by Vanessa Jarrett
THANGOOL MAN WAYNE SMITH has been in the role of Photo Finish Operator for a long time.
"I have been doing it that long I used to develop the film,” he said.
Wayne is no stranger to the racetrack, having grown up around them.
"Mum and Dad had racehorses, I have been going to the races probably for 50 years,” he said.
"I used to get dragged along every weekend.”
Wayne came about the job of photo finisher when he was younger and then took over the job locally when Eddie Crawford gave it away.
"It's been a long time,” Wayne said.
"I have taken all the photos on the wall down in the race club bar.”
When he isn't helping out locally, Wayne has also done the photos for Emerald, Calliope, Bluff, Dingo, Springsure and Monto.
"Anywhere they hold race meetings,” he said.
Each race meeting, Wayne sits right in the box with the official judges on the level below.
"The judges have the monitor and I run the computer and camera upstairs.”
It is then Wayne's job to set up the equipment precisely for each race.
"You can never fiddle with it; the horses only come out once and go across the finish line once,” Wayne said.
It all comes down to timing with a standard racehorse averaging at 0.17 seconds in length.
"I hit the button when the horses jump and the computers starts,” Wayne said. "I have to make sure the computer is set up and focused on the line.”
The photo finish allows for no errors to be made in which horse has won.
"The biggest worry is you need to make sure you have a mirror image,” he said.
"If you have that, you can't argue with it.
"It is taken right on the finish line.”
Sometimes when it is a close finish, the image will get changed into black and white.
"You can see the lines and shadows clearer then,” Wayne said.
The first race of the day is the most anxious part of the day, Wayne said.
"You have to be 100 per cent sure everything is all set up,” he said.
Like any technology, there can be mishaps.
"You can have all sorts of things happen, the power can go out,” Wayne said.
Wayne recalls a time when he had a cord pulled out underneath him.
"It got pretty hectic because you have to fix it before the horses get to the finish line,” he said.
Power and connections are another issue.
"There is a camera, computer processor, UPS and printer,” Wayne said.
"They all have to be plugged in and there are cables everywhere.
"It can be overwhelming, with the cables everywhere, making sure they are all connected.”