Of course it is also good to photograph OUTDOORS when the weather is bad, but that will be another post!
Today I am going to talk about photographing in indoor arenas. There are a number of different ways to approach this, and it all depends upon your equipment and the facility where you are shooting.
You may have seen shows where the show photographer has set up flashes high up in the rafters of the arena and these fire as the horse goes by. This is not the system I used when I used to photograph shows indoors but it is certainly a system that works well – I have seen it used for jumping and barrel racing.
I am going to discuss shooting with a single flash mounted on the camera. The integrated flashes that come with many cameras today are a piece of junk. You need to use a flash mounted on top of your camera to get good results. Use a tripod or monopod to support the camera, and set the flash on TTL and high speed if you are going to be photographing action, and adjust it to the length lens you will be using. Pick out a spot in the arena where the horses go by and the background is uncluttered and put yourself in front of that area, and shoot when they go by. Your single flash will not be able to cover the entire arena so you want to concentrate on where it does work. I set the camera at about 500 ISO, and out the shutter speed as high as it will go indoors, usually 1/400th.
One issue with shooting like this is that you will get “flash eye” on the horse and rider and need to fix it in photoshop later. Another issue is you may have riders who are nervous about their horses spooking at the flash, and they will ask you not to use it. I never flash a horse directly in the face as he is approaching me, and you never want to scare a horse and put a rider in a potentially bad situation, so be sensitive to your subjects and how they react to the flash. Just as with other aspects of photography, practice, practice, practice! This is perfect for wintertime when you are stuck inside.