A long, slow afternoon walk through this ancient Nordic capitol.

It is midsummer here, but it feels like Florida in early winter.

Delicious, soft and chill.

Wonderful smells, heavenly coffee.

Watching, wandering, dreaming — intermingled with concentration, consternation and construction.

A day of rest and reflection. And progress.

Just read a perfect script for our next short film. Crafted with lightning speed for me by a woman I have known her entire adult life, and who I adore for her brilliance, soul and constant struggle with conflict.

It’s her story applied with subtle genius to a current event, linking what was, what became of things and where it’s headed.

Her words run deep and pure, chilling and exhilarating. From the moment I found a path for the work, I knew she should write it, and that her feelings would provide the backbone.

She’s a mother, a photographer, a traveller and a writer. English is her fourth or fifth language… and more are in line after that. I know three languages, but we really only overlap in my native tongue. I can only imagine how she sounds in hers. Someday, perhaps, I’ll find a way to get there. It would be a dream.

Northern Europe. Another place I feel home.

This week, we are creating multiple pieces in Estonia covering the Song and Dance Celebration. Check in on Twitter (@billfrakes), Instagram (@billfrakes) and the blog for updates and sneak looks at the final projects.

This year was my 12th time going to the Belmont in hopes of witnessing Triple Crown history. By now, we all know how the story ended for California Chrome. But the chase made for a fun spring.

Sports Illustrated’s galley of the best images from the Triple Crown races is now online: http://new-www.si.com/more-sports/photos/2014/06/19/si-best-photos-of-the-2014-triple-crown-races

On to summer adventures.

I’ve had the honor of working closely with the New Media Consortium, an international group of visionaries who specialize in educational technology. The concept of educational technology takes many forms and is constantly fluctuating. For me, being part of the dynamic conversations that NMC facilitates is exciting and inspiring.

Larry Johnson CEO of the NMC asked me to do a keynote presentation on creativity at this year’s convention and suggested I wrap my talk around some of the work I have been doing in my native Nebraska.

I love Nebraska, it’s a serene, rugged place full of surprises.  I’m spending a lot of time there this summer and fall producing films and photographs, seeing my family and friends, and enjoying being home.

For more on the NMC Summer Conference, visit http://www.nmc.org/event-manager/2014-nmc-summer-conference-keynotes/

Join us for a 10 day tour of Iceland - the land of seals and poets.

This Photo Tour and Workshop will take place August 4-14, 2014.

We will spend as much time outside enjoying the environment as possible.  August in Iceland will give us 23 hours of golden light every day.

We will roam all over the island and spend time making photos and time-lapses of a variety of places – volcanic glaciers, black rock beaches, small fishing towns and more.

The ten-day tour is $6,000 which includes meals, lodging and intern Iceland transportation.  The tour price does not include airfare to and from Reykajavik or alcoholic beverages.

This is going to be serious fun and there will be daily chances to make incredible images.

It’s a small group, and we’ve just secured a few more hard to find hotel rooms so we can take four more guests.

To secure your spot, please contact bill@strawhatvisuals.com.

The deadline to join the tour is June 24, 2014.

California Chrome roared down the front stretch at Pimlico on Saturday shining, much needed light on horse racing.

I was head on to the action, tracking the Pimlico Field with a 600 f4 lens mounted on a Nikon D4S camera.

Three races make up horse racing’s fabled Triple Crown — the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes. I’ve covered the Derby 31 times, the Preakness 28, and the Belmont at least 20 times. That’s a whole bunch of big-time horse races. This will be the 12th time I’ve gone to NYC hoping to see a horse and jockey close the deal and win the Triple Crown.

I’m obviously not sure how it will turn out this time.

But I know how I got started in all of it.

Bill Nack wrote Secretariat, Making of a Champion. I read it and was hooked on the sport.  With apologies to my many writer friends, Nack’s Secretariat remains my favorite sports book.

Dan Dry invited me to the Kentucky Derby.  I couldn’t, and still can’t believe how wonderful it is there.  All these years later, I still see Dan at the track, and we talk with no pause in our ongoing conversation that has stretched over a few decades now.  I am as fascinated by the Derby just as much now as I was the first time I walked into Churchill Downs. The only difference is I am little better acquainted with that glorious track, and that leads to better pictures.

Heinz Kluetmeier started assigning me to cover the races for Sports Illustrated in 1986. He taught me how to do it the SI way, big and bold. He was and still is an extremely generous teacher and friend.

But first, there were the images of Tony Leonard.  I was casually flipping through Nikon World. Marveling at the images done by Art Kane. Crazy good stuff.  I remember going back through that article a few times, then finally I moved on.  The next image I saw, a big red horse running free, mane streaming, in a paddock, clobbered me. I couldn’t believe how powerful and poignant it was. I still have that magazine. Published in DECEMBER, 1980. VOLUME 13. NUMBER 3. It’s a prized possession.

It was more than 15 years later that I met Tony on the track in Louisville. I gathered my courage and walked up the man who was a legendary equine photographer, who defined the genre working for the greatest farms and owners doing portraits of the best mares and stallions alive. These were not simple photographs, these were elegant posed portraits chronicling the golden age of thoroughbred racing.  I stuck out my hand and said, “Mister Leonard, I just want to tell you how much I admire your work, and your style.”  He smiled that wry smile of his and said, “Kid, I know your pictures, they’re terrific.“  Few sentences have meant as much during my career. We were close for the rest of his life.

When Sports Illustrated’s Jimmy Colton asked me to photograph Seattle Slew, the only horse to win the Triple Crown while undefeated, I called Tony and asked for advice.

He did better than that, he came along as my assistant.  Showing up to do a horse portrait with Tony as your assistant would be like having the Rolling Stones as your backing band when you were in music school.

The shoot went well. What classics they were, both of them.

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