So how does it work in these situations, when photographers have the potential to outnumber the subjects?
I don’t often work as part of a ‘pack‘ and feel uneasy and hemmed-in by the papparazi style approach that somehow can pervade this sort of situation. Take for instance Appleby Horse Fair. I had the pleasure of photographing this event again under a gorgeous blue sky and in front of a large and gathering crowd. A crowd of photographers had gathered, each armed with a long zoom lens to enable frame filling shots from the dryness of the river bank.
In the Thick of Things
Hmmm… Problem number one. That’s not my style. I like to be in the thick of things. Up close and personal with the gypsies and their steeds! Would I offend? Would I get in the way? My apprehension doubled when I recognised Will Cheung of Advanced Photographer magazine, a well known and hugely respected editor of photo magazines for as long as I’ve been a pro.
I sat on the bank for a while, watching the photographers work, eyeing up the horses and assessing the mood of the situation. An hour or so passed before I could bear it no more! Slipping off the high bank I waded thigh deep in the water and approached a muscly young guy riding bareback on a flighty stallion. After confirming that he was ok with me being so close I crouched in the water and began my shooting. Water level, wide angle, just feet away from the spray and flay of hooves. My way!
The Adrenaline Rush
Not wanting to dominate the scene I withdrew after a few minutes, retiring to the sidelines to see if I could sense any ‘issues‘ from the other photographers. However the adrenalin rush of the moment continually called me back to the rush of cold river on horse and gypsy. I laughed with them, swapped email addresses, danced nimbly through the wilder moments, dodging swish of mane and Fairy Liquid filled water splashes.
Several hundred shots later I had what I wanted and slunk off to the sidelines. Here’s the killer crunch though. One guy asked if I got my shots. I told him yes. He told me he had too ‘but you were in most of them’… He was smiling and didn’t seem in the least offended. I tried to feel bad but no, he could have joined me in the water too. Did I do bad? Did I overstep the marks of Appleby Etiquette? I’ll have to see if Will mentions me in his ‘Editor’s Column’!