The No Hunting Hunt.
Hunting with hounds can be a delicate subject and I am not sure what the law is here in Denmark, it is banned in England. But I did find out that this was a no hunting hunt with only a scent being laid for the hounds to follow.
In recent years here on Møn there has been a gathering of traditional fox hunting clubs from Denmark and the Hamburg area in northern Germany and I have looked out for it as something that I would love to photograph, so I managed to wangle myself an invitation from Ole Eskling who was in charge of the whole event.
The hunt was due to start at 10am I wanted to be early and I was slightly nervous, it almost felt like I was going off to photograph a wedding. I didn’t really know what was going to happen, I know next to nothing about horses. It was good to be early, I parked up nice and close to the manor house, “Klintholm Gods” where they were due to leave from. Horses were been readied and exercised, boots polished and outfits put on. It was the real deal, very traditional complete with hunting horns too.
I wanted to travel light camera wise, no big bag of gear, so the D800 had the fantastic nikkor 70-200 F2,8 on it, the camera desperately needs a service, the left side focus problem has returned but that lens could get anything in focus, it is so sharp. My newer and way better D810 had my 24-120 F4 on it. I had a small bag with me with a 16-35 in it and a SB-910 flash plus the usual paraphernalia of spare memory cards batteries etc etc. I had arranged a lift in a friends 4×4 that could follow the hunt around the island but that only had two seats and I was the third person……but it was better than walking.
Essentially I was a gatecrasher photographer on this event but I had been invited. These events attract a following of dedicated photographers who can sell their content to the riders and various magazines. I was merely an observer of those paid to observe. Soon I had a problem though I started to suffer from that well known issue that mainly male photographers suffer from; GAS. (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) My two cameras although great were soon outgunned by ‘togs wieldling 3 or 4 cameras, very high end Nikon’s and Canon’s and 300mm F2,8’s were seen clicking away.
Sadly the light was not great at first, flat and grey but I could still see the beauty in the event as around 40 immaculate horses and theirs riders plus a pack of 30 hounds or more rode over and round the gently rolling landscape of Møn. The event was carefully choreographed with pre-arranged stops for the riders to aim for where buckets of water and the odd shot of port were laid on for the riders, hounds, horses and photographers. I soon learned that dogs and horses go where they want to, the riders at times seemed more like passengers, it was not like a race track where you know that a car will come round again and again in the same place, the whole thing was very random. One horse would go left the next one right, the third straight at you! A bit of a nightmare to try and pick up the focus and predict where they would go. But as the event went on the light started to brighten and therefore my mood did too and I started to lose my inhibitions and just take pictures of what I saw rather than think what I could do if I had that piece of kit or that camera.
But, as soon as I started to review my images on the back of the camera I realised that most of my action pictures were blurred, too slow a shutter speed. I couldn’t believe how fast these horse and hounds were moving at! This did not help my GAS envy, how I wished I had a that new Nikon D5……that can practically see in the dark and capture perfectly that proverbial black cat in the coal mine. Still it was getting brighter, time to turn up the shutter speed and let the brighter light lower the iso.
As the day went on I was learning more about the behaviour of the horses and their riders and the hounds as well. I was learning to predict were they would go and what they would do and I tried to choose my moments to photograph when they were resting and the pack had reformed.
The event was spread over 2 days and at the end of the first day their was an event held at a local church. I can only describe this as a “Thanksgiving” service. It’s a small local church, itself with a rich history, and on this day it was full of hunting hounds, birds of prey and guests dressed immaculately in their traditional riding gear. Horns and trumpets were played, psalms read, hymns were sung and the dogs joined in too of course, one of the best church services I have ever been to!
The second day dawned; it was foggy with a hint of sunshine…my heart was racing, late February in Denmark can be awful but the thought of that sunshine burning through the fog was a photographers’ dream. Here you go
The fog swirled around all morning coming and going, fighting a losing battle with the sun.
It was a fantastic event to photograph and I was blessed with incredible weather that combined with wonderful people and their horses to create a magical stage. I could have posted more pictures, I have so many that I love. I learnt a lot too, mainly you need a really fast shutter speed to freeze those horses and dogs in motion!
Thanks for reading this far.
There was also a short film made of the event here