The 133rd running of the Preakness Stakes horse race was held in Baltimore this past weekend. It is one of the most prestigious events in the American horse racing calendar, the second race in the annual three race series beginning with the Kentucky Derby and ending with the Belmont Stakes in New York. Once again the Reuters pictures team (Jim Young, Molly Riley, Jonathan Ernst, Tim Shaffer and I ), were armed with spools of electrical wire, switches and cases of extra cameras and lenses as we arrived from Washington 10 hours ahead of the 6pm race to set up our ‘remotes’.
Remote cameras are triggered either by a cable or wireless transmitter, allowing a photographer to shoot multiple angles of an important moment like the finish of a horse race. They can provide an usually high or low angle to vary the type of pictures we like to provide to our clients. On news assignments remotes can also yield an alternative angle from a tight position or one that does not allow a camera to be hand held. The only limit to shooting remotes is the photographer’s imagination!!
With a cut-off time of 10am before the first race of the day, we set up five remote cameras under the inside rail of the track, and another on an observation post beyond the finish line with a high angle general view of the end of the race. Putting in place the gear – five EOS-1D Mark II cameras, an assortment of lenses from 16mm to 200mm, and their little mounting plates was a breeze, about 5 minutes in total, compared to the next step – getting them all to work!
Over the next hour, there ensued an awkward dance which involved laying our two-wire electrical cable in the mud alongside the inside rail of the track, clipping each remote camera’s slave cables into that string, and connecting a foot-switch that would fire all the cameras at the same time. All easier said than done when up to a dozen other photographers are doing exactly the same thing at the same time. Sports Illustrated alone laid out 12 cameras for the finish line picture.
The next most crucial step, involves “Dark Arts”, invoking the sort of magic that only boy wizard Harry Potter knows and attempting to appease the Gods of Technology and Good Fortune as, with all of your fingers crossed, you switch on the cameras to complete the electrical circuit and pray that none of them start firing indescriminantly at 8 frames per second, a sure sign that at least one of the connectors is set to the wrong electrical polarity.