A Turf Paradise in Arizona

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As I am over in Phoenix, Arizona right now, I took the chance to pay the local horse race track – Turf Paradise – a visit.

A compact race track, on the outskirts of Phoenix, I was greeted by a super relaxed, serene and friendly atmosphere. Sure, splendid sunshine always helps; nonetheless, this place has loads of charme: you’re close to the action, entry is free and fair food & drink prices make it wonderful day out.

There were only a few hundred or so people attending this mid-week race day. But as this is such a compact place, it didn’t feel lonely as it can be at bigger tracks on these type of days.

Having the big lens with me on the day, briefly some security guy came up and ask “are you with the media?” – otherwise no bother, and I could take some great images.

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Equipment:

Nikon D7100
Tamron 70-200mm G2
Sigma 8-16mm

A Grand Horse

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An imposing individual – 2017 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Sizing John, today at Punchestown Racecourse (Ireland) after a winning seasonal reappearance in the Grade 1 John Durkan Chase.

Nikon D7100, Tamron 70-200mm G2; 70mm, ISO 500, f/4.0, 1/800s

Mud Boys

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What a day here in Sydney –my first day in the big city on the East Coast of Australia; a day literally drowned in rain! Since my arrival yesterday afternoon it has not stopped to rain. And more rain is expected over the next few day actually!

Now, that meant for today instead of the walking tour and ferry trip along the world renowned Harbour Bridge that I had in mind it had to be plan B:  the opportunity to visit local race track Canterbury Park!

A wise decision. Because even now writing nearly eight hours after leaving the racecourse the rain is still hammering against the roof of my house – it wasn’t different in the afternoon. Thunderstorms and torrential rain would have made it impossible to explore Sydney in any meaningful way.

Canterbury Park on the other hand has a roof, first class facilities, and is more or less down the road from where I’m based anyways.

That, however, doesn’t make photography any easier. Soon after the second race ended the sky went so dark one could have mistaken the day for the night.

For the rest of the day it’s very much bumping up the ISO, shooting from the comfort of the stand…. or not quite. Because there those few brave moments where jump out off safety, the camera in my right hand, keeping the hood in place over my head with the other hand while I press the shutter erratically  in the hope one of the compositions visualized beforehand get into the frame.

 

In the end it was a great test for the Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 to show what the lens can do in circumstances like this – obviously in low light situation the Nikon D7100 tends to struggle, so I was concerned.

However after looking through the results I have to be impressed once again. I wouldn’t say all is brilliant, but the auto-focus worked wonders, the shots are sharp enough for my liking, look decent even at higher ISO’s and again most impressed I am with the results of shots taken of moving objects – in this case fast running horses far away in the distance in low light, eve when cropped in heavily in post these images are still very usable.

Below a selection of photographs from the day. My focus was to capture the grind, desperation, emotions but also beauty of this race day held in these desperate conditions.

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Breathtaking Hanshin

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What a breathtaking sporting venue Hanshin Racecourse near Osaka, japan is – it fits up to 139.000 fans and spots a unique architecture, particularly in the paddock area, which is covered by a multi-layered roof.

Racing at Down Royal

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A fun day at Down Royal Racecourse in Northern Ireland today – it’s the biggest day of the their season, so you see huge crowds and tremendous quality racing…. and some funny grannies going wild!

These two lads became a bit a viral hit last night when videos emerged on social media as they also went on a wild ride on the first day of the racing festival.

Today I went down myself and couldn’t believe when I bumped right into them entering the course.

Some more photos from a chilly but beautiful day:

The Jockey

Blog, Portrait

Jockey

Eye To Eye

Black and White, Blog

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Mud Faces

Blog, World of Sport

Life can be tough if it is your job to steer half a ton of horse flesh over obstacles on a muddy turf course in freezing conditions. However that is exactly the scenario jump jockeys face day in day out during the heights of the season.

If you ask these men and women, though, they will confess how much they love the ‘game’. It’s pure dedication and passion for the sport – in fact a certain lifestyle that is as dangerous to the human body, that a single fall can end your career, if not your life. You’ve got to be made of a certain character to endure this kind of pressure on any given day.

It’s not a life made of caviar and champagne. Far from it it. It’s a puristic life, for most parts. It has little financial incentive for many jockeys out there, who in fact struggle to make a living. If your not at the top of the game, then you may end up jumping out of the bed in the early morning for one ride on the other end of the country, booked on a long-shot, who you potentially fall off from during the race, paid your riding fee which pays at least for petrol and maybe a coffee, though nothing else.

It’s all about dedication and passion. Look into the faces of these men and women. It’s all there. You can see it. Passion. Dedication. Love. Desperation. It’s a life rich of moments and emotions.