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Shooting Snow Polo: The Horse, The Rider, The Light

Matthias Gruber’s career as a polo photographer started by chance. He was on his way to test a new camera when he happened to pass by a polo tournament. Though he had no idea of the rules or the game, he was immediately taken with the athleticism of the horses and the excitement of the match. Soon after, he met someone who taught him how to take good polo photos.

Nowadays, he looks for three things when shooting polo tournaments: the horse, the rider, and the light. Horses, he says, are the true stars of the game, and must not appear stressed or frightened. “There are unfortunately many such ‘bad’ photos,” he said. “Of course, these often only show a fraction of a second, but they damage the image of polo, particularly in Germany and Europe, where equestrian sports—justifiably so—have generally become the focus of animal protectionists.”

A good photo of a rider will display the rider’s technique, as well as convey action and even suspense. And lighting, of course, should be taken into consideration throughout. “Whoever can photograph polo can take pictures of anything,” Gruber said.

Gruber also photographs dressage and show jumping, but his true love is polo. “Many of my personal favorite pictures are not pictures of the action on the polo field, but of grooms, polo horses waiting on the edge of the field, or players getting ready,” he said.

A veteran photographer for the Snow Polo World Cup in St. Moritz, Gruber calls the tournament one of the most impressive on the polo circuit. His dream of combining sports photography and art saw light when some of his photographs were displayed in the Snow Polo VIP Lounge two years ago.

“There are still many tournaments that I would like to photograph. Unfortunately, this is often not possible without sponsors who are increasingly difficult to find. And there is often no longer any value attached to high-quality photos,” he said. “I always find this amazing, because the advertising effect of good photos is still extremely high.”

A native of Germany, Gruber spent most of his career as a physical therapist before switching to photography 12 years ago. He also specializes in architecture, interior design, and landscape photography.

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