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Racehorses and Rock Lists! Photographer Bud Morton’s Top 10 Albums of All Time

February 4, 2009
Bud Morton, in 1975, the year Born To Run was released

Bud Morton, circa 1975

This is part of my ongoing series of Top Ten Lists. Check out the lists of Bill Finley and Barbara Livingston.

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No contest. That’s what Bud Morton wrote about his top album of all time. Same can be said for some of the greats captured by his Nikon: Cigar, Go For Wand, Skip Away, Real Quiet’s Triple Crown loss by a nose, Sky Beauty in The Alabama, Fourstardave at The Spa. Classic, all of them. No contest.

I first saw Bud’s photography when I was just learning the ins and outs of my mom’s point and shoot camera, which I brought to the track whenever I had the chance. Bud’s work was displayed in the Final Turn Photo Gallery. I attended the 2003 Jockey Club Gold Cup and was wowed by Mineshaft’s victory; however, the photos I took were abysmal. How could photos of such a great race be so awful? Must have been impossible to shoot, I decided. Then I saw Bud’s photo of Mineshaft in the post parade: head bowed, nostrils flared, bracing against the bit. Bud had captured the horse’s fire even in the notoriously obnoxious Belmont lighting. I begged my then-boyfriend now-husband to locate the print for me for Christmas. Jonathan contacted this amazing and talented photographer from the Boston area and I ended up with a framed, matted photo of Mineshaft, which is proudly displayed on my wall.

In 2006, I purchased my first SLR camera, a Nikon D70s. I read the camera manual, browsed the photography forums, and asked everyone I knew for help with my new pet hobby. A friend of mine purchased the same camera at the same time and we met up at Aqueduct to try out our new goodies. My friend knew Bud and introduced me to him. Bud said hello, then eyed me, and asked, “Are you the one who posts her photos online as soon as you get home from the track?” I said yes, a little embarrassed by my own dorkiness. Bud then helped my friend learn about shooting horse racing. I silently shadowed them as they shot the turn and the stretch of the day’s races. I knew the basics that Bud explained, but then he started talking about the good stuff- the stuff that separates the men from the boys, the stuff that makes his racing photos special.

The next time I saw Bud at Aqueduct, I was full of questions. And Bud answered them! A lot of photographers are under the mistaken impression that they are doing something that nobody else has ever done and they are a little reluctant to share their methods. I’ve only met a few who are so comfortable with their work that they can be generous in helping others: Bud Morton is one of these people. He taught me why it’s cool to shoot racing in aperture priority. He taught me how to shoot an image so sharp I can see “the dirt in the jockey’s teeth and every whisker on the horse’s muzzle”. He taught me how much better the inner rail shots are than the outer rail shots. He taught me how the big photographers got their images to look unique. He taught me that if I totally flub a shot, don’t despair because “there are nine more races tomorrow”. And above all else…. background, background, background.

This is all classic stuff that has been done many times before and will be done so many times after, but with these tools, a photographer begins to define a style. True mastery of a craft yields artistic style. Standing just a few feet away from me, Bud can get a totally different-looking image from mine. And he’ll go for the more daring shot instead of the cookie-cutter safety shot every time. He playfully teases photographers for getting “pretty pony” paddock photos but when nobody is looking, he sneaks in the paddock and gets some real beauties (Bud and his wife are also wonderful horsepeople who tend to a small herd of senior horses at home). In addition to the classics of 20+ years ago, Bud has some new classics, too, like this beauty of Rags To Riches winning the 2007 Belmont Stakes over Curlin, another print which resides at the Andrew residence.

On a miserably hot, cold, rainy, or otherwise unpleasant day, a lot of photographers complain about the day’s work. Bud does not- he reminds me that it is a real privilege to shoot these events and be close to such amazing horses, trainers, jockeys, and owners. Shooting is FUN- setting up remotes is FUN. When I assisted Bud at Saratoga, I first learned The Rules before I got to shoot. Working for Bud means following a few basic but classic rules about attire and conduct at the track; these rules have fallen by the wayside for some of the newer photographers. Bud explains it like this, “I’m old school and this is how I was taught…” I’ll work by the old school rules any day- I respect Bud’s opinions and he’s been a great mentor to me.

What kind of Top Ten List would you expect from an old-school, classic, no-contest photographer? Here it is:

1. Bruce Springsteen: Born To Run – No contest.
2. Bruce Springsteen: Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ – The “old “ boss- not the new whiny one- gets the top two.
3. The Beatles: The Beatles (White Album) – “And in the end…”
4. The Grateful Dead: American Beauty – “Keep on truckin’… like the doodah man…”
5. Janis Joplin with Big Brother and the Holding Company: Cheap Thrills – Janis took a piece of my heart with that record.
6. Led Zeppelin: Led Zeppelin I – Left me dazed and confused after good times and bad times.
7. Rod Stewart: Every Picture Tells a Story – Gave me a “reason to believe”.
8. The Who: Tommy – A truly unique album
9. Queen: A Night at the Opera“Bo Rap” and “Best Friend” get the nod.
10. James Taylor: Sweet Baby James – “ The turnpike from Stockbridge to Boston”, also known as the road to Saratoga

Bud Morton completing the Boston Marathon in 2007

Bud Morton completing the Boston Marathon in 2007

11 Comments leave one →
  1. February 4, 2009 9:17 am

    That one was a lot of fun to read. Gorgeous picture links, and I kept getting distracted and looking up the wikipedia entries on the various races.

  2. February 4, 2009 11:45 am

    Q: How long has The Budmeister been on the run from the Yankee fans?

    That moustache circa 1975 is eerily reminiscent of my high school English
    teacher’s. A trademark of those willing to share a wealth of knowledge perhaps. 😀

  3. February 4, 2009 12:26 pm

    Thanks so much- it was fun to write as well! I was pleased to see a photo of Bud from the same year his favorite album was released. And I suppose Bud was born to run… marathons!

  4. February 4, 2009 3:37 pm

    I think he put Springsteen on top just to score brownie points with the natives. 😀

  5. Susan permalink
    May 4, 2010 11:28 am

    Sarah: Bud is a long-time favorite of mine, and …… the Mineshaft picture hangs in the wall of my office at the racetrack: a stunning photo!

  6. Carolyn Rader permalink
    August 11, 2010 11:00 pm

    Fantastic photos. I was trying to find a way to contact him. Sky Beauty was my great aunt’s horse from a great lineage that began with Stick to Beauty out of Illustrious. My aunt was extremely proud of her. Sky Beauty’s dam, Gold Beauty was equally as fast. She won the Eclipse award in 1982.

    ‘STICK THE BEAUTY, dam of 1982 North American champion sprinter Gold Beauty and of Dayjur and Sky Beauty, was put down at the age of 30 on Friday, according to the Blood-Horse website.

    The daughter of Illustrious, bred and owned by Wycombe House Stud, won three of her 18 starts, including the 1976 Busanda Stakes at Aqueduct. But it was as a broodmare that she had her greatest impact.

    Of her 17 foals, 11 won, notably stakes winners Gold Beauty (1979 Mr Prospector), Majestic Venture (1981 Majestic Prince), The Prime Minister (1987 Deputy Minister), Miraloma (1993 Deputy Minister) and Storm Beauty (1995 Storm Cat).

    Gold Beauty is dam of top 1990 sprinter Dayjur and Grade 1 winner Maplejinsky, whose daughter Sky Beauty was the champion North American older mare in 1994.

    Her last foal foal is Discovering Beauty (by Theatrical), who was born when her dam was 25 in 1998, 20 years after her oldest sibling. Her current descendants include the Group 3 Musidora Stakes third Irtahal, who is by Swain out of a full-sister to Dayjur.

    Stick The Beauty went through the ring twice, when sold for $1.1m in 1984 and $450,000 in 1986, both times at the Keeneland November Sale. She was bought back privately by Georgia Hofmann of Wycombe House and lived in retirement at Taylor Made Farm in Kentucky’.

  7. ed dellavalle permalink
    January 27, 2012 1:42 pm

    very intereted in any photographs of the the massachusetts fair horse racing circuit


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