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Horses and jockeys

After the horses are assigned to the contrade, test races (prova) are held twice on each day before the final race, in the morning and in the early evening. The prova help the jockeys (fantini) and horses become familiar with each other and with the course, so the prova are not as intense as the final race. But by watching the prova every day, you’ll be more familiar with the sequence of events that happens during the final Palio race.

Photographer notes

Most of the track photos I took were during the test races, because the smaller crowds make it easy to get all the way up to the rail. Because each race is less than 2 minutes long, being able to see multiple prova gave me more time to practice shooting the fast-moving horses and understand different viewpoints along the track. As the week progressed, I became increasingly comfortable with shot selection, timing, and panning techniques. I also evaluated the feasibility of acquiring acceptable video and audio, and realized that the infield is not ideal for that. Even if you’re along the rail, it’s hard to follow action while keeping others’ arms and heads out of your shot. If it’s critical that you bring back the best possible content, get out of the standing infield crowds and pay for a bleacher seat, or find out how to be on the track with the other photojournalists, like the ones you see at the top left edge of the track in the last photo. Better yet, don’t try to do it all alone like I did. Bring a team instead.

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