Skip to main content

So how did this pro photographer fare at the very muddy Kentucky Derby?

bill frakes kentucky derby 2017 kit
Bill Frakes
Earlier this week we set eyes on the astonishingly huge camera kit (above and below) employed by ace photographer Bill Frakes. Comprising more than 40 DSLR bodies and an even larger number of lenses covering every focal length known to man, the whole lot accompanies Bill on major assignments across the country.

His latest event was Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, where he used 35 of his DSLR cameras in a shoot for ESPN. We caught up with Bill to find out how the day went.

Did you use the whole kit during Derby Day?

Pretty much. This was my 35th Derby so I had a good idea going in what I would need for the task, which was to produce a major multimedia package.

What challenges did you face during what turned out to be a very rainy, not to say extremely muddy, day?

There are many angles necessary to make it work [but in some places] a person can’t stand, or it’s too dangerous or impossible to access during the race. For example, mounted under the rail, or hanging from a light stand, or a judge’s stand. There were two cameras I wanted to mount in high locations but I couldn’t because of the rain.

Were the majority of the camera bodies set up to auto-fire?

Most of the cameras were fired remotely using Nikon 10-pin connectors coupled with Pocket Wizards or hard-wired. I went to each location multiple times to look through the cameras to be sure the composition was correct. I used auto-ISO for exposure.

Did you have any major issues with the kit during the Derby shoot?

No issues at all, which is impressive given the weather conditions. Continual rain, and a lot of mud. The weather made installation tough. Great for images, though.

What camera/lens did you have around your neck during the race?

I had a Nikon D5 with a Nikkor 600mm f4 mounted on a Gitzo monopod. I also had a Nikon D500 with a Nikkor 20mm f2.8 lens.

Did you manage to leave the venue with all of your kit?

This question is likely to jinx me in the future. I’ve never lost a camera or a lens at Churchill Downs.

Thanks, Bill!

To see a selection of Bill’s most striking shots from the day, take a moment to check out his feature piece

Editors' Recommendations