That’s my Derby Day assignment for the Courier Journal.
I shot the Derby race from outside the rail as they came out of the first turn, made it down the back stretch without incident and then as they passed by after the finish of the race.
Those were the wettest 15 minutes of kneeling on a garbage bag in the pouring rain that I’ve ever had to endure to make a picture.
I’m humbled by my colleagues who had to work in those conditions all day.
I was fortunate enough to have a commercial job that morning photographing corporate guests leaving for the track, and wasn’t expected until late in the day. By the time I arrived, everyone was in a flurry of editing photos on deadline. There was no place that wasn’t taken up by wet and muddy people and gear, no place to sit. I checked in, grabbed a track vest and left as soon as I was packed. I had time to shoot for myself before I had to be in place before the Derby race.
So I roamed the grandstand, shooting candid scenes and close-up faces of gamblers taking refuge from the rain in the grandstand near the betting windows. It was all 35 mm at F2, shoot and move, no names.
After making my way out to a view of the track, I realized that it was time to return through the masses to the media center to repack myself and walk to my spot for the race.
At the media center everyone was preparing for the race. I used cheap plastic camera covers I’d bought for the occasion in hopes I wouldn’t need to use them. They were barely adequate, but my gear stayed dry for the walk around the track, and I was lucky to find open media boxes where I need to be that I used for shelter until close to the race.
There were two people there with backside passes and cameras around their necks. They owned a horse stabled there at the Downs, but not a “Derby” horse. We talked until the horses were at the gate. Then I went to my place by the rail, put down plastic to kneel on and waited for the race.
“And they’re off!” I could hear in the distance. I waited and here came the field of horses, coming around the first turn. I made my pictures and watched them go down the back stretch. As they came back around, the jockey wasn’t visibly jubilant, but I watched for any moment that might be worthy until they passed me on their way back to the winner’s circle.
Back at the media center, I sat on the floor on a garbage bag and edited my race pictures, turned them in, and walked out of there with an Irish goodbye.