“HORSES are beautiful and majestic creatures, and I enjoy the challenge of doing something creative like capturing the drama in a split second.” That is the inspiration behind the prize-winning work of Berkshire Media Group snapper Sue Orpwood as she prepares to photograph a new season of British flat racing.

Orpwood has combined an eye for photos with her passion for horses to capture some of the most breathtaking and celebrated moments in the sport.

She has witnessed the crowning of champions at hallowed festivals such as Cheltenham and Royal Ascot, including the world’s greatest racehorse, Frankel.

And now, in an exclusive interview with the Observer, Orpwood reveals her passion for horses and the art of taking a good photo.

She revealed: “Photography had always been a great interest of mine and I was very keen on art. I’m quite good in terms of drawings from photographs and did my college thesis on a day at the races, that’s how it all began.

“It was just a hobby, I never really had a devotion to go professional because it’s a very competitive area. My passion is animals, particularly racehorses, and not people, so my photography is quite narrow in focus.

“I love horses and anything can happen in racing. You’ve got a split second to get a well-framed photograph. It’s about getting the shot at the right time and I like that challenge.

“With people it’s really staged and I’m not so keen on doing that kind of work. My passion is being outside photographing horses in beautiful scenery.

“I was always watching the racing on TV with my sister. One day I joined her and my mother on a visit to Windsor races, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Racehorses are beautiful creatures and it gives me great pleasure to bring photography and horses together.

“My favourite photographer is Ed Byrne. He used to be a bus driver in Ireland with a passion for horse racing. He’s in his seventies and still going strong, and has had a couple of books published. I admire his work.” Orpwood, who lives in Wokingham, admits to being a perfectionist in her quest for the ideal picture and is sometimes left frustrated after a day at the races.

She explained: “There are so many different types of photos. You’ve got the speed and the drama of seeing two horses fighting out a finish, which makes an exciting picture especially if you have backed one of them.

“And then there’s the skilful side, like getting a beautiful portrait with the horse’s ears pricked and looking alert. They are such beautiful animals.

“Every year the Horserace Writers and Photographers Association run a competition and you see lots of great pictures in it, but I’ve never entered. I’m such a perfectionist that the picture has got to be absolutely spot on.

“I am happy if I’ve managed to capture the races and the winner, but disappointed if the weather conditions come into play and the shot is not sharp or bright enough. Pictures taken in the sunshine give so much more dimension than those taken on a grey and cold day.

“I feel privileged to photograph top class racing at tracks such as Ascot and I also enjoy the intimate atmosphere of smaller tracks like Windsor.

“For national hunt pictures I’d have to say Cheltenham is my favourite track because of the backdrop of Cleeve Hill.

“You will typically find me at either the finish line or at the last fence, because for me it is important to get the winner, but I do occasionally do more creative things.” Orpwood has captured some of the greatest horses in all their splendour, such as the unbeaten Frankel and the legendary grey Desert Orchid. But she says it is not always the significance of the horse that makes the picture so special.

She explained: “Frankel winning is one of my favourite shots. Witnessing that was really exciting because he was an amazing horse.

“I am very lucky to have seen Frankel run and win on so many occasions. Those pictures will always be something that are very important to me because we’ll never see a horse like him again in our lifetimes.

“One of the horses I regret not being able to photograph during his racing career was Desert Orchid, especially seeing him win the Gold Cup in extreme conditions at Cheltenham.

“Everyone has heard of Desert Orchid, the same as everyone has heard of Red Rum, but he’s been a horse that I’ve always loved and think he helped towards developing my passion for the sport.

“I may not have pictured him in racing action, but I was fortunate enough to become the official Desert Orchid Fan Club photographer and they used a number of my pictures, particularly after he retired.

“One such shot was of him with Milton at the Royal Windsor Horse Show. It was taken at night and I was extremely lucky to get the two of them on a lovely stride in the middle of the arena. That’s another picture that will stay in my memory.

“I did a really good starting stalls picture at Windsor many years ago. The picture won a competition and was published on the front cover of a book.

“That has got to be one of my favourites, and I was also very fortunate to see Istabraq win three Champion Hurdles. He was definitely one of the very best racehorses.” Orpwood continued: “Sometimes I’ll take a really good shot of a horse that is so unknown you might never see it race again, but I love the photograph.

“Capturing that moment in time is a challenge. When it does work you do get some great pictures. The one I took of The Queen after Estimate had won the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot last year is a favourite. She looks relaxed and happy and it was a really special moment.” Orpwood will continue to capture the best horseracing pictures across all Berkshire tracks, including Windsor, and beyond for the Observer and BMG sister papers like the Reading Chronicle, Ascot News and Newbury & Thatcham Chronicle.

And she stressed her passion for horses is stronger than ever: “I want to carry on what I’m doing. I am fortunate to have very good relationships with a number of courses, and feel they appreciate having me there and seeing my pictures in print.

“Photographing the premier races, Champions Day at Ascot for example, is such a privilege. I love working trackside and capturing the best of the best.” **SEE Friday's Observer for all the latest sports news and action including pictures from Windsor races today (Monday)** **FOLLOW the Observer on Twitter at @Observer_sports**