I am an avid equestrian and even have my own horse, Sir Prize. I have been around horses as long as I can remember. Believe it or not, my passion for the four-legged variety runs just as deep as my enthusiasm for photography. You can only imagine how thrilled I was when Sports Illustrated's staff photographer Bill Frakes invited me to shoot the Kentucky Derby with him!
I was so excited that nearly lost my head. I brought all the gear I thought I would need such as two Nikon D3 camera bodies, Nikkor 14mm, Nikkor 17-55mm, Nikkor 70-200mm and a doubler. I didn't bother with a tripod because I didn't want to lug the weight around, so I just brought my monopod.
There were some wonderful horses. However, a big horse named Big Brown was favored to win. It just so happened that his first place win was overshadowed by the grey filly, Eight Bells, going down on the track.
I was actually at the finish line on the track itself. Yup, just feet away for speeding horse flesh. I got to feel the Earth shake as the pack of horses whizzed passed. Too bad that setting sun cast a huge shadow right over the finish line. Nothings perfect, but just being there was fantastic.
The jockey below, Calvin Borel. went onto win the Kentucky Derby in 2009 on a horse called Mine That Bird. The horse was a relative long-shot! I was attracted to his charismatic smile and pink silks. Hmmm....not to mention the beautiful light to portico was casting on his dirty face. I didn't know at the time I made the portrait that he would be famous one year later.
Here's another famous jockey, Mike Smith, (below) who is now featured on the hit Animal Planet television series called JOCKEYS. I don't think I have to tell you that I watch it every Friday.
The run for the Lilies is the night before the Derby. So I hung out and watched the fillies run their big race. The rain was unrelenting, but made for some great pictures. I just shoved my camera in my Kata E-Series rain bag and kept snapping.
I spent as much time as I could with the crowds of people. I am not a big sports shooter, so I tend to be more drawn to the crowds. While I am only sharing a snippet of the event, I can assure you I have a ton of portraits and moments between people.
All in all the experience was a tremendous one. I got to smell the horses, hear the screams and just enjoy the thrill of being ON THEE track at the Kentucky Derby! Plus, I learned some of Bill's secrets about remote cameras and just how much work goes into such a monumentous sporting event.