This week's ESPN The Magazine (June 13, 2011) is "The Photo Issue," in which hand-picked photographers were dispatched to sporting events around the world to capture what was happening in sports on one given day-- Saturday May 7, 2011. When I got the call for the assignment , I thought to myself, wait a minute, that's Derby day!The Kentucky Derby is one of my favorite sporting events — and nearest to my heart (and that's saying a lot for me). ESPN senior photo editor Jim Surber wanted me to approach the assignment in a documentary style, and look for behind the scene moments that make a more interesting story on such a grand event. It was wide open for me to be as creative as I wanted, and go for something different. I was thrilled to be chosen to cover this amazing sporting event in the town where I grew up. Although it was my 29th year of shooting the Derby , I've never lost the excitement of immersing myself in the experience and joy of the biggest spring race at Churchill Downs. While other photographers were documenting tennis in Madrid, bowling in Istanbul, soccer in Manchester and NBA playoffs in Memphis, I started my day at the track before dawn. I began my day capturing pre-dawn workouts and a magnificent deep blue sky behind the iconic twin spires — then there was the beauty of the thoroughbreds, and endless women in hats. One of my favorite things to document is the jockey's experience — their behaviors both before, during and after the race — and all of the facets of one of the world's most unique occupations. I finished up around 8 pm when the roses from the winner's circle were strewn on the ground. A long day, but I loved every minute of it, and it yielded great images. Two are included in the issue, now on newsstands, including a shot of the jockeys coming down the escalator on their way to the paddock and one of my personal favorite moments, the bugler getting warmed up for his "Call to the Post" that still makes my heart pound every time I hear it.
Thanks to Jim and ESPN Magazine for giving me this opportunity and to the folks at Churchill Downs for the amazing access. There was no place in the world I'd rather have been on May 7th 2011 than Churchill Downs in 'my' old Kentucky home. Here are some of my favorite images that were not in the magazine.Look for the ESPN 'Photo Issue' on newsstands or go to the gallery of all the images included in the story from that day at http://espn.go.com/espn/thelife/photos/gallery/_/id/6609922/a-day-life-sports#/4/