Opening Day Tampa Bay Downs Horse Racing

Hello Everyone! Every year I like to go to Tampa Bay Downs and photograph the race horses. My brother is a race fan so I usually go with him. If you have never gone I recommend it whether you bet on the horses or simply want to watch. It is an interesting world to experience and a challenging one to photograph. Things are in constant motion. Of course the horses run incredibly fast. I set my camera to 1/1000 shutter speed to start and adjust the other settings around it. But even between the races there is constant movement. The horses participating in each race are led to a stable area where they are checked out and mounted by the jockeys. This only takes a few minutes. I love that I can stand very close to the track when they race by! Here are some photos of the jockeys.

It is a lot of fun to watch all that goes on. Here are a few more photos of some of the people that work there and the horses that are not racing.
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Now for the more exciting photos of the actual racing! I try standing in various places along the fence-you are provided with a pretty long area so this is great. I found one area where I felt I was standing just a little higher and that seems to work the best. I have also tried a few different methods for composing the photos. Sometimes I will simply aim my camera for one spot and continuously shoot as the horse pass that spot. Other times I will pan. It is actually easier to shoot the horse trailing behind the others so they are not all clumped together. I did get a few I liked with 2 horses in the shot though this time. You get a lot of shots where only part of the horse is in the frame etc especially when you just aim at one spot.

Lastly here are some individual horses that were racing past me. The goal here is to capture images of them with all four feet off of the ground. I was really happy I got as many nice shots as I did. For anyone wondering I shot some races with my Canon 24-105mm lens and some with my Canon 70-300mmL lens, usually at f/8 though on the last race I forgot to switch the setting and had it on 5.6. The reason I prefer f/8 is I would like to have the entire horse in focus when possible. With them running by so fast I am never sure exactly which auto focus point will hit where on the horse!


Races are held a Tampa Bay Downs from December to May. Check out their website for details. It is very inexpensive to go so if you are looking for something different to do for an afternoon and have never been I highly recommend it!


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