A day at the races

Yesterday was made up of a lot of firsts for us.  It was the first time Sian and I were going to the races down at the Garisson, it was the first time I would be shooting solely in RAW, and it was the first time that I had decided I was going to process my shots in Adobe Lightroom.

Here we all are at the races, Sian, Caragh and Jonathan.

We decided to go to the races because Caragh is here, and Caragh loooooves horses.  She worked as a stable girl in Bexley a few years back, and by the end of her time there she was taking classes and teaching little’uns (including our amazing nephew Ryan) how to ride.  Caragh is more into point to point racing back in the UK, and Mick, my father in law, just loves anything with four legs.  I know that he reads the blog, so Mick – I hope you enjoy this and that the shots do the sport justice. 😉

Both Caragh and Mick are incredibly fastidious when it comes to the form and which horse to back. I, on the other hand am utterly pants.  I’m quite handy at the dogs, being that we have been many many more times, and that I have had best part of half a dozen as pets.  But the horses are completely beyond me.  I had no idea what to look for when they came out, no idea how the jockeys (who are heroes, by the way) affected a horse, and absolutely no idea how important ALL that information is about each runner.

Sian and I quickly agreed that we would bet $10bds on each race (about 3 pounds) and would take turns…in the mean time, I would take photos.

At least I know something about that.

As I mentioned before, I planned to shoot everything in Raw on this shoot.  RAW basically means that your camera records the information that it sees pixel for pixel.  There is no compression as there is in JPEG format, and no in-camera correction such as sharpness, hue or saturation is recorded in the file.

What this ultimately means is that the files are much, MUCH larger, and I have always avoided RAW because I have found that using Adobe Bridge and Photoshop to process these files is a painstakingly laborious and long-winded process.  But James has been getting into Lightroom lately which is much better for RAW files, and kindly took the time to show me a few things.  He is already annoyingly good with his camera and is getting better everyday, so the thought of falling behind on software as well is not something that my stubborn nature would allow.

Essentially, RAW gives you a lot more control over the files when it comes to processing, because the files are nothing but pixel information and have had no editing whatsoever when you drag them into your computer.  When shooting JPEG, the camera has a host of inbuilt processes and algorithms to help ‘improve’ your photos in camera.  This is great for speed; as a lot of the files out of my D700 don’t need any alteration.  But you are giving up a considerable amount of creative control, because your colours and everything else are essentially being decided by an engineer in Japan 5 years ago, rather than by me, at that moment.

Despite shooting in RAW, however, I still approached the day as I always do – I knew what I wanted: to get a good mixture of frozen action and motion blur, and  I knew that I was going to achieve this by varying my shutter speed.  My first snap was at the finish line of race number one.  I focused on the jockeys as they approached the finishing line, and tracked them running from right to left.  Shot at a 50th of a second, I got that wonderful movement on the horses’ legs and background blurring, but the jockey is still tack sharp:

I really like this shot.

I then ramped my shutter to about 1250th, to get these frozen action shots:

I love the frozen action too – particularly the last one where you can see the turf flying up under the horses’ hooves.  It really is an amazing experience as the pack thunders by, and I like to think the last shoot gives an inkling of the power that these amazing animals have.

After a few races, we headed off to get some lunch, where we were treated to a winning horse getting showered down.

It is (obviously!) very hot in Barbados, and the poor horses were running at half one – the hottest time of day!  This guy was very thirsty as well as very hot, and he kept poking his tongue out to get a cheeky drink during his shower:

It was wonderful to see the horse and handlers playing with each other – and when the shower was over, I was lucky enough to capture this moment between them:

After lunch, we headed back into the stands to win a few more bucks (Sian had backed a winner, and I had somehow, picked a horse that placed) and watch the last few races.  Race 6 was made up of a lot of inexperienced horses – none of them had run more than four races, and were yet to place in any of their track days.  Needless to say, this made betting almost impossible, and the end result was very surprising – the winner was a country mile ahead of the pack.

I just love the Jockey’s smile in this shot – just before he looked back to see where everyone else was…he is clearly already celebrating here.

We watched the last few races as the sun came down, and got ready to head home.

So, as always, another great day out on a glorious weekend in Barbados.  I really enjoyed the races, both shooting and watching.  The betting was fun and the day (amazingly) ran pretty much on time.  We headed back home to the hotel to have some BBQ and beer, and are now looking forward to a day out on the beach before we have to go back to work tomorrow…

Thanks for reading guys, and keep on snapping

Ferg x


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