was OK with making an awful lot of pictures, but only 1% that I could be proud of, and show to others;
  • I realised that I need to learn more about photography principles, if I want to access the potential of this camera;
  • I enjoyed the fact that the camera compensated most of my mistakes, thus motivated me to improve – it is otherwise hard to see if bad results come from my skills or from the equipment.

Stay tuned for more pictures from this event in some future post, and let me know your feedback in the comments! Thanks in advance 🙂

 

Book recommendation: “The magic of drawing” by Cliff Wright

I found Wright’s book in my local library, in its German translation. It is filled with ideas for sketching, exploring new techniques and improving your observation skills. I recommend this book to all people who feel too clumsy to draw, even for themselves, and find Drawing on the right side of the brain too lengthy and too… brainy 🙂

I loved how each page captivated me with lively drawings of magical creatures, some of them trying the drawing exercises themselves in cute poses! And how to forget the full pages of his complete drawings, like this one:

The book is mostly a school for observation. There are so many issues in the drawing process that are rooted in the ordinary way of scanning the world with the eye, that is oriented to classification and not to analysis. Wright provides tips to train the eye to collect information for the drawing, and surprisingly few tips for drawing techniques. He even encourages to draw with your other hand, a hand that has had little or no training in holding a pencil – but when the eye has done his observation job well, the drawing will come out far more alive than the one made by an unschooled eye and a skilled hand. Try for yourself!

Happy sketching everyone 🙂

 

A visit to the aquarium

A few days ago I went to Berlin aquarium with my sketchbook, I ended up staying in for 4 hours, one of which by the Arapaimas:

They are huge freshwater fish, growing up to 2m long (exceptionally 3 or 4) and weighing over 100kg. They moved around with little or no movements of their fins, like living submarines. Many people looked at them for a minute or two, fascinated by their size, but then walked away. I decided to stay and draw them, as they moved so slowly. I was therefore able to see them interact with each other and with other fish in the pool, and had a lot of fun when they flocked to observe people who sat next to their glass for longer than a minute – it was a very slow (5min? more?) alteration in their swimming patterns, from random to focused, so that in five or more passes near the person they finally stood with their head oriented to them, in a group of six and more. One guy leaning on the glass, busy on his phone, didn’t notice the slow formation of that fish crowd until other people pointed them to him, and he turned around to see the curious arapaimas then disperse with a powerful move of their caudal fins. One fish came to me to check my drawing kit, I showed it every piece closer to the glass, it observed everything and then swam slowly away.

DSCF3097

I tried to draw and note as much as I could (in Italian – it goes faster for me!) and, as John Muir Laws suggests, to describe details, even if they seem obvious, and note questions. For example I observed the pattern of pink spots of several fishes and imagined if it could be a pattern that changes with age. I was not able to draw the texture of fins and head, so I described it in the notes. I liked spending that time immersed in observation. It felt a way of respecting these animals, even if they are living in unnatural conditions, hopefully pleasant for them anyway.

 

Spring morning with squirrel

It was a fresh spring morning, a bit cold, the sun shining over the trees. I arrived at the meeting place half an hour in advance and stood outside the gate in silence, looking around.

At some point a red squirrel approached jumping from tree to tree, saw me, looked more disappointed than scared, then resumed its jumping, climbing and watching around. I followed it with my eyes and ears (it made short scratch noises when its claws grasped the hollow bark of the pines) until it hopped away of my sight.

I quietly stood some more time, watching occasional little chirping birds. At some point Sabine’s car turned around the corner. She waved driving past me, and parked a little further down the street. There was still some time before everyone showed up. Sabine walked towards me and we greeted each other. She said that she drove past Andi walking, but didn’t give him a lift as she knew he prefers to walk. We basked in the light of the sun gently rising and enjoyed the moment of quietness before the start of the meeting.

Few moments after, Andi appeared at the end of the street. We smiled at each other and I watched him getting closer. Few metres from Sabine and me, he stopped square and watched intently up a tree. He mouthed to us: There’s a squirrel! and smiled while watching it hopping and running along branches. Sabine and I, who couldn’t see the squirrel, observed him with a slight smile. His awe and curiosity were so pure that he looked like a child.

When the squirrel jumped away of his sight, Andi turned to us with a big smile and walked towards us. We greeted each other with soft affection, as usual. In these occasions, I feel that we three are special to each other, as we have the same way of looking at the world with deep attention and admiration.

Source: Flickr

(inspired by this Tumblr post)

“Nature connection through deliberate attention and curiosity” – John Muir Law’s TEDx talk

I was introduced to John Muir Law‘s learning materials for natural illustrators by fellow participants of NHI101x, bought his book “Nature Drawing and Journaling”, enjoyed the bubbling stream of ideas and excellent illustrations (I’ll write a review as soon as I finish it, stay tuned!) and now I follow his blog, where he regularly posts drawing tutorials and other useful tips. Today I watched his TEDx talk about enhancing the quality of our observation of nature, by the means of simple and effective methods that unleash our curiosity on natural subjects. I find it a brilliant summary on the art of observation – a compact starter kit like very few others. Enjoy!