Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California opened their doors for photographers on Photography Day, Friday, October 7, 2011. The day started at 7:30 a.m. with morning workouts, breakfast (great OJ) and a panel of speakers consisting of horse trainers, one jockey and one in-house photographer. Arcadia is 30+ miles from where I live. In anticipation of LA traffic, I left my house before 6:30 a.m. Witnessing a beautiful sunrise made waking up more acceptable.
Once parked, I prepared my camera gear. One of the many items packed in my bag was the 300mm and monopod to capture the ponies. I started the quarter mile hike from my car to the side gate in order to enter. The people at the gate informed me that no tripods or monopods were allowed. Unhappy with this discovery, I fired off a sarcastic response of “What about iPods?” She took a few seconds to think and then replied, “If the music is not too loud.” I retreated the quarter mile back to my car to put my monopod away.
After my stroll back to the entrance, I entered the park and my eyes quickly fixated on tripods and monopods. Dozens of people were using them. My frustration level increased. An hour later I exited the park and retrieved my monopod. This time, I entered through another gate to prevent the same woman from telling me “no pods inside.”
The first of eight races started at 1:00 p.m. Five of the eight races were on outside dirt track allowing for action photos. The best place I found to stand was at turn 4 when the horses come down the back stretch. Turn 4 is filled with action, horses racing side-by-side in stride. Additionally, 10 yards after the finish line provides a pleasant viewpoint. This angle allowed me to capture the horses making their final moves before crossing the finish line.
One advantage of these positions is the possibility of getting low. Personally, my favorite angle is lying on my stomach to shoot the action. The photographers’ pit in Turn 4 is built below the track giving the same perception of lying on your stomach.
During the three turf races I searched the park for opportunities to photograph the scene and people of Santa Anita Park. For one race I moved indoors and it was a failure. There was no action only screaming people! The guests never left their seats. My advice is to stay outside where there will be more action and characters. One person I met on the day was Michael Stalin (click his name to take you to his blog entry).
Beginning at 2:00 p.m., my beloved Milwaukee Brewers were playing a pivotal game five of the National League Division Series. Listening to the game required me to wear my headphones and tune into Bob Uecker of WTMJ, home of the Milwaukee Brewers. Between races, I would find my way to the expensive seats which had TVs in order to watch the game. Race 8 ended with the Brewers headed into the 7th inning. Too nervous to drive, I stayed in the parking lot listening to the game. After the great news of Nyjer Morgan’s walk-off single in the 10th inning (and after completing my own celebration dance), I got into my car to drive home. Citizens of LA County you are welcome!
Here are photos from the day:
Jockey Victor Espinoza (left) uses the whip on his mount D’wildbunch at Santa Anita Park racecourse on Friday, October 7, 2011 in Arcadia, Calif.
Jockey Daniel Vergara sits on the ground after being thrown from his mount Satchmo’s Muse in Race 8 at Santa Anita Park racecourse on Friday, October 7, 2011 in Arcadia, Calif.
Spectators look on anxiously during Race 7 at Santa Anita Park racecourse on Friday, October 7, 2011 in Arcadia, Calif.