Trackside

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Calmly in the Lead, Humboldt County Fair

Calmly in the Lead, Humboldt County Fair

I gave myself an assignment to cover the local county fair.

A fair is a very visual event. The workers at the carnival trying to entice customers onto rides or into games; the livestock auction; the vendors; the performers; the people; and the horse races, are all interesting.

I had never stood at trackside at a horse race before. I walked around the track from the entrance so that the grandstand was in the background of the photos and in the sunlight. There were shadows across the track in front of me, but I wanted to get the horses as they emerged into the sunlight with the shadows behind them.

I photographed several races. There was anticipation and excitement as the horses came down the straightaway in front of the stands. Each time I tried to be prepared as they came around the corner. I set up the composition and practiced panning before they got there. Each time I was shocked at how fast they were going. They went by in a flash. If you have not stood next to the railing at a horse race it is hard to imagine the pounding of the hooves, the adrenaline, and the chaos of the dirt storm that the back horses and riders are covered with. They run the entire race in a shower of dirt clods and dust from the front horses. The riders wear goggles. They duck behind the head of the horse for aerodynamics, but probably also for shelter. I don’t know how the debris affects the horses.

I chose this photograph because the lead rider is just entering the spotlight of the sun. He is very calm and relaxed. In contrast the riders behind him appear to be frantically fighting to find speed and move ahead.  Photo:  1/1250 s at f/4   (2009)

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