After 12 years of covering the Kentucky Derby for the Lexington Herald-Leader as a staff photographer, I had a few more options this year as a freelancer (of course one options was to sit at home sipping mint juleps and watch the race on the big screen). Well, the draw of the race was too much and my former boss, Ron Garrison invited me back to work with the team I have been working with for every other derby I’ve worked.
This year, though, I asked Ron if I could actually shoot the race (wha?) Yup, I’ve never watched or photographed the race or viewed it live in the years I’ve been shooting for the Herald-Leader. (There was that one year, nearly 25 years ago when I worked as assistant for Bill Frakes and I pushed his remote buttons from the roof of the Downs – but that doesn’t count). For the last ten years or so, I’ve covered the backside with Mark Cornelison for the week leading up to the Derby. That’s working double shifts for a week. There have been times when I’ve worked from 7 a.m. Friday morning until 3 a.m Sunday morning with about four hours of sleep Friday night. For all that hard prep work, I never did get to shoot the two-minute race. Ron agreed to let me have a race position in addition to another assignment before the race.
My other job for the day was to cover the infield with reporter Amy Wilson and create a piece in the flavor of our series called Project Dateline. So we took the approach of the infield turning into city for the day: Infield, Ky.
The infield is a gold mine, as most photographers know, but again, I’ve never shot it. My assignments have always been fashion/celebrities/multimedia and owners box during the race. So you can imagine how much fun covering the infield was, especially in the pouring rain. Safe to say it was one of the more enjoyable Kentucky Derbys I’ve ever covered. Hopefully Ron will have me back.