Assignment #4: Diary of A Race Track - July 13th, 2005

This is an assignment in creative documentary. Show us what goes on behind the scenes and in the public eye of Belmont Park. Capture the energy, excitement, character, and characters

Submit up to 12 images from this assignment by 8:45am, Thursday, July 14th, 2005. A town car is waiting for you on the 50th Street side of the building to take you to Belmont Park. You may stop at your hotel first, if you wish.


Race Track sounds fun but, but...on a dark, cloudy, rainy, mid-week??!!

I supposed I can say that I lucked out when I got this assignment. I was kinda well-known for my fast panning ability (proven with formula one races and superbikes) and landscape. This assignment has a bit of both with people placed in them. However, when I reached the race track, rain was falling down by the buckets and one of the road into the race track was flooded!! When I finally went into the clubhouse, there were enough people in there to fill a bathroom. I then realized that it was a Wednesday, nobody wants to go to a horse race track on a dreary Wednesday!! I was getting nervous. How could I take pictures of the "excitement, character and characters" when there were none there??!! My heart sank...

Races started at 1pm and lasted through 5pm. There were only nine races in total. Unlike motorcycle and car races, horses can only run half a lap before they are totally tired out. What that means is that you only get ONE and ONE chance only when you do pannings. If you screw up, you'll have to wait for the next race. I learnt that the hard way when I thought there are plenty or races I can shoot and not knowing I only had nine chances, I went to shoot people during the first two races. Well, it was raining hard anyway... That meant I only had 7 more chances. Situation seemed to be getting from bad to worse.

Suddenly, as fast as it started, the rain stopped! I was delighted as I raced outside and across the tracks (ankle deep in mud) for my shoots...

Since it was quite a dark and dreary day, I did all my shoots in black & white, alongside with some toning on some of them. It was a creative decision that I had to put in place when I got back to the hotel, tired and weary at 9pm. Yes, again, I slept only an hour that night, the same as the night before.


Betting Momentum

What can you do when you try to show a lot of "excitement" at the betting counter when there were only a handful of people placing bets? Shoot lots of long exposures of course. This shot is a combination of over 10 (yes, you read it right, TEN photographs) shots.


All or Nothing

This kind gentlemen excitedly watched the race by the railing. All that was needed in his hand was a $100 bill and I happened to have one with me. ;)


Rainy Wednesday

This is what I was trying to show what the audience looked like on the rainy Wednesday. Patterns, and lots of it. The metal at the bottom was supposed to be white but I burnt it all the way to the dark color you see now.


Hold Your Horses

If you cover the top part of this photograph, you will get to see a cute sight. A row of horse legs that you can't find anywhere else.


Bracing to Sprint

Drawing a line in the mud, his hoofs readies the jockey above behind the starting line. This just a fraction of a second before the sprint. If this does not capture tension, I don't know what will.


Mud Flingers

Watch the mud fly and watch where they'll end up later...


Jockey Fragoso Flies with 'Travel On'

What amazes me are all the name of horses they can think of. This one is named "Travel On" and he does travel_on. He won race #4 that day.


Abbagione zips the finish line

The red and blue rods zipping past in this image is the finish line, FYI.


The Audience Cheers

A few photographers once told me that every scene has a lens specifically made for it. For example, landscapes should be done with wide angles. High powered telephotos are made specifically for birdings and panning shots of race cars/horses are mostly done with telephotos as well. I have rarely seen anyone using a wide angle to pan a horse. This particular one was done at 20mm. I hoped to pan this without leaving out the audience in the background. Does it work for you?


Chunky Mud

Where the mud all ended up...


Cooling Down

Trying to capture a wild horse with a good keeper washing him and giving him a good drink.


Benches of Regrets

With every gambling, there will be winners and losers. As you can tell here, this are the losing rows. Full of torn tickets littered throughtout the floor and heads bow low... Better luck next time.

  Copyright 2005 Michael Soo, Soo Photography. All rights reserved.