Photo Credit to Jennifer Fitch

When Kathy Hair lost her longtime job during the pandemic, she took a step back, dusted herself off, and took a long look at her future. She had been going to photography school while working at that job, so this seemed like the perfect time to pursue a field she loved. That led her to a career as the track photographer at Penn National Race Course in Grantville.

“I had been taking head shots and product shots at my job, so I went on to graduate and I got a Fine Arts in Photography Associates Degree in December of 2022. While I was still at my other job, Equi-Photo, (official track photographer at Penn National) called the school and asked for a photographer, and they recommended me!”
She took a trip out to the track and started shooting some photos, and she got hired soon after.
To do finish line photos, Kathy had to fine-tune a few things. “I had to learn how to pan the camera with the horses, as they run. That was the biggest thing.”
Coming into the horse racing industry after never having worked

Wow Whata Summer
Jockey: Tyler Conner Photo Credit: Kathy Hair

with horses previously, Kathy soon fit right in. “I had a little different start, but it worked out! I’ll be coming in, and someone will say that a horse is ‘giving you the side-eye’ or the ‘mare stare’, and now I’m using those terms,” she laughed. “I didn’t even know what a furlong was! Now I’m going out with mints for the outriders.”

She cites some memorable photos as her favorites. “The Penn Mile with jockey Tyler Connor and the 83/1 shot (Wow Whata Summer), that photo trended on Apple News! The Ostrich Races were fun, too, with them coming across the finish line.”
“I knew that I was a good photographer when my boss at Equi-Photo put me right on the finish line for the Penn Mile. That’s what gave me even more confidence in the job, that my boss believed in me.”
Her typical day starts in the office, setting up the template for the finish line photos and the Winner’s Circle photos. “Then I head out for the first race, and I try to get a couple of them walking around the paddock. Then I go out to the finish line, and back to the Winner’s Circle. If it’s a mile or 1 1/16 miles, I’ll shoot them coming out of the gate, and then I’ll try to get some extra photos, especially if the horse is special to someone there at the track. The jockeys love the photos for their Facebook pages, so we do extra photos for them. I’ll say their name, and they’ll smile and hold up how many fingers for how many wins they had.”
“I always try to get an extra picture or two, in the event someone has a horse named after a special person, maybe even someone that is deceased, so I try to get special pictures. It’s important for them.”
She was happy to shoot a special one recently for the Bush Racing Stable’s win with the horse Pictor on February 16th. Their little girl wanted her photo with jockey Angel Rodriguez as he came off the track. “I was in perfect position to get the “high five”, because she (Kylie) was on her dad’s shoulders. Moments like that just makes it fun!”
Photo Credit: Kathy Hair

In December of last year, Kathy’s photos of a snowy night at Penn National were featured in a two-page spread in Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred magazine.

Kathy enjoys her job so much, and there are several parts of her busy night at the track that stand out as her favorite. “I love shooting them coming across the finish line, because it’s your ‘action shot’. You just want to make sure you get a good shot, so I start panning and shooting as they are coming across. And I interact a lot with the trainers and the jockeys. Getting to know everyone at the track, from the gate crew to the grooms, and the outriders. And the excitement. I really enjoy all of it!”
As someone who found herself unemployed and starting over in a field that was unfamiliar, she embraced it, and is happy and content with her new career. Her strength and perseverance are an inspiration to women who may have felt the sting of losing a job and need to start over. “Don’t give up on your dreams, no matter how old you are,” she said. “I’m actually in my 60’s, and I just can’t believe I got a second chance. I thought I was going to retire from my other job. Things just fell into place.”
Cover Photo Credit to Jennifer Fitch
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