So one day my friend calls me up and says, “Hey! Want to shoot the Preakness for Sports Illustrated?” Shockingly, my answer is, “I have to check with work because that’s a Saturday,” but that’s besides the point. I went, and it was amazing!
Let’s start off by mentioning that Pimlico, near my former D.C. diggs in the b-e-a-utiful Baltimer, is nowhere near as hot as Churchill Downs (where they hold the Kentucky Derby) but the excitement is nonetheless fantabulous.
My assignment from Bill Frakes (if I chose to accept it – totally Mission Impossible style minus Tom Cruise) was to shoot a pan of the big race. They had used a pan of the Derby so… no pressure… they probably weren’t going to print a pan again, but I took my position seriously, and I did quite a bit of practicing by the finish line during the 12 hours between our 6am setup and the 6pm post.
This is my favorite:
And here is why:
It’s a proper pan with movement—those blurry lines extending extending beyond, showing where the horse is coming from, inferring how fast they’re galloping—but it’s also sharp.
For a good pan, something in the frame has to be in focus—and you hope that it’s the horse. You do this by shooting at the same pace the horse is running.
- You start shooting before you want the photo and track them as they progress forward until they turn or leave your frame.
- You prepare much like if you were shooting a video pan; set your feet for the last part of the shot and then twist your body around for a smooth follow-through.
- Set your camera for a low shutter speed. Note: horses run faster than kids at your local meet. This might take some trial and error.
- Auto-focus WILL FAIL YOU.
Now, go play. Find a bicyclist or a track meet, a skier or a car and make yourself a pan that’s “totally cra.”*
P.S. Do your research. If you shoot in B*More, be on the vocab up and up. That way if they ask you if you want a Black Eyed Susan, you know they’re not referring to the flower
*Editor’s Note: Cra means crazy in this context. Apparently all the kids are saying it this way.