RIT Big Shot team makes final preparations to light Churchill Downs Saturday night

Photographers finalizing strategy to create nighttime image of home of the Kentucky Derby




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Organizers of Rochester Institute of Technology’s 31st Big Shot are coming down the homestretch on preparations for one of the more technically challenging nighttime community photography projects the team has encountered.

The technical hurdles stem from producing a photograph of a landmark the size and architectural distinction of Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby in Louisville, Ky. The Twin Spires atop the grandstands, originally built in 1895, are the most recognizable architectural feature of Churchill Downs and are used as a symbol of the track and the Derby.

The RIT Big Shot is scheduled for this Saturday night, Oct. 3, rain or shine. The event is free and open to the public. Volunteers are asked to enter Gate 10 at Churchill Downs Racetrack, 700 Central Ave. The registration site for the general public, who may still register, is http://alumni.rit.edu/bigshotpublic15. No experience is necessary and walk-ins will be accepted.

The RIT team of Michael Peres, Willie Osterman, Christye Sisson, Dan Hughes, Eric Kunsman, Therese Mulligan and Mike Dear—most of whom arrived in Louisville on Wednesday night—is finalizing its strategy to illuminate and photograph the national historical landmark. Peres said the RIT Big Shot team “can’t wait to capture the landmark’s beauty and architectural nuances.”

“From the historic Twin Spires atop the clubhouse to the famous Kentucky Derby winner’s circle, this is both an enormous undertaking and an amazing opportunity for RIT,” said Peres, associate chair of the School of Photographic Arts and Sciences. “We’re going to need everyone who can to come out Saturday night and help us illuminate this marvelous landmark.”

RIT faculty, staff and alumni volunteers will provide instructions to the anticipated throngs of volunteers while the photo team perches itself above the infield and expected crowds to improve the vantage point for the photo.

The weather forecast for Saturday night is calling for mostly cloudy skies and a high temperature of 60 degrees. There’s a 60 percent chance of rain and winds will be out of the north at 13 miles per hour.

The Big Shot relies on hundreds of participants to provide the primary light source for the image, while RIT photographers shoot an extended exposure. It’s a signature event for RIT and is led by the nationally recognized School of Photographic Arts and Sciences.

The Big Shot is often described as “painting with light” because participants are asked to “paint” or shine their light source onto a particular area of the landmark while the photograph is taken. The light sources are either handheld flashlights or camera flash units. Hundreds if not thousands of volunteers are expected to come to participate and “paint” Churchill Downs Saturday night. Residents will join 21 RIT students traveling from campus, faculty, staff and more than 100 alumni as the photo is taken at 9 p.m.

The Big Shot project has navigated to several national landmarks and twice crossed the Atlantic Ocean. Through their viewfinders, RIT Big Shot photographers have captured such landmarks as AT&T Stadium (formerly Cowboys Stadium) in Arlington, Texas; The Alamo, San Antonio, Texas; the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum (formerly U.S.S. Intrepid) in New York City; Pile Gate, Dubrovnik, Croatia; the Royal Palace, Stockholm, Sweden; and the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, Washington, D.C.

Nikon Inc., a longtime sponsor of the Big Shot, will be the event’s premier sponsor. Nikon is loaning high-end photographic equipment to capture the Big Shot photograph, which will be produced using four Nikon D810 camera bodies.

Additional sponsors include Profoto, which will provide specialized lighting equipment—including more than a dozen powerful battery-operated electronic flash systems—and Murphy’s Camera, which has been providing photographic equipment, services and processing to Greater Louisville and the surrounding regions for more than 50 years. Mohawk Paper of Cohoes, N.Y. has donated paper for tickets to designate lighting teams at the event.

Tickets will include directions on how volunteers can download a digital copy of the finished photo. They’ll also get a general admission ticket to the Churchill Downs Fall Meet.

To learn more about the project and view photographs of past Big Shot images, go to https://www.facebook.com/RITBigShot or http://bigshot.cias.rit.edu/. The project also can be followed on Twitter at @RITBigShot.

Churchill Downs, the world’s most legendary racetrack, has conducted thoroughbred racing and presented America’s greatest race, the Kentucky Derby, continuously since 1875. Located in Louisville, the flagship racetrack of Churchill Downs Incorporated (NASDAQ: CHDN) offers year-round simulcast wagering at the historic track. Churchill Downs will conduct the 142nd running of the Kentucky Derby on May 7, 2016. The track, which has a Fall Meet scheduled for Nov. 1-29, has hosted the Breeders’ Cup World Championships eight times. Information is available at www.ChurchillDowns.com.