Snapshot: It’s Derby Day! And the race is on…


A little picture in honor of the Derby which is going on in Lousiville, Kentucky later today. Wish I was there to see the action and the fancy hats…but, not this year. Instead I’m headed elsewhere in the state, to central Kentucky, to photograph some horses, barns and the people who live on those farms. This shot was taken last summer at Ellis Park racetrack in Henderson, Kentucky, about 2 hours from Louisville.

To get the blurred background, I panned the camera–moving the camera body left to right–at roughly the same speed as the horse, and carefully clicked the shutter while I kept panning. I wanted to show the movement of the action, rather than freezing the height of action (which could’ve been accomplished with a faster shutter speed). See how his legs and mane are blurred in motion, but his bulging eyes are sharp?  Panning is an art. Some people rock at it. I don’t. It’s always an experiment for me. I never know what I’m gonna get. Sure, I use manual focus and prefocus on the spot where I predict they’ll be when they race past and select my shutter speed depending on how fast my subject is moving–in this case the horse was moving along at a pretty fast clip so I chose 1/125 (verses 1/30 or slower shutter speed for a slower moving subject)–but the result is always a surprise. And not generally a good surprise. Lots of rejects! It can be especially frusterating trying to pan race horses. They whip past in mere seconds and you get one shot. You quickly scrutinize your shot–is any part of the subject sharp? Is there a nice muted blur in the background? If not, there’s plenty of time to adjust your shutter, your aperature, your ISO, even grab a coke, cauz now you wait. Wait. Wait. Wait. Until they race again…

Camera settings: f8, 1/125, 320 ISO. Desaturated in PhotoShop to keep the focus on the subject, and remove the distracting colors from the ugly shade of grass, boring sky and buildings in the background.

For info on the Kentucky Derby’s horses, jockeys, or even the fashionista hats, check out the Derby Experience

And if you have a great image you’d like to share–from the Derby or a panned subject–email me a 750px jpeg and I’ll post it on our blog!

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