The Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials 2016
Hello sports fans,
Just returned after working 5 days at The Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials 2016 and what a great time to go and capture the action that lead to a historic outcome. I was covering the event on behalf of Action Plus Sports Images that syndicates the images around the world to various image agencies and news outlets for editorial use.
I arrived in Badminton on Wednesday and made my way to the Media Centre. The media centre is located right at the heart of the site and thankfully we could park our cars just next to the media centre for easy carrying of the gear. Thankfully I had received the photographers pack in advance by post which included a car parking pass which enabled media to park as close as one could to to heart of the event. First task was to collect my accreditation (a small 1 inch red coloured triangular cardboard badge with a piece of string attached showing the event logo and stating that you were a photographer) and set up camp in the media centre and where I will be staying for the next 5 days. The last time I was here was in 2013 to cover the Cross Country and that gave me a brief insight to the event and what I should expect this year. As before the media team were excellent and able to support you at every moment. The media centre comprised of a media team information point where you can collect all the latest news, a selection of large TV screens to watch the live action, approximately 50 photographer desks and about 100 journalists desks. Thanks to Mitsubishi Motors we were treated to a packed lunch each day and hot and cold drinks on tap. The Internet connections were via the media wi-fi satellite dishes which connected us all to the outside world (after all we are essentially in the middle of large fields albeit you don't get that feeling when you see the site).
My first day was to learn more about the event, the redesigned cross country course and also capture some action from the Mitsubishi Motors Cup which is a preliminary event to the Horse Trials which is aimed at the next generation of eventing riders. A relatively easy day and time to meet other colleagues that would be covering the event - many from around the world. At this early stage, you only get the equestrian photographers and journalists covering the event as they want to cover as much as they can for their respective news outlets. The weekend of eventing and show jumping attracts a broader spectrum of news photographers and journalists that just want to cover the more 'news worthy' aspects. At various points during the day I returned to the media centre to download my images and send them on to Action Plus.
On Thursday the main event began with the dressage discipline, the first of three that each competitor and their horse must tackle to win the overall title. This is a highly technical and challenging discipline with horse and rider in unison and moving as one following a prescribed set of movements and actions whilst being scored by very critical judges. Each routine is approximately 3-4 minutes long and because of a 100+ field taking part the dressage would take two days to complete. The media team had located an area within the arena for photographers to utilise but it was also possible to access spectator seating on one side as there we no prearranged booking for seats. The various angles from the spectator seating offered a variety of image options and I tried a number of locations during the two days. The one factor that would have helped the images would be more spectators in the seating to create a backdrop to the images. When this is the case you have to get more creative in your approach to your images. After two days of dressage, there was a clear leader in Michael Jung (GER) and the anticipation started to grow that he could not only win The Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials 2016 but also become the second person in history (after Pippa Funnell in 2003) to win the Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing - winning Kentucky, Burghley and Badminton in succession.
Saturday was cross country day and attracted photographers and journalists in their numbers. This discipline has the highest weighting of the three (possibly 3/5th of the overall score with dressage taking 1/5th and show jumping 1/5th). The cross country required the competitors to complete a 6,500m cross country course whilst traversing 33 obstacles (jumps) up to 1.2m in height and all within an optimal time of 11min 30sec. Any refusals received heavy penalties. Due to safety on the course, all photographers must wear a high visibility vest to identify you as a photographer. In advance, I requested the use of a remote camera use which would be located next to the fence and capture the action as the rider jumped the obstacle and I could trigger from another location whilst shooting the same rider. As the course is over such a long distance, my plan was to visit a selection of the most photogenic jumps at appropriate times to capture the competition favourites in action. During the day I travelled to 7 locations and captured nearly all the competitors. One risk as a photographer during this element of the competition is the fact the it is so unpredictable since these are demanding obstacles and a rider and horse could pull out at any point and so for those photographers that stay in one location towards the end may not see all the competitors. The obstacle considered by many as the signature obstacle is #26 The Lake, where the biggest concentration of spectators congregate and as it is close to the end there is a reasonable possibility of course completion. During my tour capturing images, I saw a few falls and it was incredible that the riders and horses get up afterwards. This is a reflection on the safety that has developed over the years. Obstacles collapse when hit and the riders wear inflatable jackets incase of a fall to reduce further injury in a fall. Again after a great day of cross country Michael Jung maintained his lead with no penalties accrued. With some many media people using the centre, it became very apparent that the network could not cope with all the uploading of video, imagery and text from this remote location. The upload speeds were so bad, I had to leave the site and drive to gain a signal on my dongle to upload from my laptop. This was mine and many others issues during the event and my only recommendation would be to improve the network by installing fibre optic telecommunications with significantly greater bandwidth (This was my only gripe!).
Sunday was the final day of competition with the show jumping discipline. There are of course very limited locations for photographers to access and these were determined in advance by the media team and lead event photographer. I was very lucky to allocated to a central location inside the show jumping arena (behind first jump for the cross country). This was a prime location only allocated to 3 other photographers as the competitors would be riding past us during the competition as number of times. Approximately 30 minutes before the start all the 70+ photographers were escorted to the main arena and assigned to their positions. All photographers were asked to wear a jacket and tie as you would be in plain view of the BBC cameramen located around the inside of the arena as they followed the riders. After various other activities the arrival of HRH Duchess of Cornwall arrived started the main event. Then the action began, I used two cameras with the following lenses - a 70-200mm F2.8mm for close-up fences and my 300mm F2.8mm for other jumps. My location enabled my to capture 8 jumps using this combination and so provide a selection of images for picture editors. One important fact for all of of was not to distract the competitors and more importantly the horses. We all stayed low (kneeling mostly) and if we moved away from our location a few steps to get a better view we always moved back. The competition was reaching climax and the final competitor was Michael Jung as the leader. He performed the jumps perfectly with a clear round which gave him the 2016 Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials Championship and also the coveted Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing. After completing the last jump his coolness during the four days with a circuit around the arena with raised arms in joy.
After the competition, and preliminary presentation of awards by HRH Duchess of Cornwall she presented Micahel Jung with the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials Championship Trophy and the Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing Trophy. A fairytale ending to a fabulous competition!
My images for each day can be seen on the Action Plus Sports Images website which has been circulated to various news media for editorial use. If you wish to utilise any of the images please contact me. They can also be seen on my website in my Equestrian Gallery.
Here are only a few of my images from the event:
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