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Behind the Photo: Horse Sale

October 24, 2005 by Herald Leader  
Filed under Behind the Photo, David Perry, Snappers

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Today I’d like to start off Behind the Photo with a picture I know well: it’s one of mine.

I know I’ve got a good photo when several members of the public bother to call me with their appreciation, and when fellow photographers give me a thumbs up as well. That all happened with this horse sale photo taken at Fasig Tipton on July 19.

Several folks commented that the photo looked like an Impressionist painting. Well, I can see their point, but this picture started out, like so many newspaper photos, as a story-telling photo.

This was one of the hardest rains I’d seen during any horse sale, so my first thought was how to incorporate the rain into the scene. As I saw the rain beating on the large widows of the sales area, I noticed that after every sale, a groom would walk each horse down a precise path behind the glass. But how can I get both the rain drops, which are so close to the camera, and a sharp enough background to see what’s going on at the event? The answer lies in an optical phenomena called “depth of field”.

To increase depth of field, a photographer uses the smallest lens opening for the light conditions. This small opening increases the apparent sharpness from foreground to background. For those of you wearing glasses, just take the thumb and forefinger of both hands, but them together to form a very small hole, and look through that hole without wearing your glasses. You’ll see a darker, but sharper view of the world without needing glasses! That’s depth of field. For more information on depth of field, go to

But then, after putting the lens on a small opening (f16), I saw beyond the glass that spectators were running and walking from one building to the next. And this is where luck comes into play. Just as a horse was coming out of the sales pavilion, spectators were crossing to the next building. And that’s when I knew that “luck favors a prepared mind” is true. I had the lens already stopped down to take advantage of any activity seen behind the glass.

Well, that’s all for this installment of Behind the Photo. Drop me an email about a staff photo you’ve seen in the Herald-Leader or on you’d like to hear about. ( I’ll try my best to find out the story Behind the Photo.

– Dave Perry.

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