Shooting Polo at Preble Valley
My trip to photograph a polo match at Preble Valley Polo last Saturday and Olympic photographer Jeff Cable’s trek to Tokyo to photograph water polo have only the word “polo” in common—well that and that we both use Canon cameras, but that’s about where similarities end.
Jeff Cable is the official photographer for US Water Polo has photographed seven Olympic games. When not covering his assigned sport he tries to get to other events as well and he does a great blog. As a photographer I’m always interested in not only what camera and settings he’s using, but the more mundane gear as well. How much does a photographer pack to cover the Tokyo Olympics? There’s a blog post for that as well as just enough info to give a pretty good idea of how challenging the entire enterprise is.
From reading Cables’s blogs from Tokyo, the Canon 200-400mm with the USM 1.4x extender seems to be his “go to” lens for water polo. Given that the shooting area of an outdoor equestrian polo match is 160 yards across and 300 yards long, I could have made really good use of the lens on Saturday, but alas it’s a lens I don’t have…yet!
It IS the lens I’d have in my kit if I did more sports photography vs portrait work. For most equestrian photography—whether shooting at a horse show or a farm shoot—my 70mm-200mm has served me just fine. Shooting for Jeff Janson at Canadian Nationals my shoot zone tended to be from the out-gate to mid arena, so no more than 40 to 60 feet. And with that particular show photography assignment I had the luxury of knowing EXACTLY where my shoot zone was, whether it was a smooth jogging western horse or a high powered park horse.
The reality of shooting equestrian polo is that in mere seconds thousands of pounds of clashing horses can thunder from the far side of the field to almost in your lap and then swirl about and head the other way. Saturday, I used the Canon R6 with the 2x extender which was okay if the action was in the middle of the field but if the action was on the far side I really would have loved to have more lens. Next time, maybe I’ll use my “go to” vendor LensRental to rent that 200-400mm and give it a tryout!