Big_Shot_3_Web_900 October 3, 2015  9:09pm
54 degrees Fahrenheit
Estimated crowd nearly 1,800

This is how Churchill Downs looked before “painting with light.”

Cameras: Four Nikon D810 cameras
Lenses:  28/f1.8 mm
Exposure time: 30 seconds @ f/11 ISO 100

All external lighting was provided by nearly 1,800  volunteer participants using hand-held electronic flash units and flashlights. Additionally Profoto 7B and B1 electronic flash equipment was used.

The RIT Big Shot is a nighttime community photographic project that began in 1987.

The result shared above is a composite made from the files from four cameras equipped with 28mm lenses. We were excited to again try this approach to our long-standing project. A single shot capture would have required a very wide-angle lens and the magnification differences of the foreground to the  background would have been amplified in the final image from that type of a lens. Using four cameras enabled the magnification of the photograph  to be more proportional to how the scene would appear to the eye. This photograph was complex to make because of all variables, including weather, scale, size and history.

Located on the grass track were re-enactors dressed to portray jockeys and a photographer from approximately the 1900’s. Additionally located to the left of the frame is the Kentucky Derby bugler.

You can see a video that shares the event from an aerial prospective by following this link.

Big Shot Partners
We are very thankful and fortunate to have worked with some terrific partners that helped make this photograph possible. We want to recognize those who contributed their expertise, time, financial help and products to help us make Big Shot Magic. Thank you Churchill Downs, Nikon, Profoto, Murphy’s Camera, and Mohawk Paper.



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We are also appreciative to the St. James Art Festival, Paul Paletti Gallery, The Louisville Photo Biennial, the Revelry Gallery, the duPont Manual High School, and the Regional Meeting of the Midwest Chapter of the SPE. Without your contributions and assistance in promoting this project to the greater Louisville area, this would have been much more difficult.

About Churchill Downs
Adapted from the Track’s website

Known as the home of the Kentucky Derby and the Kentucky Oaks, Churchill Downs Racetrack conducts Thoroughbred horse racing in Louisville, Kentucky during three race meets in the Spring, September, and the Fall. The racetrack occupies 147 acres, featuring a one-mile dirt, oval racetrack and a seven furlong turf race course. Thoroughbred racing, the Kentucky Derby, and the Kentucky Oaks have run continuously at Churchill Downs Racetrack since 1875. In addition, Churchill Downs Racetrack has hosted the Breeders’ Cup World Championship eight times.

The Twin Spires that sit atop the grandstands remain the most recognizable architectural feature of Churchill Downs and serve as a symbol of the racetrack. The spires were designed by architect Joseph Dominic Baldez and were built in 1895 – they shine across the world’s most legendary racetrack each night.

The History of Churchill Downs
Horse racing in Kentucky is rich in history, dating back to 1789 when the first race course was laid out in Lexington. However, it was almost 100 years later, in 1875, that Churchill Downs officially opened and began its tradition as “Home of the Kentucky Derby.” The Founding of Churchill Downs began in 1872, when Colonel Meriwether Lewis Clark traveled to England and France in 1872. Clark attended the Epsom Derby in England, which sparked his ambition to create a spectacle horse racing event in America. Upon his return to the states, Clark began the development of the racetrack, with intentions to showcase the Kentucky breeding industry that eventually became known as “Churchill Downs.”

The track was constructed on eighty acres of land that Clark leased from his uncles, John and Henry Churchill, approximately three miles south of downtown Louisville. To fund the initial construction, Clark raised money by selling membership subscriptions to the track. With 320 membership subscriptions sold for $100 each, Clark raised a total of $32,000. This profit was used to construct a clubhouse, grandstand, Porter’s Lodge, and six stables on site for the opening of the track. Throughout the years, the initial structures still stand, but the racetrack has continued to grow and modernize. Today, Churchill Downs spans 147 acres with its most significant structure being the Twin Spires, an architectural feature which sits atop the grandstand and has become the universally recognized symbol for Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby.

Churchill Downs had its first official race day, which formally opened the track on May 17, 1875. For the opening meet, Clark created three major stakes races- the Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks and Clark Handicap. These were modeled after three premier races in England- the Epsom Derby, Epsom Oaks and St. Leger Stakes. The winner of the first race was Bonaventure; however the winner of the day’s featured race, the Kentucky Derby, was a three-year-old chestnut colt, Aristides. Owned by H.P. McGrath, Aristides was trained by and ridden by two African-Americans, Ansel Williamson and Oliver Lewis. A crowd reaching 10,000 spectators witnessed the fifteen thoroughbreds run the first 1.5 mile long Kentucky Derby. Aristides’ victory launched a tradition that has been held continuously at Churchill Downs annually since their debut in 1875, making this year the 141st running of Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks.

Today, Churchill Downs Racetrack is owned and operated by Churchill Downs Incorporated. Churchill Downs currently holds the record for the longest-running, continuous sporting event in the United States. In 1875, the track’s inaugural meet reached nearly 10,000 spectators, unknowingly initiating an annual ritual that is now universally recognized bringing in record-breaking crowds of more than 170,000. With many changes over the course of three centuries, the Kentucky Derby is known to be the most exciting two minutes in sports.