Wednesday, August 03, 2011

a different kind of ride story - Susan Franklin

I've been competing in endurance rides
since 2007, and one of my favorite things about a ride is the "ride photo."
I'm building my wall of 8x10's in my tack room as we speak. I love ride photos. In fact, even before I started competing
myself, I searched the internet for ride photos. There could be hundreds of pictures, of
people and horses I didn't know, it didn't matter, I'd look through them,
sometimes more than once, sometimes when I was at work and supposed to be doing
something else. I'd go through once
looking at the horses, then again looking at what tack they were using. Maybe a third time to look at the riders. I'm not sure why I'm using past tense. I still do this. And don't ask me why I can't look at all of
those things at once. I can't answer

Anyway, I've always had an interest in
photography, but the endurance horse is responsible for re-igniting my passion
for it enough to make me run out and buy one of those newfangled DSLR cameras, and
I started lurking around taking pictures at the endurance rides that I wasn't
riding in. Of course, nothing is ever simple,
and I soon realized that it was awkward, and maybe even rude to take pictures
where there was a professional photographer working. The last thing I wanted do was interfere with
a real photographer trying to make money, especially a ride photographer
because I love ride photographers! I
just wanted to take pictures. So I
decided to take the pictures, but wait until after the pro posted their ride
pics before uploading mine. Only my
friends knew about my photo album anyway. Now that more people know about my smugmug
page, I'm going to start posting a link to the ride photographer's website,
too. But I'm getting ahead of myself....

So I'm riding in some rides, and going
to others with my camera, having a good time, taking my bike and biking around
clicking pictures of fabulous endurance horses in some beautiful places. Then all of a sudden, a few weekends ago, I showed
up at a ride all ready to play (I was going to practice panning shots to streak
the background and some other stuff), only to find out that they had no ride
photographer for the weekend. Well,
there I stood with my big camera, planning to take pictures anyway, and I
couldn't stand the thought of all those riders not having some sort of ride
picture. That happened to me once, and I
was devastated! It was the only ride
where my horse top-tenned and got high vet score, and I had no picture. Very sad. So I quietly volunteered myself to try and get pictures of everyone, and
let me say this right now: that sounds a whole lot easier than it actually is! In fact, I decided I wanted to write
this little story to let everyone know about some of the stuff these
photographers are going through for us. It's kind of brutal. They're
definitely "endurance" folk, too.

To start with, they get up every bit as early as we do. 5:00 a.m. to get up, get all of your gear
ready, and get to your shooting spot before the leaders get there. I had no idea where any good places to shoot
might be, and now instead of just wandering around on my own time doing my own
thing, I had Responsibility... to be in
a good spot, in time to get the leaders, and to stay there long enough to get
the turtle. I had gotten a few leads about where to
go, but then when I went out "into the field" it was a whole
different thing trying to get to these locations. The Forest Service had closed a bunch of roads,
so people would tell me where to go, but I couldn't get "there from
here" on the available roads. But I
had my bike. I figured that I could just
ride out to the good spot on my bike. That did not work out. It was
very far and very, very hilly, and I almost burst my heart out of my chest
trying to ride that bike carrying my heavy camera equipment up and down and up
and down hill after hill after hill after hill, and I never I even made it out
to the spot. I gave up, turned around,
and decided the closer spots were fine.

I settled in to a morning of shooting
at the serene river crossing where everyone was pausing to do some serious
sponge fishing and cool their horses down. That's where I had the very close call when a horse spooked coming up
out of the water about two feet away from me as I tried to flatten myself
against the riverbank not to get trampled. Scary! Then, I switched locations
to what I thought was a very good strategic spot on a lollipop loop where I would
have riders coming from both directions. Turns out it was a really good spot for briars and bugs, too. After standing for hours (I'm talking Endurance
Standing. I mean you can't even stand where
you want, like in the shade. You have to
be at the best vantage point which inevitably turns out to be the full-sun spot),
my legs looked like I had the measles. I
had been eaten alive by some bug that didn't care that I had sprayed my legs
with Off before hiking out there. I'm
telling you -- hug your ride photographer! The job is perilous! And you
can't even move out to create a nice breeze.

Later that afternoon, I had moved to
another location to get riders coming in to the finish line. I had been standing still (soooo much
standing still) listening for the next rider for so long that I started to go a
little mental. Once, I heard the 3-beat
thrum of a cantering horse complete with huffing breaths, heading my way. I popped up the camera, turned it on, got
ready for the picture, and no horse. There was no horse coming. I
decided that I'd been out there too long. I was going crazy. I needed a
drink. It was only later that someone
suggested, "You know, there are bears in these woods...." And
then... I learned that it could have been an albino, 5-legged, mutant bear. Apparently, back in the 50's, 60's, and 70's,
our government used to zap Dawson Forest with radiation to see how long it
would take to recover if Russia decided to nuke us. A double-fenced, 3-story, hot-cell, concrete
block building still stands in the overgrowth just yards away from
ridecamp. It was a seriously big secret
facility back in the day, but the locals knew and have been telling stories of
seeing these albino, extra-legged mutants ever since.

That evening, I was worn out. It was a long day on my feet, and I needed to
look at the pictures, charge my camera batteries, get fresh memory cards, eat
dinner, and get to bed early enough to get up at 5:00 the next morning to do it
all again, so I didn't stick around for the ride meeting. That was a rookie mistake because the next
day, they had 'called an audible' and moved the start time up fifteen minutes
which caused me to miss catching the leaders at my first spot. That day was another 12-hour shift of more driving
around on wild goose chase, closed-road hunts, standing and standing and
standing in the heat, this time in long, hot but also bug-proof pants, a snake
encounter at the river, and a major freak wind/thunder storm to top off the day. I didn't get to do any of the 'playing' I had
planned on, and didn't get to spend any time in ridecamp because I was so
paranoid about getting at least one good picture of each rider. I took 1,303 pictures. When I got home, I had to buy some hefty
software to handle the volume.

The moral of my story is... love your
ride photographer! They work for it, and
they endure long hot hours of standing still, bugs and briars, snakes and
storms, closed roads and mutant bears. And
if you're like me, you want them to keep showing up to do it. Buy their photos, and if there's a rogue
photographer at the ride (like me), please remember, we're there for us, not
you. Your ride photographer is there for
you! Thank them, and buy their

-Susan Franklin

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