Rosie and I went to the Healesville races on Saturday the 9th of April. On the way we stopped in at the Beechworth Bakery and who do we see ambling through the car park but Jenny Boyle. If I was telling the truth I would say Jenny told me she was going to the races too and she told me the Beechworth Bakery was the place to stop, that is if we wanted to stop for breakfast. Jenny, Rosie and I then proceeded from the Beechworth Bakery to the Healesville Picnic Races together.
There were not a lot of people there when we arrived and we were able to get ourselves a great possie beside the fence, not too close mind in case a horse’s hoof came through the fence and broke your watch as it did at the Cranbourne Rodeo. We spoke to a few people sitting beside us and made ourselves comfortable; since we were photographers some of the members thought it would be a good idea if we went over to the President, John O’Brien, and introduced ourselves; John had been known to give visiting photographers the run of the course. John was very nice but disappointed that we didn’t give him advance notice, “… because” he said “… you can’t run around the place making images of the people here”. Re-assured that we were here to take pictures only of the horses running fast, John then made us welcome, but no he didn’t give us the run of the course as he had done for some other visiting photographers on previous occasions.
The first race began at 1.30 pm and we killed time organising ourselves and having something to eat before then. People in the know came up and spoke to us offering advice on the best places to be when the horses began their run and it soon became apparent we had already chosen one of the better possies. Not long after the first race while we were still looking dismayed at our efforts a guy came to us beer in hand and asked if we were “… doing a course or something” when we told him what we were trying to do he offered some tips, tricks and suggestions – he also admitted he was a ‘professional’ of sorts being the official photographer for a group of folk who race fast boats and have ski races, jumps and other fancy stuff behind really fast boats. In the course of 4 hours of conversation he offered information that revealed he had done several photography courses for fun and had travelled a lot with his South-African born wife and was in real life an aero-engineer with Qantas. His tips were authentic and when we showed him our results, he made fair criticism of the images we had taken. Never intrusive or abusive of our own privacy this gentleman proved to be the real genuine find of the afternoon. He went away from time to time only to reappear before each event to tell us how long the race was going to be, where the start was, where the finish was and how best to get the shots we were after. His tips included about using low shutter speeds and panning, on focus, on faster shutter speeds and on making sure the story included that the animals were moving at speed. Sometime during the afternoon the weather closed in and our images became more and more under-exposed; heavy clouds gathered and the announcer informed the by now restive crowd that the rain was bucketing down in The City. Jenny had to leave early because she had other things to do.
Just before 4.30 pm Rosie and I wrapped up the picnic blanket, gathered up our gear and threw it into the boot; but before we left I remembered to go to the official tent and thank the President of the Healesville Racing Club for his hospitality and for allowing us to shoot pictures at the meet. He seemed chuffed at that. We joined the throng of picnickers heading out of the race grounds. It wasn’t long before the rain caught up with us but we were happy campers.
Next Healesville Picnic Race meeting is October 19th, Jenny will contact the President for permission to shoot images, in advance, and we may yet be offered the run of the course so let’s try to make it a club outing.
Images By Andy Armitage