The ‘fastest two minutes in sports’ seen in 35mm

A gentleman checks his odds in the Oaks Day program before a race begins. Photo by Cameron Sadler | Staff

Cameron Sadler

Being a photographer at the Kernel is a lot about dealing with challenges. A lot of people who join the staff are just getting into photography, diving into a world that’s competitive and complex intrinsically, and gets a lot more complicated when you add in the journalistic aspect of things. Equipment is often limited, and so are opportunities. But being successful and producing a quality product, be that a photo story or a newspaper, requires one to overcome those challenges.

Recently I stepped into the realm of film photography, and I’ve found myself facing a number of other challenges. Shooting on film takes a lot of patience and a lot of guesswork; you don’t get to immediately check if you exposed a photograph right, or if you focused on the right thing. You have to apply what you know about settings, hit the shutter, and say a little prayer. The worst part is that you don’t get to see if your prayers were answered for a (very) long time afterwards. After being accustomed to the speed and ease of shooting on digital cameras, shooting on film is one of the greatest challenges I could think of giving myself as an artist and as a journalist.

With all of this in mind, I made the decision to grab a couple of rolls of film, some watch batteries, and my Nikon FE (a camera that is a number of years my senior), and shot the Kentucky Derby the first weekend after school let out. Never before had I taken such a risk on a project of such importance, and I was definitely nervous, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t extremely excited too. Recently, the film was developed and arrived back to me.

One of the greatest traditions in the Commonwealth was my absolute joy to cover, and I hope that it shows in what’s presented here. I’m thankful to the Kernel for the opportunity, and I hope that the images give some sense of the grandeur of a spectacle like I had never witnessed before.