Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Through Rain Splattered Goggles at Churchill. "Turf & Dirt" Top 21 for 4.26.2011

Through the raindrops, the Derby picture is becoming clearer. Out are THE FACTOR and JP'S GUSTO... in are SHACKLEFORD and TWINSPIRED.
The entries basically boil down to earnings and defections. As for picking the favorites, that is still a very muddy picture.
Silver Medallion and Anthony's Cross are on the bubble. With the way this year is going, my guess is they get in.

In the "never trust a trainer' category, Uncle Mo took to the track this morning at 5:45, despite the announced 8:30 work time. Something just doesn't seem right with hiding a Derby colt in darkness from photographers and reporters.

Of those who took to the track, none looked better than SHACKLEFORD. He seems to now be in the Derby with enough earnings. This son of FORESTRY is steadily improving. He looks big and muscular and is training beautifully after running second in the Florida Derby, and 5th in the Fountain of Youth before that. 
I'm going to put him in the "Turf & Dirt Top 21" at #5. Very impressive looking colt!
Shackleford gallops at Churchill Downs. Photo: Matt Wooley/EquiSport Photos 1/800 @ f/3.5, iso 1000, 300mm, -1/3 EV

 ARCHARCHARCH was the best of the rest to gallop Tuesday. His question mark is distance. The ARCH colt nearly run down in the final strides of the Louisiana Derby by NEHRO. I'm going to put him in as T&D #4 this week.
Archarcharch at Churchill Downs 4.26.2011. Photo: Wendy Wooley/EquiSport Photos 1/1250 @f/4, iso 1600, 500mm

Rank HORSE (Sire)
1 DIALED IN (Mineshaft)
2 NEHRO (Mineshaft)
3 TOBY'S CORNER (Bellamy Road)
5 SHACKLEFORD (Forestry)
6 UNCLE MO (Indian Charlie)
9 SOLDAT (War Front)
10 MASTER OF HOUNDS (Kingmambo)
11 PANTS ON FIRE (Jump Start)
12 ANIMAL KINGDOM (Leroidesanimeaux)
13 STAY THIRSTY (Bernardini)
14 SANTIVA (Giant's Causeway)
15 COMMA TO THE TOP (Bwana Charlie)
16 BRILLIANT SPEED (Dynaformer)
17 DECISIVE MOMENT (With Distinction)
18 TWICE THE APPEAL (Successful Appeal)
19 WATCH ME GO (West Acre)
20 TWINSPIRED (Harlan's Holiday)
21 SILVER MEDALLION (Badge of Silver)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Not a 'Brilliant' Bluegrass - Turf & Dirt Top 21 for 4.18.2011

The BLUEGRASS STAKES produced yet another "Also Ran", in the form of BRILLIANT SPEED who is still unproven on dirt.  The Dynaformer colt prevailed in a photo finish over two other turf specialists, TWINSPIRED and KING CONGIE.

Brilliant Speed wins Bluegrass. Photo: Wendy Wooley/EquiSport Photos 1/1600 @ f/4, iso 1600, 500mm 
BRILLIANT SPEED, trained by Tom Albertrani, broke his Maiden prior to this race after 5 tries, finally winning on the turf. Following pedestrian fractions, 25 & 50, Brilliant Speed came charging with a last to first win by a nose.

“I was just glad to win a photo for a change. I’ve been beaten in a lot of photos lately. He ran great. I saw him far back, and I thought maybe he doesn’t handle the track. I saw him coming down the lane, and he was just making big strides,” Albertrani said.

Brilliant Speed wins Bluegrass. Photo: Matt Wooley/EquiSport Photos 1/1600 @ f/3.5, iso 1600, 300mm

In the Arkansas Derby it was 25-1 longshot ARCHARCHARCH prevailing in  a stretch run over 9-1 NEHRO. 
Trainer William "Jinks" Fires said the Kentucky Derby will be the next start for Archarcharch. 
“We will stay here a couple days and let him rest up before head up to Churchill. Back off him a bit and let him rest up. We will see how he comes out of it. He looks good so far.”

"Turf & Dirt" Top 21 for April 18th, 2011

Rank Horse (Sire)
1 DIALED IN (Mineshaft)
2 TOBY'S CORNER (Bellamy Road)
3 UNCLE MO (Indian Charlie)
6 NEHRO (Mineshaft)
8 ANIMAL KINGDOM (Leroidesanimeaux)
9 PANTS ON FIRE (Jump Start)
10 SOLDAT (War Front)
11 MASTER OF HOUNDS (Kingmambo)
12 SHACKLEFORD (Forestry)
13 THE FACTOR (War Front)
14 JAYCITO (Victory Gallop)
15 COMMA TO THE TOP (Bwana Charlie)
16 BRILLIANT SPEED (Dynaformer)
17 STAY THIRSTY (Bernardini)
18 SANTIVA (Giant's Causeway)
19 JP'S GUSTO (Successful Appeal)
20 DECISIVE MOMENT (With Distinction)
21 TWICE THE APPEAL (Successful Appeal)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Foal Conformation.. Photography Essentials

This is one, in a series of occasional posts, from our photography blog over at Capture The Light.

Let's talk about Baby Conformations, as we call them. It's a lot like a big horse Conformations... only a little different.
Most of the basics are the same. But the babies are not quite as patient as the older professionals, so sometimes you have to take what you can get. Here are a few things you will need to make your pictures look good.

1. Good light. Sunny days work best to show off the sheen of the coat. 
2. A good background, and a good distance from the background. Nice and clean. No distracting elements.
3. Fairly shallow depth of field. Blur the background and keep the focus on the horse.
4. A good crew. It helps to have several people; to hold the horse, set the feet, get the horses attention, clean up poop, etc.
5. Plenty of time and patience. This series usually takes a solid hour.

A Conformation picture of a horse tells the owner how a horse is built. There is an industry standard of sorts, so you can compare the physical attributes of one horse to another. Additionally, certain owners will want Conformations taken at different ages, to be able to see the development.
Foot position is of critical importance. It must be uniform from horse to horse, and from year to year for each individual. The above photo shows good foot position. Mainly, you want the horse to look well balanced.

For the side shots, I try to shoot straight out from the girth. I squat down just a little to get a good perspective of the horse. I want to give him some prominence.  Notice the horizon line goes through the chest and tail. Perfect.

In the Right Side Shot the feet are opposite the Left Side Shot. The light is hitting the horse at a 90 degree angle, from behind my left shoulder.

For the front and rear view, the feet need to be even, and 6-7 inches apart for foals. These shots are from my same exact position to the horse as the side shot. I stay in my spot, with the sun behind me, and the horse turns.

Along with the 4 "sides", I usually get a head shot. This is the only shot I move for, a little closer and slightly in front of the foal.

Now, for a few technical points from our sponsor...
I am shooting in APERTURE PRIORITY. Usually about f/5 gives me a good depth of field. The horse is sharp, and the background blurs away.
I'm about 50 feet from the horse, using a 70-200mm lens. I want to "fill the frame", without cutting off feet. Usually about 110-130mm is where I end up.
For sunny conditions, I am at ISO 400. I want a fast shutter speed...1/1000 or so.
EXPOSURE COMPENSATION is at 0, unless it's a gray horse (in which case I'll go to -1/3).
As we've talked about before, I want to push the exposure enough to bring out the detail in the shadows. Look at your HIGHLIGHT ALERTS, and make sure you're getting a few "blinkies". In this case, I had just a few blinkies on the star and nose. I knew I could recover those blown highlights in Lightroom.
I mentioned that I am standing in one spot. Well, really it's close to one spot. As the horse moves, I need to move from side to side to stay "straight out from the girth".

Feel free to comment below with any questions you have, and I'll do my best to answer!

Here's a short video showing the overall scene. This is a different mare and foal that we were shooting together. Some patience required...lol.  And yes, we did end up with a couple shots. Thanks Wendy!

We will be doing a live Stallion Conformation demo during our "Capture the Light - Bluegrass Equine Photography Workshop", May 3-5. Check out the details on our website.

We are looking forward to our 3 fun filled days of photography in scenic Bluegrass Horse Country including an early morning shoot at Keeneland!

Space is limited to 12-15 participants for the workshop, but we still have about a half dozen spots left.

That's it for now... mw.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

No 'Mo'.. 'Toby' and 'Midnight' in Top 3 - Turf & Dirt Top 21 for April 11, 2011

Finally! A break out performance.
TOBY'S CORNER, knocked off the "also rans", including UNCLE MO, to win the Wood Memorial. ARTHUR'S TALE, was second best, to put his name in the Derby mix as well.

Toby's Corner prevails over Arthur's Tale in Wood. Photo: Jessie Holmes/EquiSport Photos 1/3200 @ f/4.5, iso 1000, 180mm

Uncle Mo. Jessie Holmes/EquiSport Photos

After pulling up behind a wall of horses coming out of the turn, Toby's Corner, wearing blinkers for the first time, was clearly focused on picking off the rest of the field. He moved to the outside collaring Uncle Mo on the rail, and only Arthur's Tale was left. Jockey Eddie Castro had that rival measured with a neck to spare at the wire.

After a disappointing 3rd in the Gotham, trainer Graham Motion had been thinking about the Preakness for Toby's Corner. The thinking now appears to be Churchill Downs. “We’re going, as long as he’s doing fine,” Motion said. “It looks like the mile and a quarter won’t be a problem, and it’s very wide open now. It’s obviously a very-wide-open group, and I kind of think he ranks right up there with the top ones."

TOBY'S CORNER does not seem to have a problem with getting the classic distance. I'm going to move him up to "Turf & Dirt" #2.
And although ARTHUR'S TALE is on the Earnings Bubble, I'll put him in as "T&D" #14.

In yet another example of horses backing up, UNCLE MO staggered home for a disappointing, but hardly unexpected, third place finish. The trendy training formula is for two preps as a three year old on the Derby Trail. It's not working.
Track announcer Tom Durkin compared Uncle Mo's defeat in the Wood similar to the great Secretariat's loss. What should be remembered is that Secretariat was making his 12th start in the Wood. Perhaps if Uncle Mo had even half that number of total starts, he would have had an excuse to wobble down the stretch.
I'll leave UNCLE MO in the top 5 at "T&D" #4. For now.

In another nice race, MIDNIGHT INTERLUDE, despite a chop block in the stretch from COMMA TO THE TOP, proved much the best in the Santa Anita Derby.

Midnight Interlude, outside, fights off Comma To The Top. Photo: Alex Evers/EquiSport Photos 1/2000 @ f/5, iso 800, 35mm

Midnight Interlude. Alex Evers/EquiSport Photos
 Trainer Bob Baffert now has a possible 3 entries in the Kentucky Derby with Midnight Interlude's impressive win. Stablemate THE FACTOR seems like a lock for the starting gate, and JAYCITO has a chance with a good showing in the Lexington Stakes.

Baffert's was forced to scratch Jaycito the day before the race with a sore foot problem. That left longshot 14-1 Midnight Interlude to carry the stable. The War Chant colt ended up the determined victor.

"I'm elated," Baffert said afterwards, "and somewhat surprised he won. I didn't know what to expect. But he raced like he had been training. The biggest wins are when you are hoping but not really expecting it."

Midnight Interlude would be the first Derby starter for owner Arnold Zetcher. 
"We still have a ways to go so you never think too far ahead. Things can happen to these horses, so you don't try to get too excited about it. But the Zetchers tonight, they can get excited about it," Baffert said.

MIDNIGHT INTERLUDE drops in as "Turf & Dirt" #2.  
COMMA TO THE TOP is again back in the Derby discussion, he has the "T&D" #17.

Rank Horse (Sire)
1 DIALED IN (Mineshaft)
2 TOBY'S CORNER (Bellamy Road)
4 UNCLE MO (Indian Charlie)
5 THE FACTOR (War Front)
6 SANTIVA (Giant's Causeway)
9 JAYCITO (Victory Gallop)
10 ANIMAL KINGDOM (Leroidesanimeaux)
11 SOLDAT (War Front)
12 PANTS ON FIRE (Jump Start)
13 SHACKLEFORD (Forestry)
14 ARTHUR'S TALE (Bernardini)
15 STAY THIRSTY (Bernardini)
16 MASTER OF HOUNDS (Kingmambo)
17 COMMA TO THE TOP (Bwana Charlie)
18 JP'S GUSTO (Successful Appeal)
19 DECISIVE MOMENT (With Distinction)
20 SWAY AWAY (Afleet Alex)
21 TWICE THE APPEAL (Successful Appeal)

Monday, April 4, 2011

Zito has it Dialed In, "DERBY TOP 21" for 4.04.2011

Spotting the field 14 lengths going into the back stretch, DIALED IN proved this skeptic wrong by winning the Florida Derby in dramatic last-to-first fashion. The Mineshaft colt reeled in the frontrunners in the turn, and in what proved to be a well timed run, got up by a head over longshot SHACKLEFORD. DIALED IN moves up a spot to the "Top 21" #3.

Dialed In gets up over Shackleford, 4.03.2011. Photo: Joe Ganley?EquiSport Photos 1/1000 @ f/5.6, iso 1000, 85mm
Julien Leparoux rode the winner, letting him relax early. “It was a solid pace and that definitely helped. I just left him alone out of the gate and started to catch up around the second turn," Leparoux said afterwards. He went on to say Dialed In's previous race, a second place finish in an Allowance against older horses, was a good learning experience. "I think his last race really helped him today. I loved his last race. It was a very good learning race. He learned to run between horses and take dirt in his face, and it all paid off today,”

What was disappointing about Dialed In's performance? The last quarter was run in a pedestrian 13 4/5. So what appeared to be a nice run for the wire, was actually the rest of the field quitting. I would hardly call it a breakout performance. Still Dialed In moves forward only because, once again this year, everybody else is backing up.

Behind the top 2 in the Florida Derby, it was 6 lengths back to TO HONOR AND SERVE, who drops like a rock to "Top 21" #15.  It was 1 more back to FLASHPOINT who moves to "Top 21" #21 and still needs earnings. The biggest disappointment was Uncle Mo's stable mate STAY THIRSY , who tired for 7th place and tumbles down to "Top 21" #16.
You've got to include surprise runner-up SHACKLEFORD the Derby picture now. With $212,000, he currently sits at 19th on the earnings list. I'll put him in the "Top 21" at #11.

No one has impressed me more this year than PREMIER PEGASUS, with his eye popping performance in the San Felipe. He continues to train brilliantly towards the Santa Anita Derby, Saturday, April 9th. I'm going to give him the top spot this week "Top 21" at #1.

Premier Pegasus with Alonso Quinonez up, 4.02.2011. Photo: Alex Evers/EquiSport Photos 1/1600 @ f/3.2 iso 640, 400mm

Myung Kwon Cho and son Raxon. Photo: AE/EquiSport
Trainer Myung Kwon Cho is hoping to add to Premier Pegasus' earnings with a strong showning in the Santa Anita Derby, he is currently #18.
Top competition will come from JAYCITO ("Top 21" #4), ANTHONY'S CROSS ("Top 21" #8) and SILVER MEDALLION ("Top 21" #12).

THE WORD,  "DERBY TOP 21" for 4.04.2011
(Performance and Earnings Based..... and maybe a Dash of Pedigree)

Rank HORSE (Sire)
1 PREMIER PEGASUS (Fusaichi Pegasus)
2 UNCLE MO (Indian Charlie)
3 DIALED IN (Mineshaft)
4 JAYCITO (Victory Gallop)
5 THE FACTOR (War Front)
7 SANTIVA (Giant's Causeway)
8 ANTHONY'S CROSS (Indian Charlie)
10 PANTS ON FIRE (Jump Start)
11 SHACKLEFORD (Forestry)
12 SILVER MEDALLION (Badge of Silver)
13 ANIMAL KINGDOM (Leroidesanimeaux)
14 SOLDAT (War Front)
15 TO HONOR AND SERVE (Bernardini)
16 STAY THIRSTY (Bernardini)
17 TWICE THE APPEAL (Successful Appeal)
18 MASTER OF HOUNDS (Kingmambo)
19 JP'S GUSTO (Successful Appeal)
20 DECISIVE MOMENT (With Distinction)
21 FLASHPOINT (Pomeroy)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Keeneland Color... and Speed!

Keeneland is starting to get into full swing here. So Saturday morning Wendy and I scraped the frost off of the windshield  and headed out for sunrise workouts. The crisp morning air was punctuated by the sounds of hoof beats and hopes of a successful Spring run.
We had some dramatically changing light during our 2 hours. How did we make some good pictures? Follow along.

Keeneland Sunrise. Photo: Wendy Wooley 1/2000 @ f/9, iso 800, -1 2/3 EV, 35mm

We are starting off in APERTURE PRIORITY at sunrise, and we will switch to SHUTTER PRIORITY later on... you'll see why.

In our blog post on arena shots, we needed to control the depth of field, so we shot with a fairly shallow Aperture like f/4. This time we want to capture the rich color of the sunrise, so we want a deep Aperture.

The first thing we do is dial in a deep Aperture Value, like  f/9. This works great for bringing out the nice rich colors in the sky.  The same idea works for blue sky too. Set your aperture to f/11 or f/16 and  watch the colors pop!
The second thing to notice is that this  sunrise scene is dark. Remember, first look at the scene WITHOUT THE CAMERA,  and see what the light looks like. We want to intentionally  underexpose, so the camera doesn't try to give us 18% neutral gray by  adding light (as also discussed in the arena shots  post). Wendy went to -1 2/3 EXPOSURE VALUE here. (By the way, even in daylight, a little  bit of minus  EV will help make your colors rich).
Lastly, we want a fast enough Shutter Speed to freeze the  action. She chose an ISO VALUE of 800 in the first shot, resulting in a Shutter Speed  of 1/2000. Easily fast enough.

The sun is on the move, we have to constantly evaluate the scene with our eyes, and figure out how to make a good picture. Think about that for a second. How many times do you people firing away with no regard for the scene? Stop and look at what is in front of you. Ask.. How can I capture this? How can I make a picture here? 

Photo: Wendy Wooley 1/4000 @ f/11, iso 500, -2 EV, 175 mm

In the second shot, the sun is MUCH brighter. Wendy went for more of a  silhouette type shot. She switched to a longer lens, stayed with a deep  Aperture and REDUCED the EV. That resulted in a FASTER Shutter Speed,  and this beautiful silhouette with rich color.
Can you tell that the horse is feeling his oats on this cool morning? 

Photo: Matt Wooley 1/3200 @ f/3.5, iso 640. -1/3 EV 30
The sun continued to climb, so we went around to the front side to get the horses coming into the light.
I'm still in Aperture Priority here. We still have dark shadows so I want to shoot pretty wide open, at f/3.5. This also helps control the depth of field by blurring out the background.
My -1/3 EV helps keep the feel of the shadows and early morning light.

As the sun starts to get hotter we can grab some serious workout shots. Now we have the need for speed, and switch to SHUTTER PRIORITY.

Photo: Matt Wooley 1/2000 @ f/4, iso 400, -1/3 EV, 300mm

In Shutter Priority, I set the speed at 1/2000.  The Shutter speed is my main concern here. I want to freeze the action. I'm not so concerned with the Aperture, as long as it's deep enough to keep the entire horse in focus. A Shutter speed of 1/1000 or faster should be good.

Photo: MW, 1/1000 @f/4, iso 400, -2/3 EV, 85mm

We end our morning by following a horse from the barn to the training track. Crimson China, trained by Graham Motion, will run here at Keeneland in the Bluegrass Stakes. Wendy and I want to grab a few shots.

The horses are not wearing very little to identify them, so the best way to make sure you have the right horse is to follow it from the barn. Another photo op!

Here I'm at -2/3 EV as he comes out of the barn. I would like to leave the distracting background dark, and I don't want to blow out the highlights.

Photo: Matt Wooley 1/2500 @ f/5. iso 400, -1/3 EV, 105mm

I still want to be in Shutter Priority here. I want to control the shutter, and I don't really care exactly where the Aperture Value ends up. And I'll stick with -1/3 EV here to protect the highlights.

So that's it. Wendy and I are done at the track in time to stop at Starbucks on the way back to the Studio. Mmm... warmth!

Photo MW,  1/60 @ f/18, iso 1600, 0EV, 300mm

One final thought, a sloooow Shutter speed, like this shot at 1/60 on the left, will show motion by blurring the background.

I hope this helps you know when to use Aperture Priority and when Shutter Priority is the way to go. Aperture for color or depth of field, Shutter Priority to freeze action or show motion.  

Photo MW, 1/1000 @ f/5, iso 500, -1/3 EV, 300mm

Keeneland is just one of the many exciting stops at which we will be shooting during our "Capture the Light - Bluegrass Equine Photography Workshop". Check out the details on our website.
We are looking forward to our 3 fun filled days of photography in scenic Bluegrass Horse Country. Space is limited to 12-15 participants for the workshop, but we still have a half dozen spots left.

That's it for now... mw.