Pirate rules in effect. I am stretching the racetrack rolls until I reach a week where I actually shot another roll of film. This roll was Agfa Vista 200, one of my favorite films not only because it’s inexpensive but because it is really forgiving and has a wide exposure latitude. As I mentioned at the start of the series, I took a variety of films with me, knowing (since I live just down the road from the racetrack) that it would be overcast in the morning but sunny by post time.
The first shots were taken in the paddock area. Here are a couple of the hangers on and paddock “cool kids” mentioned in my previous post.
Once the horses are saddled in the stall area, they are brought out and the jockeys mount to ride them out to the track. There is another horse with them to keep them calm until they enter the gate.
As part of this special tour we were allowed to follow after the horses went onto the track, and stand right on the rail, where spectators are not usually allowed, to photograph the setup and start of the first race. While I’ve seen this process before from the stands, it was a different thing viewing from ground level. We lucked out that the first race was one mile. For that race they place the starting gate just beyond the spot where the race will end, so the horses make a full circuit of the track. This meant we would be looking dead on at the horses coming out of the gate. This is one of the rare times when I wished for a fancy digital rig with a giant lens, and the knowledge to use it.
The starting gate is a giant machine which is pulled by trucks to a particular spot on the track, depending on the length of the race. There are also big tractors that pull machinery that grooms the turf (remember our theme song “Where the Turf Meets the Surf”?).
As the gate came into place the horses were led into the starting gate. We were facing the gate straight on. I knew I’d only get one chance to catch them coming out of the gate with my manually wound Nikon FE. (Note giant lens in upper left of the second frame below…aforementioned giant digital rig). But I did my best. Also the second they got to us I realized my roll was only 24 shots. Oh well. I still like the shots I did get, and I loved getting to have that experience. It was exhilarating seeing all those horses thunder toward you at ground level.