Melbourne Cup Event at the Vault Hotel 2013

Melbourne Cup is an annual horse racing event in Australia, one that is so heavily invested in that it is touted as ‘a day that stops the nation’. Bars, clubs, hotels, workplaces and houses televised it, I personally could care less about gambling, horse racing and the getting caught in the hype. But watching and capturing the moments and reactions of those that did have some investment in this event made me excited too. It was contagious!

A spectrum of emotions experienced ranging from anxious anticipation to elation and celebration. The room was certainly alive and filled with cheer during the main race.

While most patrons lost their bets, some won their money back or made a little more, only 2 patrons picked the winning race horse and lots of loot.

Because The Vault Hotel is located in the CBD of Sydney. The patrons consisted of business people. The Vault Hotel had put on a special event for nearby organisations to have work functions and the women got dressed up, wearing their cocktail dresses, big, bright and bold hats and luscious red lipstick. Lunch was catered for while the races were projected onto the wall for the spectators. There was around 7 large groups while walk-in patrons turned up later towards the start of main race.

Because of the nature of the work functions, a lot of people didn’t want their photos taken. Nor did I want to interrupt them during their lunches. Some groups snuck-out of work and didn’t want their incriminating photos taken and posted on The Vault’s website for the fear of their bosses catching them out later.

This was a challenge for me because there were times I felt like a pest and I also didn’t want to dampen the patrons experience at The Vault, but I also needed to do my job, so I resorted to subtle candid and posed shots of the groups that allowed me to take pictures of them. After the main race had finished and the crowd was hyped up from cheering and celebrating, they were more open to photos.

What I took away from this experience is that a lot of times you will get rejected in these environments, people are a bit camera-shy during the day (or during work hours) and just want to enjoy their time out without the paparazzi  invading their space (and that’s completely understandable), whereas in night events, people start the night camera-shy but after having a few drinks, they usually can’t get enough time in front of the camera!

You just have to shoot what you can without upsetting anyone.


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A note on the gear used for this event: I packed very light because I knew it was going to be crowded so moving around with a backpack was not feasible. I took my trusty ‘gripped’ Canon 50D, a Canon 16-35mm f2.8L lens and an on camera Oloong SB690 speedlight packed into my medium Lowepro Toploader Pro AW 70 holster bag. In hindsight, I could’ve used my Canon 70-200mm for even better candid shots.

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