A week ago Storm Brian certainly made his presence felt across the South coast. The warnings leading up to Saturday were pretty accurate and yellow weather alerts meant anyone planning a day out needed to take appropriate care. I was one of those committed to work that day, photographing the Hampshire Rural Riding Club's Area 17 Dressage Qualifier at Crofton Equestrian Centre in Fareham.
Making sure I was prepared for both wind and rain, I dug out my Op Tech rain sleeve for one camera and recently purchased a Mudder 2-stage rain cover to ensure that both cameras had adequate protection from whatever Storm Brian would throw at them during the day. He didn't disappoint! While the early morning was quite deceiving, by 9.00am, the rain clouds were looking ominous and the wind was certainly in evidence.
I set one camera up with the Op Tech easily enough, but my Canon 5D mrkiii needed the bigger protective sleeve and it wasn't easy. Covering the lens was simple enough, but ensuring the body was fully protected needed a lot more work. The cover itself is robust and it is waterproof, but there's an assumption that no camera strap is in place as there's no strap holes although there is a good zip on the base should you wish to use a tripod or mono pod. That meant dismantling my camera strap, taking it out of the arm holes and reattaching it. The result wasn't great and I spent much of the day undoing and doing up the base zip so I could get access to the LCD screen. I so liked the idea of having a robust waterproof cover that could protect my prized camera and 70-200 lens, but I was disappointed and even frustrated given the battle against the elements. On the other hand, while I'd had reservations about the Op Tech sleeve, it kept my camera and lens dry and while I wasn't using it, the camera was still safe with no rain penetration.
Having fought with the Mudder-2, I still had to ensure that I was both dry and not too cold (I daren't say warm as that takes a lot). Layers and layers I took and for the most part it worked, particularly my lightweight Musto and QUBA coats which kept the wind and rain out. But in all honestly, preparing both yourself and your equipment to work in whatever the British weather delivers is so important. Ensuring not only your camera, but batteries and CF/SD cards are all safe from the elements, makes for an added level of complication that you ignore at your peril.
As it happened, while the wind was everything the forecast predicted, the rain was less intense which was a bonus! However, the wind played havoc with the timing as about 30% of competitors didn't feel they wanted to risk travelling their equine partners for a six minute dressage test. Those that did come, did brilliantly well, particularly when their horses encountered dressage boards floating across the arena mid test. More than once well-pegged boards were picked up by the 45mph gusts and scattered where the wind left them. Amazingly the horses didn't panic, they just suspended their test while judges, writers, stewards and friends realigned and pinned the boards back in place and continued their test where they left off. In all of this the junior competitors had the benefit of performing in the indoor arena, a bonus at any level!
Credit has to be given to the few riders and their horses who jumped on an early ferry from the Isle of Wight to compete. None seemed to be affected by a blustery journey over and completed their tests in some of most testing weather of the day.
For me, I was lucky to be able to retreat to the indoor arena when the rain was horizontal, but with three arenas to cover and a difficult timetable to follow, I braved the wind, rain and at times some very harsh sunlight for six hours. Looking now at some of the images, it's difficult to visualise just how wet, blustery and bright the day really was, but I was grateful, more than once, that I had a solid fence to use as a brace to take photos!