Photographing Zippos Circus started out as a college project. The brief was to capture movement, shoot in low light etc etc. As I passed the circus camped on Twickenham Green near me, I thought what better subject matter to practice all my camera skills.
What started out as a task became an obsession. And every time I photograph the circus, my stress levels are high and it is as if no-one else is there but my camera and the performance.
I read blogs beforehand on how to shoot at a circus, I think about what lenses to take and what settings to put my camera on. The best advice though is to just go and do it. Always check first whether photography is allowed. I was lucky when presented myself at the booking office. I was given an All Access Pass so that I could move around to get different angles. No flash is allowed and you have to make sure you are not annoying the audience. If you can go to see the show first without your camera, then that is good but I just buy a programme and make a note of the set list.
I normally take my three fastest lenses, a 16-35mm 2.8, 100mm 2.8 and my 50mm 1.8. A fast zoom would be good but they are very expensive. I use a mixture of auto and manual focus and manual exposures trying to keep my ISO as low as possible, not always easy. I try and sit in the front row but it is also good to go up the steps to the back and get the ring and tent in as well. The action is fast. The spotlights change direction and colour frequently. You have to be on the ball. I change my settings constantly. The adrenalin is terrific.
Zippos use horses, budgerigars and sometimes dogs in their performances. At first I was unsure but after meeting and talking with equestriennes Yasmine Smart and Summer Roberts I saw that the horses were kept well and stimulated as opposed to than many bored creatures I have seen in livery yards. This topic will always be open to debate. Zippos maintains a strong policy towards its animals. They are vetted and inspected by local authority vets. There is an Open Day at most venues where you can watch training in action and ask questions.