The Longshot (with sprocket holes)

Here we go again. Chuck’s trying something funky with his film cameras.

It’s a sunny Sunday, and I’m up at the Saratoga thoroughbred track. The goal is to expand on the photographic technique I employed in my photo Pride of the Palace.

You know, the kind of stuff I do that makes pictures like the one right here.

Pride of the Palace. Kodak Medalist II camera, Kodak Ektar 100 film (two frames), Kodak Verichrome Pan 126 “Instamatic” film (3 frames, tinted). Photo (c) 2021 Chuck Miller, all rights reserved.

So my next plan in evolving this imagery is to attempt some sports photography. I had a roll of Fuji Superia ISO 1600 35mm film, so I re-rolled that in 120 (actually, 620) backing paper. I also had some ISO 100 black and white film, so I put that in the camera bag.

The plan. Saratoga has three tracks – two inner turf tracks, and an outer dirt track. Kodak Red doesn’t have telephoto capabilities, so I’m looking at shooting only the dirt track races. That’s races 1, 4, 6 and 8, according to the racing form.

I got to the track in plenty of time for the first race. Set up along the rail for a 45-degree shot as the horses charge down the stretch. I’ve got a lot of things in frame – the digital scoreboard, the American flag, all of that.

Okay. Let’s put the black and white film in first. And as I loaded the camera … all of a sudden, my fingers slipped – and the entire roll of film unfurled and crashed down to the ground.

That audible “Son of a bitch” you just heard was me watching a roll of film suddenly go to waste. Well, no crying over spilt film. In a situation like that, you can really only do one thing. Save the 620 spool and toss the exposed film in the dumpster. And I didn’t have any additional backup 620 black and white film to use.

Oh well. I can pull eight shots out of this roll of the Fuji Superia film, maybe I can do some funky Dutch angles with it.

Mind you, any film at 1600 ISO is already super-sensitive to light, and right now I’ve got blazing hot sunshine on the track. I’ve got to stop down the f-stop to Kodak Red’s smallest aperture – f/32. Shutter speed? The fastest I can get out of Kodak Red – 1/400 of a second. I can’t stop the camera down any lower; I can’t make the shutter speed move any quicker. That’s all I have, folks. It’s all up to the camera gods from here.

First race. Picked a winner in Shaker Shack, with Jose Ortiz in the saddle.

I actually did well for the first three races – hit the Daily Double and the Pick 3, so I was up a few dollars. Didn’t do well in the fourth race, the horse I picked finished dead last, while another horse, Easy to Bless, took the wire.

I made it to the sixth race. At this point, even with frequent breaks into the clubhouse for cold drinks, I could feel my core body temperature increasing. I’m only shooting one more race. I can’t take any more of the sun and heat. And I even stopped betting – mostly because all the gains I made in the first two races got wiped out in races 4 and 5.

Anyways, of the seven horses that participated in this race, there was one horse – a two-year-old filly named Dream Lith, racing as horse number 8 – that went off at nearly 36-1.

And you know what?

The damn horse won. She paid $75 on a $2 winning ticket. Then again, when your daddy is Kentucky Derby winner Medaglia d’Oro, there’s some breeding stock there.

And I snapped that horse’s picture.

Okay. Let’s get out of here before I melt like Frosty in a greenhouse.

I already had one film failure, I didn’t dare take a chance of pulling out this super-sensitive film in total daylight. No. I waited until I got home, went into my darkroom (which also doubles as my bathroom), extracted the film, and snapped it quickly into a black, light-tight container.

And I sent it off to McGreevy Pro Lab for development.

Thursday. Film’s ready. Picked it up. There are images on the negatives. This is good.

Scanned in my results … and …

6th race.

The idea is there. But … the horses have too much motion blur on them. And the right side of the track seems to have a darker cast on it.

Let’s try the fourth race.

Not bad. I should have waited a half a second to press that shutter button, though. And the flag’s not really flying at full speed.

Maybe the first race has a good shot in it. Let’s see.

Yikes. Light leaks all over the place. There’s more leaks here than in a set of reusable diapers. Ugh.

But … it does look like I’m on the right track with this. It’s just not going to work for any high-speed action, though. There’s only so much speed you can coax out of a 1940’s-era camera. That, plus blazing sun, plus everything else …

This was a test, if nothing else. It’ll work, for sure … but there’s no way I would enter any of these images in competition. They’re just not good enough.

Next time, for sure.