NYTimes' Preakness Photo today: A Perfect Photograph

I know nothing about horse racing and pay no attention to it. But opening up the Times today, the sheer artfulness and beauty of the photo of the Preakness jumped off the page.

Could it have been composed better? The winner, Big Brown, larger that life with an angle coming up at him from below - I guess the photographer, credited as Jason Reed/Reuters, was on the infield on his belly at the finish line. BB takes up the left half of the photo and his line, along with the rake of the stands building behind him, establishes a clear perspective. And down that perspective line, at perfect internals, are two other horses seemingly straining to keep up with the winner, who is calmly looking ahead with the bit in his mouth. The capper, though, is the jockey: he’s looking back, some combination of smooth professional performing a quick check, and a guy who knew he had won with enough time to get in a “see ya, sucker!” And the hoof-beats are kicking up the track so it looks like it is being raked with machine-gun fire - it puts everything in motion.

It is rare to get a photo that tells the complete story as effectively as this one - I swear it looks like a artist’s ideal.

An online version is here, at least for now, but it doesn’t do it justice. Edge-to-edge on the front of the Time’s Sports Section wasn’t big enough - it would look amazing life-sized…

Almost certainly, it was a camera on a radio slave (Pocket Wizard), prefocused, remotely triggered. Shooting remotes from underneath the inside rail is common, and many photographers/news agencies set up multiple cameras at those positions.

I agree, great moment, great storytelling image.

I’m guessing you never saw the photo of Secretariat winning the Preakness…? That horse was so far ahead of the rest of the pack that the cameraman recording the video had to pull back to a wide-angle shot just to keep them in frame with Secretariat.


I think you’re thinking of the Belmont Stakes. Secretariat only won the Preakness by 2.5 lengths (which is less than Big Brown won by yesterday). On the other hand, he won the Belmont by 31 lengths.

Also a wonderful photo - thanks.

To me they are different - the one with BB is a bit more “in your face” (from a composition standpoint…Secretariat is clearly far outpacing his field) because BB is so big in the frame…

Oops, good catch!

Fair enough. You should look up the Secretariat win at Belmont Stakes on YouTube sometime anyway; amazing horse.

Technical question: shouldn’t the verticals be vertical in the center of the photo?

It looks rotated so the right edge of the building is vertical, which seems incorrect to my eye.

It’s a very wide angle lens, and the shot is taken very low to the ground. All verticals are going to be leaning in towards the centre. To my eyes the vertical lines on the building right in the centre of the shot (just behind Big Brown’s ass) look vertical, the right edge of the building looks angled in just slightly, and the vertical lines on the left edge of the shot are angled in substantially - about what you’d expect. Also keep in mind that we don’t know if the picture has been cropped which would move the optical centre of the picture from the geometric centre - though it’s looking pretty 3:2 in aspect ratio so I’m guessing not much cropping if any.

I’m not a fan of the exposure. The sky is pretty much blown out and most of the shot feels overexposed. But to be fair there’s a heck of a lot of dynamic range to be captured. I don’t suppose you can get the horses to hold still for a couple seconds while you fire of some HDR bracketing. :stuck_out_tongue:

Actually, there’s plenty of data in the sky. If you wanted to, you can burn in a hell of a lot of sky data to bring it down, without needing to do HDR bracketing. The exposure is perhaps a teeny bit lighter in the shadows than I would like it, but it’s fine. I don’t think I would have exposed it any differently.

I remember watching Secretariat win the Belmont. The amazing thing was the horse looked like he was out for a leisurly Sunday stroll. He wasn’t even working up a sweat.

I’d have gone for less depth of field - the crowd isn’t interesting to see, and with the building behind in focus, it kinda looks like a giant jockey is climbing off the roof, onto a giant horse.

Sports, in general, provide some of the most interesting photographs, IMHO.

There was an HBO special a couple of years ago about the most famous sports photos of all time. For a lot of the photos, they had accompanying video of the same event, and it was amazing how often the photos “lied”.

In this photo of Big Brown, I like how the lines of his stark white bridle oppose the lines of the grandstand.

And, Big Brown is amazing. They came around the final turn, and within about 5 strides he’d gone from a length back to 3 lengths in front.

The jockey also described himself as being “nervous as nuts” during the start of the race.