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We Shoot Horses, Don't We?

April 26, 2004
April 26, 2004

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April 26, 2004

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We Shoot Horses, Don't We?

To shoot the most exciting two minutes in sports, a.k.a. the
Kentucky Derby, SI photographer Bill Frakes puts in three days of
hard labor, setting up 47 cameras (right) to ensure every hoof
beat, cracked whip and flared nostril can be shot. He starts on
Wednesday, shipping 25 cases of gear to Louisville. On Thursday
he walks the milelong track, then meets with his eight assistants
to discuss tasks. On Friday he's up at dawn for one last look
before heading to the photographers' meeting with track officials
to negotiate camera positions. He then places his cameras and
sticks red tape on the rails to mark the points on the track
where the horses should be when each assistant has to push the
button. By post time on Saturday he's ready ... although, he
says, there's always a slipup or two. "One time I sent an
assistant to scout out a shot of handicappers, and she went to
the betting windows looking for people in wheelchairs instead of
finding the guys handicapping the races." --Lisa Altobelli

This is an article from the April 26, 2004 issue Original Layout

A LENS FOR EVERY OCCASION

You can't shoot a backstretch run and a photo finish with the
same camera. Here's the color-coded guide to all of Frakes's
setups.

LONG LENS
Placed at their optimal focus distance from the action and used
for head-on remote, backstretch and roof shots. Frakes used
300-mm, 400-mm and 600-mm Canon and Nikon lenses for these shots.

ZOOM LENS
For close-ups of the race, the horse and the owners in the
winner's circle, and the fans in the stands. Frakes used
70-to-200-mm, 80-to-200-mm and 75-to-150-mm Canon and Nikon zoom
lenses.

WIDE-ANGLE LENS
Best for shots of the starting gate and for sweeping panoramas.
Frakes used 14-, 15-, 16-, 28-and 50-mm prime lenses and
16-to-35-mm, 17-to-35-mm and 28-to-70-mm zoom lenses from Canon
and Nikon.

STRIP CAMERA
Aperture stays open for several seconds, producing a wide shot
with only the horses in focus; background is blurred because film
is moving. Frakes used a custom-made camera with a 180-mm
Hasselblad lens.

ROOF The best vantage point for a wide shot of the pack as it
heads into the first turn.
[LONG LENS]
[WIDE-ANGLE LENS]

GRANDSTAND A prime spot to get a picture that shows both the race
and the spectators.
[WIDE-ANGLE LENS]

FINISH LINE Where Frakes mans his camera--shooting the stretch
run and the fans.
[LONG LENS]
[ZOOM LENS]

STRIP CAMERA A wide shot of the horses as they speed toward the
finish line, and a good shot of a photo finish.
[STRIP CAMERA]

TOWER An overview that encompasses the grandstand and the
homestretch.
[WIDE-ANGLE LENS]

1/4 POLE A shot of the spires and the grandstand as the leaders
drive toward the finish.
[WIDE-ANGLE LENS]

STARTING GATE Two mounted cameras are fired as soon as the horses
break at the bell.
[LONG LENS]

FINAL TURN Good place to get the leaders as they enter the
stretch and head for home.
[LONG LENS]

JUDGES' STAND Two views, one elevated, from inside the rail in
the final furlong.
[ZOOM LENS]
[WIDE-ANGLE LENS]

INFIELD Frakes shoots fans getting down one more bet ... or one
more mint julep.
[ZOOM LENS]

UNDER THE RAIL Tipped upward to shoot horses between Churchill
Downs's twin spires.
[WIDE-ANGLE LENS]

WINNER'S CIRCLE Immediately after the race Frakes climbs a ladder
to shoot the celebration.
[ZOOM LENS]

BACKSTRETCH Good for catching any horse making a move coming out
of first turn.
[LONG LENS]

UNDER-RAIL FINISH LINE REMOTES The wide-angle lenses get the
horses charging down the homestretch; the long lenses give a
compressed view of the horses at the finish.
[ZOOM LENS]
[WIDE-ANGLE LENS]
[LONG LENS]

LADDER Good position if a horse on the inside makes a move deep
in the stretch.
[WIDE-ANGLE LENS]
[LONG LENS]

UNDER-RAIL ZOOM Best vantage to get the spires, grandstand and
rail in one shot.
[ZOOM LENS]

UNDER-RAIL WIDE ANGLE
For close-ups as the horses approach the turn.
[WIDE-ANGLE LENS]

FIRST TURN Last shot of the pack making the turn before it heads
down the backstretch.
[LONG LENS]
[ZOOM LENS]

HEAD-ON Gets the pack out of the gate and heading for home; best
angle if winner runs wide.
[LONG LENS]

COLOR PHOTO: BACKGROUND IMAGE BY HEINZ KLUETMEIERTWENTY-TWO COLOR PHOTOS: PHOTOGRAPHS BY BILL FRAKESCOLOR PHOTO: HEINZ KLUETMEIERCOLOR PHOTO: CHUCK SOLOMONTWO COLOR ILLUSTRATIONS: ILLUSTRATION BY JOE ZEFF