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Behind Frisky Business

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Most of my days are spent at a desk in the Herald-Leader newsroom, but once a year I get to go do something different—The Kentucky Derby. I’m Tom Woods, a 28-year member of the photo staff, now working as Photo Assignment Editor. If you call the photo department, you’ll probably get me. Every year I trade my desk in Lexington for one at Churchill Downs in Louisville. This year I got to do something different for the first part of my day. I spent a couple of hours with staff photographers Charles Bertram and David Stephenson as they worked on the production of “Frisky Business.” The show was one of our many web only items produced during the day.

I was up at 4:45 a.m. and ready to meet Charles at 5:45 for the trip to Louisville. When we arrived at the Downs, we met David and headed out to infield. We got there just as the gates opened at 8 a.m. and were faced with the charge of folks who wanted the best spots. Charles and David both went to work. Charles was photographing the patrons being searched as they entered the Downs and David was gathering audio to go with the photos. Just for fun, I took along a small digital camera and photographed them as they worked the area.

I stayed with Charles for most of the time they worked as David was moving quickly through the crowd trying to gather audio from the scene. The hardest job I had was trying to stay out of Charles’ photos. Except for the press credential around my neck, I looked like anyone else coming through the gates, so I could blend in even if I was in camera range. Everyone was searched as they came through the gates. Patrons tried any number of ways to sneak liquor into the infield. The most popular seemed to be taping small bottles to various body parts. The inner thigh seemed to be the most popular. Some had more thorough searches than others. One guy was taken behind a dumpster where he dropped his jeans and pulled out a couple of bottles of liquor. David followed this guy down the tunnel and interviewed him.

After about an hour of work Charles and I headed back. David had gone back to work on the audio part of the show that takes more time to edit. We talked about past Derbies and agreed the infield had changed, or maybe I’m just older.

To see where we worked at the Downs, take a look at Janet Worne’s blog.
Also check out “Frisky Business” in our Derby slide shows.


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