By Mike Valiante
The camera quality in everyone’s cell phone has made amateur photographers out of many of us with the emphasis on amateur. Professional photographers understand there is a lot more to the skill than the ability to point and click, especially when your subject matter is an animal with the grandeur, beauty and speed of a thoroughbred. To gain some insight as to what makes good horse racing photographs I asked three professionals to present some of their favorite shots and explain why these pictures were particularly memorable to them.
Courtney Snow has done some excellent work for Past The Wire including at this year’s Kentucky Derby. Horse racing Twitter followers are most likely quite familiar with the names Dottie Miller and Kathleen O’Leary. Even among non-Twitter devotees these names are well known in Maryland and New York racing circles respectively.
Enjoy the bios from these artists and their pictures below:
Courtney in her own words…
From a very young age, horses have always been a huge passion of mine, so much so that I have a degree in Equine Health and Therapies and am currently a broodmare and yearling groom for a small thoroughbred farm. At the age of 11, my love for horses grew to horseracing while following Barbaro’s journey. Photography has always been a hobby of mine, but never one I imagined would go beyond cheap point and shoot cameras and iPhone captures. Christmas of 2016 I received my first camera and have never looked back since. I am 100% self-taught when it comes to photography and editing, so many hours have been spent watching and reading tutorials to get to where I am today. My preferred subject for photography was actually nature and landscapes but quickly grew to equine and horseracing as well. I have always felt that I see the world a little differently and absolutely love being able to show that off in the form of photographs.
While this photo is far from one of my best, it has a lot of meaning to me. This photo is where photographing horseracing all began for me, Unique Bella winning the G3 Santa Ysabel Stakes. At the time, I had only been photographing for a little more than two months and had never shot any type of action photography before.
This is a photo of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah at Coolmore Ashford Stud in January 2019.
This photos shows Maximum Security winning this year’s Kentucky Derby before being disqualified to 17th. Not only was this such a memorable derby for me because of the DQ, but also because this was my first time attending the Kentucky Derby and I was able to do so as a credentialed photographer for Past the Wire.
Dottie, in her own words…
“I’m head photographer for The Racing Biz and work full time for Phil Schoenthal Racing Stable/Kingdom Bloodstock at Laurel Park as a hot walker and social media director.”
“White Thoroughbred, Painted Patchen, under the shadows of the historic paddock of Laurel Park. I loved how the sunlight coming through the paddock windows had almost a stained glass look against his bright White coat.”
“Maryland Million Day 2018. I love this shot because it shows the horses entering the first turn while concert attendees flock to the rail to feel the excitement as the horses rush by.”
“Apprentice jockey Victor Rosales on Dazzling Okie win by a neck in thrilling fashion. I love the colors and action this shot shows from the mud on his goggles to the horses eyes.”
Kathleen, in her own words…
“A little about me: I didn’t grow up in this business or even around it. I only knew of Horses through my Dad watching the races on TV and later on a Jockey used to frequent a diner I worked in while in High School. He used to give me tips on Horses I should bet on. I always loved Photography since I was a kid. I took pictures of everything and anything. I didn’t follow through with that passion until much later in my life. Once I started going to races and then became an owner with Zilla Racing Stables in 2015, I was drawn back into Photography. Just watching Horses wasn’t enough. I wanted to capture how majestic yet fast these beautiful Equine athletes moved. I discovered I could capture their souls through Photos and I began shooting again.
I am now a Professional Photographer for over a year for Horsephotos.com. I also shoot for clients at the Maryland two-year-old Fasig-Tipton Sales and I shot for two clients at the 2019 Kentucky Derby (this was my first time shooting the Kentucky Derby). My Photos have been published in TDN, Brisnet/Twinspires and in NTRA.
I have three grown children ages 34, 21, and 19. I spent many years raising my Children and focusing on them. I never imagined my life would be focused around Horses.
I recently got married to the love of my life, and we even scheduled our Wedding around Racing. I have met some wonderful people and I get to travel to Racetracks all over the country to shoot races. I shot my first Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs in 2018. My first Belmont Stakes as a Professional Photographer turned out to be a Triple Crown winning one with Justify and Mike Smith. I will be travelling to California to shoot the Breeders’ Cup later this year. It has been an exciting ride and I wouldn’t go back and change a thing!”
“My first favorite Photo is my Savage shot taken at Parx Race Track on PA Derby Day 2018 in the Gallant Bob. Whereshetoldmetogo tried to bite Firenze Fire coming up the stretch because he knew he couldn’t beat him. This photo was also my first Eclipse Award submission. This Photo also brought me respect and some recognition as a Photographer. This picture will be going to an Auction at Del Mar Racetrack in August to benefit the PDJF.”
“Second favorite photo is Justify winning the Belmont Stakes. I got to shoot a Triple Crown winning Belmont Stakes. It doesn’t get any more exciting than that.”
“My third favorite Photo was taken at Saratoga Racecourse in 2017. I captured Gun Runner with a “5th”shoe caught in his tail as he won the Grade I Whitney Stakes. That’s my favorite because I wasn’t yet a Credentialed Photographer. I was able to capture that amazing photo from the outside looking in which was very special to me.”